Friends, its been awhile since I’ve posted, and at least one person out there is wondering where the bitter waitress went. Did she get a new job? Did she get knocked up? Did her fingers get chopped off in a gang fight? No friends, it’s nothing quite so dramatic or exciting, but more pedantic in nature. I’ve been busy. Nothing more and nothing less. Not busy at work sadly, as we are trudging our way through the slow season at my restaurant, but busy trying to live.life. I guess you can say I’ve been busy being bitter, and while the basis of this blog is the fact that I am a bitter waitress, I still find that there is a fine line between being bitter and being bitterly bitchy. So when I find myself sitting down to write a blog post in a bitter rage, I stop myself for the sake of not being that bitter waitress that bitches for the sake of bitching rather than bitching for the sake of entertainment. I’m sure we all find ourselves narcissistically ranting and raving only to notice an eye roll from a friend or a “shut the fuck up” from a co-worker; after all, there’s being bitter and there’s being a whiny bitch - and no one likes a whiny bitch.
So here I am, bitterness and all. And why? Quite simply because I have stumbled across an underground network of fellow bitter friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have always known there are others out there who share my love/hate relationship with serving. One of my favorite things about working in restaurants has been the camaraderie that you form with your co-workers. I have made some of my closest and dearest friends(not to mention my boyfriend) through the restaurant biz and the thread that connects us all is our collective disdain for the pitfalls of our job. So it comes as no surprise to me that my co-workers share in my misery; however, what has been a pleasant surprise has been the number of people I have found through Twitter and Tumblr that share in my misery. I recently found myself scrolling through tweet after tweet of fellow bitter servers and bartenders whose tweets felt like an extension of my own thoughts. Complaints over customers, management, slow shifts, sore feet…you name it, they’ve tackled it. As great as it is to share my misery with my fellow servers, it has been pure joy to share it with complete strangers via the internet. They say misery loves company, and by god, its true. Am I wrong to hate the customer that leaves me 10 percent after giving excellent service? Am I wrong to feel down and out after a ten hour shift? Am I wrong to feel a sense of inner rage when a customer asks “what’s the best thing on the menu?” only to order a cup of soup after you theatrically sell him on the merits of the best dishes? Am I wrong to feel belittled when a pretentious group of hipsters needs to split a $45 check on five different credit cards, only to have one of them shamelessly leave zero for a tip because he knows his friends won’t notice? Perhaps I am wrong to feel all of those things, but when I look to my comrades - both in person and online - it comforts me to know that I AM NOT ALONE.
But it’s not just us servers. Anyone who works hard and feels the burdens of work and stress feels it too. I have a surprisingly large number of friends currently pursuing PhD’s in Psychology and every time I sit in on one of their chats, I am comforted in their shared complaints and stresses - comforted to know they have that camaraderie with one another and comforted to know that in all fields, no matter how menial or important the trade, misery simply loves company. What I will venture to say however is that unlike all of my wildly successful and passionate friends who share complaints over their jobs, we servers find ourselves in a slightly more bitter plight because we aren’t serving because we pursued prestigious degrees in waitressing or because we are saving lives or progressing professionally. We are serving because we have to. Simple as that. Whether we are supporting our kids, or putting ourselves through school, or pursuing creative projects, or simply trying to pay the fucking bills, we are working in restaurants because.we.have.to. Miserable? Perhaps. But as I said, misery loves company, and fortunately for us, we have plenty of it.
Tip of the Day: To those of you I’ve worked with over the years…I sincerely love you all. To those of you blogging and tweeting about this god forsaken industry and giving me a good laugh in the process…I sincerely love you too.
Let’s face it, we are the generation of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Pinterest, I could go on but you get the gist. For better or worse, technology rules modern society. I recently saw a preview (Dr. Phil? 20/20? Rockcenter?) for an upcoming news feature on people who became addicted to their online world. Come again? Apparently there is an growing subculture of individuals who overindulge in their virtual selves to the point that they completely lose touch with the real world(you know that place where you’re not a badass zombie killer; that place where you aren’t really a 5’10” blue-eyed, bubbly blond; that place where the certainty of death and taxes holds true). I get it, life sucks sometimes, and our virtual world often offers the sugar-coated yumminess that we can’t get in real life. So we turn to OkCupid for dates, we look to food bloggers for the inspiring recipes that we will never get around to making, and we daydream of the DIY projects pinned to our Pinterest boards that we are most definitely(one day) going to get around to. But despite the heroin-like draw that the world wide web offers, there is a time and place for online play…and it ain’t at the dinner table.
