Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ice - Cream

I approach the table to offer coffee and dessert. It’s a party of five, parents and three kids. They are immediately distinguished by the husband being extraordinarily tall. The three kids are spread out in age, the youngest girl about seven or eight, a real cutie, with dark hair, a broad face, and a nose covered in freckles. There is boy a few years older, and then a teenage girl, about fifteen. There’s a clear resemblance between her and her sister. The table seems to be having a good time. I’m carrying the leftover pizza and pasta in takeaway boxes.

“Excuse me,” I say, smiling and placing the boxes on the table, “would you like any coffee this evening, dessert perhaps?”

The youngest child is bouncing around in her chair. “Do you have a tranquiliser?” Mr Tall asks me, laughing.

“Yes sir, we do, it’s called ice cream.” The parents smile. The youngest girl starts bouncing even more.

“Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!” she calls out. I smile. The older children are smiling too, as though they are well aware of their younger sibling’s oddity. The parents have shared a bottle of wine and are obviously in a good humour.

Mrs Tall turns to me. “What toppings do you have?”

The standard. “Chocolate, caramel, or strawberry,” I reply, trying to engage the little girl, who is giving me a wide-eyed stare. She turns to her mother. Meanwhile Mr Tall attempts to find out if the older kids want ice cream.

Mr Tall is ready to order. He turns to his wife. The girl is whispering to her mother. “She said, chocolate caramel chocolate caramel!” Mrs Tall informs us. She turns back to her daughter, they engage in conspiratorial whispers.

“Well?” Mr Tall enquires, rather patiently.

“She said, can I mush it up, can I mush it up, can I mush it up,” Mrs Tall informs us earnestly.

“Of course,” I say, seriously. “However, first I am going to need to know what flavour topping you would like to mush.”

Mr Tall laughs. It is eventually decided that it will be one caramel and two chocolate for the older kids, with affogatos for the parents, just so they can enjoy the ice cream too.

I leave to prepare the desserts. I can’t help smiling. The family is clearly enjoying themselves, and being together on the holiday, engaging with their children. They seem really comfortable together. Not all families are like that. We see all types in the restaurant. Some of the kids are uncontrollable, some of the parents seem unhappy, some argue in public. The Talls, however, seem perfectly happy and it’s infectious.

So what is the moral of this story? Maybe there’s something to be said for good old-fashioned family fun with ice-cream.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Thieving

Erica approaches me with two bills in her hands. "I've made a bit of a big mistake," she says.

"OK", tell me what happened, I reply.

"Well, I took this bill to Table 4, see it looks like a 4 (pointing at the docket), and they've paid it on the credit card, but this is actually Table 7's bill."

Straight away I can see what is wrong. Table was a table of eight people, with six teenage kids. They ordered a lot of food. Two items each on average. Table 7 has three people sitting on it. Their order consisted of one entree, two mains, and a salad. Fuck.

"OK. Yes, that is a problem. Are they still here?" I quickly look around. Table 4 has split. Table 7 is happily enjoying their meal.

"No, they left," Erica replies. "And it was weird."

"Weird how?" I ask, removing the credit charge slip from Table 7's bill so we can still charge them later.

"When I took the bill to the table to do the credit charge she signed the bill, and said, 'that's cheap'. She showed it to me, and I said,"Yeah, that is cheap'. You know, there were so many people on the table. I said, 'I think there's a mistake, I'll go and check if this is the correct bill.' She said, 'No, I'm happy with this one'. She paid it. 'I said, no, it really can't be right,' and went back to the kitchen to check. When I came out with the right bill the table was gone."

She knew. The lady knew the bill was wrong, and knowingly paid it anyway. Under the law, that is theft. Jesus. Some customers will pull anything.

The restaurant is out $103. Erica is upset. She thinks she is going to be in big trouble. I go into the kitchen and speak to the owner. He is disappointed but he expects these things to happen as part of the business. I try everything I can think of to retrieve the card number from the sale system and process it manually, but it won't go. When I ask the Manager about it later, she says there is no way to recover the money. Erica is not punished, although she does get a talking to. The money is not taken out of her wages. A joke circulates that she will have to be sold into slavery to make it up.

