The Good, The Bad and the…

Have I mentioned lately that I love my job.  I actually enjoy going to work and making money.  I enjoy the energy of the place.  The pace, the excitement, the fun of waiting tables.  It’s sometimes unfortunate that I like my job so much because it’s not forcing me to find more theatre work, but that’s not even the issue right now.

On that note, I had a very interesting night.  For two reasons.  One is kind of interesting in a good light, the other is kind of interesting and appalling in another light.

I’ll tell the good story first.  I’ll also let you know that both the couples I’m about to discuss were sitting next to each other at my counter at exactly the same time.  It really demonstrates a lot about the people I deal with.

Couple number one was a young attractive couple.  American.  Very nice, nothing that would have made me even take notice of them except for the couple they were sitting next to.  When the evil couple I will talk about later left, my nice young couple wanted the whole story about what was going on, since they only started paying attention when the evil couple began screaming at the manager.  And I told them the story.  And they too were appalled.  And we laughed over it.  And somehow in the course of the conversation I discovered that they were locals.  And the first question I ask any locals is why the fuck are you eating here.  And they replied that they wanted nachos and they thought they could get them here.  And what do you know.  We had nachos.

And the conversation continued.  My question was followed by their question of why the fuck do you work at this restaurant.  And I gave my stock answer.  It’s busy.  It’s busy.  It’s busy.  And I’ll never run into any of my friends here, and no one minds if I take off to go do other work.  And I told them that I was a lighting designer for theatre and opera.  I told them that I designed around the country and had just returned from doing three shows in Oklahoma.    I then told them that I had just gotten an email asking about doing two operas in the midwest next spring.  And they asked me if I’d ever heard of the Des Moines Opera Company.  And I told them that I had.  And I asked them if they were from Iowa.  And they said that they were.

And here’s the fun part.  I asked them if they were familiar with the little school that I taught at in Spring 07.  Not only had they heard of it, the girl had gone there.  And then we started playing the do you know game.  And she was amazed that I knew all of these people she knew.  And then by chance she asked if I knew this guy named Mike who had just done an internship in the theatre department.  And then she was completely shocked to find out that not only did I know him, but that I had been his boss this summer while he worked for me in Oklahoma.  Turns out that they are best friends and that he’d told her all about me, the summer and the drama of the whole thing.

So here was this random meeting of two people who happen to be good friends of a friend of mine from Iowa.  And this just proves that the world is too small.

At this point you should get a beer or a shot of tequila because you’ll never believe the crap that I’m about to tell you.

Just before I sat the above couple in my section I sat a foreign couple.  I did my thing, dropped them off at their seats and then went on to check on everyone else.  And then I came back to the table, said hello, and asked them if they’d like something to drink.

I know I’ve said this before, but our drink menu does not have prices listed on it.  And as I’ve said before I’ve never gone in a restaurant that has prices listed on their drink menus.  I’m not sure why this, but it seems to be the rule not the exception.  And it’s impossible to know all the prices.  We have close to fifty drinks on our drink menu and I’m barely able to remember what’s in them, let alone how much they cost.  And I always explain this to people by explaining that I just push a button and the computer does the rest.  And that if they’d like to understand better what I’m talking about, they should let me have their cell phone and I’ll pull up some random persons name and see if they know the phone number.  And every single time the understand what I’m talking about.  If they speak English that is.

So I say hello and ask what I can get the couple to drink.  Their first comment is that there are no prices in the drink menu.  They seem to speak English fine although it’s clear that they are foreign.  I tell them about the prices, the range that they run from.  And then they ask how much a bottle of wine is.  I have worked at this restaurant for a year and in that time I’ve sold three bottle of wine.  We don’t sell many bottles of wine  and so there was no way in hell I was going to know the price.  So I explain that they start around 35.00 and go up to about 50.00.  And then they ask how much the glasses are.  I explain that they start around 8.50 and go up to about 12.00.  And then they ask which one is the cheapest.  You should never say this to your waiter.  It raises all kinds of red flags about who they are dealing with and what the rest of the meal is going to be like.

So I’ve told the couple all about the wines that I can and tell them that if they let me know specifically what wine they are talking about I can tell them the price.  And I go away.  And I do my thing and eventually make my way back to the couple to see if they are ready to order.  And they are.  They order two orders of grilled salmon.  I ask if they’d like wine and they say no, they’ll just get water.  And I go away put the order into the computer and go do my thing.  And I go and seat another table, check on yet another table, run some drinks to someone else and as I’m passing by the counter the man is turning around from the bar with two glasses of wine.

And this pisses me off.  And I tell him as much.  I explain that I’m their waiter and that if they need something, no matter what it is, they are to get it from me, not the bar.  I’m stern about this.  And the man begins to shout at me.  He’s screaming that I didn’t come back to answer his questions about the wine and that I wasn’t helpful because I didn’t know the prices and that it was his right to go to the bar to get his drinks.  And I respond by saying that’s fine, I’ll go get the manager.

And so I explain to the manager about what’s happened and then I explain that I WILL NOT BE YELLED AT, BY ANYONE.  And that the couple needs to be moved to another table.  So the manager goes to visit the couple and stops me a few minutes later to tell me that it was a misunderstanding and that it wouldn’t happen again.  By now I’m pissed, I know that I’m not going to get a tip from them, so I’ve decided they’ll get my most crappy service, which is still miles above what some of my co-workers give.

And so I’m running around waiting on my tables doing my thing, and then I’m called over by the evil couple and the man proceeds to say the following to me.

“I’m about to go get two more glasses of wine at the bar, do you need me to call your mommy?”


