Friday, August 11, 2017

Call Me A Lifer

"People seem to love their dogs with an unabashed acceptance that they rarely demonstrate with family or friends. The dogs do not disappoint them, or if they do, the owners manage to forget about it quickly. I want to learn to love people like this, the way I love my dog, with pride and enthusiasm and a complete amnesia for faults. In short, to love others the way my dog loves me."

                                                                                               Ann Patchett

I came across the above quote while reading a book my sister loaned me. It's the third book by her I've read in the past month. I read State Of Wonder first, then Bel Canto next. 

The crazy part is while she (Ann Patchett) always wanted to be a writer, she worked for years as a waitress.

Sound familiar?

 know you're a Lifer when you have pictures from every place you've worked since college and a few of them contain cross over friends from  different restaurants. I actually enjoy being a Lifer. I've always advanced monetarily with each restaurant I've served for. I enjoy that every shift is a pay day and that my pay day depends on how well I do my job.

It also doubles as to keeping yourself in check with how well you do your job.

I've always said, if you're not making enough money as a need to be a better server. I've also said being a server is like being a professional gambler; you may not win every hand but just hope the odds favor in your direction at the end of the shift.

Being a server is totally being a gambler for a living. There will always be that one shift when you crap out, but if you play your serving cards right, will win more often than not.

I happen to think I'm a pretty good gambler and should be. I've been doing it since 1980.

Jeez, we used to hang our tickets up on a line with  clothes pins. Whenever someone paid with a credit card, you had to ram their card through a manual stamper, hoping not to rip the card in two...

then look through a tiny font booklet, searching to see if that card number was listed in it before approving it.

It was not a good thing to have your card number listed in the booklet. 

How did we live like such cavemen? Only one telephone in our houses, one TV set and no remote controls.

Maybe being a server is a pretty noble profession after all... of course it has its ups and downs but has a lot of other benefits as well. You work with your team like a family and have each others back, no matter what. Oh sure, there's tension, sometimes flat out verbal war, but when the shift is finally over and you've all survived it, is quickly forgotten.

 You also get to meet different people every single shift and is certainly never dull and mostly pretty amusing.

The time that young girl took my really cool looking hot pink pen which actually wrote in pink ink, after signing her name on the credit card receipt I actually looked her up on Face book. Unfortunately I needed my job more than I did the pen so declined my urge to message her about her theft.

Of course every so often you get that person who is a complete lunatic, but in every place I've ever worked the management usually stands up the server. In my thirty seven years, only one man made me cry. Those are pretty good odds. My favorite fantasy thing to say to someone like him would be "You look so familiar to me, is your name Dick?"

I'd say 99.9% of the people I wait on are nice enough people, with more than most of them really liking me after their meal is all said (eaten) and done.

There's a saying I use about the front of the house vs the back of the house. To servers, (FOH) we are South Korea and cooks (BOH) are North Korea. To cooks, they are South Korea and we are North Korea. I can see both sides, having cooked for over ten years as well. They don't need cute little notes typed in when there is a key to simply make them aware of it. I can totally see how servers get on cooks nerves.

Then there's what we call the "Verbal Tip."

The more they talk about what a great job you are doing, while you're doing it is a very bad sign. I mean, compliments are great but they don't keep the utilities on.

My biggest downfall is when another server asks me to watch their section, especially when it's not the time to be taking five. I am extremely focused when I'm working, constantly talking out loud to myself to remind myself what I need to do next. They laugh about it at work. Heck, I do it at home too! I'm an old dog who has a hard time learning new tricks. It takes me at least six months at a new place to really truly comfortable with myself as a server.

My new job here in Orlando features small sharable plates, basically encouraging communal dining. People order two or three things each and all come out as ready, hitting the table in  random order so we suggest everyone try a little bit of every dish delivered to the table.

Try doing split checks for a party of ten who basically shared everything but only wants to pay for things they specifically ordered?

Yep...pretty much, especially on a busy night when they've all changed seats or ordered for others at the table. I've never worked in a place with so many split checks. It can be quite stressful. Especially when they look at their check,  say "I didn't order this" and have the particular item circled with an ink pen.


All these memes are simply funny to me because at one time or another over the course of almost four decades of serving, have had them happen to me...more than once.

I think the one below is pretty much spot-on for any server.

They're more like nightmares. My most reoccurring one is that I'm working in some restaurant I used to work for but have food in my hands from another restaurant I used to work for so I can't find the table...but being the seasoned server I am, go to the host stand to look at the seating chart and is a seating chart for a restaurant where I've never worked.

Or when I (really) wake up in the middle of the night in bed from a hot flash and suddenly remember that table who had told me about a birthday at the table and I'd actually forgotten to bring them a free dessert with a candle in it. That's a horrible feeling as well. I don't even like it when I wake up and remember I forgot the extra dressing table 207 had asked me to bring them.

Or when I dream that I leave the expo window loaded with food in my hands to deliver, turn the corner into the dining room where I discover it's a place where I've never worked and have no idea where table 151 is. That is a nightmare!

Yeah, I'm a Lifer.

And why, for some reason, do six people think food will taste so much better in a booth (meant for four) than at a table, set for six?

I write all this in jest (mostly) but let me assure you, waiting on the public for a living is a crash course in Psychology, at the very least. Like the customer who orders something fried (not seafood), but tells you they have a seafood allergy. You tell them that item is fried in the same oil we fry seafood in and they say, "Well, fried in the same oil is okay. I'll have it anyway."

 In my head I'm saying,"There's preference, there's intolerance and there's allergic to...pick one!!"

Trust me I've also had people who have asked me for bread after informing me they are strictly gluten free. Those people are what I call "Oxymorons".    

I really think all of the above things combined are what make my job such a fascinating one.

My husband often tells me I have my PhD in BS, so being a server certainly seems the right line work for me to pursue.

It's basically having a major in Sales and Marketing with a minor in Human Studies.

It's a life which has served not only me well, but my entire family as well.

It's something different each and every day, always a learning process, and the better I am at my job, the better I am rewarded for it.

It's a win/win job if you do it right.

I try and do it right each and every shift, and constantly aspire to make myself a better server. My best tables are those who come in cranky but leave my table ecstatic.

Case in point...a review from Trip Advisor when I worked at the airport.

And believe it or not, even one from my new gig here in Orlando.

I'm sure a lot of people think I'm just a waitress for a living, and guess maybe they are right, but that doesn't bother me either. I know I'm pretty good at what I do and more importantly, I enjoy it.

To borrow (paraphrase) something I learned from my training days at the airport gig, "Have the passion to allow your customer to experience joy."

When people sit down at one of my tables for service from me, I want them to leave it even happier.

I'm okay with being called 'just a waitress'. That's what the profession was called when I started it in the late seventies.

But at least I enjoy what I do and more than that, hope my customers enjoy it even more.

I hope I'm "Killing it at Life".

I suppose time will tell.

Till next time...COTTON

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