Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My Top 5

Hi All!

Welcome to Server Stories!  For fun, I'm going to list my top five stories, in case you want to jump to The Good Stuff.

1) Soldato's Last Stand (click for a chuckle)
2) The Most Interesting Server Ever (read for all the feels)
3 & 4)  Valerie gets Canned, Parts I (here) and II (over here)
5) Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and a classic arcade game (read it!)

Take a read - would love some feedback!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Nightmare on Christmas

Author's Note:

So I managed to log into my old blogger account!  Lo and behold, there was already a story written... but it was just a draft.  I thought I'd publish it, see if anyone is still out there listening!  If you are... let me know!


This story takes place in The Bar on Christmas Night, in 2004.

Oh Holy... Crap!

As I'm driving to work the night shift on Christmas day, I'm seriously considering looking for the infamous "real job". I mean really- who works on Christmas?

The only plus, as I see it, is that business will probably be slow and we'll get off early.

I slide into a parking slot close to the front door and kill the ignition. Usually, I'm about 25 rows back. By the time I get to the door, I normally find myself cold. Tonight, the parking lot is only servers and bartenders, and I'm close to the front door. Old Toyota Camrys, Honda Civics, and my little black Jeep Wrangler fill the strip mall parking lot. Servers drive hand-me-down cars that they usually dress up with liberal, hippie bumper stickers. We're Saving Whales and voting Yes! Legalize It! That's how we roll.

Walking through the door, I see exactly what I expect to see; nothing. The place is empty. Trendy music ricochets off of empty booths and a patronless bar. The pool tables stand primed but lonely. I half expect tumbleweed to roll lazily across my path as I stroll to the back, mindlessly swinging my apron.

The song changes to the only country song I can stand... "I step into the room, handing out hundred dollar bills..."

Normally, the three rooms of The Bar are populated with 3 bartenders and 13 servers. Tonight, there is one bartender and 5 servers on the floor. I wonder why so many have been scheduled.

The manager holds a quick shift meeting. His basic message? Hang in there, kids- it'll be over before you know it.

Now, there are traditions and superstitions in all professions. In baseball, you don't step on the foul lines. When working in an emergency room, you don't say "it's dead in here." Waiting is similar - the second you plan for a slow night...

The first customer strolls in around 6:30. It's a younger guy- early 20s. Probably home from school.

"I'm meeting someone else- can I have a pool table?"

I seat him in my section, thinking he and his friends may be our only customers that evening. Oh, how wrong I was.

Oddly enough, it wasn't waves of patrons crashing through the doors. It was a steady trickle... but someone forgot to turn off the faucet.

First The Green Room filled up... then The Burgandy Room, then the main dining room. I felt like a frog being being boiled slowly in a pot of water. I did not realize how busy it had become until I looked up and realized that the place was packed... and more people were streaming in the front door.

Not long after, I took to telling tables that they should order two rounds at once, as it was likely the bartender would be behind. And shortly after that, I realized that it didn't matter how drinks were ordered- the bar was backed up to the point of no return.

I took a walk back to the service bar, where all the other servers were waiting impatiently for their tables' drinks, and where the bartender was sweating bullets trying to get beers out to the crowd stacked three deep around the bar.

The bartender had a wild, feverish look to his eyes. He was working on instinct, grabbing whatever he could, whenever he could. He wasn't just "in the weeds", server parlance for being super-busy.  This man... he was in the jungle, and the tigers were circling.

I saw the moment he gave up. His feverish look broke, replaced by a look of "Awww fuckit".

He looked out over a sea of people- some were waving twenties, others were shouting orders, and all were looking pissed. Looked like the zombies had come, and he was the last available set of brains in the room.

"Who wants a drink?!" he screamed to the writhing throng.

70 people raised their hands. He laughed maniacally.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I hadn't been trained as a bartender at this place, but I'd bartended for years at The Restaurant. I jumped behind the bar, which is normally a capital offense for a server.

