Server Nightmares: We All Have Them

shutterstock_223000132I had a dream last night. Well, let me call it what is was: a server nightmare. We have all had them and from what I’ve been told, we will continue to have them even after we no longer wait tables. They are those dreams that take place in a restaurant and make us wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat with our covers bunched up in a ball at our feet. This is my dream from last night:

I am just arriving to work and as soon as I set foot on the floor, I notice a four-top who has seated themselves at a dirty table. I can tell that I am working at a corporate chain restaurant like Applebee’s or Bennigan’s. That right there is how I know I am having a nightmare.

“Excuse us,” a woman at the table says to me, “but this table is dirty and we need drinks.”

“Can we each get a glass of milk?” a man at the table asks.

I tell them I will be right back with their milk, cursing that I have only been at work for thirty seconds and already, I am working. I go to the sidestand to pour four glasses of milk, all the while wondering who in the hell drinks milk when they go out to dinner? Of course there is no milk in the sidestand, because why would there be since that would mean someone did their sidework and this is a server nightmare where nothing goes right. I am forced to go to the kitchen to get milk.

The kitchen is in a different neighborhood, like all the way on the Upper West Side, like at 86th and Amsterdam. It’s a long walk to the kitchen and I know that my customers are going to be waiting a long time for me to get their milk. This problem would not have existed if someone would have done their sidework and stocked the sidestand with milk like they were supposed to. I finally get to the kitchen and head to the walk-in which has two doors. The first one is like one of those Alice in Wonderland doors and it’s only about two feet high meaning I have to crawl on the dirty, red-tiled floor in order to get through it. Once through that door, there is another which is the typical walk-in refrigerator door: big, heavy, silver and metal. At last, milk! I grab a quart and go back through the two doors and find myself in the middle of the kitchen. And now, suddenly, my dog Parker is there waiting for me. I pick up his leash and lead him out of the kitchen back to the four-top so many blocks away.


“Hey, BW, somebody brought in cupcakes, you want one?” a cook yells at me.

“Yeah, save me one. I gotta go.”

“You now, they’re gonna be gone any minute, take it with you.”

Unable to turn away a cupcake, I pick one up and balance it on the quart of milk that I have turned sideways and lead Parker out of the kitchen, back onto the street. As Parker is squeezing through the doggy door, which he didn’t even need to go through because I’m right fucking here opening the door for him and why does the kitchen have a doggy door anyway, his collar comes off and now he is free. I lay the milk on the sidewalk, careful to keep my cupcake from falling off, as I try to put his collar back on him. And then he runs away.

“Fuck!! These people have been waiting for their milk forever!” I scream.

I pick up my cupcake and milk and bolt after Parker who is galloping down Broadway toward 72nd Street. As he runs past the subway station, I see Tony-Award winner Sutton Foster.112973-tony-awards

“Hey,” she says. “How are you? How have you been? I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

I desperately want to sit and chat with Sutton since I have met her many times over the years and want to call her a friend because we have so many mutual friends, but I see Parker getting further and further away from me.

“Nice to see you too! Tell Julien I said hello. Let’s have lunch sometime’” I yell at her over my shoulder as I run for Parker, milk and cupcake still in hand.

Suddenly, I am back at the restaurant where Parker is giving me a look that says “what the fuck took you so long?” and I expect the same look will be on the faces of my four-top when I finally set down their glasses of milk. When I get to the table, they are gone. Apparently, the wait was too great and they left.

“Fuck! Somebody needs to do their fucking sidework around here,” I yell.

And then I woke up. I hate server nightmares.

37 thoughts on “Server Nightmares: We All Have Them

  1. Lauren S.

    I had a dream I went back to work at a restaurant I haven’t worked at in years. I’m the first one to arrive on the night shift. I have about 4 tables immediately after arriving. I get their order but I didn’t have paper so I wrote their order on a laminated menu I had in my server book. I get to the computer and it looks totally foreign bc it’s my first day back in years. I can’t read what I wrote on the laminated menu. I’m panicked bc I know it’s already been too long for the customers. I go to make their drinks and no glassware is stocked, bc the AM shift didn’t do their side work. I’m in the weeds bad! The manager won’t help me. I go to the bar and hear the bartender talking to another server about my nails, which ironically are baby pink in my dream and actually the color they are now. I told her “Girl I’ll kick your fucking ass if you wanna keep talking shit.” I believe this dream has a few different meanings. What do you think?

