The Waiter & the Spoon

A friend emailed me this. I just had to post it here!

A timeless lesson on how consultants can make a difference for an organization…

Last week, we took some friends out to a new restaurant, and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket. It seemed a little strange. When the busboy brought our water and utensils, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. Then I looked around saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.

When the waiter came back to serve our soup I asked, “Why the spoon?”

“Well,” he explained, “the restaurants’ owners hired Andersen Consulting to revamp all our processes. After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.”

As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he was able to replace it with his spare.

“I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.”

I was impressed. I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter’s fly. Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies. So before he walked off, I asked the waiter, “Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?”

“Oh, certainly!” Then he lowered his voice. “Not everyone is so observant.”

That consulting firm I mentioned also found out that we can save time in the rest-room. By tying this string to the tip of ‘you know what’, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the rest-room by 76.39 percent.”

“After you get it out, how do you put it back?”

“Well,” he whispered, “I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.”

Some Like It Hot

“Waiter this coffee is cold.”

“It’s a fresh pot madam.”

“Whatever. Get me a hot cup of coffee.”

I go back to the kitchen. I heat up a cup with water from the espresso machine and fill it with piping hot coffee. That usually does the trick.

“It’s still cold.”


I return to the kitchen, grab a pair of tongs, and put the cup in the oven. After a few minutes I extract it, place it on a cold saucer, and return to the table.

Sounding like the warning on a Starbucks container I say, “Please be careful madam the cup and its contents are extremely hot.”

The customer sees the steam billowing and says, “Just the way I like it.”

As I walk away I hear the pleasant sound of her yelling “Ouch! It burns!”

My job is done.

Crack Head Caroline

It’s a frigid Wednesday night in February and we’re preparing to close early. The temperature has never inched above five degrees. Domino’s pizza delivery might be busy but we sure as hell aren’t.

Sitting around counting our meager take for the night, we hear Caroline having an animated conversation with her boyfriend on a borrowed cell phone. I know what they are talking about. Crack.

Caroline and her boyfriend, also a waiter at a nearby restaurant, are degenerate lovers of the rock. Homeless, all their possessions stored in a beat up old car, they migrate from motel to motel, one fix to another. Tonight they have a small problem. Their combined nightly earnings can get them a motel room or drugs – but not both. They face a dilemma. Motel or crack? Crack or a motel? Hit the sheets or hit the pipe?

Sayeed, the manger, offers to let her crash in our warehouse a few blocks away. It’s unheated and only locks from the outside. In so many words he tells her that for his largesse sexual favors are expected. A pretty girl, whose looks are just beginning to be ravaged, Caroline has not yet reached that bottom. She takes a pass. Tears in her eyes, she walks over to the front door and waits for her boyfriend to pick her up.

We tell Sayeed he is a pig. He just laughs us off saying, “Let her freeze.”

I walk up to the front. Caroline’s face is pressed against the window looking onto the empty street. The wind howling outside only accentuates the feeling of desolation. Thinking of my nice warm apartment I do a stupid thing. I reach into my pocket and hand her my tips. Forty bucks.

“You can’t stay in your car tonight. Get a room.” I say as the boyfriend’s heap pulls up.

“Thank you.” she whispers. I watch her drive off. She waves smally.

I would like to say that Caroline slept well and decided to turn over a new leaf but that didn’t happen. Caroline didn’t get a room with my money – she just bought more crack. Her and her boyfriend slept in their car with the engine running.

Avoiding death by carbon monoxide poisoning, Caroline returned to work the next day. Unkempt and dirty, with pinpricks for eyes, she stumbled about making a million mistakes. Her tips were nonexistent. Luckily for her, the boyfriend had a banner night; crack and clean sheets for everybody.

Then a few days later she was gone. Word on the street was Caroline ditched her old man and took a bus down South to her parents. Maybe on that cold night she had a moment of clarity. Maybe she didn’t. Odds are she’s still a crackhead. I prefer to think of her sober, married, and living behind a white picket fence. I’ll never know. Whenever it’s cold and the wind howls I think of her.

Be well Caroline.