Grabbing the bartender, I whispered/yelled into his ear - "You take all these people- I've got the service bar- we're gonna clear this shit out!"

He nodded and started filling beers and cracking bottles at lightning speed.

I went over to the service bar and yanked off the tickets... and then i saw how bad the problem really was.

The chits formed a tail, which had begun stacking itself on the bar behind the printer. The stack was two inches thick. If I had stretched the paper out end to end, it probably would have stretched a quarter mile.

Not wanting to take the time to stretch them out and count them, I dove in. Yet no matter how quickly I cleared tickets, it seemed as though more would shoot out of the printer to take their place.

I kept thinking this was a nightmare... but I never woke from it.  I stayed behind that bar clearing tickets until we shut off the lights and closed the door.  I never knew what happened to any of my tables.

Plus side, the bartender split his tips with me, and we sipped a free Blue Moon after our shift before heading out into the cold Christmas night.  'tis the life of a server.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Quick Note

Hi All-

Hope this finds everyone well. I checked back on this blog a week or so ago, and was shocked to see how many people still check in every once in a while.

Is there something or someone that's still pointing to Server Stories? If so, I'd love to know who or what is doing this so I can thank them... and of course, I'd also like to thank you for checking in as well, dear readers!

No promises, of course, but I'm getting that writing itch again... atually, the itch never went away, but now it's unbearable, like ants crawling beneath my skin, frantically searching for a way to claw out. I have a little free time coming up the week in between Christmas and New Years. I thought I'd maybe take some time and write a story or two, just for old times' sake.

Any particular person in Server Stories you'd like to read more about?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sick Day at the Restaurant


In an office job, if you're sick, the powers that be want you to stay home. If someone tries to gut it out, they are invariably told over and over again to go home and get some rest.

This is not the case in the biz. You'd think that GMs would want folks to stay home rather than cough on customers, food, or other servers. Sanitization is key... except when you're sick and you haven't found someone to cover your shift.

Sick Day at the Restaurant

I wake up around noon with a cough. Not a little tickle cough, but big hacking, whooping coughs that wrack my entire body. Add on muscle aches and a headache, and I know I've been overtaken by the flu. Super.

It's a Thursday and I'm sheduled to work the evening bar shift. This is a problem. We're short bartenders, but I'm in no condition to work.

I set the alarm for 2 pm and then fall back into those technicolor dreams that let me know I'm in the grip of a fever.

 I'm on a football field, breaking tackles and heading for the end zone. The problem is that the field seems to stretch on forever, and there are way more than the usual 11 shadowy defenders on the field trying to take me down.

The alarm brings me out of my slumber. The sheets are soaked, like I actually ran down a mile-long football field. I roll over and pick up the phone.

"Thank you for calling the restaurant, this is Valerie speaking, how can I help you?"

"Valerie, I'm sick as hell. I'm coughing and running a fever. I'm supposed to be bartending tonight. What do you want me to do?"

"Hold on." I hear rustling in the background.

"Call these people." She rattles off a list of names and numbers. I take the down.

"You find someone or you come in." Click.

I spend the next half hour calling the bartender list. Not surprisingly, nobody wants to help out. If it were the end of the month, people would jump all over this. But in the first week of the month, everyone has already payed their rent and thus they have no need for bartender money.

After I hang up on my last option, I pull myself to a sitting position. Waves of dizziness crash over me. I wait til this passes, and then I stand up and head for the shower.

In the steam of the hot shower, I begin coughing up clear-colored nastiness. Great. It's viral, so even if I could go to a doctor, there isn't much they can do for me.

I towel off and put on my uniform. I grab the bottle of DayQuil. I take a huge swig, recap the bottle and put it in my pocket.

The drive to The Restaurant is uneventful.

Pulling in, I pray for a slow night. I can't handle busy right now.

