Here Is How You Don’t Get a Job

Don't be stupid.

Don’t be stupid.

It isn’t easy breaking into the exciting world of food service; every restaurant wants you to have experience, but no one is willing to give it to you. It’s a horrible Catch-22 kind of situation. My first job in the restaurant business was that of a dishwasher and it only took me a several years to advance all the way to waiter. I got that first job with absolutely no experience because my friend was a waitress at the Sirloin Stockade and since I was only 16, the manager knew that I would do whatever he told me to do, even if it meant washing gravy off of a piece of chicken fried steak so it could be reused for someone who didn’t like gravy. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones who had a relatively smooth entry into the glamor of food service. But what about someone who doesn’t have friends to help them get a job? How do they get that first big break? Well, I can tell you how they won’t get it.

My boss recently placed an ad on Craigslist looking for a server, which either means he is getting ready for the patio to open or he is finally going to fire my drunk lazy ass. He got lots of responses, including several photos of girls with their tits popping out of their shirts, but the one email that got the most attention was from someone who has no experience but sent this cover letter:

hello im able to work any day of the week, I don’t have much experience but im very kind and patient learn fast my mom has been making me clean the table and wach the dishes for years i have been programmed to help people to be nice to people and to make them feel welcomed, to be honestive never had a job but i would love to use my life experience to benefit costomers at a business setting because the costomer is just as important as the establishment.

Okay look, you aren’t doing yourself any favors by sending a long rambling email that has only one tiny bit of punctuation. Of course my boss looked at this email and completely wrote off the sender because no matter how genuine the sentiment is, who the hell wants to hire someone who can’t spell the word “customer?” What is wrong with kids today? According to her resume, she graduated from high school, but do high schools let people graduate even if their final paper is written in text speak? Did this girl really think that an email like that was going to show her in a positive light? Her mother may have “programmed” her to help people but maybe she should have programmed her to know where the shift key is on the keyboard so she can use capitalization every once in a while. And it’s great that you know how to “wach” dishes, but it’s a real shame you don’t know how to spell “wash.” This email came from an iPhone and I can picture this girl riding on the Q32 bus with all of her friends as she applies for a job. “Ayeee, you guys shut up, I’s trying to concentrate over here and you guys is distracting me!”

If this child had taken the time to send a thoughtful, well-constructed letter, I do believe that my boss would have at least called her in to train as a busser. The intention of the letter was clear: she wants a job, she has no experience but she’s willing to learn. However, if you don’t have the mindfulness to at least make sure your email is complete, what makes anyone think you would be good at a job? When an employer has thirty or forty resumes to sort through, you can be certain the first ones to go are the ones with spelling and grammar issues. If you are looking for a job, you have to remember that the email or cover letter is the first and only impression that your possible future employer will have of you. Use Spell Check. Have someone else look over your letter so they can see it objectively. Sign your name. Capitalize “I.” If you send in a half-assed cover letter, not only will you not get the job, there is the slight chance that your email will be printed out and given to someone who will then write a blog post about it and you.

Disney World Aquarium Bursts. But What About the Fish?

buh-bye

buh-bye

Earlier this week, a video made it onto the Interwebs showing a giant aquarium that had sprung a leak at a Downtown Disney restaurant and was gushing out more liquid than the amniotic fluid that flows from Michelle Duggar’s vag after her 28th childbirth. Disney officials say the leak was small but after seeing the video, I would say it’s only small in relation to an extra large order of Nachos Grande from Bennigan’s in 1989, which was gi-normous.  According to reports, the restaurant was not closed down. Thank God, that the restaurant didn’t lose any revenue because that’s what’s important here, folks. Hundreds of fish swimming along minding their own business who are suddenly in peril? Ahh, who cares about them? Well, luckily for you (not really) I came across the last written moments of one of those little fish. When he spotted the leak, he quickly put on his thinking fins, grabbed a piece of seaweed and a pen filled with squid ink and wrote out his final thoughts:

