Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Sixth Sense

Now, I haven’t been in this business for a very long time, but being a reasonably good judge of character, I feel that I have developed a sixth sense when I approach a table and how financially beneficial this interaction will ultimately be.

I like to think that I have a pretty good record at sizing people up, but as with anything else, people will surprise you on a daily basis.

I saw him walk up. He was in his seventies, nylon running suit, however I find it hard to believe that this individual has done any sort of physical activity for quite some time. His severely thinning hair slicked back and crusty line of pomade had congealed at the ends. From first glance I knew this guy was trouble and I would usually try to pawn him off on one of my unsuspecting associates, but on a Monday in February, I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s a potential disaster.

After inspecting the menu in the case outside the restaurant, he walks in and gruffly announced that he would be dinning alone. I seat him in a booth and he immediately asks, “Do you take checks?”

I reply, “No sir, I’m sorry we don’t.”

“Not even with identification,” he says, obviously irritated at our policy not to accept the most archaic form of payment next to seashells and wampum.

“No, I’m sorry sir,” I begin to wonder what part of “no” this man has misunderstood.

“How ‘bout a debit card,” he asks, frustrated.

“We definitely accept those,” I answer. There is then a very awkward and tension-filled pause. I then break the silence with my standard, “Can I start you with a glass of wine or...?

“Water will be fine,” he cuts me off.

“OK, our special tonight is a seafood medley of sorts which includes mussels..,” I start.

“Nope. Shellfish,” he cut’s me off again, his irritation level is growing.

“Alright, I let you peruse the menu and I’ll be back in a minute.”

“I know what I want.”

I remove my book from its holster in my apron and jot down his order: celery soup and roasted chicken. As I wait for the first course to come up, I notice that he seems to be staring at me wherever I go in the restaurant as if to need something else.

For a man who seemed to want the least bit of human interaction possible, he seemed awfully interested in where I was and what I was doing.

He ate his soup and his entrée, and then actually ordered dessert. I thought that perhaps I was wrong and that maybe my sixth sense had let me down. If an individual is going to spend another $8.00 on a piece of cake or some bread pudding, then they might have the decency to leave a decent tip. After all, his food was on time, impeccably prepared, and he ate every morsel. I left him alone, as he seemed to be suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder.

I bring him his check and retrieve his debit card a few minutes later, $36.50 was the total. He scribbles the amount feverishly into his check ledger which looks like it has been around since the Nixon administration.

He exits the restaurant, leaving the check presenter open on the table with two enormous red flags.

First the receipt he signed was folded inside the pocket of the check presenter. I’ve found even the most notoriously bad tippers still seem to have an almost subconscious guilt about leaving a poor tip, so they tend to fold the bill so no one can easily see how cheap they actually are.

Secondly, he left cash, also folded in the other pocket. As I passed I could see that it was a single. Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, I pick up the book to find: the credit card receipt with no tip added and $2.00. By my calculations, that is 5.4% gratuity for a three course meal in a relatively upscale restaurant.

Score one more for the sixth sense.

Please, tell your friends, family, mailman and geriatric members of the community to please stay home if you plan on tipping like that. I could say that it isn’t the money, but there is defiantly a financial reason for this irritation, but it’s more insulting than anything else. The thing about it is that a lot of the time, just waiting on certain members of the general public is insulting enough.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It Has to Start Some Time..What Better Time Than Now

The inevitable has happened. It was only a matter of time before I started something. This is it. Somehow, through a twist of fate, or just a series of bad decisions had found me in the service industry.

At first it was a necessity, a means for survival. I needed the money and the restaurant in town needed the help. Before too long I found myself embedded in the greatest and the worst industry in the world. So many have come and gone. They have gone on to such great things as owning their own businesses, or to sitting blindly in cubicles around the world. My friend said that in Europe, servers are as revered as airline pilots were in the sixties.

However, for some reason, this job seems to be looked down on. Regardless of the level of the clientele, we seem to be seen as second class, and quite frankly, I think that belief is a fallacy.

This blog (if I can keep going), is a testament and a tribute to the industry that can punish you one minute and reward you the next. An industry where many have found solace and even more have found destruction.

I plan on sharing my experiences, insight and overall take on what I go through and the humor I find on a daily basis. After all, if you can’t laugh about the 400 year old woman who just left you 4.5% on her $18 dollar lunch, what the hell are you doing in this business in the first place?