Walking in the door, I spot Soldato wiping down the menus. He looks up at me and stops mid-wipe.

"Dude, you look like shit." I can always appreciate brutal honesty.

"Thanks man. I think I feel worse than I look."

"Not possible. You look like an extra in Night of the Living Dead." He resumes wiping down the menu.

"Shut up or I'm gonna cough all over your Dago ass."

"There's no need for name-calling or threats, my friend. I'm on your side." He looks over the floor plan at the host stand.

"Hey, you're not on here. Why you here?"

"I'm bartending."

"Oh man, that sucks."

I couldn't agree more. Not only do I start an hour earlier than most of the servers, but I have to close down the bar, which is open a half hour later than the dining room.

Two hours later, I'm alternating between chugging tea and DayQuil.

I got my wish. It's dead as a doornail in The Restaurant. I'm actually wishing it was busy. All I can do is wipe down the bar top and concentrate on how crappy I feel.

I've got two tables going in the bar, and I've managed to supress my coughing fits while taking their orders and dropping off their food. Still, both tables gave me odd looks.

Looking at my reflection in the mirror behind the bar, I understand their concern. I'm sweating and my face looks pale and drawn.

I walk back into the kitchen. My body feels hot. I'm burning up. I need to cool down.

I open the door to the walk-in cooler. Stepping inside, the fridgid air feels amazing. I lean against the racking and then slide down to the floor. I grab a nearby jar of pickles. It's blissfully cool. I press it against my forehead and close my eyes.

Someone's kicking me. I smell pickle juice. What the hell?

I open my right eye. I see the jar of pickles, broken on the floor. That explains the smell. Panning right, I see a worn leather shoe, cocked back to deliver another kick.

I put my hands up in defense.

"Oh good. I thought we'd lost you." It's Soldato, and he's laughing. "Wake your ass up."

"How long have I been out?"

"Only about two minutes. You're lucky I needed to refill the mayo." He steps over me and grabs the industrial-sized jar of mayo off the rack. He spoons the goopy white mixture into a plastic container.

"I don't think I can make it," I moan.

"Sure you can, boss." He leans down and grips me under my armpits. With a mighty heave, he pulls me to my feet.

"You're getting fat," he says, puffing.

"This is so stupid. I'm gonna get everyone sick, and I'll never get better if I keep working. I don't have a day off for another week."

"Is it heavy?" he asks.

"Is what heavy?"

"That cross you're carrying. We've all worked sick before. It's part of the deal. Remember, This is the Business We've Chosen!" Great. Godfather logic.

He pushes open the walk-in door and shoves me back into the kitchen. Resigned to my fate, I square my shoulders and head back to the bar. Only six more hours to go...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who's to Blame?


I’ve classified servers into three categories.

‘The Natural’- People born with the traits to serve. You’ve seen them- easy smile, quick wit, great multitasking skills, and the ability to move quickly while making it look effortless.

‘The Grinder’- People that work hard to make up for their lack of natural talent. They have to force themselves to step out of their comfort zone, but they find a way to get things done, and generally become successful after a little time and practice.

‘Waste of Perfectly Breathable Air’- The final type of server is the one you hate to see on the floor plan. This class of server lacks natural talent, not unlike the Grinder. However, the lack of self motivation and effort renders them practically useless on the floor. No matter how good the management, it seems one slips through and sets up camp in every restaurant.

Who's to Blame?

After a couple months of serving, I’m finally good enough to take care of my tables and have a conversation in a side station without falling into the weeds. It’s really given me an opportunity to learn about my fellow servers. It’s also given me a chance to observe their style, to spot their strengths and weaknesses.

This morning, there are five servers on the floor.

Anita is a natural. Smart, funny, gregarious, and hard-working, Anita usually takes home the biggest tip percentage of any server in The Restaurant.

I’m a grinder. I’ve worked through my shyness, and I’m nipping at Anita’s heels in terms of daily tip percentage.