I don’t even give him the pleasure of a response.  I leave the bar, go the office and tell the manager (a different one this time) that I’m done with them and that I’ll not wait on them any longer.  They are welcome to sit there but I will not offer them any service.  I’m told that if they say anything else disparaging to me, they’ll be asked to leave.  And so I for the most part ignore them.  And then when there was no way I could ignore them any more the asshole calls me over to tell me that he’d like a to go box for his meal.  And then points to the miniscule speck of salmon left on his plate and then begins to laugh.  Once again I walk away without any remarks, I go to the office and tell the manager that table 65 needs their check and that under no circumstances am I delivering it to them, or having any other interactions with them.  So I’m standing at the other end of the counter when Matt drops the check off.  And I see the couple waving their arms and shouting at him.  And he takes the money from them and walks away.  When he brings me the money he tells me that they were pissed off that I hadn’t brought the check to them.  I guess they wanted to see if they could annoy me any more than they had.

And all of this is witnessed by the fun couple sitting next to the evil couple.  And as soon as the spawns of satan left, they asked to see Matt so they could give their side of the story.

I’m still pissed as I type this.  I know I responded to the assholes just as I should have.  I didn’t provoke them.  I didn’t engage them.  I didn’t give them the pleasure of a response.  And I think the thing that pisses me off the most is that the managers didn’t do more to stop the situation.  In their defense though, each time I brought the situation to their attention it was a different manager.  So none of them were completely aware of what had happened before.

I argued with these people in my head all the way home.  Saying all the things that I wish I’d said in the moment.  And yet I said none of them.  And if I had to do over again, I would still say none of them.  I like my job and I won’t risk being fired by arguing with a customer and engaging in some sort of debate.  But there is a limit to what I’m willing to tolerate and this was too much.  These people were rude and out of line.  And they should have been asked to leave the restaurant.  And if such a thing were to happen again, I would be more diligent about getting the managers to at least move the assholes to a new table.

On his way out tonight one of the managers complimented me on my cool head.  He said if it were him, he would have punched the guy and then come to get the manager.  I told him the same thing I told the nice couple.  I don’t allow my mother to yell or raise her voice with me.  I’m sure as hell not going to allow if from some asshole stranger.  I don’t care how important they are, or how much money they have, or if it costs me my job.  I have limits and these people crossed them tonight.


9 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad and the…

  1. Rick August 23, 2008 / 05:48

    What a strange coincidence meeting the couple with Iowa connections. In the middle of New York. Weird.

    Too bad about the asshole. Let it go. He’s not worth your time.

  2. Lemuel August 23, 2008 / 06:23

    I am prepared to think that the assholes were prepared to be assholes from the starting gun. It sounds to me as if this might be a “game” they play – perhaps just because they enjoy being assholes – perhaps because they can justify not leaving a tip – or even perhaps because when they have layed their little game before the manager gave them their meal for free.

    Concentrate on the good guys. What a hoot to find so many connections out of the blue!

  3. Peter August 23, 2008 / 07:44

    You handled it as it should be done. The managers, or some of them should learn that not all customers are welcome, especially the ones who are shouting.

  4. Kelly Stern August 23, 2008 / 08:12

    Maybe I am in a wierd mood today, but it seems the drink price issue has been raised before and caused minor problems… I would think your restuarant would take the time to print a drink menu with prices on it, or at least give the staff a cheat sheet… I know it is NYC and all, but if it were me and I had to deal with out of towners a lot (who may be on a budget)… I would have one… Just a thought… I waited tables and bartended for years, and always had cheat sheets…cuz my mind is just not that good… sorry do be devils advocate on this one… they still should not have been assholes…

  5. American Girl August 23, 2008 / 10:13

    You are way more tolerant than me (probably why I was a sucky waiter) because this is where I’d have gotten in trouble:

    ‘I explain that they start around 8.50 and go up to about 12.00. And then they ask which one is the cheapest.’

    There’s no way I couldn’t have said, “The one that’s $8.50.”

    Your small world story was great! I love those moments.

    I agree with Kelly about the cheat sheet. You can tell the customer that as of 8/23/08 these were the prices. At least, the guest will know what price range he’s in. Since we’re talking drink menus, I always hated it and was dubious about the character of anyone who would order from it. A person should know what their drink is (I’ll have a stoli mart up, three olives or a sidecar) and it shouldn’t be called a mudslide.

  6. Tom August 23, 2008 / 16:28

    I tell my people at work to remember one thing…. It’s only furniture, it’s not brain surgery, or a life or death thing…

    Customers can and will be rude sometimes, and I know I don’t have to tell you that!

    “It’s only food” my friend… relax and have a profitable weekend!


  7. Bill August 23, 2008 / 20:55

    There’s no sense in trying to fathom the mind of an asshole. Don’t spin your wheels having imaginary conversations with them. You’ll be keeping yourself awake while they’re home getting a good night’s sleep.

    I love the story about the Iowa couple. There are no coincidences. They were presented to you because that encounter is far more important than the unpleasant one at the neighboring table.

  8. javabear August 24, 2008 / 23:43

    It is good that you had the wonderful couple to balance out the evening. How terrible would your night have been if only the ugly foreign couple were memorable?

    Love the connections with the Iowa couple! So fun!

  9. Aaron August 26, 2008 / 11:50

    In my dreams, this is how the encounter goes:

    Foreign douchebag: “Do you need me to call your mommy?”

    Waiter: “No, but you might want to call an ambulance for yourself.”


    Of course, that’s unproductive and a crime, so we won’t go there. And remember this: Foreign Guy ended the evening by being the angry one and waving his tentacles around. So you weren’t the only one who was upset. AND he still had to pay.

    You win. Yay!

    I agree with Bill…the nice couple was no coincidence. People are sent our way for a reason. There is a grand plan by a benevolent being…

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