Tag Archives: Waiting Tables

Just get lost

I was waiting tables the other night and I went up to these two ladies finishing up their glasses of wine, I said, “So, is there anything else that I can offer you tonight?” and this one lady just looked up at me and said, “Will you just get lost? Can you please just get lost?” And I was like, “OK.”


And I walked away. And I’m still thinking about it, because I have no idea what prompted her to tell me to get lost. Everything about the service was as polite and as pleasant as any customers could have wanted their restaurant experience to be. I mean, sure, I had an inkling at the beginning of the interaction that perhaps these two particular ladies weren’t in the mood for many pleasantries. I could tell by the way they purposefully left their menus untouched to the side when they sat down, how, after I told them the specials, they didn’t even look at me when they said, “Thanks,” before returning to their conversation, still not making a move for those menus.

After they finally ordered, when they were in the middle of their chicken salads, I noticed the guest sitting at position one, how her glass of rosé was empty. “May I offer you another glass?” I asked her, to which she replied, “No.” OK, so I went in to take the empty glass off of the table, but she stopped me, she said, “I’m not done yet.”

OK. And then after everything was bused off of the table, after I had offered them dessert, after they declined dessert, I thought, well, I guess that’ll be it then, right? I guess maybe you two will leave and I’ll get to make another ten bucks or so from the next two-top to sit down and order chicken salads and glasses of wine.

But as I went in for that, “Anything else?” the lady at position one gave me a really crooked smile and sad, “You know what? I think I will take that second glass of wine.” “Of course,” I told her, and got her another glass of wine. I’m not sure if she drank the wine, or if the alcohol in the glass eventually evaporated, but about an hour or so later, it was pretty clear that the glass was empty again. And so I went over once more.

“Is there anything else I can offer you tonight?” and that’s when she told me to get lost. And I just said, “OK.” I’m still thinking about what went wrong, at what point this lady decided that I needed some sort of a verbal dressing-down. Every customer has this weapon at their disposal, the ability to be rude and mean for no reason at all, knowing full well that they’re never going to be held accountable, that we’ll just have to smile it off or, worse, argue back and risk getting into a whole confrontation probably involving at least one manager.

I dropped off the check and watched them sit there at their empty table for another half hour or so. I’m sure I could have kept going over, “Anything else?” all of the passive-aggressive tricks I have at my disposal, I could have wiped down the table, or refilled their water glasses every time I saw them take a sip, all the way to the brim, almost overflowing, maybe even overflowing just a few drops.

But whatever, I didn’t care, I don’t care, part of me hates this lady for telling me to get lost. I’m talking real hate here, like the kind of emotion that, left unchecked, eventually amplifies into something twisted. But I don’t want that, not for me. Let this lady keep all of it. I know for a fact that I was polite and pleasant and I smiled the whole time. No, much better to go home, get on the Internet, and write about what a fucking loser that lady was.

Well, maybe I can hang on to just a little bit. I don’t know what I want here, not revenge, I don’t want her life to be worse than it already is. But maybe she could get a taste of something great and lose it immediately. That would be OK, right? So I hope she buys a scratch-off ticket that wins a two-million dollar jackpot, and then I hope she loses it. I hope that her boss promotes her to head a new division of the company that she works at, but right as she shows up for her first day, she gets a call, they tell her corporate didn’t think the new division was such a great idea, that she’ll be returning to her old job immediately. I hope the next time she goes to McDonald’s, she tells them, “No pickles,” and after she goes home and takes her food out, I hope she finds extra pickles, like a whole cucumber’s worth piled up high under that bun. I hope she find the perfect dress on sale the next time she goes shopping at the department store, the one that she’d been eyeing for months, and just as she takes it out of the bag when she gets home, her cat comes over and pukes all over it, and she tries to get the puke-stain out, but it’s still there, she can see it, it smells terrible. And she’ll try to return it, but the clerk at the department store will clearly see the cat puke-stain that won’t come out, she’ll insist, they’ll both insist, finally the clerk will tell her to take her dress and get lost. “Just get lost, all right? Just get lost.”

Hopefully they left a decent tip

The other day I was at work waiting tables. Even though none of the servers pool tips, we still have a system in place where we rely heavily on each other’s support. One aspect of this codependency involves greeting the customers that have just sat down. Officially, it’s supposed to be within thirty seconds, the party gets sat, and the nearest available waiter or waitress has to do the whole, “Hi! How’s it going? Can I get you something to drink?”