The Deaf Server is a grinder. She would be a natural, except for the fact that she can’t hear… at all. Completely deaf since a childhood illness, The Deaf Server has worked to learn how to read lips. Now her only shortcoming is that tables can’t flag her down by calling her name, so they have to physically grab her as she walks by. Couple this with the fact that she hates to be touched, and you end up with some interesting confrontations in her section.

The last two servers are wastes. The Penguin (so named because she is cut from the same body mold as Danny DeVito’s character in Batman Returns) likes to park herself against the back wall, out of customer sight so they can’t flag her down. She moves as little as possible. She never helps other servers. Her only redeeming quality is that she’s friendly to her tables and she only smells bad towards the end of a shift.

Angie S (so named because there is also an Angie D at The Restaurant) is similar to The Penguin, except she leans against a wall in full view of the customers. However, rather than making her more accessible to customers, Angie S tends to look at customers trying to get her attention, and then look away. I often seriously wonder if she is on the spectrum.

Today, it’s a busy shift. The five of us have full sections, with Anita, The Deaf Server, and I each taking an extra table.

I’m currently getting refills, pulling down a stack of napkins, and holding a light-hearted conversation with a nearby table, all while trying to remember an order that I have to punch into the computer. Angie S is taking her sweet-ass time at the touch screen. I look at her section. It’s filled with two-tops. Why in God’s name would it take two full minutes to punch in an order?

Now two minutes doesn’t sounds like a long time, but in serving time, it’s an eternity. Just try to hold your breath for two minutes.

When she finishes, she picks up her book and walks away. I jump on the computer and pound in the order before it falls out of my head. My memory is only good for a short time. Too many games of beer pong in college.

I hit the send button, and the small printer next to the computer spits out the chit. I notice an extra ticket when I pull the chit to put it in my book. Angie S never bothered to take hers. I take a quick look: two Chicken Caesar salads, two Diets.

Quickly counting in my head, I figure that she had 7 keystrokes. Nice.

On my way back to the kitchen, Angie S’ table stops me.

“Could you get us some refills please?” a slightly-perturbed gentleman asks. Both he and his companion are down to straws and ice.

“Of course,” I say. I grab both empty glasses and turn towards the kitchen. Angie S is standing against the wall, looking right at me. When she sees me looking, she looks away, ignoring not only me, but her other tables, all of which need something. I can tell because they’re all doing the short-arm wave. This happens when people want to get your attention while not drawing attention to themselves.

I return to Angie S’ table, drop off the drinks, then head towards my section. I get about two steps before a claw-like hand clamps down on my forearm. It’s another of Angie S’ tables. Refills and another ramekin of ranch dressing.

This is going to be a problem. Angie S’ section is between mine and the kitchen entrance. I can’t get to the kitchen without going by her tables, and I can’t go by her tables without being asked for something.

“Angie, I think your tables could use some refills,” I say as I pass. I try to keep my tone as non-confrontational as possible.

I refill the drinks for her table and grab the ranch dressing from the line. As I step back out onto the floor, I’m surprised to see Angie S still standing in the exact spot she was when I went into the back.

I shoot her an inquisitive look.

She rolls her eyes and looks out at her tables. “They’re fine.”

“If they’re fine, why have I gotten refills for half your section?” I can feel my blood boiling.

“Don’t worry about it. They’re fine.” She shrugs and settles back into doing nothing.

Fuming, I fly back to my section, which is now in dire need of attention thanks to Angie S’ apathy.

I spend the rest of the shift waiting on my tables as well as getting refills and pre-bussing her tables.

Towards the end of the shift, I’m finally caught up. I walk up to the host stand to see if I’ve been cut.

Kathy, the high school hostess, asks me how it's going. She's probably just trying to be friendly, but I haven’t had a chance to vent to anyone about Angie S.

A torrent of profanity flies out of my mouth, momentarily shocking her. That’s what she gets for trying to make friendly conversation.

