If You Are Still Working Right Now: Thank You

I would like to take a moment from my very busy day of eating tortilla chips for lunch and counting down the minutes until it’s acceptable for day drinking to thank the essential workers who are at the front lines during this pandemic. Obviously, we have to thank the healthcare workers, doctors and nurses who are battling day in and day out doing their vey best to help as many people as possible, but I also want to thank the employees at the grocery story and the pharmacy and the people who are still delivering packages and the men and women at the bank and gas stations and pet stores and yes, even the liquor stores. (Here in NYC, liquor stores have been deemed “essential.” I’m not sure that vodka is really a necessity of life, but I’m glad someone thinks so.) Every time I step foot into one of these places, I have my mask on and I do my absolute best to get in and out as quickly as possible, going early in the day and trying to maintain distance between myself and any other customers. What I realized a few days into wearing a mask is that no one can tell that I’m smiling. I’ve tried “smizing” but my glasses are usually fogged up so it probably goes unnoticed. Of course I always say thank you to these essential workers ringing up my groceries and/or Aperol, but without a smile, it doesn’t seem as sincere. After years of forcing a fake smile at work, it seems impossible that I would miss smiling, but I do. I really do.

Every night at 7:00, my husband and I open the kitchen window of our third floor apartment and hang out dangerously far to applaud these essential workers. An unknown neighbor who lives in the building behind us plays Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” and we sing along with our neighbors, some of whom are banging on pots with wooden spoons or clickety-clacking some other kind of noisemaker. Our window allows us a view of five other buildings, and each night we look forward to this moment of appreciation and connection. We see two men on their fire escape, wine glasses in hand who always wave to us. In another building, a mom with her two daughters comes out each night to clap, high kick and dance. The youngest, no more than two years old, likely has no idea why this is happening and she might even think the applause is for her. A building away we see another woman, probably in her late 60s or early 70s who always climbs out on her fire escape to clap and wave. Every night is a little bit louder than the night before as we all take this daily moment to say thank you to everyone who is still out there working as so many of us are jobless and not even sure when we will ever go back. I know the accolades are for them, but I also know that the opportunity to connect with others is for us. Neither me or my husband have jobs right now and this daily activity is part of our routine as sure as breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those three minutes and twenty-four seconds that Frank Sinatra’s voice carries over this tiny section of Sunnyside, Queens, I am smiling again.

Hopefully, this nightly ritual of rabble-rousing is uplifting for those it is intended for. It’s probable the random cheers from New Yorkers isn’t as important as the PPE the nurses and doctors are so in need of and a grocery store worker most certainly would rather have a pay increase than hear me warble out a few Kander and Ebb lyrics each night, but it’s all some of us have to give. Thank you to everyone who is still working, whether it’s at a grocery store, hospital, bank or otherwise. If you’re working in a restaurant doing takeout or still dealing with full service dining, thank you. I’m grateful for the opportunity to order a pizza every now and then for one moment of normalcy. Your efforts might go unnoticed by some, by I truly believe that most of us appreciate it. Until we can all go back to work, you are the heroes. You are the ones who are helping the rest of us survive and you deserve a lot more than a smile you cannot see and people yelling out their windows. But for now, it’s all we can do. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I Guess Waitstaff is Disposable When it Comes to COVID-19

On the first day of restaurants outdoor patios being reopened in Colleyville, Texas “so long as physical distancing is maintained between tables,” a waiter wearing a face mask takes orders from diners eating on the outdoor patio at Rio Mambo Tex Mex.

Today is the day that restaurants in the state of Georgia have official permission from Governor Kemp to reopen their doors for business and potentially spread COVID-19 all over the damn place like it’s mayonnaise on a piece of Wonder bread. Last week he opened up nail salons, gyms, tattoo shops, and bowling alleys which makes total sense because whenever I think of a place that’s clean, sanitary and full of socially responsible people, my mind immediately goes to bowling alleys and gyms.

