Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cheese eating bitches...

This morning, I was reminded of a horrible incident that occurred 18 years ago when I was waiting tables.  I was out on the terrace at dinnertime.  It was a hot, sunny late afternoon.  That meant the terrace was going to be hopping and I knew I would probably be running around like a chicken with my head cut off for many hours.

At the restaurant where I worked, there was no children's menu.  The chefs would make accommodations for kids, but only if they were asked ahead of time.  That meant that even though they would make a grilled cheese sandwich (which wasn't on the menu), we had to ask them before we put in the order.  If you didn't ask, you ran the risk of being chewed out by the kitchen staff or not getting your order.  For those working on the terrace, asking about special requests took extra time because the kitchen was literally the equivalent of a block away.

I was out there with two colleagues.  One colleague, who is probably now a physician somewhere because I remember he was planning to go to medical school, was an overly helpful type of person.  He was eager to please diners, sometimes to his own and other servers' detriment.  Now that I think about it, maybe he's yet another reason why I dislike doctors so much.  But, I digress...

A couple came up with their two small kids and asked if there was a children's menu.  The hostess politely told them we didn't have one.  They were about to walk away and find a more suitable restaurant.  But then, the overly helpful guy said, "We do have grilled cheese sandwiches."  Now, when he said this, I inwardly groaned to myself because I knew that if they came back and sat down, they would be requesting special items for their kids.  Looking at them, I could tell they were strongly considering returning.

It's not that I don't like kids, by the way.  Kids should go out to restaurants because that's the best way they can learn how to behave in one when they're older.  And I agree, it would have been a lot easier for us wait staff had the restaurant owners simply allowed a children's menu so people could more easily feed their special snowflakes.  One of the owners was a somewhat famous cookbook author and TV chef, and he wanted his place to be upscale and adult oriented.  The owners didn't want to encourage people to bring their children to the restaurant, even though it was located in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia, where scores of kids come through needing to be fed.  The restaurant owners' rules made it difficult for wait staff to appeal to people with kids with simple palates or picky adults who weren't used to such high falutin' dishes.  Believe me, I sympathized with the picky folks.  I was/am one myself.  

It wasn't just catering to kids that was fraught with difficulty at this place.  Servers where I worked were frequently put in the position of not being helpful to guests.  We were forced to charge people for Parmesan cheese, for instance.  Many guests thought it was unreasonable to be charged for what seemed like a simple condiment.  They didn't realize that the cheese was actually off of a wheel from Parma, Italy and not coming from a green can made by Kraft.  They'd get pissed off at us, but we were just following the rules set by our employers.  There was really nothing we could do.  

Anyway, sure enough, the family came back and they were seated in my section.  The lady immediately ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, not realizing that I was going to have to ask the chef's permission.  She also asked for macaroni and cheese, which I had to tell her that we didn't have.  She then requested plain pasta for her daughter.  Now... I know many people think it's a simple thing to get plain pasta, but this particular restaurant made its own pasta fresh.  A lot of times, the pasta was pre-mixed with other ingredients ahead of time.  Because of that, I could not guarantee there would be plain pasta available on any given evening.  I told the mom I'd have to ask the chef if any plain pasta was available that night.  She said not to bother and her other kid could just eat the grilled cheese too.  So I went back and got permission to serve the grilled cheese sandwiches and all was well.

Things were going okay until the dude who had been so helpful passed us with a bowl of plain pasta.  The lady saw it and fixed a hateful gaze upon me.  On that particular night, there had been plain pasta available.  The mom went absolutely ballistic and screamed at me in the middle of the terrace.  I don't remember all that she said as much as I remember her unreasonable rage and the sheer hatred in her tone of voice as she screeched, "My daughter can't have plain pasta!", as if I had deliberately screwed her out of what her daughter had set her heart upon for dinner.  

Since I was a mere server, there was nothing I could do but simply take the abuse and get stiffed on the tip.  I suppose that when I asked about the grilled cheese, I could have asked if any plain pasta was available, even though the lady had said to forget about it.  But when you are fighting the weeds all evening, little details like that can get lost in the shuffle.  And besides, she had said her daughter could eat grilled cheese.  From what I could tell, the kid did enjoy the sandwich just fine and hadn't been complaining about it.

After she screamed at me and left me tipless, she, her husband, and the two kids mercifully exited my life.  I was left there feeling shellshocked and furious at the other waiter who had inadvertently put me in that position.  To make matters worse, the next table in my section was a group of folks who were really looking for a Cracker Barrel.  They, too, stiffed me, although I don't think it was because they were upset about the food or the service.   

At the next lineup, I made a point of bringing up how servers should not be advertising anything that isn't listed on the menu.  If we have to ask permission the sell something, no one should be offering it to the public beforehand, exactly because of the situation I found myself in on that night.  And I also told my colleague that the next time that happened, he was going to be dealing with it.  The chefs agreed.  

I am a person who holds grudges.  I still have murderous thoughts about that woman, even though I realize her once small cheese eating kids are now adults.  Fortunately, it's not often that I think about that particular incident anymore.  

It would never occur to me to explode on someone the way she did to me, even when I was half crazy with depression and anxiety.  As someone who has struggled with "issues", I can understand on an objective level that the woman was probably hot, tired, and "over it" that day.  I just happened to be the unlucky person caught in the crossfire of her wrath.  As someone with "issues", I confess that I still fervently wished a flat tire on her for her drive home.  

But yeah... eighteen years later, I still think of that raving bitch and have evil thoughts.  Please pass the voodoo doll.


Here's your fucking mac n' cheese, lady.  Go dine at a Denny's!


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