Kathy, recovering, laughs and says, “You know how there’s two Angies, right?”


“Know how I learned to remember which was which when I first started?”

“Tell me.”

“Well, Angie S' tables would always come up here, asking if they were supposed to pay up front because she took so long to check back after she dropped off the check. I just remember thinking that "Angie sucks", hey... "Angie S!”

I laugh and walk away. I do my side work and head to the back to cash out. I get all my chits in order, cash first, then credit cards, then any special coupons or comps. I face all my bills, count out what I owe the house, and get ready to hop into the office.

Angie S comes around the corner and steps in front of me.

“Ladies first!” If anyone else had said it, I would have laughed. I debate on asking her why she thinks she qualifies to be called a "lady", but I decide not to push the issue and sit back down. Cashing out doesn’t take more than about two minutes. I’ll be going home in four rather than two. Angie S heads into the office.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m still waiting outside watching the fruit flies buzz around the overflowing ashtrays on the counter. I poke my head in the door. Angie S has all her chits spread out in front of her, and she’s still organizing them. Unbelievable.

I stand there, waiting for her to finish. When she’s finally done, she counts out her money.

“I didn’t make shit today. People are such cheap asses!” She complains loudly. She waddles towards the front door.

“If you’d get off your fat ass and hustle a little bit, maybe they wouldn’t be so fucking tight, you dumb bitch! Get your head out of your ass. How the hell do people like you make it through life without an illustrated guidebook?”

Ah, the things we think but do not say.

When Angie S is out of earshot, I ask the manager why she keeps Angie around when it’s obvious she doesn’t work very hard.

“She’s got good availability. It’s too much trouble to hire and train a new server.”

Hmmm… I see people come in almost daily to fill out applications. I know that there has to be at least three applicants each week that would do a better job than her. Makes you wonder who to blame- Angie S for being a waste of perfectly breathable air, or a manager that’s afraid to spend some extra money and sacrifice a little time to strengthen the staff in the long run. My vote is for the manager. Angie S can't even get out of her own way.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Soldato's Last Stand

-Preface I-

Please read about Soldato before you read this post.

There are times when you have to take a stand. The breaking point varies from person to person. Some folks fly off the handle if someone bumps into them on a busy street. Other folks refuse to react if they get slapped in the face.

Soldato is one of those with a nasty temper. He'll throw down without hesitation for little or no reason. However, to this day I still believe that he held on longer than most normal waiters could have... this story is about Soldato's last day at The Restaurant.

-Preface II-

Spring is turning into summer. It's warm outside, and we've opened the patio for The Restaurant.

In the midwest, we get excited for the summer. It means we can shed layer upon layer of clothing. It means we can get ready to leave the house in under ten minutes. And, most importantly, it means that we can once again see beautiful women prancing around in sundresses.

It's only been two months since Valerie was unceremoniously kicked to the curb, and already The Restaurant is beginning to turn around.

As servers, we notice the little things these new managers do differently. Encouragement and aknowledgement of effort are nice changes. Morale is higher than it has been in a long time.

The most refreshing change is that these new managers are less likely to give up a free meal to a scammer. Now don't get me wrong here. They will try to satisfy the customers if there is an issue. The difference is that they handle it fairly.

They won't throw freebies to people who don't deserve it. At the other end of the spectrum, they won't try to weasel out of a problem by offering the minimum solution. Valerie's solutions were akin to either applying a band-aid to a gaping head wound or fixing a crack in the sidewalk in front of a dilapitated shack. These new managers decide what's fairest to the customer, The Restaurant, and the server. They make a decision and then stand behind it.

The new management team has also made some great personnel moves. They canned The Deaf Server, the Hippie, and The Penguin. They brought in two intelligent, experienced servers, as well as one extremely eager newbie. They also dropped three quarters of the hostesses, and then hired a couple of cute high school honor students to pick up the slack. The IQ of the restaurant has tripled.

