Tag Archives: waiting tables

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.

The Wine Nazi: “NO WINE FOR YOU!”

7 Oct

You all remember “The Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld? Well, I just met “The Wine Nazi;” he’s a twenty-eight-year-old Lebanese tight-wad (or should I say tight-end?) who graduated from Cornell, works in a PR firm, and who lost three-hundred dollars on Fantasy Football last week (Yes, I got all that information from his conversation tableside).

 Tonight the Wine Nazi thumbed through the wine menu for his party of four. Price was the only factor.  The varietal, terroirvintage and winemaker were inconsequential.

He chose a cheap bottle from a mega-wine-maker, a $72 dollar Malbec that you can get at Trader Joe’s for $13 bucks. 

After he tasted and approved the Argentinian grape juice, I started to pour his guests a small glass (To begin with, I am always conservative when it comes to the first pour; I find that a series of consecutive small pours kills a bottle faster, and ensures a second sale; the guest always thinks there is more coming, and therefore, drinks more liberally). 

I was just about to pour 1.5 ounces on the first guest’s glass, when Wine Nazi threw out his hand like a traffic cop, covering the guest’s glass, and scolding me, “No-no-no! No more.”

I thought maybe his friend didn’t want to  drink much, and the Wine Nazi was trying to help me.  And so on the next pour I went even slower. Sure enough, just as I was about to hit 1.5 ounces (less than half a pour), the Wine Nazi’s  hand flared up to stop me.

It’s not unusual for guests to silently indicate they don’t want to drink more, by raising their hand to the glass (This is a polite and traditional gesture. Blue Monied persons usually just raise the hand without comment, or thanks.  It’s very classy, much like putting your knife and fork parallel to eachother, as a signal to clear the plate.) 

However,  I’d never had the person ordering the wine, physically and verbally command me to “STOP!” pouring, before the first toast.  The Wine Nazi seemed to get a real kick out of ordering a bottle, and then having the power to dispense it over his friends.  It was pretty rude and messed up in my opinion.

The strange part was that he didn’t just pour the wine himself, and looked at me impatiently when his friends’ glasses were empty, as if to say, “Hey lazy, aren’t you going to fill our glasses?” But of course, the moment I started to pour, there was the traffic-light hand again, telling me to stop.

I should have just yelled at him, “NO WINE FOR YOU!”

What time are the fireworks?

28 Sep

Tonight table “4” came with a plan: agree to a 6:30 reservation, and then ride it out for five and a half hours, so that when the witching hour comes, and the glitterati arrive, they could be within gawking distance.

Smart girls? And I liked them a lot, they were eaters, drinkers, and bawdy business types. I just wish they had been honest about it and said, “Hi, what time are the fireworks, 11:30? We’ll wait.”

Instead, the girls played an embarrassingly long five hour game of Nurse-The-Miller-Light. Realizing that the only food item remaining to claim their campsite was a side of green beans, and that they had no intention of getting dessert, the girls decided to eat one bean at a time, for oh, two hours?  Every ten minutes the Maitre ‘d was coming up to me:

“The fuck is going on with The Baby Sitters Club on “4?” Pull their water. I need them out, out, out, NOW!

I had pulled their water. I had dropped their check –somewhere in hour two–, but each time I returned with the bill, seat three decided to take one for the team, and be the designated drinker, “She’ll take another beer.”

“Ladies, I’m sorry,” I said, “but the bill is closed. If you’d like another drink, please  join us in the bar.”

Well, the Designated Dessie wasn’t going down so easy. She took the bill and sat on it.  Now, usually this is a move that pisses me off but, in this case, the girls won me over –I don’t know, they reminded me of my pals from the Midwest, girls who drank beer– and I just decided not to care. Somehow, in the madness of five-hundred other people trying to get tables, the front-desk gave up on Table-4 too, and took them off the seating map, and just let enjoy the fireworks.

When the pretty people arrived, Designated Dessie had the crazed eyes of a five-year-old on Christmas morning, or perhaps a fifty-year-old at a strip high-end strip joint (Too tired for similes here). At the end of the night, my Midwestern ladies picked up the beer bottles, pulled the picnic blanket off the table, and tipped me accordingly.

“We’ll be back, what’s your name?,” asked Dessie.

I told them, but then failed to mention that if they ever wanted to come back, they’d have to do so under an alias, as Designated Dessie’s guest profile on Open-Table, now had a big red flag on it that said, “CAMPERS.”

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.

