Reflections of a Waitress

17 Aug

I thought working at a theme park was difficult. I thought getting up at the same time every day and doing the same thing every day with the same people every day was torture. Sure, I was doing what I loved, but was it worth it?

Pros of working a theme park:

1. You get IN SHAPE. Skinny arm central.

2. You don’t actually have to interact with anyone outside of your cast.

3. Sparkly gold dresses.

Pros of being a waitress:

1. Tips.

2. Schedules that are subject to change.

3. Working with different people every day.

Cons of theme park work:

1. Summer. Heat.

2. You don’t actually interact with anyone outside of your cast.

3. Sequins catch sweaty hair.

Cons of being a waitress:

1. Tips. Low, less than 10% tips.

2. Less hours, less shifts, less money.

3. Having to learn the names of cooks, fellow waitresses/waiters, bar tenders, bus boys, hosts, managers, regular customers, etc…

Being a waitress has made me realize how many different people there are in the world. Waiting on people is fascinating. How many dysfunctional couples did I get to actually speak to during my summer as a performer? None. Now, I have the privilege of talking to these fine people every day! I’ve started to give titles to memorable types of people, mostly to help me identify which type they are more quickly, and act accordingly. Here are a few types just off the top of my head:

Tired Mothers

  • Appearance: Baggy eyes, over-the-shoulder diagonally hanging beige bag, usually accompanied by 3 loud, dirty, and needy children under the age of ten. Almost never accompanied by a helpful adult male companion.
  • Disposition: Short tempered, exhausted, speaks quietly, as if every word is painful to mutter. Usually becomes offended if told we have Pepsi products instead of Coke products.
  • Tip average: Less than ten percent, which is usually taken from the already discounted total due to her “smart” child’s “A+ is for Applebees!” free kids meal coupon.

Business Men

  • Appearance: Suit and tie, button up shirt (usually light blue). Manly man bag which includes a lap top and/or a huge official looking black leather spiral notebook. Usually accompanied by two or more of his same kind, but must wait patiently for their arrival. While waiting, he will order an Arnold Palmer.
  • Disposition: Before 3:00- relatively happy, eager to make the waitress laugh by cracking uncomfortable sexist jokes. Secretly enjoys making the waitress do everything twice, because it makes him feel powerful. Drinks his drink quickly, and shakes the ice at the waitress while she walks by. He seals the deal by giving a creepy wink, framed by a bushy pepper-colored eyebrow. Also frequently says things like, “Good job, honey” and “Now THERE we go!” when a refill is delivered to the table.After 3:00- relatively tired, eager to get his food and read his official looking notebook. Usually accompanied by fellow Business Men who are also relatively tired, and don’t want to be eating and doing business at the same time. Painfully polite dialogue is common, and sexist jokes diminish at an abnormally fast pace.
  • Tip average: 15% if each man pays separately, 25% or higher if one man confidently grabs the check and pays for everyone before anyone can say anything about it. He will make a big show of filling out the tip line of his check, and will say, “There you go, sweetie, buy something pretty” as he hands you the slip. Tipping more than 20% means you are secure, dominant, and manly, and shows the other men at the table that you are, in fact, a “boss.”

High School Students:

  • Appearance: Young “hip” looking teens. Usually wearing a Hollister shirt or ripped jeans.
  • Disposition: Happy, disrespectful, and thirsty. Mountain Dew sales sky rocket. Straw paper conffetti is common on these tables. Students try to act older by memorizing the waitress’ name and using it as if they’ve been BFF’s 4Eva.
  • Tip average: What tip average?

The Dysfunctional Nuclear family:

  • Appearance: Father, mother, boy, and girl. Average-looking human beings who could pass as a happy family, if the conversation wasn’t so forced and hostile.
  • Disposition: Father- Absentmindedly stares at the nearest TV, and says nothing, except for “I’ll take the 7 oz house sirloin.” Mother- Nervously looks from family member to family member to make sure that everyone is having a good time. Questions everything everyone orders, and usually pressures people into getting their steaks cooked Well Done instead of Medium Rare. Daughter- Makes sad eye contact with the waitress that usually portrays the message, “I’m sorry I was born into this family, and I’m sorry you have to wait on us now.”  Son- Says nothing, and let’s his mother order for him. Plays angry birds on his smart phone until his chicken fingers basket with ranch arrives.
  • Tip average: Mother fills out slip- 10%. Father fills out slip- 15% or more, depending on how many times he “secretly” checked out the waitress during commercials.