The only problem with the new staff is their availability. We're running short several servers each shift, and the new managers refuse to allow anyone more than the four tables allotted by Corporate. This is fine for people who can't handle a lot going on at once. But for people like Soldato, who's been in the business for 15 years, this makes for some boring shifts.

Despite this one setback, the Old Guard (The Woman, Soldato, Rena, and I) agree; this is the smoothest The Restaurant has run in a long time. We're making money, we're having fun during shifts, and we don't have to cow-tow to horrible customers.

-Soldato's Last Stand-

We're in the middle of a lunch rush. I have the patio and I'm running back and forth from the kitchen. I'm sweating likeFloyd Landis before a drug test. I look over at Soldato, lounging against the wall of the side station, checking out the soccer moms sipping Arnold Palmers at the table nearest the door. Even though I'm waiting on the soccer moms, I'm jealous.

Soldato has an easy four booth section. He can handle four booths in his sleep, so he has ample time to think about what he could be doing with four housewives in a minivan.

A quick glance at the host stand gives me pause. There is a wait. At lunch. Uh-oh. This is a big no-no in the restaurant business. For the most part, our lunch clientele is comprised of business folks hailing one of the numerous office parks surrounding The Restaurant. They want their food and service fast. It's hard enough to squeeze a casual dining lunch into a 45 minute lunch break. It becomes damn near impossible if you have to wait for ten minutes at the door.

One of the new hostesses is on, and she's not handling her first heavy rush well. She's looking around helplessly as people crowd the entryway. She looks like a baby calf separated from a herd of wildebeast, about to be mauled by a pack of ravenous lions. I have time to wonder, 'Is 'pack' the right word for a grouping of lions? I think it's actually supposed to be something else...'.

I snap back to reality when I see the hostess take a half-step back from her post. She's showing weakness, and the group of people storming the host stand smell blood. She needs help.

My hands are full, so I'm powerless. I look back at Soldato.

"Hey!" I hiss at him.

"What?!! I'm busy here!" He turns from the window to stare me down.

"Dude, go help her. She's gonna drown." I nod towards the hostess. Her mouth is now open and her eyes are wide as saucers as she looks over the chattering mob in front of her. They're inching forward, moving in for the kill.

"Ah hell." He loosens his collar and stalks towards the host stand.

"Give her some room people. She needs air. I said STAND BACK!!!" Soldato can be intimidating. Years of smoking Cowboy Killers has made Soldato's voice deep and raspy. He also talks with his hands. The louder he gets, the more grandiose his arm motions become. Right now he's yelling, and his arms are pinwheeling. I'm reminded of those little windvanes, the ones where the arms spin in high wind.

I love watching an angry little Italian screaming and waving his arms. But while I find it hilarious, some folks find it intimidating. He scares most of the people away from the hostess. They soon sit quietly in the waiting area, hands folded in their laps. The hostess looks up at him, the tears that were welling in her eyes now dive back from whence they came. My hero.

There is only one person still hovering. It is a man in his mid thirties. He's a squirrelly-looking fellow. Wire rim glasses, pleather jacket, mousy brown hair. Shorter than Soldato by about half a foot, he exudes Napolean Complex. He's with an older woman that I can only assume is his mother.

I can practically smell the Drakkar. I can almost hear what I assume to be a whiny, nasal voice. Figuring Soldato can handle a guy who looks like Paul's (from The Wonder Years) older brother, I put on my best fake smile and head out to refill the soccer moms' teas.

"Hello ladies, how is everything today?" I stretch my smile as wide as it'll go. The ladies smile back.

The waitresses get to flirt for big tips all the time. I relish the opportunity when I get a chance. Doesn't mean I'm good at it, but it's fun all the same.

When I turn around to head back inside, I hear them giggling behind me. My flirtation is paying off.... or I sat in something and they're laughing at me. Either way, they're happy. Happy people=bigger tips= a happier Server. Life is good.

