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Xenophobia

30 Dec

I am a masochist when it comes to foreigners: no matter how many times I’ve been stiffed, I just keep smiling.

Last night I had a section of Aussies, Italians, Brits, Indians, and Norwegians (in that order.) I didn’t have a single American table. First the Aussies left nothing after holding my table for three hours, then the Italians profusely thanked me by leaving $20 on $556 (“Grazie?”), and the Brits left their traditional Medieval tithe of 5%.

At my old place, I could just ask management to slap 20% on the bill. Unfortunately at my current establishment, you have to wait for the table to slight you, then you can ask for a manager to “talk” with them. As you can imagine, this policy is just embarrassing and ineffective.

As a waiter, I am not motivated by tips. I don’t do a better job if I think there is going to be a “fat tip” at the end of the night. I do a good job because I am just wired that way; I take pride in my work. I think most of us in the industry share this attitude. Waiters don’t walk around thinking, “Oh, I better get her drink now, or they aren’t going to tip me.” If we did, we’d all go crazy. Now, that said, when you realize you’ve been working all night and you’ve contributed twenty-two dollars to the tip-pool, reality sets in and you realize that indeed, you need some Goddamn tips or you’re not gonna’ be able to pay the rent.

Enter the Indian kids who turned me into something out of the French Revolution. Indians, (Yes, “Indians,” I’m just gonna’ start making mass sweeping statements about nationalities, so brace yourself ((I earned it)). No, let me qualify this statement a little further before I’m accused of being Xenophobic, rich Indians.) Rich Indians are even worse than the most loathsome, offensive group of international diners that the world has ever produced: Spaniards. Spaniards are simply insane, but rich Indians are not only insane, they’re emboldened. You would be emboldened too if you grew up in a country where more than 160 million people are rendered “Untouchables,” by an ancient caste system.

Well Mr. Kunadharaju, this is Manhattan, and while you might be able to get your government friends to kill me and get away with it in Bangalore; while you are here, you cannot hiss at my Bengali busser like that, and you certainly cannot leave us twelve bucks in cash on a five hundred-dollar tab. Oh the rage, the rage.

And you wanna’ know what I did? I went New York on him. I smacked that check presenter with his twelve singles in it back on his table, and said, “Keep it.” He seemed confused, and insisted, “This is for you!” I then gestured grandly to the twenty front of house staffers working the floor, as if he was a child visiting the zoo for the first time. I pointed to all the animals by name, listing about thirteen servers, bussers and runners in total, “You see [insert server name here], and —-, and —-, and this is my friend —. We all work here for fun. Please, keep this!” And you know what he did? He took the twelve bucks! Took it!

I just laughed, and moved on to the Norwegians.

I want a cosmo, but not a cosmo.

28 Nov

Sometimes I’m not sure people realize how stupid their comments sound out loud. Tonight I kept getting the most asinine requests that I didn’t know how to respond to, or execute for that matter. They just kept coming, one after another. In this post I’ve listed: a) the guest’s request; b) what I wanted to say in that moment; c) what I really said, and then finally; d) how I solved the problem.

I hope you enjoy these little gems.

1) “I want a cosmo, but not a cosmo.”

What I’d like to say: “Of course.”

What I really say: “Of course.” 

Solution: I bring her a cosmo.

2) I’m supposed to meet my girlfriend here? She’s blonde? She’s really tall, ughhhh, she’s a model?

What I’d like to say: I’m sorry sir, but nobody here matches that description.

What I really say: Ooooooh, gosh, is she you’re girlfriend?

Solution: I point to the model at my table.

3) “I want it medium, but still have some redness in the steak.”

What I want to say: So you want me to change the laws of physics and cook a steak to 150 degrees but still have blood in the steak?

What I really say: No problem.

Solution: Start at rare, and if he wants more heat, give it to him.

4) “I want an extra-extra dirty martini up, but not too salty, you know… too dirty.”

What I want to say: Well, why don’t you take a trip with me to the bar, and you can tell me when it’s too salty.

What I really say: Of course.

Solution: Tell the bartender to make the saltiest martini he can conjure.

5) “I want the grilled chicken, grilled.”

What I want to say: First of all, you want the grilled chicken, why? And secondly, the last time you had the “grilled chicken” was it poached?