  2. Amanda Xavier

    Love the humor and underlying sarcasm. I have waitmares all of the time, and usually the reflect a shift that I just finished that same night. It makes it hard to know if it actually happened during that shift or if it was just a part of my dream. One time I came into work late because I thought I had an evening shift at 7:30pm when I actually had a morning shift at 7:30am. It was a horrible shift, and it replayed in my dreams that night.. I almost woke up thinking, “thank god it was just a dream!” before realizing that no… it was not a dream… you really did show up 12 hours late.

  3. tim hoyt

    im now a young 61 year old … waited tables for years to help finance my music carreer ? — anyway – i havent been a waiter for about 5 years but this last year i wake up in the morning almost every day with terrible server nightmares … im always behind on the floor and cant catch up … this morning i dreamt that the tables i was waiting on didnt have table numbers but names in spanish which i dont understand … i cant understand why i keep having theses nightmares … maybe we all need a good hypnotist to rid us of these things … i try self hypnosis to try and shut off my mind to the dreams but it hasnt worked … anyone got advice to make them stop ? i believe many of us have this issue because we were tormented by a level of tension that our brains cant keep up with … just too much information .. its pretty cruel in a way … but i guess we chose it for the cash tips and such … — tim

  4. Nancy

    I have “waitmares” all the time, even tho I haven’t waited tables in years. I am always wearing whatever I wear to bed. And The worst that I remember is having the pass full of food, I am working alone in a crowded restaurant, and everyone is ordering FF. My manager will only let me take out 1 French fry at a time on separate plates. I am so busy I am running to the tables and there is that one table I can’t get to. And every order I have to run for every condiment, like having to cut lemons, find the box of straws ,open the five gallon jug of ranch for 1 compote cup full ! Whew!

  5. Mark

    I have been a chef most of my life but have waited tables on and off for 10 years. I get BOH and FOH nightmares in equal proportion. Can’t say that one is worse than the other.

  6. Sally

    I have these dreams all the time too. I haven’t waited tables in over 10 yrs. I will say last night I had one where I couldn’t remember the table numbers or my section so my tables just sat unattended. But… on the upside the bartender in my dream was Maks from dancing with the stars (sooo freakin hottttt) and he have me a bunch of hugs. Defitely made the anxiety of not taking care of my responsibilities a little better. Hahahaha!!! Lol

  7. Alex

    Hahaha good old server dreams. In mine the kitchen is always a half hour away and I have to go through a tunnel/cave to get there 😂 When I get back an hour later I realize I have a full bar and section and everyone is freaking out. There’s always a table or two I can never get to no matter what and someone always walks out. Gotta love it 😂🤣

  8. Gracie

    My favorite is when you have the dream where you’re just running around in the weeds. No point to the dream, no conversation, just busy work. I hate those

  9. Stephanie

    One I remember vividly was when I switched server jobs. I was trying to get to tables like I was walking under water, and management at BOTH restaurants were telling me I was too slow and to hurry up! I usually have I what I’ve always called “weed dreams” if I take a nap before an evening shift. Stopped that a loooong time ago. Still have the occasional server nightmare though.

  10. Linsey

    Apparently I talk in my sleep, and woke myself up saying “Do you want ranch or blue cheese?” Because clearly someone was ordering wings…in my living room

  11. Leslie

    Have them constantly,weird place but the same old job used to have.Totally weeded out,bartender and server at the same time,lame help w me.Wake Up ,plzzz!!Aweee just a dream…😂

  12. Anna

    I’ve had some pretty rough server nightmares but manager nightmares are worse. At my last job I had them 4-6 nights per week. I would have no servers, be at work pantsless, fall asleep in one of the booths because I was so exhausted from 12-14 hour shifts, have guests that were impossible to please… it was rough.