Oh dear, things don’t look good here, no, not at all. I was just swimming along in this big tank at the T-Rex Cafe trying to avoid that guppy who I mated with last weekend when all of a sudden I see something that no fish in an aquarium ever wants to see. No, I’m not talking about the crack in the glass that just opened up and sucked out ten of my best friends. I’m talking about this Finding Nemo wannabe-bitch on the other side of the tank who is trying to steal my thunder. Just because she looks like Nemo doesn’t mean she is Nemo. I was in the damn movie, not her. Maybe I was just an extra in that scene where the sharks are chasing the school of fish, but I was actually in the film. And then this bitch shows up in the tank and just and because she looks like Nemo, she thinks her fish shit don’t stink. I hate that Lola bitch. But I digress…

Yes, there is a huge crack in the fish tank and I just saw three more of my friends get sucked out and tossed to the floor. This ain’t good. This is the most horrifying thing I have seen in the T-Rex Cafe since three months ago when I saw my great Aunt Linda served as the special of the day. There she was on a plate next to some Israeli cous cous and brocolini, head on and staring at me with her cold dead eyes. The worst thing was that the lady who ordered Aunt Linda didn’t know she was going to be served head on and when she started to eat her, one of Aunt Linda’s eyeballs popped out and rolled onto the floor right under table 207. Since none of these lazy servers ever sweep, it stayed there and  I had to look at that eyeball for three weeks.

Okay, the water is getting really low in this tank and no one is doing anything about it except pulling out their iPhones and taking pictures of it. On the bright side, I see Lola getting closer and closer to the crack and with any luck she will be the next one sucked out and will die a slow torturous death drowning in air. Meanwhile, I see a tourist complaining that his martini got fish tank water in it and he specifically ordered his martini extra dry. Real funny, asshole. Fish are dying here.

Annnd there goes Lola! Buh, bye, bitch. At least one good thing will come out of this. This tank wasn’t big enough for the both of us. Okay, honestly, the current is getting really strong and I think I am about to get sucked out too. Why, Neptune, why? Is this how my life will end? I spend my days stuck in a fucking fish tank at a goddamn Disney World tourist trap restaurant and if that isn’t bad enough, I have to die on the floor? At least I had my fifteen minutes of fame in Finding Nemo.

Oh no, this is it! I’m so close to the crack. Just keep on swimming, keep on swimming! I can barely hold on to my pen. Good bye cruel world! I’m coming Aunt Linda, I’m coming. I can’t swim any longer. Oh no! Oh my god…OH MY GOD—-

 

Awkward Conversation With the Dishwasher

mexican-stereotypeI always try to make it a habit to be friendly with the back of the house guys. Their jobs are way harder than mine and their hours suck, specifically, the dishwasher. I always feel bad for the dishwasher because I know he is the first one to get there and the last one to leave. Our dishwasher is named Angel but everyone calls him Baby. His English is not very good but it’s still way better than my Spanish. Some people may look at him as “just a dishwasher” but if anyone can speak two languages, they get all my respect and then some, since my stupid ass can barely get through one language.

Most of our conversations are like this:

Baby: How are you?

Me: I’m good. Cómo estás?

Baby: Good. How are you?

Me: Good. And you?

Baby: Good.

And so on and so on…

A few days ago, we ventured into our most awkward conversation ever. As I am emptying a tray of glasses, Baby asks me how old I am. I don’t mind telling people my age but most of the time they are surprised when I tell them. My youthful appearance (good, clean livin’…) and the fact that I wear an apron for a living tends to make people think I am younger than I actually am.

“46,” I say. ‘I will be 47 in a couple of months.”

Baby’s eyes grow wide in much the same way mine do when I see a brand new bottle of vodka. “Really?” he asks. I don’t know if he is shocked or saddened.

“How old are you?” I ask him.

He tells me he is 19, meaning he was born in 1995, meaning that The Cure t-shirt I sleep in is older than he is.