In my humble opinion, there are few things more depressing than watching a couple, a group of friends, or a family sit in silence during dinner because they are too consumed in their iPhones to actually have a conversation. Even worse is when you are trying to talk to said table and they ignore you because they are engrossed in Facebook or Words with Friends. **These are the same people who two minutes later will be impatiently flagging you down to order another beer.** If you want to go out to dinner with friends and completely ignore them so that you can check your Twitter Feed, be my guest, but don’t expect me to stand by patiently while you ‘check in’ and tag yourself with a group of friends you’re not even having a decent dinner conversation with. You might as well stay home, order a pizza, and G-chat while updating your status and uploading instagram photos of what you’re eating. You’ll save yourself a few bucks.
"Excuse me, what’s the wi-fi password" is a phrase that I sorely want to answer with "excuse me, why do you need to be online during dinner." I understand the need for wi-fi for our lunch crowd, after all there is the occasional group that comes in on a business lunch, but at night, I fail to see the need to be online while you slurp down oysters. Not to mention the fact that I simply do not understand why people need to log into our wi-fi to get online - it’s New York City, I know you’re getting internet service on your over-priced phone.
What irks me the most about the virtual reality that has infiltrated my dining reality is the depressing fact that people can’t seem to take an hour out of their day to sit down and enjoy some good old fashioned dinner conversation. Going out to dinner is hands-down my favorite way to spend time with my friends, boyfriend, or family. Good food and good conversation is what makes my world go ‘round, so when I see a group of six sitting in silence because they are all on Facebook, it makes me want to “accidentally” spill water all over their precious phones. If you’re “too busy” or too “virtually popular” to take the time to enjoy your meal and your dining companions, you shouldn’t have gone out to dinner in the first place because you’re wasting your time, your friends time, and more importantly, MY TIME.
Tip of the Day: In a world of constant social networking and sensory overload, take a few minutes to enjoy the ancient art of face-to-face conversation. Instead of looking at pictures of food online, take a moment to look at the food on the plate in front of you. Forget your incessant need to be online and enjoy the here and now. Your sanity(and your waitress) will thank you.
I’ve always been a believer in the little things, after all, its the little things that count. A thank-you from a stranger, a hug from a friend when you really, really need one, a sunny day after a week of gloom, it’s the little things that keep us going sometimes. One thing we’ve all learned from the hurricane last week is that the little things that we take for granted can easily become the big, important things. Water, electricity, internet, cell phone service, public transportation - it’s safe to say that we all give little thought to these necessities and comforts during our daily grind. It’s not until they are taken away that we stop and realize how important they are. I was lucky enough to not lose power last week or to suffer great loss, but for thousands, this was not the case. For many, life’s little luxuries became life’s biggest needs.
The little thing I take for granted - and notably bitch about weekly in this blog - is my job. If you’ve read any of my posts, you’ll know that I would rather be doing anything besides waiting tables. It’s a thankless job, but it’s one that pays my bills and for that I am thankful. This past week reminded me of that as my boyfriend(who works with me) and I found ourselves out of work. I’m not going to lie, having an impromptu staycation had its benefits, but at the end of the day, we were left with an entire week without income. I consistently bitch and whine about having to go to work, but when faced with the prospects of having no work, the little things quickly became the big.
I am by no means queuing the violins here, for I have so much to be grateful for. I only lost a week of work, while so many others lost so much. I simply want to call attention to those of us who don’t work on salary pay, and who as a result, have found themselves wondering how they will cope with the pay cut. I take my job for granted just about every day, and while I wish I was doing something else with my education, today, I am grateful to be going back to work. The restaurant world took a huge set-back last week, with thousands of employes and owners left scrambling to get back to a place of normalcy. My heart goes out to small restaurants that were barely getting by before the storm, and I’m left wondering how they will get by after. It’s the little things that keep us going, and as New Yorkers push forward, its still important to remember those little things - be kind, help where you can, and hug a friend who needs it.
