Monday, May 18, 2009

So there I was wielding salad tongs and sharp knives when suddenly I became a Waitress.

(Pre-Script: Before you take my hand and skip down memory lane with me, please go down to the playlist, click on the song, "The Story," #42, then come back and resume reading. I'll wait, and reminisce...) (...still waiting, and reminiscing...)

The world of feta cheese and goat cheese opened up to me like a gate into a secret magic garden, and my taste buds were never the same. Please do not stop and tell me that feta and goat cheese are the same, they may come from the same goat, but the 2 cheeses are different, in texture and taste. Both are magical. I learned of such goodness when I began working at a little 16 table cafe called 29 East Main Cafe, because that was the address of the restaurant. All of the food was made from scratch, including the salad dressing and croutons, including the pizza dough and marinated tomatoes. I started off as a salad girl, working the salad station, chopping the vegetables, stocking the dressings, and my station was right behind the counter, so I could see everyone as I created each individual salad order. Man, I made a pretty salad, too, and I did not skimp on the ingredients. I also rocked the cash register like nobody's business, and my till USUALLY zeroed out at the end of each night. (I have always enjoyed working a cash register, and would do it again in a heartbeat.)

At this time, I had one very obvious admirer, a man who used to come in and stare at me. The staring is what gave him away. It was unnatural. It was creepy. Yes, He used to sit at his table and stare at me the entire visit. Sometimes he would write furiously in a notebook. When he left, he would walk out backwards while still staring at me. The cafe front was all glass, so he would walk past outside slowly while still staring at me. One night he left a present for me. It was a gift bag that contained a glass jar of pistachios, and a card with a kitten on the front, inside the card, he had written "I look forward to seeing you soon, Love, Arthur." I had no idea what to make of that. I still don't. I have a theory that maybe he was writing a book, and basing a character on me. He needed to observe a person building custom salad's so that he could accurately develop the character in his award winning novel. I hope it worked out for him. So far I have not seen any such characters in any of the library books I have checked out, but I have not discounted the possibility completely yet.

Eventually, after much begging and prodding and campaigning for myself to Joe, the greatest boss ever invented,, I was promoted to my all time dream job, waitress. The politically correct term is "food server" but there is nothing intriguing about that gender neutral term, and I am intriguing, and I am decidedly not gender neutral. I was a "Waitress."

And so I became a Waitress, and that's when the fun really began.

What a waitress does not want to hear: "Wow, this place is expensive." as she is standing there, at the table, waiting to take your order.

SPECIAL NOTE, PEEPS: the WAITRESS does NOT fix the prices...Hello??

Yet I cannot count the times people would say that to me while I was standing there waiting to take their order.
Me, blink blink, okay.
Customer, looking back at me with disdain.
It's like, if you don't think it's worth it, then leave already. I did not chain you to the table when you sat down. Believe me, this is not that kind of restaurant.

As a waitress, you work the charm. You chit and chat and smile, and you try not to say "How is everything?" To people who have just stuffed food into their faces, or who have yet to take a bite. You also try to be hyper aware of the beverage levels of everyone in the restaurant, and stealthily refill the cups while customers eat and chat, as if you are a ghost, seamless, without interrupting the flow.

Sometimes you might also get caught up in the crazy antics of your fellow employees. You might, say, have a fellow waiter, let's call him "Dave, " who stands at the wait station with you folding boxes and tells you the entire plot to every movie he has ever seen that you have not seen. I remember very specific details of "The Game," starring Michael Douglas, for instance, and I have never seen that movie.

I will never forget the man who used to sit in the front right window seat with his wife; He ordered the same pizza every time, very specifically, extra cheddar cheese, salami, both all the way to the edges of the thin sourdough crust. He wanted his Chianti filled to just the right line on the glass. He wanted actual anchovies on his Caesar salad. He wanted mango sorbetto for dessert with 2 cookies sticking out. His wife just smiled sweetly and ate along. The man was worth it though, I think he routinely left 10-15 dollar tips. If that does not sound like much to you, remember, this was 12 years ago, when 10-15 dollars meant something anymore. Gosh, people.

You might also think it's cute that every Monday at 5, a blond family of 4 comes in for dinner, and you might think it's cute and sweet that their little son likes to take the bill right up to the register every week all by himself, so you keep letting him do it. You might then experience his mother, who you have always thought sort of resembles Helen Hunt, but with monster gymnast on steroids calves, who sweetly and casually says to you one day, "I used to wait tables for years, and you are the worst waitress I have ever experienced." gulp. Oh...(pregnant mental pause...) Um,

is that how you got those monster calves?

(-Monster calves tipped 5.oo every week.)

If you are a waitress, you might gain a running partner when it comes up in conversation with a couple of regular customers that you run, and so does the one guy, so his buddy goes, 'why don't you run together," and you say "I am always looking for a running partner, I feel safer that way, running up in the hills of Los Gatos where the snakes and mountain lions and tarantulas and rapists hide out," and the guy says "I would love to run with you" because he regularly runs that route, anyway, so you start running together, and on these runs, you talk, and he tells you all about a girl he loves who has a boyfriend, and you advise him every time just to talk to her, just talk to her, just tell her, and he says "no, I can't she has a boyfriend." every time, and it never occurs to you until like 5 years later that, duh, maybe he was talking about YOU...and you kept telling him to tell the girl, and maybe he was TRYING TO. Oh. Well, Sweet Potato Pie and shut my mouth, that's what he gets for being subtle. I wonder what happened to that guy though; He was a good tipper. I think he and his buddy always tipped at least 7.00.

There was also the night, a very busy Friday, when your physics lab partner, at the end of the semester, stood outside the restaurant, pacing, and the other wait staff told you that he was there, very nervous, afraid to come in. Finally in the middle of the mad rush, he walked right up to you and handed you a single red rose and said he was going to call you...and then he did call and ask you out, and it caught you so off guard, because in lab class, all you had ever talked about was the task at hand. usually you were in class in your 29 E. Main Cafe waitressing clothes though, because you were headed to work after class, so he did know you worked there, but he had never been there before.

There was also the time when a couple of screaming preteen girls started screaming about some of your customers, and you were like, "What?" and so you went up and asked them, "what was that about?" and found out it was the lead singer of Smash Mouth, another band member, and a body guard. You had enjoyed their songs, but did not recognize the face. The body guard said something like, "do you want his autograph?" and you said, "No," because you're just not an autograph kind of person, even if you DID appreciate the lyrics of their most recent single. He seemed insulted. You did leave them your autograph, though, at the bottom of the bill, and they left you a halfway decent tip, but not a great one. I think they left 5.00 and change.

SPECIAL NOTE: When the body guards of famous people ask if you want the famous person's autograph, just say "yes," espescially when the celebrity in question is sitting right there...HELLO, THIS ONE should also be obvious.)

There are other customers, like the family who regularly comes and sits in your station. You know their order like your mother's maiden name, they are a little shy, but kind, maybe from the Milwaukee or Idaho, probably; you do everything you can for them, yet they still only leave a 4.oo tip every week. They think this is a good tip. This is not a good tip because there are 4 of them, and they order too much for this to be a good tip. But they ask for you, because they like you, they really, really like you. So you take them, and you treat them as if they were the $15.oo tipper, even though you know that you are only getting $4.00 out of them.



sara said...

Oh man. I was a waitress for YEARS. I can totally relate to some of your stories!

Oh, and "everythings betta with feta".

that's what i say.

vic-a-la said...

great memories, mishie! i hadn't heard a few of those. in case you wanted to know, feta is from sheep milk. so yes, it is different from goat. :-) bah!