It seems anyone who has ever poured a beer or slung hash is writing a blog or making Youtube videos about hospitality industry adventures.
Like country songs with three or four core themes, we never tire of the shenanigans describing bad tips from good people. We crave tales of backstabbing coworkers vulturing over the shifts of a terminated employee, married managers “dating” jail-bait hostesses, and whether the “five-second rule” really exists (it does).
Although I lament that I’ve been waiting tables so long that I served at the Last Supper, I still see things that surprise even the most jaded of us. As a bartender pal put it, “Stuff goes down in restaurants, by both customers and employees, that never fails to disappoint.”
And, he’s right.
I, too, am guilty of being snarky to guests (imagine that) and of stretching the basics of server etiquette. So, at the request of a reader who asked if I always do the right thing, here’s a few tidbits that fall under the category of “My Bad.”
One of the cardinal rules of waiting tables is discretion. It’s important to be attentive, but not overbearing, which means jumping into a conversation between guests is off limits. Sometimes people liked to be engaged, but not always.
The problem for me isn’t that I’m occasionally a know-it-all with no restraint, but that I have a curious nature that borders on nosey.
Dubbed “Miss Need-to-Know” by my mother years ago, I once butted into a divorce conversation taking place over eggs Benedict. Presenting the check, I couldn’t refrain from saying, “Well, I think you two look perfect together and I hope you work things out.”
The soon-to-be-ex-husband went to the restroom in a huff and the woman said, “We’d look a lot better if he could keep his junk in his pants.” She wasn’t mad at my inappropriateness, and we had a lengthy conversation about her situation. I later found out we had time to chat because the guy sought out my angry boss to complain. The woman left me $20 and we are now Facebook friends.
Then, there was the time a little boy was licking a blue crayon and I swooped in and took away the colorful house-owned distractions. The dad and I got into a discussion about my role as a server that went on so long I lost out in the table rotation. Luckily, the mom jumped in to thank and rescue me.
Leaving them to sort it out, I pondered boundaries and filters in the workplace, fully acknowledging I’m a tad bit flawed in both arenas.
Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to email@example.com, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @natalieladd.