  13. Sarah

    I work at a coldstone ice cream shop which is similar to serving in that it has tips that depend on me smiling like a Cheshire barbie doll for the entirety of my shift in order to recieve tips that are usually less than 20% (but we get more than min wage so it’s ok)

    the worst work dream I’ve ever had involved a line wrapping all the way around the building. it was early summer in the dream and somehow middle aged ladies kept getting behind the counter to sit on the cold stone because “gosh it’s so damn hot outside, why is it so warm in here???” and us with only 4 people manning the stations. Everything ran out at once and when I probed one of my fellow managers about if we could call someone in, I got a “I dunno, I think we’re ok.” and at that moment I realized that if people can’t be patient when waiting in line for ice cream, they don’t deserve ice cream.

  14. Joey B

    Been there done that .I got so fukken tired of these dreams -I started reacting .Mine is -my station is far away (across the street ) .Naturally I’m alone .People ordering stuff we don’t even have on the menu & tug at my apron strings .I’m naturally very patient person but now I had it ….So in my”dream” I grab a glass of water from another table & pour it on some bitches head ( tha tuggin one ) sayin’ -well ma’am -you need to cool off ….Good one ? Also I had one involving busy place , everyone screams , I see a plane going low about to smash into a building – so I try to save everybody from fiery death but they ignore me & keep waving their arms and complaining -” Miss we wanna order!!!!!!” I try to get their attention , but to no avail . I’m pointing at the plain , but they screaming and looking at their phones ….In that dream -I had it ….I said -fuck u & die …I saved myself -run out of tha restaurant while the plane was smashing into it – I saw it going into flames when I ran thru a parking lot screaming “I told u so ,fools !!! I told u so ! ” I wasn’t feeling good about all these idiots there dying , but then again ….maybe they shoulda paid a bit of attention to what I said??? I’m glad I don’t dream a lot .I have insomnia and sometimes don’t sleep for 2-3 days .I guess I’m scared to sleep -haha .When I finally sleep -I’m so tired I just crumple and collapse and all u see is this ol’ uniform on the floor …haha .I never really eat like I used to .Food makes me sick a lot .I haven’t had dessert in over 2 yrs -doubt I ever will ….I work 3 jobs and I paint and listen to music and watch old movies and Carol Burnett shows from the past. Fuck sleeping and fuck these dreams -I rather be awake -ready for my gig. Side note -we DON’T need a manager -just the mothafukkin MGR CaRD !!!!!Leave that shit where everyone can see it , cuz we NEVER can find tha asshole .Amen.That is what creates our stress .

    1. Brittany

      Yes!! I just woke up at 3 am from a nightmare! It’s always the struggle with drinks. Takes forever to get it there and they are waiting, patient and silent or fucking bitchy as hell and demanding everything yet I can’t do any of it. We were weirdly slow at work today and in my dream I had one table. I couldn’t get 2 fucking cokes to em. As soon as I got around to actually pouring it, the soda machine is all fucked up and cokes coming out by Not? Then it started steaming. One of my managers, which was weird to see, came up. “Are you fucking kidding me. It’s overheated again.” Which was weird, it’s a new restaurant and very nice and clean. Then woke up. And now I’m awake. Yay. I have these dreams of anxiety at work like 3 times a week.

  15. Maddy

    My worst one is im standing a table waiting to take an order but theg take literally minutes. Every time I try to leave they stop me. Around me, a new server is fucking shit up and since theres no manager around, I keep thinking of all the stuff im gonna get bitched at for….if my damn table would hurry up and order.

    1. Amy

      Omg I call them waitmares too! I show up to work 3 hours late half clothed and immediately get triple sat. I can’t get to anyone because I’m so overwhelmed as I keep getting sat and the only person working. Sometimes I leave the restaurant only to remember my 40 table section is sitting there without waters or drinks and everything just keeps piling up. Then I wake up in a panic because I just remembered I forgot to bring a table a side of hot sauce 2 nights ago.

