Stone Cold

I am waiting on a table of three hotties. They flirt, they drink; they’re loud and obnoxious. I keep the happy smile plastered on my face – their check is $300.

As they leave I pick up the check and look at my tip.

Zero. Zip. Zlich. Nada.

I am pissed. The ladies, laughing hysterically, have piled into a convertible parked directly outside the bistro. I go up to them and say,

“I am sorry to bother you but you forgot to leave a gratuity.”

The ladies laugh even harder.

Flummoxed, I repeat, “You forgot to leave a tip.”

The driver just waves dismissively, starts the car, and drives away. I hear their laughter fade into the distance.

Burning up, I walk back inside. I head toward the waiter’s prep area. I grab a cell phone from the pile and dial 911.

“Anytown Police Department – what is your emergency?”

“Yes I would like to report a drunk driver.” I rattle off the make, model, tags and direction.

“We’ll get on it.”

I hang up.

To this day I don’t know if they caught them. Probably not. I never saw them again.

I can be one stone cold son of a bitch.

Gun!

Nothing’s worse than training a new waiter. When you’ve been waiting tables a long time most of what you do is unconscious, burned into muscle memory. To stop and actually think about what you’re doing, and then explain it, slows you down big time.

The resident alcoholic waiter Scott, hung-over, working a lunch shift, is training Travis, who’s working his first day. Sayeed, the manager, who knows Scott is hurting, gleefully lays this thankless task on him. Scott is pissed, griping about how much it sucks.

Little does he know his annoyance will turn into sheer terror.

A few hours into the shift Scott is standing behind Travis as he fumbles going through the specials to a new table. Bored, looking around, Scott’s eyes wander.

Then he sees it.

Sticking out of Travis’ waistband, partially obscured by his apron, is the handle of a small pistol. That’s right. A gat, a heater, a rod – a fucking GUN.

Scott’s sphincter instantly puckers as his pickled brain processes what’s happening. Excusing himself, he walks over to Sayeed who’s reading the paper, sipping espresso.

“Sayeed, Travis has a gun.” Scott whispers.

Sayeed lowers his paper and looks over at Travis. He sees it too.

A few years ago, a disgruntled mail handler shot and killed two people at the Post Office a block over. There’s a memorial out front honoring the victims. Most of us pass it every day. Sayeed is thinking about that memorial.

Although he is a consummate asshole, Sayeed is a very cool customer. He has to be. He’s from Beirut. He calmly flips open his cell phone, calls the police, and in very pleasant tones explains our little problem. He listens for a while, nods, says “OK.” and hangs up.

“Give me your cigarettes.” Sayeed tells Scott. He takes them and proceeds to do a very brave thing.

He crosses over the dining room, taps Travis on the shoulder, and invites him outside for a smoke. They go out the front door, light up, and start shooting the breeze. Now we have all fantasized about blowing Sayeed away, but Travis has a real opportunity here.

After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, two plainclothes cops, service pistols drawn, appear from opposite directions. They relieve Travis of his weapon, cuff him, and plop him down on the sidewalk. What happens next borders on the insane.

It turns out Travis is from Texas. In the Lone Star State carrying a concealed weapon is not only allowed – its encouraged. Travis has all the legal firearm permits in his wallet. The idiot thought he could carry heat in New Jersey. Wrong.

The police explain to Travis that he needs a concealed carry permit and no, waiters don’t qualify. He needs to register the gun with the Garden State and store it at home. Then, here’s the kicker, they uncuff him and give the gun back.

After the police leave, Sayeed tells Travis to take the gun home. When Travis is out of sight Sayeed returns to his table, picks up his paper, and orders a fresh espresso.

Scott, his hands trembling, is drinking a Scotch to calm his nerves. Sayeed lets it slide for today.

“Sayeed?” Scott asks.

“Yes Scott?” Sayeed answers from behind his paper.

“On his application, Travis’ last name wouldn’t be Bickle by any chance?”

Sayeed laughs. After a minute he picks up his cell and calls Travis’ house.

“Your fired.” he says simply. He hangs up and flips over to the sports section.

Scott drains his Scotch and gets another.

————————————————————

So the next time you decide to be a dick to your waiter, remember this little story. You might end up staring into the barrel of a Smith & Wesson, the last words you hear being,

“You talkin’ to me?”

