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At Your Service: First Dates And Foot Massages

The last week was pretty uneventful. I only got yelled at twice on the phone by complete strangers, I didn't drop anything on anybody, and only had two people leave gum on their plate. The kitchen didn't even crash and burn. How did I possibly make it through the week, then, without the drama that fuels me? I don't think I could have without the kind, thoughtful words of co-workers.

I work with my future brother-in-law. He is my rock at the restaurant. He has kept me from quitting or getting fired more times than I could possibly count. He switches stations with me if I'm scheduled to work an area that gets larger groups of people (there are only so many idiots I want to deal with at once) and listens to me bitch about his brother. He provides entertainment for his fellow employees, he plays pranks on the managers, mimics the unstable cooks, scares customers, and offers constant pearls of wisdom.

For example:

"I wish I had 15 hands to face-push the world."

Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

And after I complained one day that a table of mine requested my services as a photographer while my hands were full, he said, "We're not just servers here. We're part actors, part therapists, part photographers and part babysitters. We're servers last to these people."

I have taken this to heart. Occasionally, it makes me hate my job just a little less.

Until I get a table of six that wants to split one small pizza because they only want "an appetizer." Garlic bread is an appetizer. Buffalo wings are an appetizer. Deep dish pizza that takes 45 minutes is . . . not an appetizer.

One thing customers do that really delights me is have their first date here. The first 20 minutes or so, you hear them discussing all the normal things: careers, hobbies, families. Then . . . the fun begins. They don't have much to say and want to save whatever else they have in their arsenal for the obligatory after-dinner conversation. The girl is playing with her hair and the guy is twisting his napkin. They look at each other and nervously smile, darting their eyes at me each time I walk in the room. They are hoping and praying it is their pizza I am holding so they don't have to pretend to be clever anymore. I feel sorry for them until I remember they chose to go to a restaurant that warns them their food takes almost an hour to make.

As much as I gripe about the customers, we tend to give them as much grief as they give us. It's not an accident we walk over and ask how everything is going while your mouth is full, then stand around until you answer. It's our only (legal) way of getting back at you. That's not real ginger ale you're drinking: it's clear soda with a splash of diet. You have servers who have nothing to do with you bothering your children or flirting with your husband. (Or, in the case of one Monday night, giving him a lap dance while I secretly take pictures with my camera phone. Blackmail anyone?)

But would you rather have the unattractive, desperate-for-attention female server bothering your husband, or the aging, balding male server by his side, offering to massage his feet? He's not just being nice: it's a fetish. If any male at your table is older, overweight, and hairy, watch out. "Chad" is always on the prowl. It doesn't matter whose section the target is sitting in; but the victim is most likely to receive the attention if he is seated on the outside patio. Away from managers' prying eyes. After all, he has almost lost his job several times. Apparently, people don't like to watch their server massaging a stranger's feet.

Chad does keep us amused, though. From witty one-liners to blatantly racist comments, you never know what's going to come out of that man's mouth next. By the end of the shift, though, he will most likely have said one of two things: "I need to get out of this place," or, "Oooh, look at that wolfy guy."

I am a little sad that soon I won't catch all these precious moments. I have moved up in the food chain: I have started bartender training. Things are sure to get interesting: I am the just the second female bartender to ever work at the restaurant. I enjoy the freedom so far of working behind the bar, but I have yet to work a busy shift. I can't say I'm looking forward to working with one of the senior bartenders, who wants to screw anyone with estrogen who is alive. The same bartender who told a server he thought one of the new girls is attractive, but would look even better sucking his . . . well, you get the idea. Even though we are confined by a very narrow workspace, I hope he learns quickly that there are plenty of things I can stab him with if he gets too close.

All in all, I think it's going to be a great summer.

-

The pseudononymous Patty Hunter brings you tales from the front lines of serverdom every week. She welcomes your comments. And please see the Life At Work archive, including the original series as well as Barista!.




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Posted on June 24, 2009


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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