Actual stealing. I shouldn't be that surprised I suppose. What gets me is that the customer just seems to think it is acceptable - oh well, the restuarant made a mistake, therefore I don't have to pay. Whatever happened to honesty? Recently my partner and I went out to dinner and when the waitress brought the bill, my partner though it was cheap. I looked at it. The waitress had forgotten to put the wine on the bill. We told them about it. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

If that lady from Table 4 makes a repeat visit to the restaurant, then Waitress Karma will be paying her a little visit of its own.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Commander - In - Chief

Waitress on Sea: Alright troops, it's going to be a long, hard, dirty battle tonight. Are you ready, Floor Squadron One?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: I need a volunteer to go Topside. Someone who can take the brunt of the attack. When the battle is in full swing, the Topside soldier must maintain his position at all costs. Topsider will be required to man the phones and the register. He is to stay Topside and rack the drinks, which the remaining members of the Squadron will run. He is to maintain his position throughout the night to undertake coffee and dessert service, Floor Squadron will deposit the incoming and remove the outgoing. Topsider is not to relinquish his position until the end of of the battle, after cutlery and glassware are polished. Is that understood?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: Alright then, who is willing to volunteer for this duty? (Surveys squadron...)...How about you, James? (Vague look of fear appears on young James' face).
James: Reporting for duty, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: You're a brave lad, son. Remaining members of Floor Squadron, you are to man your sections and maintain positions as usual. Orders are to be run through Topside. Any problems, report to me. Is that understood?
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: In the event the unthinkable happens, remember the golden rule. What's the golden rule, Floor Squadron One?
FS1: No-one gets left behind, Waitress, ma'am!
WOS: Good work, Floor Squadron One. Remember, should the battle be won, you will be duly rewarded. Good luck and God Bless. Assume positions!
FS1: Yes ma'am, Waitress, ma'am!

.....in my dreams!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Inappropriate Comment #1

"Beeeepppp," says the cash register, as I bump it with my ribcage while leaning over it to write a takeaway order.

"Oh," says the customer, smiling. A guy in his thirties. "You hit the register with your boob."

Even if this statement was correct, which it wasn't, never, EVER, under ANY circumstances, comment on the anatomy of your waitress.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Farewell, Marco

It's Saturday night. It's busy. NW 2 is working out now and everything runs smoothly. It's Marco's last night. He's worked on and off at the restaurant for the last three years. Now he's moving away as his wife received a great job offer in another city. His wife and children left two weeks ago.

When the restaurant closes and we have cleaned up all the kitchen and wait staff gather around a table in the restaurant. We close the windows and only leave on one light. We start open drinks, joke around. A small farewell, but it's nice. We give him a recipe book, signed by all of us. Delivered in a pizza box, of course!

I'm really going to miss him. He was a great waiter, easy to work with, he has a good sense of humour. Most of all I am going to miss him because we would have made great friends.It's hard to find people like that. I've only known him a short time, but I'll miss him. At the end of the night we hug. We exchange email addresses. I wish him good luck, all the best, and all the other things one says in this situation, that are completely inadequate to express how I feel.

So, farewell, my friend, take care, and I hope your life's journey is full of wonderful times, many blessings, and much happiness.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Low

I am on an extreme low. It feels like a huge wave has washed over and crushed me. Exhaustion. I struggled through last night and now it's my day off. I am so tired I can't do anything. I read the paper. I drink tea. I curl up on the couch. I watch taped episodes of Desperate Housewives. There's a lot of stuff I should be doing...or would like to do...but I am so bone-crushingly exhausted the day passes in a blur of any non-activity that can be described as "rest". I know I shouldn't have a glass of wine in this state but I do anyway. Marco is leaving on Sunday and there won't any time for another day off until...I don't know when.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Absence of Pizza

New Year's Day. I get to work at 5pm and tables are already seated. They keep coming. I barely have time to finish setting up. It doesn't seem quite as busy as last night, but still stead-busy. Takeaway orders go ballistic. Pizza section has a full docket rack for most of the night. We get a late rush of walk-ins. A rumour emerges that most other restaurants in town are closed. It's a public holiday. This is a tourist town! When do they think people are going to take their holidays?!

