Friday, April 6, 2012

It’s in the Service

It was supposed to be a nice relaxing night out. The girls had some shopping to do, but first they were getting their nails done, and then we were going to enjoy dinner and drinks at Red Lobster. The girls had been talking about it for the past few days with eager anticipation. Each one seems to have a restaurant they enjoy and for Teri and Sarah it’s Red Lobster with its Cheddar Cheese Biscuits. Char is more a Texas Roadhouse gal with a thick steak and baked potato. I just want to eat; I don’t care where.

When we arrived we were told we would have a forty-five minute wait. No big deal for us as we were in no hurry and just enjoying the quiet evening. We peeked at the bar, but it was full. So, with menu in hand we found a quiet corner and the three girls started picking out their drinks while I scribbled away in my notebook. After awhile, the mosquitoes started gnawing on Teri, so we ventured back inside hoping people had left the bar. I’m hardly ever pestered by mosquitoes. I guess I’m just not sweet enough or the girls just taste better, more than likely the latter as I probably taste like strong black coffee. Still, alcohol was waiting so I agreed to go.

Mitchell was behind the bar and very quickly surmised we were thirsty. “Are your hurricanes good here?” One of the girls asked. It’s a question I always find hilarious because I’ve never met a waiter or waitress that blurted out, “Oh my god, no. It totally sucks.”

“They are if I make them,” he guaranteed, and so Char smiled back and ordered one. The drinks are always better when the girls smile at the bartender, which is why I usually let them order for us.

Just as we placed our drink order that little square box they gave us when we first got there started vibrating and flashing its red lights calling my stomach to attention. I handed the girls the credit card and offered to go get our table. I figured they’d have more fun smiling at Mitchell than I would and besides, I had more notes to scribble, Soon I was tucked away at our table writing out my notes and people watching, two of my three favorite things to do. Don’t worry what the third thing is; this is a family blog.

I should have known that the night was going to be chaos by watching the waitress serve the table before me. They apparently didn’t like the hardness of their biscuits and merely asked for some fresh ones. The waitress apparently took this as a personal attack and snapped at the gentleman and his request for fresh bread. Matters didn’t get any better when the lady sitting at the same table asked for a refill of tea.

“Well, you sure did drink that fast, didn’t you?” And the waitress stormed off as if doing her job was really interfering with doing her job.

She was equally rude to the table behind me and I knew that if she was our waitress for the evening – pardon me, server – that the night was going to go quickly to hell in a cheddar cheese biscuit basket. She had passed me four times. She didn’t smile at me or say, “Hello,” or even acknowledge that I w as sitting at the table – her table of responsibility as it turned out. I didn’t have a drink in front of me and she didn’t bother to pause long enough to ask if I needed one. That would have required her to pause in her wanderings and do her job.

The girls arrived with our drinks and Amy finally stopped and introduced herself and being the observant server that she was she noticed we already had drinks. It was the only thing that impressed me about her all night.

“How long have you folks been waiting?” We had been waiting for about forty minutes, but I chose to wait that long. I could have very easily packed the girls up into the van and driven down the road to a less popular place. Furthermore, if I choose to wait for a table that doesn’t mean I desire my dining experience to be put into maximum warp. I still expect a relaxed, comfortable pace. I want to savor the company, the conversation, and the food. If I wanted a quicker pace I would have saved the money and gone to a fast food joint. Notice I didn’t say home. Meals there take just as long.

We had already browsed the menu so we knew what we wanted and went ahead and placed the entire order. As the waitress scribbled in her order taking short hand, I knew it was a mistake. So far, Amy had done nothing but whine about how tired she was and that she had been there since before lunch. I didn’t care. Now, it’s not that I’m an unsympathetic person. On the contrary, normally I will listen to people bitch about their life because it makes me feel that much better about mine. However, I did not go out to eat to listen to the waitress – get over it, you’re a waitress whether you call yourself a server or not – moan about her day. Call me a snob if you want, but I didn’t go out to eat with the waitress; I went with the girls and they’re the ones I wanted to have conversation with.

My dad is the opposite. He’ll sit there and talk the waitress up one side and down the other, flirting, teasing, and even harassing. Of course, his harassing is with a smile and a laugh and the waitress calls him “Honey” and swats his shoulders. My dad likes to talk and is a very sociable fellow. I just want to eat.