The Alchemist

23 Sep

For a moment I thought Table 25, Seat One, might have known a bit about wine.  He ordered a bottle of Mazuelo from Rioja that I usually recommend, and sell quite a bit of, the . It’s cheap and delicious. 

However, upon pouring a taste, he gave himself away immediately as someone that had picked the bottle for its price, and not its region or varietal: first, he held the damn glass by the bowl, not the stem; and second, his whimpy attempt to airate the wine in his glass, was novice, if not pathetic.  Watching him swirl his wine was  uncomfortable. It was that same feeling you get when you watch  a civilian throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium — insecure, self-aware, and just plain embarrasing–. 

“Oh. Oh, this is definitely corked. Try it!” he demanded.

Now, I was not gonna be an accessory in his attempt to impress his friends.  I knew the wine, and how it should taste.  I could smell the damn thing coming off his glass. Immediately I poured myself a taste, and dared to contradict him.

-“Sir, I will give my manager a taste of this, but I’m honestly not  getting any cork here.  Now, if you don’t like the wine… that’s a different issue, and I can perhaps get you another bottle?”

-“No, no, no. I like this wine. But its definitely corked.”

-Okay, let’s try another bottle. This time I’ll decant it for you… You know, let it open up a little. It’s probably just tight.”

He was a nice guy, but I was going to beat his game. You see, I already had a plan brewing, and knew Seat 1 would find “decanting” alluring. I decanted the wine in the back station, and gave my manager a taste. My manager confirmed the bottle was uncompromised.  And so I decided to do a little psychology test; send the same bottle back to the guest, with a little blind swap, and see what happens.

I was already pouring bottle upon bottle of the Mazuelo at another table, a seventeen-top, at table 11;  I had some room to dance with bottles, without losing product, or cheating either table.  I was going to pull a blind swap. 

I brought one of Table 11’s new bottles over to table 25, Seat 1, in order for him to taste it. 

-“So much better thank you,” he said.

-“I’m glad sir. I’ll decant that for you.” 

 -“Thank you.”

 I returned to the service station and got the first decanted bottle, which was “corked.”  I picked up a new glass, and brought the decanted wine with me to table 25.  Seat 1 had already finished his little taste and so I replaced his glass with a new one.

-“Should I give it a few minutes before pouring?,” I asked.

-“Absolutely, thanks,” said Seat 1.

And so the moment their appetizers came out, I returned to the table and poured Seat 1  a taste of his decanted, “corked” bottle.

-“Please just try that for me again, after it’s been out a bit,” I said.

-“Now, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s how a rioja should taste,” he confirmed.

Waiters are magicians, alchemists of food and drink; or, atleast that’s how it appears to the guest.  In reality it takes a little know-how, a lot of running around, and pulling a few favors, to turn a pinot noir into a pinot gris, but it can be done, I assure you, it can.

 

“I’m Swipin’ Sexy Back”

22 Sep

Despite previous Socialist musings, I would like to take a moment to lust over the Amex “Black-Card,” officially marketed as the Centurian Card.  Does anyone else suffer from a class hard-on, every time you swipe that sleek,  Titanium? I do. 

With “no personal spending limit,” the Black-Card is something fantastical, the consumer equivalent of  Willy Wonka’s “Golden Ticket.” You could probably kill someone with its Titanium edge to the jugular, and still get a Personal Concierge to clean up the blood (full benefits listed here, *notice Carnage Privileges).

For those of you who do not handle thirty credit cards a day, the first thing you’ll notice about the credit card is its weight, a heft worthy of the $250,000 requisite.   One of my co-workers Anika, who is from New Zealand, encountered her first  Black Card, tonight.  Her response, was much like mine: sensual.

“Oh my god, feeeeeel this,” she said.  

Anika then began to smell the card, as if inhaling its metallic scent, might transfer the cardholder’s funds into her personal checking account. And she didn’t stop there. Anika kinda started to kiss it, like a young bride-to-be might kiss an engagement ring (or other things).

It’s no surprise that men flash them about like an expendable penis –a black one, nonetheless–.  If the nebbish cardholder at table 32 had seen Anika’s response, he just might have been able to swipe his way into some Elite Status Kiwi.

Later in the evening I opened a check presenter to find my own Golden Ticket.  I wondered what would happen if I swiped my ass with it? What would happen… Might I turn to gold? And so I tried –just between the pants, not the flesh mind you–. No luck. I guess not even Midas could afford the $5,000 joiner fee.

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.