What I really say: I’ll make sure they grill it.

Solution: Not applicable.

6) “This Monkfish tastes too much like fish.”

What I want to say: Oh dear, well, don’t tell the fish that.

What I really say: I’m sorry to hear that. Monkfish can taste fishy.

Solution: Send out desserts.

7) [Whispered] “It’s his birthday, so can you like, do something… like not a big deal, or a candle or anything, but like a candle. You know?”

What I want to say: Fuck you.

What I really say: Yeah, I know.

 Solution: “Happy Birthday” written on the plate in chocolate.

OVERHEARD: Dynasty Brunch

30 Sep

This past Sunday brunch, I was a witness to the most impressive order regarding eggs, that I’ve heard to date. It was delivered by a Grande Dame in her late sixties. She was real blue money, with real fake red hair, straight out of the late ’80’s soap Dynasty. (For a good time, check out this classic catfight from the show).

She thought I was writing down her detailed order, but really I was just jotting down the gold that was spinning from her mouth:

“My friend, I will probably like this omlette with lamb sausage, but, can I do it without the onions, without the tomatoes, -AND- with goat cheese instead of the gruyere -AND- no creme fraiche, -AND- the merguez extra well done? -AND- Can it be firm, but, not too firm? OH, -AND- with Canadian (Is it actually Canadian?) bacon? If it’s not real Canadian bacon how much would it cost to take it off? Do you know? And if they can take it off, make sure it’s one not two eggs; I haven’t eater anything all day.”

The order to the kitchen, looked something like this:

Table 72, TheInsideWaiter

MERGUEZ OMELETTE

-ONE EGG

-NO ONIONS

-NO TOMATOES

-NO GRUYERE

-SUB GOAT CHZ

-NO CRM FRAICHE

-SAUSAGE XWELL

-FIRM

-SEE SERVER

Follow The Fold

29 Sep

The Industrial Revolution failed; people still fold napkins.

Every night, a restaurant’s staff  folds thousands of napkins, in order for them to be unfolded, soiled, cleaned, pressed, and then folded again. It’s an endless enterprise.

Over the course of one evening, the house stockpile of folded whites, rises and falls, like the tides.  Usually around 11:30, the last reserves have been snatched up, and reset on tables.  Only after the saddest, off-white  folds begin circulating into service, do the bussers begin to prophetize, “No napkins soon! No napkins!” Service must stop, folding commences, and the famine is kept at bay.    

Folding is time intensive.  The more elaborate the fold, the more time it takes.  The past three restaurants I have worked in have used the same exact basic fold.  So I’m quite comfortable with this particular tri-fold, and can produce the napkin in 8 seconds flat. 

At 8 seconds a napkin (I just timed myself), 50 napkins should take only 8 minutes, but that doesn’t seem reallistic. In fact, 50 napkins usually takes 10-15 minutes, even at a pert pace. There must be some breathing room in there that I’m not counting? Ah yes, gossip.

I just calculated that I have folded a minimum of 31,200 napkins, in the last three years.

(Minimum of 50 Napkins a day)* x (Average of  4 days a week) x (52 weeks a year) x (3 years)

=31,200

*Some side-work requires 200 napkins. Number of napkins folded does not include silverware “roll-ups” for the patio.

31,200 napkins is a substantial amount of gossip. Lots of sex has been relived over those clean linens, lots of dreams shared, and lots of tears shed.

Not everyone socializes over folding. I once had a manager named Sally, who folded napkins like a solitary Catholic reciting her rosary. She had an alcoholic boyfriend, and slowing stacking the perfect piles of white, seemed to give her solace.  It took her about 200,000 napkins before she decided to break up with the brute for good, Hail Mary!”

There was a girl Lilly, from Tennessee, who could talk faster than a cotton-mouth could slither, and who could fold faster than she could talk.  That girl could talk n’ fold, and talk n’ fold, like she had been doing it for all of eternity.  She even could take an espressos break, tell you about her last bikini wax, and still be a good fifty napkins ahead of you.  I once tried to catch up with her and nearly folded myself into an anxiety attack.

 And then there was Ahmed, a quiet, stoic Bengali, who approached napkins, much like he approached waiting tables (And life for that matter): absolutely precise, but without a hint of urgency.  Ahmed wouldn’t have folded fifty napkins a night, if Allah Himself had commanded it (He had not).