Restaurant owners will now decide if they think it’s safe enough to open today and if it will even be worth it. After all, is the dining public is ready to dive back into the coronavirus pool? Sure, I would love to have some fish tacos and margaritas at my favorite Mexican restaurant, but at what cost? And what about the servers? They don’t get to decide if it’s safe enough. That choice is taken away from them when some greedy asshole boss decides to reopen the restaurant. Servers that were collecting unemployment along with the other 26 million people in our country suddenly having to give it up and put their own health at risk so that someone can have some damn buffalo wings. It’s completely unfair that employees who have been laid off from their restaurant jobs will now have to either go to work or turn it down, possibly leaving them ineligible to collect unemployment. It’s like being stuck between a rock and hard place except the rock is making less money than you did when you were working and the hard place is making no money at all. I feel entirely grateful that my restaurant has made the decision for me that I do not work. While it is staying open for takeout only with limited hours, the owner is doing all the cooking and his son is taking the orders over the phone and putting them all together. If I lived in Georgia and my boss asked me to go to work today, I’d be scared to go and even more scared of losing my unemployment benefits.

I saw a photo of a restaurant in Texas that recently reopened their patio and it upset me to the core. It shows a one solitary waiter who is wearing a mask surrounded by happy-go-lucky customers all crowded around him blissfully shoving food into their uncovered faces. We all know the masks don’t protect ourselves, they protect others in case we’re infected. So this sever has to wear a mask to keep all of his customers safe but what’s protecting him? Bill and Sally McFuckface can show up to the restaurant, possibly infected but asymptomatic and spew their germs all over the server just so they can satisfy their urge for a chicken mole burrito? And then, when the server gets sick, he’s the one who pays the price. Hmmm, it’s almost like restaurant staff is disposable. Imagine that.

I’m sorry to my server friends in Georgia who have to go to work today. I know some of you are looking forward to it and are completely okay with it while some of you are worried. Most experts agree that it’s too soon to reopen the economy and just because Governor Kemp thinks it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it is one. I mean, even Donald Trump strongly disagrees with him about reopening, but this is the same Donald Trump who last week was encouraging states to reopen as soon as possible, so what the fuck? I hope your restaurant owners and managers all determine that a little more time is needed before you have to strap on your aprons again. Hopefully, they have more sense than your governor does. And if you do have to go to work today, please be as safe as you can.

 

The Day I Get To Go Back To Work

Dear Diary,

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for so very long: I went back to work at the restaurant! It never occurred to me that I would miss my apron as much as I did, but these have been trying times that have changed my perspective on a lot of things. Walking the three blocks from my apartment to the restaurant didn’t feel like it used to. There was no dread or hesitancy, just joy in knowing I would see all my regulars again like Ann and Jerry and Mildred and John. The bartender and I actually hugged when we saw each other and we breezed thought the opening sidework like it was nothing. I wiped down the tables and made sure they were all perfectly aligned with each other so when customers came in, everything looked neat and orderly. The candles at the center of each table even seemed to shine brighter than I remembered. The silverware and glasses, polished. The menus, wiped down. The sugar caddies, full.

My boss let me create a playlist for opening and at 5:00 I turned it on. The first song was that Hawaiian/ukulele version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” followed by “Another Day of Sun” from the movie Lala Land and after that was “Happy” by Pharrell and then “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. I don’t even like the Beatles, but that song seemed too appropriate. Every single song for the next five hours was positive and jubilant and it made me remember how powerful music can be.

All of our regulars came out tonight. It had been weeks since I had seen or heard from Kevin and there was much relief when he showed up and took his regular seat at the end of the bar. Kevin is an older man who has health issues, so he had been in my thoughts a lot lately whenever the news would tally up the latest number of people lost to the virus. None of us had Kevin’s cell phone to check in on him and it was easy to think the worst, but there he was drinking his chardonnay and ordering salmon with an arugula salad as if nothing had ever changed. It was the busiest Thursday night our restaurant has seen since Valentine’s day fell on a Thursday a couple of years ago. Every single customer was happy and grateful and every tip that was handed to me came with a warm smile and gratitude; they were so happy to go out to a restaurant again and be social, surrounded with people. What I don’t think they understood is that I felt the exact same way.