Tip of the Day: Pay it forward.
Social media has done wonders for the restaurant world. It’s word-of-mouth advertising on crack, and whether restauranteurs like it or not, the pros and cons of their businesses are on permanent display. Don’t worry, I’m not the social media police and I most certainly won’t bore you with another bitter diatribe on the pitfalls of Yelp. I will however call attention to an annoying bi-product of the tech-social revolution: snapping pictures of your food.
As someone who blogs, and more importantly as someone who spent a year working for a food blogger, I completely get the appeal of pulling out your phone or camera to get a shot of your food. Food is an art form in it’s own right, and deserves to be photographed and heralded on Pinterest or Facebook just as much as(if not more) than an infant touting a “Two Months Today!” onesie.
But back to the food. I’m never annoyed when customers take pictures of their food, mainly because it has no noticeable affect on my workday. That is until recently when I started noticing customers whipping out their smartphones to show me a photo of their desired dish du jour. Seriously. Customers sit down, and rather than look to see what we have to offer on the menu, they pull out photos of dishes that other customers have posted on Yelp or Facebook and thrust them in my face. “We want this!” They exclaim with a mix of righteousness and excitement. My favorite was the customer that showed me a photo of a plate of paella with the caption “best paella ever.” The dialogue went as follows:
Customer: (pointing to photo) what is this?
Me: Well, must be the best paella ever.
Customer: (blank stare)
Me: It’s the paella.
Customer: Do you have this?
Me: Yea, it’s on the menu in front of you…under paella.
Customer: Ooohh ooooohh. We take that!
I’m not sure what is is that irks me so. In some ways it’s making my job easier. I suspect that the problem is that it makes me feel as if we are digressing to cavemen ordering tactics…”Me hungry. Me want food. Me want food now.” Forget the specials, I barely get a ‘hello, my name is…’ in edgewise with these diners. I’ll give you one guess as to what they do when their food arrives(hint: say cheeeeese).
Tip of the Day: Just because we are endlessly saturated with images doesn’t mean you must forget how to read…a menu. Take a few minutes to read what’s in front of you and use your own senses when ordering. If nothing else, read the caption in the photo you’re brandishing about because chances are, it’ll readily inform you of what the dish is.
Despite the fact that I spend most of my nights working in a restaurant, one of my favorite ways to spend a night off(and to spend my hard earned money) is by going out to eat. While some would argue that the best part of New York City is the art, fashion or music scene, I would lobby for the food scene. Oh the food. Thai, Asian, Italian, Mexican, Venezuelan, American, Mexican-Asian-American fusion, the options are literally endless. Gourmet grilled cheese? Meatballs? Macaroons? There are entire restaurants dedicated to these tasty delights. Truth be told, I dine out at least one night a week, and whether I’m grabbing a cup of soup, or having an seafood feast with friends, I go above and beyond to be a courteous diner and an excellent tipper. It’s my night out, my night away from work, and my chance to be on the other end of the serving stick. So when I encounter a sour-faced server that gives me nothing but attitude and grief, I’m less than thrilled.
The bitter waitress is the first to defend a bad server - maybe she’s having a rough day, or maybe he’s overwhelmed because the restaurant is understaffed - time and time again, I consistently try to commiserate with the plight of a sub-par server. But sometimes, no amount of commiserating can justify terrible service. Now I’m not talking about waiting too long for the check in a busy restaurant, or even dealing with an abysmal personality. What I’m referring to is when you can’t get a glass of water when you’re the only table in a restaurant, or when you order an expensive bottle of wine at a wine bar and don’t get bottle service. I get it, I’m sure a server looks at my boyfriend and I when we sit down and thinks, “look at these punks, I’m not getting any money out of them.” That’s fine. But don’t ignore us for the entire meal, only to give us a heartfelt “thanks!!” on our way out the door after realizing how well we tipped you. As someone who has dedicated an entire blog to how frustrating waiting tables can be, and how ignorant some customers are, it’s hard to admit that sometimes, the server really is in the wrong.
