Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Inside Peek at Being a Waitress

In my basement, there are piles and piles of plastic food. There’s plastic pasta, plastic eggplant, plastic eggs, plastic everything. There are empty beer bottles with labels on them that haven’t been seen for ten years. There are these old tables we used to use for who knows what--maybe family picnics or outside get-togethers. There is an old apron my grandma used to wear around her neck when she was youthful and helping with Thanksgiving dinner. I even have a fake sink. You can actually store water in the bottom and use it like a real sink to wash the plastic food when it gets a little dirty.
You could say I was obsessed. Ask me what I want to be when I grow up and I’ll say a professional waitress. I kid you not, for several years, all I wanted for my birthday and Christmas was plastic food and fake money. My grandparents would come to my house once or twice a year and I’d serve them my plastic food and they’d give me—gasp—real money for it. Getting my first tip was monumental. The feeling was so extremely amazing and the suspense of finding out how much they would leave me was irreplaceable.
So, here we are today. I work at Buffalo Wild Wings and I’m a cashier. So what?
Well, I waited on my first table the other night, because all the other servers were freaking out and I decided to jump on in. To anyone who is already a server, don’t go just yet. I promise that you will find this funny, because you can sympathize with me more than anyone else can. To anyone who isn’t a server—here’s your little inside peek.

               It’s really busy and the servers are getting overwhelmed. This is my chance, I think. I eye the couple sitting in the far booth—the woman with natural black curls and glasses, the man with a black goatee and a blazer. I didn’t expect much tip-wise. I grab two straws and a couple drink napkins and greet them.
“I’ll go ahead and get you started with something to drink—we have coke products,” I say, looking back and forth between them.
“I’ll have Mountain Dew,” the woman says, looking up from her menu.
“Mello Yello alright?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“And for you, sir?”
“I’ll have a water with lemon.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back with that.”
Things are going smooth. I’m gonna go grab these drinks and take them back, and I’ll get this show on the road.
I reach over the table caddy and set their drinks on their drink napkins and that’s when things start to get a little too wild and uncomfortable for me.
“Are you ready to order?” I ask.
“Um, no, we aren’t ready yet,” she looks up from her menu.
“Okay, I’ll be back in a few.”
You may be thinking something along the lines of: “What’s the big deal, Bekah… you just go back in a few minutes and take their order.” NO. It is not that simple, I can tell you that right now. Let’s say I go back in two minutes. What if they still aren’t ready? Not only is that awkward, but now it seems like I’m ancy and they start feeling like they’re taking too long. Even worse, what if I go back a third time and they still aren’t ready? The consequences triple.
 Okay, so let’s say I give them plenty of time and go back in five minutes. What if they were really ready two minutes ago and they’ve been sitting waiting on me? Then, they’re annoyed that I took too long, and they are mad that their food isn’t already in the making. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unless, I get there just as they have decided. Which is an art.
However, it’s an awkward art. Because here I am pacing through the dining room, glancing over at this couple every few seconds to see if there are any signs of readiness. Did they set their menus down? Are they talking to each other like they’re ready? What do their faces say?
Well, after five minutes their menus are still up, they’re talking to each other, and I have no idea what their faces are saying.
I take my chances and go back to get their order.
“You guys ready?” I ask.
“Yeah…” the guy says.
Crap. He makes it sound like they’ve been ready.
“Go ahead,” I say.
“I’ll have ayy wees wii furr—“
I bend over, “Sorry, I can’t hear you too well; what?”
I stoop down, which I imagine is annoying. My father always said that when servers stoop down to eye level, it’s annoying. He says the server is his servant, not his buddy. I don’t want to be their buddy. But it’s too dang loud.
“I’ll have eight wings with four Caribbean jerk and four teriyaki.”
“Okay, and for you sir?”
She held up her finger, “I’d also like a side of fries. And ranch. Lots of ranch.”
“Oh, sorry. Sure. Got it. You sir?”
“I’ll have a buffalo chicken wrap with fries.”
“Alright, so,” I repeated their order back to them, and they nodded their heads.
 “I’ll go put that in for you.”
For a quick moment of reflection, I would like to say that the woman seemed ticked off that I assumed she was done ordering. She must have felt like she was ordering too much since I cut her off, and therefore would now feel awkward around me, since I clearly see her with fat goggles on now. I know how women work.
I put in their order, and that’s when even more awkwardness begins.
Now I’m stalking them to see if they need refills. I don’t want to seem like I’m staring at them, but I don’t want them to have empty drinks. Their caddy is in the way, so I can’t see from a distance if their drinks are full. I have to look from an angle, and the only place I can stand is either over their heads or right down their aisle. So I start pacing. I pace past their booth and glance down to see that her glass is half full and he hasn’t touched his. Does she want a refill now? Or is she content with a half-full glass? She’s probably fine.
               But now that I know it’s half full, I need to monitor her every sip to see if that gulp makes the whole thing empty. I end up giving in and just refilling another glass and setting it on the table. It’s a game, it really is. It doesn’t seem complicated, but really, it’s an awkward pile of complicated poop.
               I’ll fast forward to the check part. Everything has gone fairly normal, besides the awkwardness of checking up on them to “see if they’re okay,” and making sure I didn’t do it too often, yet making sure I did it enough.
So, for the check. I can’t tell if they’re done eating. She still has half her wings uneaten and he still has almost all of his fries. Are they finished eating? Or are they just really slow? I take my chances and walk over, asking them if they’re ready for their check.
               “Yeah, we’ll take some boxes,” she says.
               I hand her the check and run to the kitchen to grab some boxes.
               When I come back, she hasn’t touched the check I gave her, as in she hasn’t put any money in it, so I don’t know whether to walk away and come back to get it and do my awkward stalking again to see if she put money in it, or to stand there and wait for her to do it.
               I decide to stand there and ask, “I’ll grab the check from you,” to hear her say, “Oh, sorry,” and fiddle through her purse for her Visa.
               I couldn’t decide if that was more awkward than the stalking or not.
               You see, it’s just a tangled mess is what it is.
               But you know what? It was a five-bucks-off-a-twenty-dollar-ticket tangled mess.


  1. I feel your pain! I just give my customers the check after they have all their food and say no rush, but here's your ticket whenever you're ready. I think I check on my customers too often and tick people off sometimes, but that's better than the alternative, right?

    1. Yeah, but we serve desserts, so it's kind of awkward to give a check if they still want dessert. And how do you decide when it's time to go back and ask if the check is ready? ugh.
      But yes, it is better than the alternative

    2. Very funny story. You are a gifted writer. And I love you both.

    3. Thank you! I love you, too!

  2. Your story was good. It reminded me how bad things can go for a waitress. Last Sunday at Applebee's things started bad when the host seated the fifth person in the serving aisle. Then the kitchen was out of baked potatoes, waitress forgot to serve the side salad - cancel that. Had to wait for check while waitress took an order for a party of 10.

    1. I never have had a good experience at Applebee's. I think they have a few flaws in how many servers there are and the hosting. Thanks, though!