I timed the playlist out perfectly and at 10:00 closing time, k.d. lang’s version of “Hallelujah” began to play. I took a moment to survey the restaurant and appreciate my job. I’m not ashamed to admit that my eyes welled up just a teensy bit. By now, there were only two tables left and I don’t think either one of them noticed that the next song was “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music followed by “Leaving on a Jet Plane” which was then followed by NSYNC belting out “Bye, Bye,Bye.” Yes, it was time for them to go, but I didn’t even care that they were still sitting there talking and laughing. They had both paid their checks, so I did my sidework and let them be, filling up their waters as needed. By 10:25, all of my customers were making their way out of the restaurant. I cleared the tables, full of bliss and satisfaction. “Don’t You Forget About Me” began to play over the speakers and I knew I never wanted to forget this night when the world finally seemed normal again.

xo,

darron

Applebee’s Customers Need To Calm Down

The world is a glorified shit show right now with the entire global population struggling to protect themselves from Covid-19 and figure out how they’re going to pay their bills since basically everyone is unemployed right now. Be that as it may, there are still customers out there who are going to the Applebee’s Facebook page and complaining about their experiences and then complaining some more when they don’t hear back right away. Since the Applebee’s corporation is no doubt up to their ears in spinach and artichoke dip and a myriad of other issues, I thought I’d do them a favor and respond to some of their customer complaints on their behalf. You’re welcome, Applebee’s.

First we have Ann:

Ann, I’d like to remind you that there is a global pandemic happening right now. I’m sure that whatever occurred at your local Applebee’s was tragic for you, but there are bigger fish to fry right now and I’m not talking about their double crunch shrimp or blackened tilapia. That you haven’t heard back from Applebee’s yet about your overcooked burger or a overcharge on your credit card is not surprising since Applebee’s is trying to figure out how to take care of their employees and keep their business afloat in this unprecedented time. Maybe they just haven’t had a chance to reply to your email yet because they have been going through thousands and thousand of enquiries from people asking how to file for unemployment insurance. Perhaps you can just climb off of your high horse for a couple of weeks and realize that the world does not revolve around you. Calm down, Ann. Give Applebee’s a chance to prioritize their emails and I’m sure yours will eventually float to the top like a wet turd in a dirty toilet.

Now allow me to move on to Jen:

Jen is very upset that the 25¢ buffalo wing promotion is not valid for takeout and delivery. Jen. Girl. That promotion is clearly to get customers into the restaurant so they can order beers and cocktails and other food. It’s not so that you can drive up and buy 100 wings for $25 and then feed your quarantined family for five days. Maybe the TV commercial didn’t specifically mention that, but it’s probably because they assume people have half a brain in their skull. And maybe they haven’t had a chance to reshoot the TV commercial to make it more clear because they’ve been busy dealing with laying off thousands and thousands of employees. Jen, rather then using your precious time to complain about the lack of cheap 25¢ food, why not use the time to wash your hands and stock up on pasta, dried beans and toilet paper. News flash: there’s a global health emergency and no one cares about your need for buffalo wings.

This concludes my customer service interactions on behalf of Applebee’s. In this crazy time, we all need to figure out what we can do to help one another and I figure I can help Applebee’s by explaining to some of their customers that their problems just aren’t as big as they think they are.

Stay safe, everyone.

F*ck The Airline Industry. What About the Service Industry?

I don’t care about the airline industry right now. I know they employ thousands of people, but how come it’s okay for them to ask the federal government for a $50 billion bailout while my restaurant is struggling to stay open by offering takeout and delivery? If my boss shuts down and can’t pay his mortgage, can he ask the government for a few thousand dollars to get out of the hole? No, he can’t. The airlines are not the most important industry in our country.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz made over $10 million last year in salary and bonuses. In October 2019, the Chicago Tribune reported that cheaper jet fuel and slightly higher fares helped United Airlines boost third-quarter profit 23% to $1 billion. A billion dollars! Why is that we regular Americans are always told to have enough money in our savings account to get through few months in case we lose our jobs, but the fucking airline industry has one bad week and they suddenly need another goddamn bailout?

Every time I’m on Twitter or other social media, I’m seeing lots of pleas for signatures on petitions that ask the government for help with small businesses and the service industry. But why do we have to create all these petitions and then beg our friends to sign them just so the government might see them? Shouldn’t the restaurant industry be automatically part of the conversation? Every time our president is talking about how to help the country, he’s worried about big businesses, like airlines and cruises and banks, but when will he pull his head out of his orange ass and realize that there are little people suffering too? It seems to me that when the government starts considering bailouts for big companies, they should also be thinking about the small ones. Every restaurant worker I know is currently either out of work or has seen drastically reduced hours and they’re worried about how to pay their bills. Ironically, it’s the small business owners with the least amount of money to spare that seem to care the most about their employees. Huge companies like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut don’t give a rat’s ass about paid sick leave and they have way more money in their bank accounts than the owner of a small neighborhood restaurant.

