Summer is in full swing here on the East Coast. The days are long, the humidity is high and al fresco dining is all the rage. Anyone who waits tables someplace with outdoor seating knows what I am about to bitch about: the patio. God how I hate the fucking patio. The last time I had a job with outdoor seating, the “patio” was on the sidewalk of Second Avenue. Customers felt completely comfortable complaining to me that the fire trucks were too loud or that a person whose home is of the transitory nature was trying to eat french fries off their plate. Hello, it’s not a patio. It’s the fucking sidewalk in New York City, get over it. If a homeless person wants to eat a french fry off your plate, you best be willing to forfeit the potato. You’re practically their house guest seeing that I may have moved their giant refrigerator box out of the way to set up table 201. At my current job, we have an actual backyard that people dine in. It’s full of flowers, lovely views and people complaining.
There are a few things that people should keep in mind when asking to sit on the patio:
- I will automatically hate you for making me leave the comfort of the air conditioning to wait on you when it’s 98°.
- To the customer who told me it was “too buggy,” it’s a garden. If you eat on the sidewalk, you deal with hobos, if you eat in a garden you deal with bugs.
- Please do not call me over to tell me that it is hot. I realize it is hot. If you are hot sitting at a table and drinking a cocktail, how do you think I feel running around dressed in black?
- Do not ask me if I think it’s going to rain. I am neither God nor Sam Champion.
- Conversely, if it is raining, do not ask me when it will stop. If I could foresee the future, I would not be waiting tables. I would be living in my beach mansion somewhere after predicting the winning lottery numbers. Margaritas would flow from the tap and the kitchen would be perpetually stocked with pizzas and nachos.
- Do not ask to sit on the patio three seconds after it has stopped raining. The tables are wet, the chairs are wet, and nothing is set up. You whining “but it’s not raining anymore” will not change my mind. It takes time to wipe down and dry every single thing that you will complain about being wet. Even if I did get every thing set up and moved you outside, as soon as one rain drop fell onto your precious plate of tilapia, you will then demand to go back inside even though there are no tables available for you. So, no. Don’t ask.
- If your table is wobbly, please look at the ground and notice that it is cobblestones and not a nice even hardwood floor. Your table will be wobbly. It just will. It will not change the taste of your food nor will I put a discount on it since you were so inconvenienced by the wobble. If I was allowed to put an “inconvenience surcharge” on every table that annoyed me, my beach mansion would be as good as mine.
- If I advise you that the only available table is in direct sun and you have a sleeping baby in a stroller who I say may get warm, you might want to listen to me. I am not a parent, but placing your baby in direct sunlight seems like bad idea to me. However, if that’s your thing, I would be happy to place your baby under the heat lamp next to the fried foods after coating it in butter and wrapping it in swaddling aluminum foil. It’s the same thing.
- Do not feed the birds or squirrels your leftovers. We do not need them feeling even more complacent because the next thing you know, some bold ass bitch of a squirrel is going to climb right up onto table 21 and order himself some herb dusted calamari. I do not want that. Squirrels are worse tippers than secretaries or teachers.
- If the wind blows, hold on to your napkins. Every time a napkin flies off your table not only do I have to get you a new one, I now have to go pull your old one out of the bushes.
- Also regarding the wind, please make sure your cash or credit card voucher are anchored by something when you leave. Or just hand it to me. If money blows off the table, someone else is going to keep it. No one is going to say, “Oh here, this twenty dollar bill is yours.” No, they will snatch that money off the ground and order another Cosmopolitan.
Please keep these handy dandy tips in mind the next time you go into a restaurant and say “Can we eat outside?” It will make for a better experience for you and for your server. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? We all want to have a good time at restaurants whether we are working at one or eating at one. We all want to help each other and get along. We are a family, like a giant tree, reaching out to the sky. But if that tree drops an acorn into your soup, do not freak the fuck out. Just remove the acorn and continue on with your lovely al fresco dining experience.