It’s a good system, because you can’t be everywhere at once, and it’s nice to know that if you get stuck in the back wrapping up a bunch of doggy bags, for example, that the rest of your customers aren’t going to be left out to hang, waiting for someone to show up, slowly steaming, thinking all the while of how somebody is going to pay for this, it’s going to be the server, it’s going to be reflected in the tip.

But it goes both ways. Every once in a while you ask if they’d like to start out with a drink and you get ambushed by a, “We’re actually in a rush, we’ll give you everything right now, we’re ready, we’re really hungry.” And then you’re committed, you can’t be like, “Well, you see, I’m only here for the drink order …” people hate that nonsense, going to a restaurant, trying to figure out who does what. It makes sense that I just take over, do what I can, try to help out wherever possible.

Like I said, I found myself in this situation the other day, an older couple, they were definitely from out of town, they were hungry, and in a rush, so they gave me everything. Fine. I took their order, I went to put everything in the computer, and then I proceeded to get the drinks ready. The man wanted a Coke, and the lady wanted and iced tea, “With lots of ice, and extra lemon.”

Our restaurant has these sixteen ounce glasses, and our ice machine spits out ice in giant chunks. The glasses can only really hold five ice cubes, but this lady said extra, and I wanted her to see that I was paying attention, and so I kind of put a sixth one on top and then softly hammered the whole thing in with the back of the ice scoop.

I approached the table with the plate of extra lemons balanced on my forearm, and just as I set down that glass of iced tea in front of that lady, she says to me, “Didn’t I tell you that I wanted a lot of ice?”

And my job is not to give people attitude or anything like that. Even if it was, this wasn’t my table, we don’t share gratuity, and so this wasn’t even my money on the line. Really, all I had to do was drop these drinks off and that would have been the end of my interaction with this man and woman. But I couldn’t process this lady’s question to me, even though it wasn’t a question, it was just a little dart of sentence flung into my neck with a decorative question mark dangling at the end.

I didn’t have time to smile and be professional. I shot back, “More ice? There are six giant ice cubes in that cup. That’s the most ice that can fit in that glass.” And she looked a little shocked, I was a little shocked, I mean, she was definitely pushing buttons, but rarely in the service industry does button pushing actually result in a server pushing back. That’s not allowed.

I realized my mistake. Even though the ice was just as she asked, again, it’s not my job to push back, it’s my job to take all of that bullshit and smile. And like I said before, this wasn’t even my tip on the line, so now I not only started to worry about a rudeness complaint possibly heading my way, but I began to feel bad that I was negatively impacting the amount of money that wasn’t even going into my pocket.

Maybe half a second passed before I abruptly changed my entire demeanor. I put on the most sincere smile I could manage, I said to her, “But I’m happy to get you some more ice. I’ll be right back.” And I raced back to the kitchen, hoping that I could get this lady some more ice before she even had a minute to think about what I’d said and how the whole situation could have been handled differently.

Thirty seconds later, I had two more cups filled with ice, another twelve oversized ice cubes, in front of her. I finished our interaction with another ridiculously sincere smile, and then I disappeared, hoping that all would have been forgiven, that maybe they wouldn’t have even noticed my micro-outburst, those two or three seconds where I forgot my place, where I was, who I was talking to. Hopefully they left a decent tip.

You know what sucks? The lunch rush

I hate waiting tables during lunch. It brings out the worst in me, in the guests, in my coworkers. It brings out the worst in all of us, really, as a species. And I’m not just talking about my restaurant, I’m talking about the lunch hour, as a practice. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take a lunch break at all, it’s generally never more than an hour. Come spend eight hours a day working for us, and by the way, that doesn’t include a lunch break, that’s on you. And don’t take more than an hour.


As a waiter, dinner’s pretty easy. People start rolling in around five or six, and the dining room stays pretty full until closing. That’s plenty of time to make money, to let people eat, finish chewing their food, the whole restaurant experience. But lunchtime, nobody’s cutting anybody any slack. We’ve got to do the whole restaurant thing, but it’s got to be over in an hour. Everybody got it? Hostesses, you ready to seat all of these people? Cooks? You guys all set?