  16. Anonomous

    I have been server for 10 years at the same restaurant this GM has been there 3 yrs. He trying to get promoted. He told me today that I was a bad server because I forgot to get two syrups for a guest but laid down the check because we have policy check back check down. Server who delivered the food forgot syrup! I got $10 tip on $40 bill. Um, I don’t like being insulted.

  17. Ava Kowal

    I still hve the nightmare of being the only server in the whole place and the pass thru is so full of plates that I cant rush them to the tables fast enough, and the cooks keep slamming them up and ringing the bell…That fecking bell order up!!! And the plates begin to fall on the floor. Not only cant I get them out but I cant remember where they go anymore. and the fecking bell keeps ringing. when I get to work the next morning I just want to slap the shit out of the cooks for being the cause of my nightmares. LOL Talk about feeling exhausted when you just began. What a nightmare these are.

  18. alison

    Stairs, there are always stairs in my nightmare. The kitchen is upstairs the beverage/server isle is downstairs and the tables are all on a different level. It’s like an Escher drawing. And there is always one table out in the field behind the restaurant. All night long I run, up and down and across the field I wake up exhausted. I wish I could have Laboratory dreams. I worked in labs for 15 years but no, since the downturn I’ve waited tables and there is nothing but waitressy nightmares for me.

  19. Spanny Tampson

    I have these nonstop, and I haven’t served in three years now.

    In mine, I walk in to a full restaurant, and I’m the only one on. I have to go from table to table, taking drink orders.

    Sometimes I just go home and fall asleep in the middle of a shift, and then freak out because I still have a table waiting for me hours later. I have to sneak back into the restaurant and then approach the table as if I wasn’t now wearing jammies and hadn’t been gone for hours.

  20. suzq1407

    Know how you feel… m y one always seems to be in restaurant, that is a combo of everywhere I have worked, and every time I take care of a table the restaurant gets bigger and bigger, sometimes longer, sometimes taller, even extending across the street. Wake up sweating panicking and not able to get back to sleep. YUK HATE IT !!!!

  21. Rich

    We were supposed to put a bevnap down in front of a guest to show they had been greeted, and I had a full restaurant,menus down, everyone had a bevnap, I was the ONLY server (the others were oblivious) and I went home…..and then remembered I still had a full place, so I went back! LOL and the guests didn’t seem fazed that I had been gone for hours…weird dream I occasionally have…

    1. Stacy

      I had one similar where I left to take a nap…on a busy Fri night! And went downstairs in just my tank top sand undies, but that turned into my restaurant!! And I can never get my drinks to the table in any dream!!

      1. Brittany

        Yes!! I just woke up at 3 am from a nightmare! It’s always the struggle with drinks. Takes forever to get it there and they are waiting, patient and silent or fucking bitchy as hell and demanding everything yet I can’t do any of it. We were weirdly slow at work today and in my dream I had one table. I couldn’t get 2 fucking cokes to em. As soon as I got around to actually pouring it, the soda machine is all fucked up and cokes coming out by Not? Then it started steaming. One of my managers, which was weird to see, came up. “Are you fucking kidding me. It’s overheated again.” Which was weird, it’s a new restaurant and very nice and clean. Then woke up. And now I’m awake. Yay. I have these dreams of anxiety at work like 3 times a week.

  22. Magen

    I get these nightmares almost every night. Latest one, I am at my restaurant, closing like I always do. I am in the weeds all night, panicking, crying, (there was a point where I think I stopped breathing in reality) finally, it’s closing time, but the owner kept seating people. 2am….still seating people….4am….I go up to my boss, who explains to me “Oh yeah, we sent out a message last week. This week we are open 24 hours, and shifts last an entire day!” NOOOOOOOOO

  23. Hide

    I tended bar for 20 years. I retired in 2012. I still have these dreams. Sometimes several per week. It always revolves around me doing everything and my co-workers being oblivious. Usually I realize I’m dreaming and quit/walk-out. Which is something I always wanted to do but never did.


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