Mayors and governors are like, “Hey, let’s shut down all the bars and restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus.” Yes, this is a great idea and I know it needs to happen. It would just be nice if one of them would also say, “we realize how many people this will hurt financially, so we will also be suspending student loans payments, forgoing late fees on credit cards and offer a rent abatement.” Or something.

I’m no financial expert. All I know is I’m sick and tired of hearing about how much the government will do to help out the fucking airline industry. If the airlines can make literally billions of dollars in a year, they should learn how to be better at saving some of it. If every restaurant owner in this country was making millions of dollars a year in profit, they would be saving it. They’re used to saving money because they know the service industry is a fickle business and if there are three weeks of bad weather, they need to be prepared for it. Maybe the CEO’s of the airline industry should try that for a change instead of asking for anther handout every time our economy tanks. Sure, lots of people fly in airplanes, but you know what? Way more people go out to eat at restaurants and when the coronavirus dust settles, you know what people are going to want to do? They’re going to want to be social again at bars and restaurants. I guarantee that after this nationwide lockdown is lifted, way more people are going to go out to eat than book a fucking vacation.

That being said, there is one petition I have decided to support. Some of the nation’s top chefs are behind it and they know that if we ever want to have an industry to go back to, we’re gonna need some help. I hope you’ll sign it.

Bottom line: Everyone is suffering, from airline pilots to bus boys to retail workers. I just wish that small businesses and restaurants seemed as important to the economy as the airline industry. We are all important and we all deserve help. And before anyone jumps on me for only stating the plight of the restaurant industry, please remember that this page is called “The Bitchy Waiter.” It’s what I do.

A Server’s Thoughts on the Coronavirus

Has there ever been a moment in the history of serving when every single waiter and waitress across the world was feeling exactly the same way? Maybe on Cinco de Mayo all the servers in Mexican restaurants do or servers in a sports bar all share an emotion on Super Bowl Sunday, but right now, thanks to the coronavirus, every single server in the world is scared.

Restaurants across the country have shut down or had their hours drastically reduced. Here in New York City, restaurants can stay open for takeout and delivery, but that could change at any second. My restaurant will be open, but only needs one person to take the orders and bag things up, so I acquiesced and offered that position to the bartender. I did that for two reasons: Jonathan works there full time and it’s his only source of income and he might need those hours more than I do. Also, I’m lazy.

Severs, bussers, bartenders, hosts, managers and back of house are all looking at unemployment and it’s a scary and unprecedented time. As someone who has spent the last decade blogging and creating server-related content, I am now struggling to figure out what this blog and my Facebook page should be doing. While I want to continue being the voice of servers and shining a humorous light on our job, I also want to be mindful of our situation. Sharing a “Karen” meme or making a video about an old lady who wants a hot tea just don’t seem right. over the last few days, I have been bombarded with requests to share petitions for a government restaurant bailout and GoFundMe pages and foundations, but I haven’t shared anything yet. This isn’t because I don’t care. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I care so much that I desperately do not want to share bad information and it’s going to take time to figure out what course to take. And by the time something is figured out, the whole world has changed again.

In the mean time, I want to say this: our country will get through this. China has seen a leveling off of new cases, but they are several weeks ahead of us and they also took drastic measures that we in the United States are only just beginning to take, but we will eventually get through it. Until then, we are going to have to depend on one another to help. Just yesterday, my friend Kendall who works at bakery gave us loaves of bread that were not being sold. I met a friend on the street to give her a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle we had already put together once. Reach out to your friends and see what you can do for them to help. Ask your elderly neighbors if they need anything. Send a text to your friends who live alone and don’t have the luxury of being able to talk about what’s going on in the world. If you’re stuck at home, do some spring cleaning, start a blog or take those naps we never have time for. As for income, I just don’t know. None of us do. I worry about people having to choose between paying rent or their student loan and I hope that our government recognizes this dire situation and relaxes deadlines or maybe even forgives some debt.

Just know that I will still be here doing my best to entertain and inform while thinking of all of you who are struggling through this. The only comfort we can take is that we are not alone. Maybe after all of this is said and done, we will realize that our world is a lot smaller than we thought and we’ll be able to appreciate life in a different way. Once the world has the coronavirus under control, our restaurants and bars will roar back to life with a ferocity we have not known. Glasses will be clinking, tables will be turning and everyone will once again relish the opportunity to be social. Until then, be strong, love your friends and wash your hands.