Sometimes though, no matter how many types of people I interact with, I find myself getting a little bored. Times like these, I have to find something to entertain myself. Since I can’t whip out my phone and play Angry Birds myself, I find different games to make the time go faster. I personally like to play the “ranch” or “blue cheese” game in my head. It goes something like this:

Man: Honey BBQ boneless wings, please.

Me: Would you like ranch, or blue cheese to dip those wings in?

Me: (thinking) This man obviously wants ranch.

Man: I’ll take ranch please.

Me: Sure thing!

Me: Ten points. I am so good.

I also enjoy playing the Absolutely game. This is a game where I see how many times I can say “Absolutely” while speaking to a table. It goes something like this:

Woman: Could I please have a water?

Me: Absolutely. (1) Would you like lemon with that?

Woman: Yes, please.

Man: And I’ll take a coke.

Me: We actually only have Pepsi products. Is that okay?

Man: Sure.

Me: Absolutely (2), I’ll get those right away.

ONE MINUTE PASSES.

Me: (returning to the table with drinks) Do you guys need a few more minutes to decide?

Woman: Yes, if it’s not too much trouble.

Me: Absolutely (3) not.

FIVE MINUTES PASS.

Me: Are you guys ready now? I don’t want to rush you.

Man: No, we’re ready. I’ll take the Boneless wings with Honey BBQ sauce.

Me (This man obviously wants blue cheese) Absolutely (4.) Ranch or blue cheese to dip those in?

Man: Blue cheese, please.

Me: (Ten points. I am SO good.) Absolutely (5.) And for you ma’am?

Woman: Could I just have the half portion oriental chicken salad?

Me: Absolutely (6.) Any extra dressing with that?

Woman: Sure.

Me: Great guys, I will absolutely (7) get that right in for you!

Sometimes, when I lose count of my Absolutely’s or misdiagnose a ranch person as a blue cheese person, I’ll play the Baby Game. This game is hard to explain through the written word. But basically, the goal of the game is to find the loudest, most obnoxiously messy and disruptive child in the restaurant. After locating the child, make sure the parents aren’t looking, and make eye contact with the child. As soon as eye contact is made, make the most ghoulish and horrifying facial expression you can while putting your hands up to your face like claws. If the baby stops making loud noises and looks at you, dumbfounded, you win. If the baby screams louder, you win, and get an extra 10 points.

Sometimes, though, people are so amazingly rude, selfish, or just plain dumb, that I actually have no need for the Ranch/Blue Cheese Game, The Absolutely Game, or the Baby Game. The people are entertaining enough as it is! (Please NOTE: All of these situations have literally happened to me, in real life.)

Situation One:

Father: I’ll take a steak-

Me: 7 oz or 9 oz?

Father: (completely confused, but says in a rude and confident tone to cover his confusion..) 9 ounce! And I want fries and a salad with that, you got that? Fries, and a salad, I want the salad out first with no egg, no cucumber, extra tomatoes and ranch on the side. My son will take-

Me: Oh, how did you want your steak cooked?

Man:

Me: … Medium? Well done?

Man. Rare, rare! And my son wants a rib basket with onion rings, can I substitute rings for the fries?

Me: Sure, it will just be 1.29 more.

Man: Now THAT is horse crap right there, as if we’re not going to spend enough money already, you people have to charge us extra for onion rings!

Me:.. I’m sorry, would you rather substitute mashed potatoes or cole slaw? Those don’t cost extra.

Man: WHY NOT!? WHY DO JUST ONION RINGS COST MORE?

Me: I… I actually don’t know, sir.

Man: Typical. Whatever, he’ll just take onion rings, I guess. Can never get nothing for free…. My son wants a salad too, out first, extra egg and chicken.

Me: Well… our house salad doesn’t come with egg, or chicken on it. It would be smarter to get a 1/2 portion Fried Chicken Salad, which comes with both egg and chicken.

Man: And how much is that going to cost me?

Me: Well, it is a larger salad than the house salad, and comes with chicken, it’s about 8 dollars for that salad.