So many folds, somany friends. Tonight I taught a new server the tri-fold I’ve had in my hands for the past five years. I can’t remember who taught me my first one; I’d curse the sorry soul, but, I think it was Sally. Poor Sally. She’s probably still praying over a fold in some back server station, planning her escape, one napkin at a time. Aren’t we all?

Victims of a Full Moon Thursday

24 Sep

Wow, tonight’s post pretty much wrote itself straight off of my waiter pad.  I’ve changed the names of the servers, and the menu items, but the following shit went down.

1)  A guest pretended to be pregnant, so that I would break the Chef’s rule about not ordering individual appetizers without the full entrée order.  She claimed to be starving, pregnant and feeling faint. Of course I made an exception, saying,

“Well, I guess if your pregnant, of course I can send out some appetizers first.” I even asked her if she had any food allergies to make sure I didn’t endanger the “growing baby.”

Then things got shady when she finished half a bottle of wine, and then asked for a double shot of espresso. I didn’t say anything, until she asked for a shot of Patron.  

“Uhhhhhhhhm…. Are you sure?” I said.

“Yes, really. My baby’s got a high tolerance.”

2) A married man, out alone, got so blitzed that he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He started making out with a woman he just met, then he started making out with a man that he’d just met, and then he started raving,

“Oh my god, I have kids. “

3) People were doing drugs at tables.  ‘Nough said there.

4) Another wasted group of low lifes knocked their waiter’s wine bottle into the air, catapulting the liquid all over the table, and themselves.  The man who knocked the bottle was enraged at the server, and asked,

“How could you doooo that?”

The server, thank god, stood  up for himself and said,

“Sir, you just did that.”

The guy then asked for a dry cleaning bill. The managers complied. The server disagreed entirely with management’s call, and asked for the table to be thrown out. The manager stated blankly,

“We don’t throw people out. This is what we do.”

5) Table 21 allowed their birthday boy buddy to act like a devilish 8-year-old, without stopping it.  The guy was a complete embarrassment, and I stopped serving him drinks.  At one point, I’m fairly certain that the adult birthday boy, vomited in his water-glass, and his friend asked me to clear the glass, without informing me exactly what had happened. So yeah. Vomit on the hands. Great. The friend simply stated, after I had already picked up the glass,

“Yeah, he sauced his water.”

I asked for clarification, as to what this meant, seeing as I could feel wetness in my hand, but the friend didn’t offer me any more info and said, “don’t ask.”

6) Along similar bio-hazard lines, somebody left a syringe at their table without the cap. I’m guessing it was a diabetic, but come on. It’s just a little out there. I refused to come within five feet of it, and instructed a busser to get a latex glove, first, and THEN pick it up.

That’s all. Yeah. That’s all. I’m kinda pissed. And am too tired to edit this post.

War with a Butterfly

20 Sep

Tonight’s drama centered around a “butterflied” steak.

Certain assumptions must –and should– be made about a person who orders a $50 filet mignon,  “butterflied, extra well-done.”  Such a person, who would ruin a divine piece of meat, by requesting to have it sliced down the center, with the intention of grilling all the juices out of it, until it is a charred, tasteless, brown nugget of nothing, surely hates himself, and life.

Mr. Butterfly was no exception.  When I served the first  filet to Mr. Butterfly, he reacted as if I had just served his first-born, rare, on a platter. Without even prodding the steak he exclaimed:

-“This is… You people are… you have got to be kidding me… (no words). ”

-“Oh, I’m sorry. So you didn’t want it butterflied? Or, is it too grilled?”

-“It’s not even charred on both sides. It’s just… it’s cooked on one side.”

-“So you want it charred on both sides?”

-“That’s butterflied, yes!”

-“Oh, okay. I’m sorry.  I’ll talk to Chef. ”

-“Okay? No, it’s not O-K. Are you people sure you know what you’re doing?”

I wanted to say, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Sir?”  I had a feeling that nothing short of inviting the guest’s masochistic Mother, to personally butterfly grill his steak, was going to make him happy. Unfortunately she wasn’t in Midtown tonight. Too bad, because two filets later, we still couldn’t get it right. And by the third filet, Chef told me to, “Educate the fuck.” 