Because it’s noon and there’s already a line out the door. And parties of business people get sat and they want their Diet Cokes and unsweetened ice teas immediately. And you know what? We’ll just give you everything right now, we’re ready, burger, boom, salad, got it, let’s go, get it in, if we get our food quick enough, maybe we’ll have ten minutes or so to spend outside before filing back into the offices, another five or six or seven hours of sitting down, pouring whatever reserves of energy we have left out to our jobs, so even though, yeah, I guess we could technically go out for a walk at nine, or ten, we’ve got to eat, and we’re so tired, it’s been such a long day.

So yeah, that lunch hour, that’s a lot of pressure, sixty minutes to try and feel like a normal person sandwiched by two stretches of productivity. Why can’t we figure something else out? Wouldn’t two hours be cool? Or three? Sure, that might eat up into a company’s bottom line, and yeah, what would the shareholders say? But then again, might not a shorter workday lead to less stressed out employees? Shouldn’t that be a goal?

But that’s not the way we do business, and so we’re stuck with the lunch hour, way too little time for everybody, especially if you want to sit down at a restaurant and enjoy an actual meal. “Hi, we’re actually in a little bit of a hurry …” Of course you’re in a hurry. Everybody’s in a hurry. I’m actually in a hurry too. I only have about two hours or so to make money today, so I’d like to get you fed and out of here in as little time as possible. And look at that, everyone else is saying the same thing to their server, that they’re in a hurry. And the whole restaurant staff, we’re all racing to the computers, trying to get your lunch in before everyone else gets their lunch in, before the window gets immediately overrun by orders. The first few plates are out in eight to minutes, but after that, well, even if nobody on the line makes any mistakes, we’re talking sheer volume, OK, you can only cook a hamburger so fast, and you can only fit so many burgers on the grill.

Even worse though, every now and then I’ll approach a table just as the lunch rush really gets rocking, and the businessmen and women at my table dismiss me with a wave of the hand, “Actually, we haven’t even looked at the menu. Why don’t you come back in ten minutes?” And that’s when I have to get a little aggressive, which I don’t like, but I mean, I need to eat, OK, I need money in my pocket. I’m not going to waste my entire lunch shift waiting for you guys to get your act together.

It’s like seriously, OK, order, eat, pay, and leave. Do you see the line out the door? And I get it, OK, it’s not cool to feel rushed. But that’s because there’s nothing cool about the lunch hour. Everybody’s feeling rushed. Do you see that swarm of bodies jockeying for position around the hostess’s podium? Yeah, they’re all waiting for your table. And so when I come over and start bussing everything off, your empty coffee cups, your empty water glasses, yes, I can see you rolling your eyes at me as I wipe down the table for the third time, like I get it, that I know that you know that I’m trying to get you to leave, and it’s not just me, OK, my manager’s like, “Hey Rob, how’s table eleven? Did they leave yet?” and I’m like, “No, I just wiped down the table again and they still didn’t leave,” and she’s like, “OK well, go wipe it down again,” and I’m like, “For real? Again? I just did it.”

And so I have to go over, again, and I have to wipe the table down, again, and they’re all visibly annoyed by my presence, and maybe one of them starts to take out some business documents, like a bunch of printed out spreadsheets. And I just want to be like, come on everybody, I don’t barge into your office and start asking people if they want more Diet Coke, OK, wouldn’t that get in your way? Wouldn’t that disrupt the flow of you trying to do your job, to make money? Yeah, so don’t sit here and bring your business to my table. I need customers to sit here and buy food and tip me so I can go home and go out to eat and buy food and tip people.

What really gets me is that a lot of the most guilty offenders, the parties that just don’t care at all, it’s these businessmen working at banks and hedge funds, paying for their lunches on identical corporate credit cards, all of them with ridiculous names like, “Hyperion Capital,” or “Acceleron Associates.” You guys understand business, right? Don’t you get the whole supply and demand aspect of this restaurant? Your table is in demand. I’m trying to get you to leave so I can supply it to a new round of customers.

