Monday, October 16, 2006

The Job.

I'm a waiter. Been doing it for years. I'm old enough now to feel no shame in it. I chose it, and I like it. I take pride in doing a good job. I enjoy showing people a good time. It helps pay for the food my kids eat, as well as their saving for college.

At it's most basic, you are providing people the food they live on. At it's best, you are a guide through a beautiful gallery of artworks that nourishes all their senses.

I work in a casual, corner bar in Lincoln Square, Chicago. There are white table clothes and lobster on the menu, but it's still a corner bar. I recommend the steaks and burgers.

Last night as I waited tables, a five top sat down. As I welcome them, they interrupt and order a bottle of Zinfandel. We have a pretty extensive wine list. Some thirty-five bottles. I'm happy to suggest a few things, discuss it with them, because the chances of me picking the right wine are small. On Sunday's it's marked half off on all bottles. I try to point out the discount wine list, adding that they may want to pick one out for themselves rather then have me pick it out. They interrupt again, saying that's all fine just bring the cheapest Zinfandel.

I brought our cheapest Red Zinfandel, showed them the label, opened and poured.

You guessed it. They meant White Zinfandel.

Trying to avoid a, "I told you so" tone, I explain that this can happen sometimes when letting your server choose things for you. That it was was partially my fault really, I should have asked which type of Zin they wanted.

I got lucky, one of the people at the table agreed to drink it and I brought them their White Zin.


Flannery Alden said...

It sucks when people aren't specific about their wants and needs, especially to a waiter. When I used to wait tables, people used to order "eggs". I'd write down "eggs" and get busted by the cook for not finding out how customers wanted their eggs. I don't eat eggs, so it never occured to me that you could have them cooked a certain way...and those people that do eat eggs should be specific. I got in more trouble working breakfast, I'll tell you what!

Grant Miller, Esq. said...

Only a sick fuck would drink white zinfindel. Or a teenager. One or the other.

Grant Miller, Esq. said...

Or white zinfandel for that matter.

dirty said...

I always clean up after myself and my sloppy family when we go out to eat...I know what a pain that shit is to clean up having waited a few tables in my day...and the table I wait every day morning, noon and night here and now...

Johnny Yen said...

Always listen to your waiter. I caught when you posted that one on waiterrant. I'm with Grant on White Zinfandel-- I always shudder when people order white zinfandel-- shades of "Lancer's Rose."

I, like Phil, enjoy the job-- for me it's a supplement to my teacher's pay-- it's allowed me to do nice things for my kids, my wife, and even myself. And I like 98% of the people who come in there. But sometimes I'm amazed at the stupid things people do and say. Probably my biggest pet peeve is when people ask "What's good?" I, of course, know nothing about their tastes. Like you, I point out that we're known for the our burgers and steaks (For you other guys reading, I work with Phil, who really is very good at his job).

Dumb questions I've been asked, sometimes at other places I've worked at:

"What's the difference between the full slab of ribs and the 2/3's slab?" This was at the Smokehouse, a rib joint I worked at. I was asked this question easily 50 times.

"Is (fill in the blank) any good? I mean, really....?" I have worked in places that had a really bad dish or too. The only thing I steer people away from is our joint is the chianti-- I don't know if it's bad, necessarily-- I think we just sell so little of it, the bottles go bad. I've had it sent back many times.

"I'd like the (name a day of the week) special." On a day that was not that day. No, we didn't just decide to name Linguini with Clam Sauce "Friday." That's the only day it's available.

Or when you ask how someone wants a burger or steak cooked, and they look at you stunned, apparently having never been asked that question.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Funny how it's always the people with the trashiest, fucked-up taste that take an attitude with the server, too.

I am a recovering server. I still have nightmares about it, even though it's been over 10 years since I quit.

lulu said...

Not just wwhite zin, but the cheapest bottle of white zin in the joint. Classy.

I love the burgers at Jury's although I haven't been there in a while. I don't think I've ever had anything else. And I would never ask "Is the ____ good?" but I frequently ask waitrons what their favorite thing on the menu is. Frequently they will suggest something I had never considered before, and unless it contains gree peppers (the food of the devil) I am almost always game.

Megan said...

Like Lulu, I'm a big fan of chatting up the waiter for recommendations, although come to think of it I was always annoyed by customers who did that to me when I waited tables.

And white zinfandel. . .ugh!

Aunt TA said...

Oh god I love this story...makes me want to waitress again!:)
Thanks Phil...
an EX Jury's waitress

Phil said...

Flannery: I always liked working breakfasts, made me feel like a real person working normal hours.

Grant: Doubletrue.

Dirty: Don't worry about cleaning up after yourselves. I'm usually much more interested to see if the kids use "please" and "thank you."

Johnny: I usually respond by asking what they like or wht they are in the mood for. People are always shocked when I tell them something is bad. Why would I recommend and serve something I don't like? They usually order it anyway.

Vik: My waiter dreams have changed since becoming a parent, now not only is my host telling me my section, that I can't find, is full, I've also misplaced my child.

Lulu: The steaks are very good. I never mind the question, "Is ____ good?" As long as they trust my answer, please, chat me up. People tend to be very suspicious of waiters.

Megan: Chatting can be tough when you are busy. Or when they want to go through the entire menu. Or when they reject your advice. Or...

Aunt TA: Yeah. You know...