So far, this isn’t that awkward, but wait.

“I’m probably older than your dad, right?” I say. “How old is your dad?”

“Que?”

“How old is your father?” I repeat.

“Oh…” He looks down for a brief second and then his eyes meet mine. Very quietly and with much sincerity he says, “I don’t have a father.”

Okay, so now I officially feel like an asshole. I’m just trying to have a light conversation with the dishwasher and I feel like I just opened up this 19-year old wound of hurt and sorrow. He has no dad. No father taught him how to throw a ball or helped him shave for the fisrt time or gave him a set of tools for his 18th birthday. What a dick I am. I don’t quite know how to respond, so I ask him how old his mother is. All this, to simply poke fun at my own age.

He smiles at the question and replies, “Treinta y seis.” He can tell I am trying to figure out what those words mean and he follows it with, “Thirty six.”

“Thirty-six? Man, I’m ten years older than your mother!” I say, but as the words are coming out of my mouth, I do some quick math in my head and realize that his mom was just 17 years old when she birthed him out. Basically, I just reminded Baby that his mother was a ho who doesn’t know who got her pregnant. Nice job.

I smile nervously. “Treinta y seis, huh? See I’m so old. Man, am I ever old. Ha ha ha… Anyhoo, can you wash the silver for me, por favor? Yo neccisito mas silverware. Gracias.”

From now on, I might just stick with our “how are you/I’m good” conversations.

Green Beer and Patty Melts For Everyone!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I hope you started your day with some pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers because today is St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I am talking about Lucky Charms, nature’s perfect breakfast food other than Cap’n Crunch or Honeycombs. If you needed to have a warm breakfast, then perhaps you settled for a bowl of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal and if you are a big ol’ lush, maybe you just sucked down a Guinness. If that is the case, do not feel bad about it, for today is St. Patrick’s Day and heavy drinking is not only expected, it is encouraged. Does anyone even really know what St. Patrick did? He’s a Catholic something or other and the only hard-core Catholic I know that would be able to give me the lowdown on the guy is probably on her fourth or fifth beer by now. (Marlene, call me. It’s been a while.) Did he chase the rats out of Ireland or see the image of the Virgin Mary on a piece of Irish soda bread toast? I have no idea. Maybe he turned water into green beer? Regardless, today is the day that we all wear green and some people pull out their stupid ass “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons and we go around pinching people who forgot to wear the color of the day. We go to McDonald’s for a shamrock shake and then we head over to Bennigan’s, Houlihan’s, or Maggie Mae’s Irish Pub to get as trashed as we possibly can because that is what St. Patrick and the Catholic church would want. We must honor that tradition, y’all. Get trashed. And don’t worry if you forgot to wear green. If you drink enough pints, your face will soon be the right shade.

When I worked at Houlihan’s, we had a big ass countdown clock one year counting down to the minute that people felt it was acceptable to order beer at 11:00 AM. Why people thought Houlihan’s was a traditional Irish establishment, I’ll never know. Are nachos and chicken fingers Irish? Now that I think about it, I do recall hearing a story about how St. Patrick needed to feed a hundred billion people one time but all he had was one block of Velveeta cheese and a lone bag of Doritos. But miracle of miracles, he fed those multitudes nachos until they were satisfied. That is the power of St. Patty!

I will keep this post brief because I know you are probably already drunk by now (Marlene, call me) and you are ready to go put on your leprechaun costume and run around looking for a pot of gold. I will be at work tonight serving all the drunk bitches in green but I will do it with a smile on my face. For that is what St. Patrick, the patron saint of nachos, would want. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

7 Tips to Keep in Mind When Waiting Tables

Waiting tables is fun.

Waiting tables is fun.