And now I’m in full rant mode, but this is the invisible hand of the market at work. OK, this is what you want in your job, right, you want the government to leave you alone so you can make your money and do whatever you want, right? And then you go out to lunch and you get annoyed that there’s a whole restaurant full of people trying to get by on gratuity. That’s how it works. More customers, more gratuity, more money. You need to leave. Just eat, pay, leave, and make room for somebody else. Because this is big city, OK, there are like seven billion people on this planet, all right? You’ve got to make room for everyone. There’s a whole lot of people trying to eat lunch.

Originally published at Thought Catalog

Green olives, a lot of them

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.

Happy birthday to my best friend, Gelo

I want to dedicate this post to my best friend, Gelo. Happy birthday, buddy. I hope this is the best birthday you’ve ever had in your life. I hope that it’s the best birthday that anybody’s ever had. If you could somehow combine all of the greatest birthdays ever experienced by any human being who’s ever lived, I’d give anything for your birthday this year to make that hypothetical super birthday seem like a day stuck in the waiting room at the dentist, a visit where you have to get all of your wisdom teeth removed, and unfortunately you’ve got an allergy to Novocain and laughing gas, and so the oral surgeon is just like, “Well, sorry, but they’ve got to come out one way or another.”


Gelo is my best friend. And that’s not a term I throw around lightly. He’s the bartender at the restaurant where I wait tables. I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate, sometimes, but I’m not even kidding you, not only is Gelo the best bartender in the restaurant, I’m pretty sure  the best bartender in New York City. This guy makes picture perfect cocktails sometimes when he’s not even paying attention. There’s a little printer that sits at the end of the bar, it spits out drink orders as the waiters and waitresses punch them into the computer. It can’t even keep up with Gelo. It’s like, before it even has a chance to finish printing the ticket, bam, the cocktail is already made, perfectly garnished, just exactly the right amount of ice.

For real, I’ve actually had customers get up and walk out of the restaurant when they found out that Gelo wasn’t working that particular night. One time this guy ordered a Manhattan, and after he took the first sip, he made this really pained face. Once he finished choking it down, he looked up at me in disgust, “Where’s Gelo? Who made this? Was it Sal?” And yeah, it was Sal. I pointed over to the bar and Sal made a friendly waving gesture. And please, don’t get me wrong, Sal’s a great bartender. It’s just that, Gelo’s the best bartender. He’s so far ahead of his colleagues in both proficiency and speed that even the second best bartender looks like he’s never learned to make a gin and tonic by comparison.

But he’s not just the world’s greatest mixologist, he’s also the best friend I’ve ever had. I was actually a little surprised when I found out that his birthday was today, because I’d always just kind of assumed that we were secretly long lost twins separated at birth. It’s the only way to really describe the bond that we share. Like, when I say best friends, yes, I mean it, he’s my best friend. But the English language doesn’t do justice in providing words even remotely capable of describing our connection. Maybe we’re not actual twins, but we’re definitely soul twins. Like we have twin souls. Soul twins can have different birthdays, I’m pretty sure. Sometimes I wonder if we’re not sharing one soul … you know what? It doesn’t even matter.

What matters is, Gelo, I’m seriously so lucky to have you as a best friend. The other night at work, it was really busy, I mean, the rest of us were busy, Gelo’s never busy, because he’s so good at his job. In fact, if you look at him sometimes, you might think, why is that guy the only one not running around like a crazy person? It’s because he’s already made all of the drinks. He does an entire team’s worth of work in like ten minutes. Anyway, he calls me over, I’m in the weeds, I’m having a tough time, and he hands me a cup, “Hey man, enjoy.”

It was a milkshake. I don’t even know how he had time to make me a milkshake, because yes, we have ice cream, but there’s no blender. Did he blend it by hand? Or did he sneak in a really tiny immersion blender? And it was the best milkshake I’ve ever had in my life. One sip, and time seemed to slow down around me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel trapped under a list of twenty-five things I needed to do at the same time. I just quickly organized my tasks and executed them without getting stressed out. Gelo, thanks man, that milkshake was so fucking delicious. If only I could be drinking it right now, but it’s OK, because knowing that I’ll get to carry around that memory, that first sip of the tastiest vanilla milkshake anybody’s ever had, it’s like, I’m content, happy in the knowledge that our friendship is the best best friendship anybody’s ever had. I hope you get everything you ever wanted for your birthday this year. And then I hope you look at the giftwrap, it’ll say, “To Gelo, You’re my best goddamn friend in the world. From, Rob.”