But while I begrudgingly admit that not every server deserves to have their name inscribed on Employee of the Month plaque, I will never sign off on a customer’s right to be rude, ignorant, or overly demanding. Sure, it’s disheartening to have your dining experience lessened by bad service, but just like in Orioles baseball, you can’t win ‘em all. So next time you encounter a bad server, take it with the proverbial grain of salt and chalk it up to a dining loss. If nothing else, remember the bad service you got the next time you are getting good service.
Tip of the Day: Some servers suck. Fact. Instead of dwelling on the negative, look to the positive: getting bad service? Ignore it. Getting great service? Appreciate it in kind. SImple as that.
Now I’m not saying that the general public doesn’t now how to read, but its safe to say that they don’t know how to read well. At least once a shift, I listen to customers butchering the names of various menu items. It’s understandable for people not to know the correct pronunciation for wines like pouilly fuisse or cotes du rhone, and no one blames you for not knowing how to pronounce malpeque or kumamoto oysters, but when you order a wellpoint oyster instead of a blue point or a wellfleet, or ask for fancy bays instead of fanny bays, well, now you’re just making shit up. It’s hard to keep a straight face as customers say, “I’ll take the lobster biscuit” instead of lobster bisque, and I can’t even tell you how many people pronounce it bisqu-ee. And the Down East Lobster Feast? Well, let’s just say I’ve heard every variation of those words - downtown lobster feast, lobster fest, lobster festival, lobster fiesta, down eastern lobster feast - you get the picture. The following are a few of our favorite mash-ups:
Fire Island Lighthouse Ale —> Firehouse Ale; Firefly Ale; Fire Light Ale
Maine Sea Urchin —> Marine Sea Urchin
Pot o’ Bass —> Potato Bass
Red, White and Blue Special —> I can’t even list all of the ways this one gets destroyed. My favorites so far have been the American Flag and the Blue Ribbon special. Say What?
Crab Cake —> Yes, I had someone call these lobster cakes - you know, because the words lobster and crab are so similar.
Pouilley Fuisse —> A tricky one yes, but I had no sympathy for the stuck-up b**** who very haughtily told me that, “it’s pronounced fumee.” Sure it is honey.
All-You-Can-Eat Maryland Blue Crabs —> Somehow people read this special and turn it into either all-you-can-eat blue claws or (even stranger) all-you-can-eat king crab legs(most likely wishful thinking there).
And don’t even get me started on the people who simply refuse to read all together:
"What kind of beers do you have on draft" (as they are holding the drink menu)
"What comes with the lobster feast?" Me: "well, as the menu you’re holding says…"
"Does fries on the side mean fries come on the side?"
"What kind of oysters come with the oyster special?" Me: "Well, as it says right here, blue points."
"Do you guys have lobster?" Me: "I’ll give you a few minutes to read the menu”
"You’re sold out of crabs!! You should have told us before we sat down!" Me: Yes, the big "sold out of blue crabs" sign on the door was your first clue.
Customer: “What kind of sides do you have?” Me: “They are all listed on the menu underneath ‘Sides.’ Customer: (Exasperated sigh) Me: Would you like me to read them to you. Customer: Well, yeah.
Tip of the Day: Mispronunciation is to be expected, and for us bitter waitresses, it’s downright entertaining. That is until you insist on making an ass of yourself…then it’s just annoying.
For those of you interested in performing a study on the human psyche, take a few hours to observe the behavior of customers in a restaurant. Correction. Simply take a few minutes to observe how customers behave in a restaurant with no hostess. What you’ll discover is one of the following:
Option A: Customers become the proverbial deer caught in headlights. Fight or flight falls to the wayside, leaving the customer frozen in a state of panic over whether they should follow the direction of the bartender encouraging them to take a seat; whether they should remain standing until spoken to again; or whether they should venture into the restaurant, toward the server who is clearly waving and telling them to take a seat. They choose none of the above, and instead stay awkwardly standing the in the doorway.
Option B: Customers ignore any and all direction from employees. Instead, they boldly make a bee-line to their table of choice, immediately sprawling their belongings out across any adjacent chairs and tables. (These are the same customers that will stand up to read the list of beers on tap instead of simply looking at the beer list on the table, and the same type of customer that stands up to order with the server at the server station instead of remaining seated but that’s a story for another time).
