Those Who Serve

No, I don’t mean our military folks; I mean the waitresses and waiters who serve food. I waitressed my way through college (which was much cheaper than it is now), and it was a real learning experience. Although I learned a lot in college, serving people food and drinks was a real education.

Serving food to people teaches you a lot. It’s amazing that orginary people can turn into monsters in a New York minute when in a restaurant. It isn’t at all unusual for people to verbally abuse the waitstaff for things that they have no control over, such as these gems:

  • “My steak is too beefy-tasting.” (Ok, would you rather have fish that’s more fishy-tasting?)
  • “You didn’t give us enough water; see? Our glasses are all empty.” (This was said by a woman who was inches away from the huge pitcher of water on her table.)
  • “WHAT?! You’re out of baked potatoes? What kind of restaurant runs out of baked potatoes?!?!” (Um, the kind that runs out of baked potatoes because everyone in the whole damn restaurant wanted them.)
  • “Hey, you—come clean up the mess my kids just made.” (The mother had watched her two young boys squirt ketchup all over the floor, and then top it with the entire contents of the sugar bowl. And somehow that was all my fault.)
  • And my personal favorite: a woman changed her baby’s poopy diaper on the table where her family was eating. She handed the festering mess to me and I asked if I could clean off (meaning sanitize the area) the table. I did and after dropping the poopy diaper in the trash can, I just about boiled my hands.

Then there are the people that think that you are their personal slave to receive any of their complaints (real or imagined). It doesn’t matter that you already are working five other tables; they expect you to jump and fetch when they snap their fingers—and whistled to their as if they were their pet dog Sparky.)

I have read many horrifying articles on servers who vented their anger at certain customers by messing with their food. I’m happy to say that I never witnessed this happening. Back when I was serving food I learned quickly that customer abuse was more about their frustration than anything else. What made it easier was to go over the customer’s rant this way:

Customer rant: “This restaurant sucks! You didn’t bring me the <insert whatever condiment or drink or whatever here> I asked for, and you took your sweet time getting me my salad. You are grossly unprofessional, and I am sure that you will be waitress all your miserable life because you are too stupid to do anything else!”

What I translated in my head: It’s not my fault that this customer doesn’t like this restaurant. I did bring him his <insert whatever condiment or drink or whatever here> in plenty of time; he is just frustrated. I was completely professional and courteous; he just needs someone to blame for how he feels. Again—this kind of behavior is not about the server, it’s all about him.

It turned out that the lessons I learned in serving people food is that it is hardly ever the server’s fault; but it speaks volumes about the customer. You just have to let that hurt and humiliation go and see it as the life lesson it is.

That said, I have to admit that once I took out my revenge with a customer. It was a Saturday night, and each and every table was full. I was bringing drinks to one of my tables, and one young woman (who, by the way, was the one who bitched about the lack of baked potatoes) in the party was parked right against the wall. Most of the drinks for the table were beers, and by the time I got to Miss Baked Potato, she smiled a snarky little smile at me, and pushed her chair back so that I could not distribute the beers on her side of the table.

What to do? I was able to pass everyone their beers, but unfortunately Miss Baked Potato’s chair was right in my way. Wouldn’t you just know it, but her beer fell right over and drained all the way down her back. (Not going to lie, I totally did this on purpose.)

I immediately apologized in the most flowery terms possible, mopped up the back of Miss Baked Potato’s dress and told her that we could gladly pay for the dry cleaning. Everyone except Miss Baked Potato smiled at me and said it was simply an accident. The mom told me that the dress could easily be handwashed and no need to dry clean it. I’m not proud of what I did, but in the moment it was deliciously satisfying.

So please, do tip your servers. If you have a real complaint, ask to speak with the owner/manager. It is his/her job to make things right, not the server. I will tell you from experience that servers for the most part work their butts off. Many of them have other jobs as well as serving to make ends meet. While this is not the customer’s problem, it speaks volumes to leave a decent tip.


One thought on “Those Who Serve

  1. I just love your writing Jane.

    Your words are always so inspirational, warm and wickedly funny. I can always hear your voice as I read your wonderful posts.

    Unlike you, my time in food service was limited to working in a German bakery where customers yelled at me because their cupcakes didn’t have enough sprinkles or the lemon bars weren’t lemony enough.

    I also worked in a grocery store for 4 years as a checker where crazy customers would go nuts on a regular basis over a wide array of unbelievable things.

    Even if I was eating a lobster and it stood up on my plate and started singing Yankee Doodle Dandy, I would not complain to my server. Instead, I would tell the lobster they should try out for American Idol or The Voice.

    I certainly wouldn’t blame my server.

    And yes, I am an extremely generous tipper because I know how hard servers work for their money. A server would have to hand me a poopy diaper before I would not tip.

    I am so aware of the people who serve me that I even stop and thank the trash pickup guys, who sometimes give me an odd look.

    Thank you for reminding me too always say thank you and appreciate the service I am so fortunate to receive.

    Thank you for continuing to write your amazing blog which is a joy to behold.


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