Think about it. We might be packing.

Waiter Gear

A loyal reader wrote and asked, “What items should a good waiter carry with them at all times?”

Since many reading this blog are getting their jobs outsourced to China and may end up doing what I do (Heavens forefend!), I’ve decided to share a little of my hard earned wisdom.

Gear to be carried on your person (or close by)

1. Cheap ballpoint pens. Every waiter should carry at least three; one for signing checks, one for writing down orders, and the other for fellow servers to borrow and never return. Don’t bother bringing a nice pen to work. The customers will only steal them. Alternate uses are, but not limited too:

a. Taking down a hot chick’s phone number.

b. Emergency tracheotomy tube

c. Weapon (Think the Bourne Identity)

2. Wine opener. Not those expensive pieces of shit people get as wedding presents from Williams Sonoma. A $5 dollar waiter’s helper from the liquor store will do. Has a myriad of uses:

a. Opens wine bottles

b. Pops open beer bottles

c. Punches holes in olive oil cans

d. Cuts open boxes

e. Cleans under fingernails

f. Slashes car tires of customers/owner (I never did this but I know someone who did)

g. Also comes in handy as a weapon. Think what that a corkscrew could do to a person!

3. Table crumber. Also a multipurpose tool:

a. Cleans crumbs off table.

b. Tongue depressor in a pinch

c. Scrapes dogshit or gum off your shoe

d. Also doubles as a nifty weapon. Good for poking soft body parts.

(Gee do you detect a pattern here?)

4. Pepper Mill

a. Would you like fresh ground pepper? How I hate saying that! Makes me feel like Adam Sandler.

b. Doubles as a club

5. Gum. Keeps your breath minty fresh and covers up the fact you’ve been drinking on the job.

6. Narcotizing substance of your choice. Waiters can be a walking pharmacy. I’ve seen servers with:

a. Cigarettes

b. Hip flask of booze

c. Leftover Vicodan from the dentist. Percodan is also reallllly nice.

d. Prozac – should be in the water.

e. Crack

f.. Advil, Tylenol, Alleve, Oxycontin

g. Marijuana

h. Chocolate

7. Latex gloves. Now most waiters don’t carry this but I do. It’s a habit leftover from my days working in a psychiatric hospital. You never knew what bodily secretions you’d encounter. (You know vomit, blood, semen, urine, feces, spinal fluid) Well, the same holds true for a restaurant.

8. Reading glasses. A nice touch for the blind customers.

9. Cell Phone. I hate them but most waiters have one. Good for:

a. Calling home

b. Calling 911

c. Calling a cab

d. Calling your agent (Loser!)

e. Calling your therapist

f. Calling your bookie

g. Calling your dealer

h. Using built in camera to video coworkers banging in the linen closet

10. Distractions. Something to keep you occupied when it’s slow:

a. A good book or magazine

b. Gameboy, Etch a Sketch, Darts (not recommended)

c. I have a wireless enabled PDA. I hop on the free neighborhood wifi network, check my email, update this blog, and, of course, look at porn.

11. Dupe pad. Some uses are:

a. To write down orders

b. For writing down hot chick’s number

c. Doodling unflattering caricatures of customers

d. Kindling

12. Matches for:

a. Lighting birthday candles

b. Lighting cigarettes/cigars

c. Cover the foul stench in the employee bathroom if you or someone else had Mexican the night before.

d. Burning the fucking place down. (Use dupe pad soaked in Bacardi 151 as a starter)

Gear to be stored in locker:

1. Additional narcotizing substances

2. Extra shirt and tie. In case you get splattered with food or aforementioned bodily substances.

3. Extra socks. Helps ward off “swamp foot.”

4. Talcum powder. When you’re walking all day you might get “the chafe.”

5. Preparation H. Standing all day gives you hemorrhoids. I get them the size of golf balls.

6. Band-Aids

7. Hand sanitizer. (In case you touch something gross)

8. Tissues

9. Condoms (You might actually get lucky with the hot chick)

10. Extra weapons (Pens, scrapers, wine openers)

11. Copies of all applicable labor laws.

12. Resignation letter pre printed and signed. Insert date when needed.

13. Firearm where permitted by law

This list is by no means an exhaustive one. Feel free to email or post additional items you think might come in handy.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Phone Skills. Some have ‘em. Some don’t.