Four manager visits, and $300 worth of free wine and food later, Mr. Butterfly still refused to touch his filet. Of course, I removed it. And he was content to be a martyr, sitting in a silent rage while the other guests ate their meals.  

Every time I came over he seemed to get more mad. Mad that I graciously conceded to his requests without question, mad that I didn’t flinch at his threats to “handle this with the owners,”  mad that I could even look him straight in the eye and ask him questions like, “Would you like an espresso?”

My new mission was to make him internally combust.  And I’ve found that the most affective way to throw an ego- possessed New Yorker into a violent rage, is to be truly kind to them.

Now, to generate unaffected kindness after being subjected to cruelty is a difficult feat. Indeed, it’s damn near impossible to generate the quality of kindness I am talking about, considering the previous circumstances. One might be taken for being “fresh.” However, such sincere kindness is absolutely essential to make the guest lose themselves in a fit of rage.

But how can one possibly achieve such an emotional effect?

Well, today on the train, I was listening to a Deepak Chopra’s daily affirmations on empathy. In the back server station I began my affirmation, “this is someone’s son; a mother loves this lost child,” and then proceeded to imagine Mr. Butterfly as a child, a six year old, lost in a shopping mall, crying for his mother (I don’t know, that’s what came to me in the moment, and I just went with it). I g0t lost in a daydream for a few minutes, until I was fully related to the horrifying pain of this child, crying for his mother, and then I entered the dining room, completely immersed in the daydream, forgetting my past hour of hell with Butterfly the Elder.

-“Your check, Sir. Of course, my manager took off the filet. And she also wanted to send you the Barolo. Again I’m, so, sooo sorry we weren’t able to get that right. Have a wonderful night.”

(Pause.)

-“Let me talk to your manager.”

-“Oh, you’d like to speak with Sonia again?”

-“I DIDN’T ASK TO SPEAK WITH HER THE FIRST TIME! AND I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO HER… I WANT TO TALK TO THE GUY IN THE SUIT!”

Dare I say, “Mission accomplished!” Butterfly started a yelling match with Sonia, who he claimed, “Didn’t look like a manager,” (Yes, she has incredible breasts).  Butterfly became so heated that Sonia flagged security for back-up.  Unfortunately for Butterfly, the six-foot-four, two-hundred-and-fifty-pound, former center tackle from Florida State University, was not “the man in the suit” that Butterfly had requested.

Spreken ze Douche?

18 Sep

Douche-bags are annoying enough to wait on (Douche-bags. noun: self-important, socially programmed men, who are unaware that they are socially programmed, or performing their masculinity; plural for douche-bag); but now they, the douche-bags, have coined a new word that is infiltrating the dining vernacular, making waiters everywhere cringe.

“Okay, let’s get some appeez goin’.”

“Don’t worry- I got some appeez for the table.”

“Hey bro- where are our appeez?”

Sometimes it’s hard to point a douche-bag; they might be talking about something other than iphones or time-shares; they might be out with a female co-worker that they truthfully aren’t trying to bone; they might be gay. But this new word appeez -this is the only spelling I can concieve of, yet-  is the touchstone marker of douche-baggery. Upon it’s utterance in context of taking an  order, I cannot help but whisper under my breath instictively, “Douche.” 

The first time I encountered the word  -I hate even writing it- appee, was in February of  this year. I had never heard it before then, not in ten years of waiting tables. Nor had I ever heard it dining around the country, out west, the mid-west, down south. I am convinced that it’s origin is urban, and corporate. Or perhaps it started with a bunch of frat guys ordering Chinese take-out in a basement, over a game of beer pong.

Whatever it’s origin, it must be stopped. Pretty soon they will be calling Burgundy wines “Burgs,” as in, “Gimme’ a Burg.” Or maybe instead of having a macchiato, they’ll have a “macci,” like, “Yeah– I’ll have a macci too, with a Jameson shot on the side.” 

Does anyone else  find it ironic that the douche-bags, in trying to prove their manliness, have created the cutest little girly words? Talk like a man, not a bag for feminine hygiene. It’s an appetizer, not an appee. And no, I will not pour your Amstel Lite in a chilled beer mug. I save those for the real beers, and the real men.