Opening the door that leads back into The Restaurant, I am stunned to see Soldato still at the host stand. Paul's older brother (POB from now on) has more spunk than I though.

They're still arguing. Soldato is trying to keep his cool, but I can tell he's starting to break. His hands are clenched into fists underneath the host stand, and I can see his pulse pounding through a throbbing, angry-looking vein protruding from his neck.

The little hostess has backed completely into the wall, looking for all the world as if she wants to just melt into it. Not good.

Worse, the regional manager, Karl, has decided to make a lunch shift visit. Karl is a metrosexual. Not a single strand of his closely-cropped hair falls out of place, as usual. His $200 pastel shirt matches perfectly his tailored trousers. His shoes are polished to a high shine. His persona screams "Look at me! I'm important! I'm carrying a laptop in this ridiculous-looking bag slung over my shoulder! I am personally responsible for the well-being of every Restaurant in this state and a half of the neighboring state! Adore me, my children!" Comical really.

Unfortunately, Karl is just about the only person from the Corporate Office of The Restaurant that can fire you on the spot. Even our GM is supposed to consult someone before he can tell a server to hit the road. Karl can toss you on a whim. And if it makes him feel important enough, or look good enough, he'll do it without hesitation.

Karl immediately takes an interest in the scene unfolding in front of him.

POB is leaning into Soldato, his nose inches away from Soldato's chin.

"Why can't we sit down now? My mother is old, standing around like this is bad for her back. I demand that we be seated NOW!" Soldato is steaming. I can see he's itching to shut this guy up.

Soldato gathers himself, takes a deep breath, exhales. "Sir, like I already explained to you... We are on a wait. I know there are unoccupied tables throughout the restaurant, but we are are not allowed to wait on more than four tables at a time. Our corporate office believes that we can't provide the level of service necessary to make you dining experience..."

"Screw that and screw you! My mother needs to sit..." Spit is flying out of POB's mouth as he chirps a mile a minute. He's standing so close to Soldato that I'm sure he's feeling spittle spray his cheeks.

Karl decides to help.

"Hello sir, my name is Karl and I'm the regional manager at The Restaurant. I'm sure we can make an exception for your mother's case. I'll arrange to have a table opened up for you."

"Thank you." POB is gloating now, "I knew that there had to be someone here with more brains than this stupid wop."

Oh, hell. Why did he have to go and say that? And why did Karl have to let this jerk sit down? He just let POB cut in front of about 10 people. Worse, he made threw Soldato under the bus. To top it off, Karl made Soldato prep the table.

I hurry over to help. I want to keep Soldato from boiling over. I pretend to straighten the table cloth while Soldato lays out the silverware.

"Keep cool," I whisper, "This asshole would like nothing better than for you to take a swing at him. He looks like the type that would sue."

"I don't give a shit. What the hell is Karl thinking, cutting my balls off like that in front of that douchebag?"

I agree, but...

"Just hold it together, I'll find someone to handle this table."

"Fuck this bullshit, I'm tired of this. Karl can fry in Hades for all I care. Sanctimonious bastard." Quite a vocabulary for a "stupid wop".

Soldato heads back to the host stand, grabs two menus and motions to POB and his mom.

"Please follow me, sir." His voice is calm, but that vein is still pulsing in his neck. I'm scared the pressure is going to cause it to burst. I don't want to clean up that mess.

The other patrons glare at POB as he passes by.

POB follows Soldato to table, grinning the whole way. Once there, POB sits down. He doesn't bother to pull out a chair for his "poor mother."

"Now, sir, if there's anything else you need," Soldato says, "please let me know."

"Oh, I will. Sorry about that wop comment earlier, I was just worried about my Mom. You know how it is, right?"

"Of course I do! You and your mother, you have a wonderful lunch." He pats POB on the shoulder and turns to leave.

