This post was pretty popular when it went up a few weeks ago because everyone who has waited tables has had to deal with the dreaded “I need birthday singers” moment. Since I am on vacation and acting like everyday is my birthday (in other words, eating cake and drinking cocktails at all possible times), it seemed only natural to post it again.
On my birthday, I like to do things that involve people who care about me. I surround myself with my husband and good friends like Marlene, Scott and Svedka. These are the people who I think don’t mind singing the Happy Birthday Song to me and then when it’s their birthday I return the favor. It’s what people do.
You know who does not want to sing the Happy Birthday Song to you? Your server, that’s who. A reader sent me a little story about what went down in her section a couple of weeks ago. I am not going to give his name because I don’t want to take the chance that the is violating a social media contract. Basically, the story is this: at his corporate restaurant, they banned singing happy birthday because of a lawsuit involving harassment. He didn’t give me the details but I assume it went something like, “Oh my God, these bitches cain’t sing at all and they are ruining my Awesome Blossom eatin’ time. Harassment!” Anyhoo, the servers at his restaurant are exempt from the hell that is known as “I need birthday singers.” A lady came into the restaurant with her little girl and asked that they sing for her birthday. The server said they can’t do it, but gave her a free dessert anyway. The lady talked to the manager who confirmed that it was not gonna happen. The lady then got all pissed off and stiffed the server on a $32 bill and left this note which I Photoshopped a little bit so you can’t see what restaurant it came from:
“We wanted to give a better tip but felt no accommodations were given or consideration for the child’s birthday. It was her choice to come here but no candle or any type of celebration was done. We are kinda disappointed…!”
You know what, Mom? Get the fuck over it. If it’s the restaurant’s policy to not sing the goddamn stupid ass happy fucking birthday song, then that’s how it goes. Eat your free piece of thawed out birthday cake and move on. And what kind of life are you living if your daughter’s idea of a great birthday is to go to some chain restaurant that’s in the parking lot of a mall? When I was a kid, I celebrated my birthday in my back yard with my friends. My mom and dad would buy a sheet cake from Albertson’s and make some Kool-Aid and then all the kids from the neighborhood would come over and we’d play on the swing set. At some point, we’d sit at a big table and I would let them all serenade me until I was given the cue to to rip open my presents. That’s what a kid’s birthday should be like. The server told me that you said her “big day was ruined.” Well, honey, if my birthday passed without a bunch people I don’t know begrudgingly singing Happy Birthday to me off-key, I’d call that a rip-roaring success. And you’re mad because they didn’t put a candle in the cake? They didn’t have any fucking candles. Do you want your server to pull one out of her ass? Or how about they just put a chopstick in it and light it on fire? Or a Bic lighter? Would that have made her “special day” any better? And then you’re not going to leave a tip? Why in the hell does the server have to pay the price for a corporate policy? If you’re unhappy with the policy at a restaurant, do what every other disappointed customer does these days: go to Yelp and write a review about it and then go to their Facebook page and complain until they send you a fucking coupon for a free Apple Chimicheesecake and 10% off your next visit.
And to the little girl, I say this: aim higher. The next time your mom wants to take you somewhere for your big day, choose someplace where she’s gonna have to dig a little deeper into her pockets. You’re worth more than $32 (and that was for two adults and two children, by the way.) When you are older and look back on this day of disappointment, you will realize that not having the servers sing to you was a blessing in disguise. When I worked at Houlihan’s in Times Square, we were all singers. Before and after work, all of us were auditioning for Broadway shows. We could sing, like really sing, but when someone asked us to sing to them for their birthday, we would choose five different keys and and turn the volume to “shut the hell up.” It was not pretty. It was just our way to make that special day as memorable as possible. Hopefully next year, your mom can take you to Chuck E. Cheese or better yet, she will pony up the cash for a sheet cake from Costco and you can be surrounded by people who actually care about you and will want to sing Happy Birthday to you.
Okay, I’m done. That just rubs me wrong when people stiff the server for something the server has nothing to do with. Just remember: no server ever ever ever wants to sing happy birthday to you. Ever.