Option C: After being told to take a seat, customers walk painfully slow around the restaurant, weighing the pros and cons of each table before making their official choice, as if the wrong selection could result in imminent death.
As a bitter waitress, I’ve observed all of the above and then some. During lunch hours, we don’t have a hostess due to the fact that the restaurant is generally empty, and at most, half full. As such, when people walk in the door we typically greet them with a, “Hi, two for lunch? Grab a table anywhere you like.” This is where it gets tricky, as people cannot seem to grasp the concept of sitting “anywhere you like.” Besides taking the deer in headlights approach and remaining awkwardly at the door, people also walk over to you and stare awkwardly at you, as if the very thought of seating themselves is too much to bear. After being directed once again to sit “anywhere you like” people then look at each other with trepidation. They then either panic and grab the closest table, or take the opposite approach with Option C. But perhaps my favorite is the following:
Me: Hi guys, grab a seat wherever you like.
Customer: Oh, ok, just sit anywhere?
Me: Yep, you’re pick. Take a seat anywhere you like.
Customer: Ok, how about somewhere near the front?
Me: Anywhere you like.
Customer: Is this one ok?
Me: Anywhere you like.
Customer: Ok, how about here then.
Me: ANYWHERE YOU LIKE!!!!
**It should be noted that this generally occurs when the restaurant is empty and the customer can literally sit anywhere.they.like. **
Now perhaps I’m judging too harshly. After all, I too have suffered the confusion that occurs upon entering a restaurant. Do you wait for the host? Seat yourself? Question the nearest employee? It can be a tricky first few seconds. But once directed, it’s safe to say you should follow those directions. Wait to be seated? Yep, thats restaurant speak for “wait to be seated.” Sit anywhere you like? Simply translated - “take a seat anywhere.you.like.”
Tip of the Day: For my fellow people-watchers out there, I suggest taking an afternoon to sit at a bar or restaurant and observe customer behavior. You won’t be disappointed.
I went on a dead end job interview recently, the type of interview where you feel monstrously out of place, completely under-qualified, and relieved when the gauntlet of questions comes to an end. From the very beginning I knew I was at the wrong end of the pond as I waited for approval at the security check point. Scratch that. I knew I was out of place as I stepped off the subway into the concrete jungle known as midtown Manhattan. Suits were everywhere, making my sad Express ensemble seem less than fashionable. Once inside, I was blown away by the view from the 53rd floor, the posh waiting room, the young(very young) receptionist who did little to hide the condescension in his voice. Roughly ten minutes later, I was back on the elevator, untucking my shirt and asking myself why I had even come to this interview. What’s worse, I was in a terrible mood after being talked down to by a stuck-up HR rep. As someone who likes to succeed, an unsuccessful interview left a sour taste in my mouth. It wasn’t until I woke up from a good nights sleep that I was able to step back and think, would I really want to work there? The answer my friends, is hell no.
Today is a new day, and with it comes beautiful weather and a new outlook on my (albeit brief) foray into the corporate world. The restaurant world can certainly get a girl down sometimes, but for the bitter waitress, it’s a home away from home. It’s been 11 years since my first restaurant job, and while I hope to not still be working in restaurants for another 11, there’s a few reasons why I’ve stuck with it for so long. Keeping in line with today’s post, lets look to the level of camaraderie that I’ve been blessed to experience during my tenure in restaurants. A recent trip home reminded me of the amazing co-workers(family more like it) that I shared seven years with at my former waitressing job. It’s been over two years since I started at my current restaurant, and while the staff changes occasionally, I consider them all to be family. We laugh together, cry together, and of course, bitch about our jobs together. At the end of the night, we sit down for a beer(or five) and on days off, we spend time letting loose together. We work hard, but because we work in restaurants, we have time to play hard and pursue our real passions, whether it be dance, film, acting, writing, or simply searching for said passions. We may not don fancy suits every day, and join the 9 to 5 masses on the morning and evening commutes, but let’s be honest, aren’t there already enough suits in Manhattan? Cheers to the rest of us!
Tip of the Day: When one door closes, another opens.