The rush comes too late. The kitchen is insufficiently prepared. We run out of pizza. There's no pizza dough left. People are still coming in. I don't seat any, but when I enter the dining room they are there. I have to go on the floor and tell people that we are a pizza restaurant with no pizza. They can only order pasta. Some stay, some leave. Now pasta section is overwhelmed and some of these tables wait ninety minutes or more for their food. We're told to start turning people away - but it's too late.I pacify three tables and keep them in the restaurant. I offer complimentary garlic breads and desserts. One table takes their food home as takeout and I give them a gift voucher for the inconvenience. They say they will come back for pizza. They thank me for looking after them, regardless. Another table gets pissed off and demands a 20% discount. I understand why. The whole situation is a bit ridiculous.

Suddenly everyone has gone and there are four waiters left with not much work to do. I want to send people home. Marco and I go outside, where the pasta chef is drinking wine. The Owner is asking me about one of the new waitresses, is she okay, there's been too many mistakes. I started early so Marco and I are allowed to go while the other waitresses finish up - less than half an hour. Suddenly I see The Owner approaching the new waitress, and they get in an argument.

Marco offers me a ride home and we gleefully flee the scene. In exchange I offer him a drink, so we sit outside in the summer night air, split a bottle of red wine, and he smokes cigarettes with The Man.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Excuse Me, I Think You Forgot Something

It’s New Year’s Eve. It starts out badly and gets worse. We’re fully booked, starting with a table of ten at 5.30pm. The place fills up. There are kids and prams everywhere. Table 14 has a high chair and then thinks the most appropriate place for their SUV pram is right next to it, thus blocking off the main access route through the restaurant. Do you take orders? someone asks me. By 6.30pm I am ready to kill someone. I can’t wait for it to be over.

Table 10 comes in. Ten people, including a couple of kids, and yet another SUV pram. I manage to avoid this table until the food comes out. They order a couple of pizzas early on, and then order another round of food. When the second round comes out I deliver all the food, some of which is from the entree menu. They start to complain. These entrees were supposed to come first, they say. It wasn’t written that way on the docket. I’ll check, I tell them. I check with the waitress who took the order. No, she says, and remember that they had those three pizzas before? Right. Later the guy admits that it wasn’t true. They complain about the caesar salads. A table near them asks to be moved somewhere else. They order dessert. And coffee. They’re still drinking. They’re still sitting there when we begin the final clean up.

We’re all desperate to get out. The Manager has decreed that no-one is going home early, everyone is to pitch in and help. We might actually get out of here by 11pm. Joe has defected from the kitchen to help Marco and I clean and reset the dining room. There are two other tables left, besides table 10, both just about finished. Table 10 are clearly drunk. Suddenly they start singing Tainted Love and drumming on the table with their spoons. Note to T 10 – the only people that find this amusing is you. They do this three times. The other tables leave. The male members of the party attempt Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The music is off, the lights are up, the waitstaff are in the middle of the final cleanup. Get it? It’s time to go! Finally, they get up to leave. Their table looks like a wasteland. I approach the far end (about three or four people remain at the top) and start to clear the table. I see something I didn’t notice before. The pram is gone, but at the far end of the table, two chairs have been laid facing each other, upon which is a sleeping child. He looks about five years old.

At the table, two drunk men are all that remain, packing up their esky and cooler bags. I look at them. I look at the child. Surely they know that their kid is there? They must. They have to. Joe comes over and sees the kid. We look at each other. They know he’s there right? We turn towards the men. They are halfway across the restaurant and out the door. I start to chase them.

“Don’t forget your kid!” Joe yells out.

The guys turn around, shocked. They walk about to the table. They look at the kid. Their jaws drop. They look at each other.

“We forgot Pat,” one of them says, and then, they start to laugh. “Fuck.”

Yeah, it’s hilarious. You’re in a restaurant, you’re drunk, and you nearly went home without your own child!