I also despise being interrupted and that’s what waitresses have to do. However, there is a difference between being interrupted to see if I need another Jameson and cutting into my conversation to tell me how miserable their day was or to ask if I’m from out of town. I’m not even sure why they would ask that unless that’s who they give the shitty service to because there’s a slim chance they’ll ever eat at that restaurant again. So, to those who may ever wait on me I say, see if I need a drink and if the food is okay and then leave me the hell alone until I’m sitting with an empty plate in front of me.

Amy had only been gone a few minutes when she returned burdened down with our salads. We just stared at her.

“I went ahead and brought these out thinking you’d be starving having waited so long for a table. Is that okay?” She could tell by our faces that it wasn’t. Everyone knows that appetizers come first; that’s why they’re called starters. They start the eating experience, and I told her so. However, Teri figured they would merely be set on a shelf in the kitchen to get nasty and brought back out to us later so we decided to eat them then. When Amy returned to take our empty plates she tried her best to justify her salad decision. “Those appetizers aren’t even ready, yet. I’m glad I brought the salads. You poor folks were made to wait too long. Have I mentioned how tired I am?”

I was about to tell the girl about the importance of structure in society and how changing the order of things leads to chaos, but the girls just patted my arm and said over and over, “It’s okay, Robbie. It’s no big deal. Relax.” It was almost like a meditation mantra.

I tried to shake it off and return to the evening, but apparently I was having a nasty conversation with our waitress in my head because the girls said I kept waving my hands in irritating gestures. Knowing me, I probably was acting out this vicious argument in my head where I gained satisfaction by slicing the waitress into proper server behavior with my logical but sarcastic wit. It would have been a tongue lashing that left welts on her psyche for days.

My frustration was slowly leaving me when a food runner approached our table carrying a tray loaded down with sizzling plates. “How is everybody this evening?”

“That depends on whether or not that’s our entrée or our appetizer.”

“You haven’t received your appetizers, yet?”

“No, and I find it odd that it takes longer to cook cheese sticks than it does four steaks and lobster tails.”

As the food runner and I discussed the length of cooking time, Amy walked up with our appetizers. “Oh, I can’t believe this happened.” I believed it. Furthermore, I told Amy that I believed it. Amy had more than likely forgot to put the appetizer order in in the first place and just wouldn’t fess up to the fact. Mistakes I can forgive; being lied to, especially over stupid stuff, I rarely ever forgive. Things happen and we all screw up or make choices that later bite us in the ass, but own it. If you screwed up, admit it, apologize and everyone can move forward together. If you try to cover it up instead it’s just going to be a bigger mess when you finally get busted.

And you will get busted.

Tony, our food runner, promised to have her take the appetizers off of the ticket and kept apologizing for what happened even though it wasn’t his fault. At this point I had had enough. “All she’s done since we sat down is cry about how tired she is. If she’s too tired to do her job, then send her home. I don’t want her back at my table.”

He apologized again and said he’d take care of it. Amy put the appetizers on the table, which was now crammed with food making the four of us look like gluttons. We are, of course, but the tables around us didn’t need to know that. As she stuffed our table with lobster pizza, she again said she was sorry and that she simply had no idea how it had happened.

“I know how it happened,” Teri said. “You suck at your job.”

I glared at the woman and said, “Just. Go. Away.” And she did. Quickly.

Tony was true to his word and soon the manager was over apologizing for how the night had gone and promising she would take care of it. We were given discounts and a new server and enough apologies that our food got cold as we repeated, “It’s fine,” through gritted teeth.

I hate complaining at restaurants. If the experience sucks, I just don’t go back, which is why I haven’t entered a Carrabba’s in fifteen years. My reasoning is that they’ve been in business for years and should have it down pat. If they’re watching their employees, then they should know who sucks and who doesn’t. I should not have to tell them.

To be honest, I’m real easy to please as a customer. I don’t demand much. Actually, I only require two things: keep my drink full and don’t pester me. That’s it. Simple.

Oh, and bring my food in the proper order.


  1. "being lied to, especially over stupid stuff, I rarely ever forgive"

    Ain't that the truth