Last week, an innocent new server sent me an email asking if I had any advice for her since she was just starting her career in the food service industry. After I made sure she had exhausted all of her other options for employment, I congratulated her and gave her some suggestions. Since I have practically been waiting tables ever since Mr. Ed was a shetland pony, I have amassed quite a collection of tips and tricks to get me through my days. As a public service announcement/I don’t know what else to write about today, I offer you these points for making it through your job as a professional slinger of the hash:

Do not get stressed out. No matter how big of a hurry Table 7 is in, you have to remind yourself that there is no such thing as a lunch emergency. We can do our best to put the order in expediently and have their check ready when they need it, but no amount of pleading from a customer is going to make that chicken breast cook any faster. Unless they want a side of salmonella, they are going to have to wait. If they are “desperate to get this meal in ten minutes” they shouldn’t be in a damn restaurant.

Never let them see you sweat. If you show your tables that you are weeded out beyond control, they are going to think that you can’t handle your job and sometimes that is the one crack that a cheap ass needs to justify their 8% tip. If you remain calm, professional and in control and always do your very best, you will know that if and when you get a  lousy tip, it’s because the customer sucks at life and you don’t suck as server.

Learn the names of the back of house crew and be nice to them. Too many times, servers don’t bother to get to know the dishwasher or all the prep guys in the kitchen. Sometimes, those are the people who can save your ass. Imagine this: it is a slammed Saturday night and you just set down six desserts at your table but you see there are no clean spoons. If you go to the dishwasher and scream at him to do his fucking job, do you think he is going to be inclined to move any faster for your sorry ass? No, he won’t. However, if you have taken the time to get to know him and you can ask him, by name, to please rush some silver for you, he’ll do it. Same thing with the guys behind the line. Oh, you forgot to ring in that well-done burger? Well, if you’re friendly with the line cook, he’ll do you a solid. (Hint: always ask the kitchen crew if they need anything to drink and then go get it for them. They’ll love you for it.)

Always be honest with your customers. If you forget to ring in something, do not blame the kitchen or give the tired “our printer went down” excuse. The customer will know you’re lying and your tip will suffer for it. Tell them the truth and they will appreciate it. I once served the president of the National Restaurant Association or some bullshit like that. (It was in my very short career in fine dining.) He asked me to recommend a bottle of wine. Since none of the bottles of wine on our menu came in a box, I wasn’t sure what to say. I was also very new and my wine knowledge was weak. I almost made something up, but decided to be honest instead. “Sir,” I said. “I am very new here and rather than me making a poor recommendation, would you allow me to find a more experienced server to assist you in your decision?” He shook my hand and thanked me for my honesty and gave me a 40% tip.

You take the good, you take the bad. Sometimes you will get a 25% tip and sometimes you will get no tip at all. It all balances out in the end and no amount of bitching is going to change it. (I recognize the irony of The Bitchy Waiter telling you not to bitch, but I do most of my bitching on the Internet.) If a customer leaves you a bad tip, it is never worth it to chase them down and ask them what was wrong with the service. They aren’t going to leave you more money and you are just taking time away from your other tables who will probably more than make up for it.

Be thankful that you don’t have to take your job home with you. If you find yourself getting stressed out, just remember that when your shift ends, so does your responsibility. You’re not on call and other than the occasional server nightmare or slight whiff of fajita smoke in your hair, you won’t even think about your job when you’re not there. It’s one of the things that gets me through my shift sometimes.

Shift drinks. Enough said.

So what other tips would you offer to those who want to make the best out of being a server?

Pretty Sure I Served a Cannibal

creepy

creepy

I’ve never served a serial killer before, or at least not that I know of. I suppose it is possible that somewhere in my 40+ year career of slinging food, it could have happened, but last week I’m pretty sure that I did.

The restaurant is very slow tonight due to the weather and the fact that word has gotten out that the server always has Chardonnay breath. A single man steps in and glances about the restaurant nervously. I expect that he is meeting someone so I approach him and ask him if he’d like a table. He steps towards me, much too close, and in a soft throaty whisper says, ‘It’s just me.” He is only inches away from my face, breathing directly into my nostrils. My Chardonnay is fighting a battle with his corn nuts.