POB looks at his shoulder, then looks at Soldato's departing back. He pushes back from the table and jumps up, the nerdiest-looking jack-in-the-box I've ever seen.

"HEY! Don't touch me! He touched me! Did you see that? He put his hands on me!" People are staring, most in disgust and surprise.

Soldato turns. "Sir, I..."

"What seems to be the problem, here?" Karl is back. His timing is as impeccable as his hair.

"He put his hands on me. Is that how you run your restaurant? What is this? All I wanted to do is take my mother out for a decent lunch, and now..." POB is working up a lather. Some folks will do anything to get a free meal.

"Please calm down sir," Karl puffs out his chest. Big Man. "Soldato, apologize to this man."

I'm reminded of the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High where Judge Reihold gets fired.

Karl should know better. He's met Soldato before. I wonder if Soldato will kick 100% of his ass.
Soldato looks ready to take a swing. To my surprise, he stops and smiles.

"No, I don't believe I will. You know what?"

He turns to POB. "Go fuck yourself."

To the man's mother, "I can't believe that piece of shit came out of you."

To Karl, "I quit. You can go to hell."

He takes off his apron, pulls out the change, hands me his open checks and turns to go. He gets a small cheer from the neighboring tables.

I think he's heading for the door when he makes a sudden left turn and plops down at the bar.

"A little service here, sweetheart!" He pounds a fist on the bar and pulls a bowl of snack mix in front of him.

The Woman is bartending. "You know servers can't sit at the bar." She laughs at him. "What are you doing?"

"I'm not a server here anymore. Shot and a beer, please!" He takes off his Restaurant logo polo shirt. He's got a stained wifebeater tee underneath. He lights up a Red. Classic.

"Seriously? What happened? Did you quit or get fired?" Fired employees aren't welcome back.

The ones that quit however... that's another story. In another brilliant stroke intended to improve customer service, The Restaurant is not allowed to refuse service unless someone is being disruptive or is drunk. Soldato is neither... yet.

Soldato spends the rest of the afternoon drinking at the bar. Karl fumes, but there's nothing he can do, technically.

Once Karl leaves, the staff heads over one by one to get a recap of the events leading up to Soldato's Last Stand. Soldato is happy to provide the details. He embellishes the story each time, until eventually I was holding him back from taking on both Karl and the POB (and probably the mother too).

He drinks himself stupid until close. The new GM comps his bill. Like I said, these guys were good folks.

We head over to the neighborhood bar for a nightcap. It's the whole crew, set to send Soldato out in a blaze of glory. Or at least, shots of tequila.

As we walk into the bar, we all stop dead. POB is sitting at the bar, trying to talk to some trashy-looking, disease-ridden, middle-aged bar fly.

He's drinking something with cranberry juice in it.

"Hey asshole!" Soldato yells, "You're in my seat."

POB looks up, ready for a fight. "Oh yeah?"

"That the best you can come up with? Jesus, I'm piss drunk and I could come up with better than that while I kick your ass all over this place. Actually, that ain't a bad idea..." He makes a move towards POB.

POB throws his hands up to cover his face. He overbalances his bar stool, and it falls over. He stumbles briefly, regains his footing, and books out the back door. I've never seen him there since.

We all sit down. We laugh and drink until 4 am. They turn us loose into the night.

Luckily, there's a row of cabs sitting out front. Soldato hops into the first one in the line. "I'm outta here. You guys have a good one." He closes his eyes and is asleep almost immediately. I poke my head in the front and give the cabbie directions and a $20 for the 3 minute drive.

I hate to say it... but I'm proud of Soldato. He didn't even take a swing at the guy. I know it killed him inside... just a little bit, it did. But he kept his cool and stayed out of the pokie. POB definitely would have pressed charges.

I'm not worried about Soldato. With his experience, he'll have another serving job by the end of the week. I'm gonna miss him at The Restaurant though. We all will.