Thursday, February 02, 2006

Know Not The Name of Thy Waitress

Two men approach the counter and ask for a table of two. I am out the back refilling the ice, so I don't see them. I hear the Owner saying, "Oh yes, Waitress (insert my name) will help you, she'll be right there."

"Oh great," the American Guy replies, "Waitress was my 'server' once before". This is true. Six weeks ago, outside table, American guy in his fifties, boating and fishing type, long white hair - bread, water, (asked for in the American fashion), lasagne, discussion about the movie King Kong and, believe it or not, Waiter Rant. No tip.

Now, in my opinion Owner has just committed a mortal sin. He told the customer my name. At the Palace we don't have name badges (it might be pizza and pasta but it ain't McDonald's) and we don't say "Hello, my name is X and I'll be your waitress tonight." I like that. IfI am standing at your table in the restaurant uniform or standard black and whites with an order pad and a pen in my hand, then obviously, I am going to be your waitress.

I never tell people my name. The only reason American Guy knows it is because he asked me directly once before. Confronted with this situation, I could not tell a lie. And now, here he is again, and I shall be punished for all eternity.

It begins immediately. I emerge from the kitchen with the menus and seat American Guy and his Australian Friend at an outside table. "Oh, thank you, Waitress. Could we have some water please, Waitress. Also we'd like to order some bread please, Waitress. One or maybe two (five minute discussion)...Waitress, we'll have two."

I am instantly irritated. Not only is this gratuitous overuse of my name, it implies an intimacy which simply does not exist. In some cases it's just downright sleazy. The only relationship that exists between you and I is one of patron and waitress.

I deliver the water, and then the bread, to the table. Every time I do, it's "Thank you SO MUCH Waitress." It absolutely drives me crazy. If it isn't a case of false intimacy, then surely this behaviour is an attempt by the customer to exploit his position in some kind of power relationship over the lowly waitress, whose job it is to SERVE him.

This continues all night. It's endless. I can't wait till they leave. I treat them like any other customer - I look after them. I don't get the same crap from the other tables.

You know what? Tipping is not big in Australia. If you do a good job, you might get a few bucks. We all know Americans are supposed to tip. Tonight I get a tip from every single table (ten dollars from table 23, thank you kindly) except American Guy, who pays the bill on his credit card.

Don't use my name. If you are a local who comes to my restaurant on a regular basis, and I know your name, and you know mine, then I can accept that. If I've never seen you before, it's not okay. If someone tells you my name or I am forced to tell you in the course of my work, fine, okay, but don't be gratuitous about it. If you do know my name and want to thank me at the end of the night, then that would be a situation that constitutes acceptable use.

Otherwise, I don't know you, and you don't know me. I will do my best to ensure that you have a good experience while dining in the restaurant. I will work my butt off to make sure that happens. That is the sum total of our relationship. I'm not here because I want to get to know you better. I'm here because I'm working.

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