“It’s just me,” he repeats.

“Alright, sir, follow me,” I tell him.

I seat him at table 14 and hand him a menu. He stares at me with an intense gaze that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. His eyes are a steely blue, but not in that handsome kind of way way, but in that “I can see right through you” kind of way. I shiver and walk away. The other server goes to his table with a pitcher of water and then comes directly to me.

“What the fuck is up with Table 14?” she asks. “He’s creepy and wouldn’t make eye contact with me.”

“Really?” I say. “All I got was eye contact.” Back to the table I go.

“Sir, can I tell you our specials?”

The man looks up from his hands which are clasped together and then rests his chin on his hands with his elbows on the table. After a dramatic pause, finally, “Yes.” He holds on to the “s” sound for about a fraction of second too long.

“Our soup tonight is a Golden Squash garnished with thyme. Our appetizer tonight is fried pickles served with a buttermilk and scallion aioli and our entree is a grass-fed ribeye steak served with sugar snap peas-”

“I’ll have the steak,” he says slowly and deliberately.

“Okay, how would you like that-”

“Rare,” he says making a one syllable word sound like it is three times longer than it is.

He doesn’t care for anything to drink, so I pull his menu away from his table as swiftly as possible. When I get to the computer to ring in his food, he is signaling for me to come back to his table.

“I’ve decided I would like some wine. May I see the wine list?” Again, he is staring right into my soul.

I hand him a wine list, all the while thinking, “Please don’t order Chianti, please don’t order Chianti, please don’t order a side of fava beans.”

“Yessss, I will have the Merlot. And I did order the steak rare, didn’t I? I do like my steak rare.”

Of course he likes his steak rare. He probably likes it raw and is settling for a grass-fed ribeye steak rather than the liver of a 20-year old blond hooker or a 46-year old waiter. I watch him from afar and see that he never sets his eyes on anything for more than a couple of seconds. They shift around, continuously searching for something, anything to satisfy his prying need to stare. He catches me looking at him and he smiles a half-smile that is neither friendly nor comforting. His food is ready very quickly since a rare steak on a slow night only takes a few minutes. I also typed into the computer, “Rush this food, this guy is creeping me the fuck out.”

He eats his steak in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure that he even chewed it. The other server has steered clear of him all night because she gets “a bad vibe” from him, so I go to clear his table. The juices from the rare steak have settled into a pool on the plate and he is staring at it, mesmerized, like it’s work of art. I hesitantly ask if I may remove it and he seems somewhat sad to see it go. Of course he wants dessert. After I rattle off our dessert selections he decides upon the chocolate mouse, probably because it’s creamy like his last victim was after he pureed him in a Vitamix with half and half. Never before have I gotten a dessert out to a table so quickly.

“That was verrry fasssst,” he whispers. “And it looks delicioussss.” He moves his hand to his chin and pulls at whiskers in a beard that isn’t there. “I sssimply can’t wait to eat thisssss.”

“Yeah, “ I say.

I print his check so that it can be ready as soon as he asks for it. Mercifully, he soon signals that he wants it. He uses that hand gesture that we all know so well that looks like someone is writing on an imaginary wall but in his case he moves his hand very slowly like he is conducting an orchestra that consists solely of xylophones made out skeleton bones.

His check is $60. I run his credit card and I am surprised that the name on the card is not Hannibal Lector. He gets up to leave and wishes me a “fond good evening.”

“I’ll see you soon,” he tells me. Again, the hairs on my neck stand up. His glance moves down my body and back up to my eyes and I feel that he is looking at me like grade A prime beef and wondering if wants to grind me up or use me in a stir fry.

“Have a good night,” I tell him.

When he is gone, it feels like the temperature of the restaurant is not as icy as it had been only moments before. He has left me $15. I am happy for the great tip but can’t help but wonder if he is always so generous with his future victims.