Saturday. 5:30pm. The phone rings.

“Hello, The Bistro, how may I help you?”

“I want a reservation at 7:30.” a gruff cell distorted voice barks.

“How many in your party?” I reply sweetly.

“Two.” I can hear car horns honking in the background

“Let me see what’s open sir, one moment.”

“I want the table in the window. I’m a friend of the owner.” he says. (The reader will note the absence of the word please)

This guy is probably shit out of luck. The odds of getting a reservation at this late hour are slim to none. His only hope is a last minute cancellation. I look at the reservation slots on the computer screen.

There, shimmering like an oasis in the desert, is an opening for the best table in the house at the H-Hour of restaurants the world over, 7:30 pm. This guy is lucky. My finger moves toward the screen to begin entering his information.

“Hurry up I haven’t got all day.” the man snaps.

My finger stops in midair.

Getting in touch with my inner asshole I say, “I am terribly sorry sir but we have no tables available at that time.”

“Whadyya mean it’s not available?” the man practically screams

“The table has already been reserved. I’m sorry.”

“Well move them and give it to me.” the prick says huffily.

“I cannot do that sir. Perhaps you would like a reservation at ten o’clock. That’s the next available opening.”

“Put the owner on the phone right now.” the man yells.

“I am sorry but he is indisposed at the moment.” I reply.

“Give me his cell phone number then.”

“I’m so sorry but I am not allowed to give out that number.” I say unctuously.

“Listen I am a good friend of Flavio. Put him on the phone.”

The owner’s name is Fluvio. Some friend.

“Like I said he can’t come to the phone right now. Since you are his friend I am sure you won’t mind me telling you the correct way to say his name. F-L-U-V-I-O.”

The man abruptly hangs up.

Fuck him.

A few minutes later a very young man walks in the door holding some flowers. He wants to take his girlfriend on their first real “grown up” date. He asks if we have a table. He is polite, says please, and man he looks sooo nervous.

“How’s 7:30?” I ask smiling.

“That would be perfect.”

“I’ll put you in the window. Very romantic sir.” I say with a wink.

“That’s very cool thanks.” he replies gratefully.

Later they come in holding hands. She is thrilled with the flowers and the table. They order the cheapest entrees and suck down Cokes all night. They smile happily, talk in hushed tones, and look only at each other. I was the waiter. The tip was pretty bad. On the way out the girl slips her hand into the boy’s back pocket. Soon they are kissing on the street corner.

I watch them as I collect my meager tip. I am happy. Tonight this young couple will be making sweet love while the asshole on the cell phone explains to his wife why they are eating pizza.

All is right with the world.

It’s only food!

I am standing by a table, patiently waiting, while a woman mulls over the menu for the umpteenth time.

They’ve been sitting for forty-five minutes, drunken two rounds of martinis, and I’ve repeated the specials five times. The other guests, fidgeting with the utensils, made up their minds long ago. It’s all on her and she’s cracking under the pressure.

“The rack of lamb here is excellent.” I gently suggest.

“The portion is too big.” She replies.

“You can always take it home.”

“No.” she says flatly.

I can feel the eyes of my other customers burning holes in the back of my skull. I have other orders to take; drinks to fetch. This is taking way too long.

“Would you like more time to decide?” I ask. The woman’s husband groans. I hear a stomach rumble.

“No wait here.”

She pulls on her lower lip, sighs, and flips back to the start of the menu.

Tick tock. Tick tock. I hum the tune to Jeopardy.

“Do you know what I want?” she says, looking up hopelessly.

This is all passive aggressive behavior. She must be really pissed at me or her friends to make us wait this long. Maybe Dad didn’t give her a pony. I don’t give a fuck. It’s time for shock therapy.

“The psychic waiter is off today. He’ll be in tomorrow.” I say, putting some steel in my voice.

The husband looks at me in surprise. I wink.

He smiles and pulls the menu out of her hand.

“She is having the rack of lamb medium rare. Thank you.” he says decisively.

“Very good sir.” I say fleeing.

Mrs. Flip Flop has put me in the weeds. I run the rest of the night playing catch up. I dread when it comes time for dessert.

The moral of the story? Don’t take forever when ordering. This is not life and death stuff. It’s only fucking FOOD.

Look where it ends up in 24 hours.