People have often mentioned to me that I should be a comedian. Most of the people who’ve said this don’t really know me and therefore have no idea of the phobia I have of public speaking. “Oh you’re so funny!!! You should really try to do some stand up!” they say. I find the idea of this absurd. It takes balls to stand in front of a group of people and crack a few jokes that you hope are funny enough to get at least a giggle from your audience. Yes, I am witty, but most of that wit comes when no one is around to witness it, or after the moment has passed, so at a time too late. Still, I won’t lie. I have daydreamed of what it would be like to make people laugh using the examples of my either exaggeratedly boring or seemingly hectic life, because for me life is either at one extreme or the other. I’ve imagined me standing there on my platform, my soapbox, and have thought about some of the topics I would love to cover. My number one topic would be about working with the public, primarily restaurant work.
It’s a war zone out there. A scene from a warrior movie like that of 300 where each warrior has got a million tiny missions to complete, and all of them are going on at the exact same time. Obstacles get in the way, slowing the process of completion down, and yet in this scene instead of suffering physical battle wounds, it’s the spirit of the warrior that gets shot down. So here is a public service announcement:
The server life, it is no joke, especially for those of us who live it on a day to day basis. Some days are minor battles, or maybe even a day of rest. Most days are a fight to the finish, your enemies ranging from being either your customers, to fellow coworkers, to even that of management.
When it comes to the customers, life in the server world can be totally exhausting. From the moment a server clocks in until the very second they clock out, an identity isn’t what they have. They are service-bots, actors with script changes for each table that is under their care. Each table is different and therefore calls for a case-by-case approach on how to deal with each one. Servers are like pilots navigating a flight, each table being a flight, every destination being that of satisfaction. Servers analyze which best route to take in order to get each and every table to their destination with the least amount of turbulence as possible. For instance for one table I’ve got to play the role of the “at your beck and call” waitress who uses “yes ma’m, no sir” after every question and sentence. I chuckle at your awful white collar jokes as I top off your cucumber lemon water, and continuously kiss your ass while you shower me with compliments like, “Oh you really are great at following directions. Keep it up kiddo..” with a pat on the back, and then tipping me 15%. Where as the table right next to them, laid back and carefree, I can around joke with and serve them effortlessly without feeling as though I am a slave to their dollar and their dinning experience. I can literally be myself while I work, which at this point it doesn’t even feel like work, and then obtain a 22% tip and minus the back-handed compliments. So can you imagine the emotional and psychological toll serving can at times have on a person? Constantly changing who you are from table to table, for hours at a time, while also being looked down upon by most of your customers. Because, people aren’t kind you know, especially in this industry where most look down upon us thinking that we’re “stupid”, and “lower class” compared to them, even if we DO, for the most part, make more money than they do. I’d like to also take this moment to mention that you, the customer, don’t need to say any of these things. It’s not like you have to say it to our faces that you think we’re incompetent. After many years of working in the “biz” servers become exceptional people readers. It is in your actions, or lack there of, it is in the inflection of your voice, it is in the way most of you don’t even look at us while speaking. You don’t have to tell us that you think you’re better than us. You show us with every second that ticks by.
Like I described before, waiting tables isn’t for the faint of heart. In a time where we’ve never been so connected to those not only around us but also those millions of miles away, our social skills are, unbelievably almost non-existent, making dealing with the public, simply said, a pain in the ass. The consideration people have for others is limited and manners? Manners are now a rarity. Where before manners were almost a prerequisite in life, now I find myself going out of my way to actually thank those for using them, especially children.
Servers (bartenders, bussers, food runners, ect…) deal with your messes. We clean up after all of you and that means wiping away all the crumbs that have fallen out of your mouth. We pick up the dirty napkins you’ve wiped your runny nose with. We clean up the puke that spews from your child’s lips. We take care of the pee puddle that your grandfather left behind because he didn’t realize that he had to go. Think about this the next time you decide to tip $5 on a $50 simply because you may have chosen a restaurant that was little bit above your price range, or because the kitchen messed up your unrealistically high expectation to make you something that wasn’t even on the menu to begin with. Let me add, servers aren’t heartless animals. We understand that at times, what you would like to tip us isn’t what you can manage at the time. Maybe it’s an anniversary and you wanted to take your love out to a nice dinner that normally you cannot afford. Fine, but at least don’t work us tooth and bone all the while knowing that you aren’t going to compensate us for our wonderful service. Clean up after yourself a little instead of leaving the table as if 13 unmannerly vikings were feasting before heading out on the water. Or if you’re not going to tidy after yourself because “that’s what servers are for” at least put the damn lid to the ketchup back on the bottle for fucks sake.
Not all servers are great servers. I will say though that the majority are. There is also a small portion of shitty servers who are usually pretty great but just have had a shitty day. It happens every day in the human world, and don’t forget, servers are human too. Remind yourself that the next time you go out to eat. Think of how we servers tend to follow customer cues so if you find yourself in a situation where the service may be a little questionable, ask yourself if maybe, you the customer, set that tone, for some customers have a personality to repel anyone from wanting to deal with them and their crazy antics. Take your blinders off for a second and take a look around you, is your server insanely busy taking care of five other tables and not just yours? If they’re working hard and not just standing around joking with their co-workers, I would excuse them on certain things like timeliness or forgetting to top off your Coke for the third time. There is a difference between good service and bad service. A bad server hasn’t the personality or character to handle all that comes with this job. They simply don’t care and eventually they either leave or get fired. Most times it’s the later. A good server gets the job done. A great server is submissive to their customer, fulfilling their every request, all done with a huge smile painted on their face and with an aura about them that gives off that they care, even if deep down inside they truly don’t. Which ever the type of server, we are all just trying to make a living. We are all trying to survive, just like you, the customer. So I say, if we aren’t allowed to treat you the way you may deserve to be treated, how about you make our job easier and more pleasant by treating us like… well… like human beings because compassion and love, even in places of work, is a wonderful motivator, and what goes around, comes around.
Photo Credit: Natal Galvan