Man: NICE TRY, MISSY! Oh, you are good! YOU ARE GOOD!

Me: (awkward smile) So… just a house salad then without chicken or egg?

Man: What, we can’t even get chicken on a house salad?!

Me: You can, but it will cost extra…

Man: WHAT DOESN’T COST EXTRA IN THIS PLACE, HUH? TELL ME! PLEASE JUST TELL ME!

Me: … refills?

Situation Two:

Mother: Candice! Candice, sit down, stop climbing on the window- I’m sorry- Candice, do you want chocolate milk, or fruit punch?

Candice: SPRITE! SPRITE!

Mother: (suddenly morphing into Satan) NO! CANDICE NO! NO SODA, YOU KNOW THIS! (to me) She’s been with her damn father all weekend, I KNOW he’s been giving her whatever the hell she wants… CANDICE. LOOK AT MOMMY. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DRINK!?!?

Candice: (Climbing the window) Choco mill.

Mother: Chocolate milk for her. (Sweetly) Ben, what do you want?

Ben: Mac N Cheese.

Mother: NO! WE’RE ORDERING DRINKS RIGHT NOW BEN! PAY ATTENTION!

Ben: Pepsi.

Mother: No, he’ll have a lemonade. They KNOW they are NOT ALLOWED to drink pop. CANDICE get DOWN. Vodka diet for me.

Me: Um… sure.

Mother: And we’ll take some spinach and artichoke dip to start off, please, as fast as you can-

Ben: Aw ma, I hate that spinach stuff you like…

Mother: BEN! Color the alien and be quiet. CANDICE! NO THROWING KNIVES AT YOUR BROTHER!

Situation Three:

Me: What can I get you to eat?

Old Man: You know you remind me of my daughter. Right now she’s living in Oregon, with that skamp of a boyfriend of hers, but she’s going to be a doctor now, Gonna make a ton of money on an annual salary and she’ll be able to take me fishing any time I want, can you believe that? Yep, any time now, I think she may be pregnant but she doesn’t want to tell me, but yes sir! YOU just remind me of her!

Me: …. Well… thank you… something to eat?

Old Man: Weeelllllll I haven’t really given that much thought! Can I just have some broccoli?

Me: Just… a side of broccoli?

Old Man: And you know, I often sometimes think if she just went to college somewhere else, she would have never met that man and she’d be so much better off, but what can you do? You can’t stop love and you can’t stop a woman IN love, so what can a father do? Hope and pray that she’ll someday be a doctor and take me fishing, huh!?!?!? PPPAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

Me: Heh…heh heh… so… just broccoli then?

Old Man: Broccoli?!

Me: Yes, you said you wanted…

Old Man: No no, I want the chicken breast with mashed potatoes and tomatoes.

Me: …. Tomatoes on top?

Old Man: Slices of tomatoes on the side, of course.

Me: Well, they won’t count as a side, I can get you another side, free of charge! What about that broccoli?

Old Man: Girl! What IS it with you and broccoli!? I don’t want your stinkin’ broccoli. Just tomatoes and chicken and rice.

Me: … rice?

Old Man: YES. RICE. Do you understand?

Me:… Yes. I do.

Is it really worth it to put up with these people, for a less than 10% tip? I have to ask myself. I’ve just started to tell myself that people don’t know HOW to figure out ten, fifteen, and twenty percent. If you don’t know, here’s a really easy way:

The bill is 20.00.

Move the decimal point one space over to the left.

2.00. There. THAT is ten percent.

Want to find fifteen? Divide ten percent by two: 2.00 / 2 = 1.00. That is five percent! Now add that five percent onto the ten percent to get FIFTEEN PERCENT! 1.00 + 2.00 = 3.00. A 3.00 tip on a 20 dollar bill is very much acceptable. Fifty seven cents left on the table and a dime left under the booth is not.

Please, world. I’m begging you. Please. Tip your waitresses. You never know what they’re dealing with, what they have going on in their lives… Most of the girls I work with have kids themselves, and are trying to pay car repair bills, along with day care, health care, and utility bills with the fifty seven cents that you so generously leave under the booth. So step up. Pay it forward. Waitresses, see, we’re really just like you. Only sweatier and with a bigger smile. So please. Tip your waitress on the way out.

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