When I’m waiting tables, I try to tell myself to chill out, that whenever I find myself getting bent out of shape, it’s usually my attitude that’s the source of the problem. Like I don’t like getting bossed around, or I don’t like having to make an unnecessary trip into the kitchen. All of that stuff is my job, and if I can just suck it up and not take it as a personal insult every time someone asks me for a Diet Coke, I’ll get through the shift a lot happier, I’ll probably be genuinely more pleasant, all of that nonsense about well-being and inner-peace.
But every once in a while I can’t, and I feel justified in my anger. The other day I was in the dining room, and this party of four or five got sat at one of my coworker’s tables. I went over to get a drink order, which I’m happy to do, not only because it’s nice to help out, but because that’s a rule at our restaurant, that you have to go over and get a drink order even if it’s not your table.
For a while it’s a mostly painless interaction. Coke. Water. Coke. Diet Coke. But then I get to this lady at end, and she tells me, “I want a Diet Coke, and then I want lemons on the side, but a lot of them, OK, a lot of lemons, and also I want green olives, OK, and I want a lot of those too.” And then guy to her right was like, “Coke.”
But I couldn’t get past her order, because it didn’t make sense. “I’m sorry, you said you wanted lemons and … ?” and she replied, “Yeah, a lot of them. OK. A whole plate.” So I said to her, “Right, OK, but it was lemons and what else?” At this point I really wished I hadn’t had the misfortune of dealing with any of this. “Green olives,” she confirmed, “A lot.”
Like I said, I’m happy to help out, to an extent. But this was already getting a little crazy. And yeah, if it were my table, and I was maybe looking at a tip heading my way, sure, I’d probably be a little more inclined to accommodate crazy requests. But as it stood, this was just a difficult situation that I could tell wasn’t going end with me grabbing a few olives.
This was during the downtime in between lunch and dinner service, so even though the restaurant wasn’t particularly busy, the whole place was running on not much more than a skeleton crew of servers and managers. There was no bartender on duty, so I had to go behind the bar and fish around to find where they kept the olives. And then I had to skewer them on these little sticks. It was so annoying, all of this on top of their sodas, I had to cut up all of those lemons that she wanted along with her olives.
When I went to run everything out, again, it’s not like anybody was around to help me out, and so I had to make a few trips. On my first go, I had the drinks and the plate of lemons. I left the olives on the bar so I could come right back. When I went to set everything down at the table, the lady didn’t even give me a second, she was just like, “Excuse me? Can I get a plate of green olives? Like a lot of …”
And I just walked back to the bar, because I didn’t want to risk giving her a dirty look, something that communicated nonverbally, “Are you fucking kidding me lady? Do you see my hands totally full with all of these drinks? Can you give me more than maybe five seconds to satisfy your completely unreasonable demands?”
I came back and dropped off the plate of olives. There were three skewers with three olives speared to each. I didn’t even have a chance to set the plate down in front of her when she grabbed one of the skewers and started chowing down. Jesus Christ, I wanted absolutely nothing else to do with this table. What was wrong with this person? Why didn’t anybody else at her table tell her stop acting like a complete crazy person?
This took up way too much of my time, and I found myself immediately running errands for my actual tables. Maybe five minutes later, I had just bused like six plates and was heading back to the kitchen when the olive lady started waving at me from across a row of booths. She held up her empty plate and said in a voice that projected across half of the restaurant, “Can I get some more olives? A lot more, please.”And I just nodded, put my head down, dropped off the plates in the dishwasher, and I disappeared in one of the storage closets. I couldn’t deal with this. I was about to lose my mind over this lady asking for olives. And I didn’t want to do anything stupid, so I just hid. Hopefully her server would walk by the table soon enough and he or she could deal with these insane requests.
Because seriously, what the fuck? You want olives so badly? Is this because you’re crazy? Or are you just super cheap and you’re looking to get a free appetizer out of massive quantities of cocktail garnishes? I remember one time I had a similar experience where a customer kept asking for pickles, more pickles, a whole bowl full. Finally a manager told me,
“You know what? Tell her we’re charging her five dollars for pickles,” and of course the lady said no, but she was pissed, and she left me a shitty tip.
It’s not like you go out to a restaurant to eat olives. Just go to a grocery store and buy a bottle. Go to your house, make sure no one else is home to see what a lunatic you are, and have at it, eat the whole bottle. Drink the brine after you’re done. Everybody does crazy things, that’s fine, I’m not judging. OK, I guess I am judging a little. But leave the rest of us out of it, OK? I’ll get you a Diet Coke, I’ll run your food back and forth, I’m pretty malleable in terms of dealing with whatever you want me to do. But I’m going to stop what I’m doing to get you another plate of olives? Get lost, all right, you’re fucking nuts.