By staff writer Chris Phelan
April 11, 2007
Hey everybody. I’m thinking this column is clocking in at over 2300 words already, so I’m going to cut the introduction short this week. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this week’s Three Beers Deep—and for people who work in the restaurant industry, I hope you can relate.
Oh, and just so you all know: while you’re reading the rest of this column, I’ll be off simultaneously playing Madden, listening to some Taking Back Sunday, and annoying one reader so much that he flips out on the comment board. Will the Phelan backlash happen again this week? Will Gaudio coattail on somebody else’s comment and lay down the “BURN”? Or will what you’re about to read just make you laugh and have a good time? I guess we’ll find out…
Insert Restaurant Name Here
It’s the middle of the dinner rush. I’m weeded beyond all belief, and the incompetent host has sat you and your ugly family in my section. Here we go.
“Hey everybody, welcome to [insert restaurant name here]. My name is Chris and I’ll be helping you out today. How are you guys doing tonight?”
“How was everything? (Translation: I’ve got your check in my apron pocket and I want you to leave.)”
(Translation: I am currently calculating—based solely on looks— if you guys are good tippers or not. Also, my name is Chris.)
A few of you mumble to yourselves without making eye contact with me; I can only assume that means you’re doing fantastic and brought your own drinks from home. While you are busy staring downward and neglecting to even acknowledge me, I take the time to quickly eye up your younger sister… and I decide on yes, definitely, and I wouldn’t even have to be drunk.
“Great! Just letting you know our specials tonight are—”
“I’ll just have a Diet Coke,” your dad interrupts.
Wow. WOW. The mid-special-announcing interruption! This guy’s a pro. I might be in over my head here. But alas, it’s time to break his stupid little heart.
“Actually sir, we serve Pepsi products. Is a Diet Pepsi okay?”
Jesus Christ, your dad just got insta-furious. What the hell? Wow, it’s gonna be a rough ride home for you and your strangely attractive sister when you ask your dad to change the radio station and he pulls off to the side of the road, drags you both out of the car, and beats the ever-loving shit out of you.
I eagerly await Angry Dad’s response:
“No, that’s NOT okay. (Incoherent muttering) Fine, just give me a water with lemon. (Whispering to himself) Fuckin’ ridiculous…”
Oh no, a water. Shit, hopefully that doesn’t start the dreaded Water Chain Reaction.
Mom: Same here, water with lemon.
SAS: Me too. (Holy crap, did she just wink at me?)
I walk away from your table as I fall victim to another Water Chain Reaction. It’s pretty simple: everybody at the table is geared up for crazy drinks. The mom’s always thinking she would love a margarita and the kids are pretty much peeing themselves with delight over the fact that they’re going to be sucking down Shirley temples all night. But no. Dad kicks off the festivities with a water… and then the family realizes that it’s going to be one of those nights out. You know, the kind where you have no fun, argue at the table, and everybody has to order one of the five cheapest things on the menu. Let me just say that I, Chris Phelan, hate when your family comes in and pulls this shit.
I make my way towards the service area and glumly start working on the drink order for your check that is now standing at zero dollars and zero cents. I grab four glasses, immediately shove them into the ice bin (screw you ice scoop, you’re gay and I’m never using you, safety regulations be damned), and go to town. Have I mentioned that there are approximately SIXTY OTHER SERVERS trying to use the soda fountain at the same time as me? How does this always happen?
I finish filling your waters, grab a tray, and start praying for an order of four filet mignons from you and your ridiculous family.
Oh, what’s this? Each member of your family has placed their menus wide-open in front of them, taking up EVERY AVAILABLE INCH OF FREE SPACE ON THE TABLE? Let me ask you this, jerkoffs: do you know how hard it is for me to set your waters down when you have blanketed the entire tabletop in menu?
I struggle at first, finding a half-inch of open space near your mom, and begin to do the whole “try to nudge the menu over a little bit with the glass of water so there’s a little more room” bit—but to no avail. Luckily, as I draw back and contemplate whipping the entire tray of drinks into your mom’s face, Furious Dad helps me out with a “give Chad some room, Linda. Fuck, give him some goddamn room!”
Thanks, Furious Dad. Chad says thanks.
“Everybody all set to order?”
(Translation: PLEASE ORDER STEAKS.)
And of course, this expected, totally NORMAL question for a server to ask a table garners absolutely no response. I try once more.
“Do you guys need more time?”
(Translation: I hate you all.)
Thankfully, you speak up.
“No, no, I think we’re all set.”
And after about four minutes, after it became abundantly clear that your family was in fact not all set, after each of you asked me what your choices of potato were after I already explained it to each of you once, after I swear to God your sister eye fucked me on at least three separate occasions, and after you all surprisingly ordered a varied selection of some of our more expensive entrees, I head back to the service station with a $64 check ready to be plugged into the computer and sent to the kitchen.
It takes me all of two seconds to send your order in, and now I play the waiting game. See, the most time-consuming part of waiting tables is grabbing the drink order and taking the dinner order. And this is mostly because tables like yours ask a thousand questions when giving me your order—and it’s up to me to baffle them with waiterspeak. “No, sir, I don’t know what the difference is between our strip steak and our top sirloin. But I’d sure love to spout you some bullshit for the next few seconds, dropping words like ‘shoulder cut’ and ‘tender’ until you make a random decision that appeases both me and your lousy family!” “Yes, ma’am, I love the grilled salmon. In fact, I love it so much I eat it every fuckin’ day! Yeah, you should definitely order the grilled salmon. Great choice!”
But like I said, now it’s all about playing the waiting game. It’s time to just relax, wait for your dinner to come out, and count in my head the above-average tip I hope you will be leaving me.
While your dinner is being prepared, I run through the gamut of server time-killing activities. I’m pulling out all the big guns. I’m taking a few laps around the restaurant while giving weird “this place sucks” looks to my fellow servers as I pass them. I’m hitting on any hot girl server I work with. I’m heading to the kitchen and eating french fries out of the service window. I’m making sure I don’t actually do anything beneficial to my fellow servers in this down time, like filling up the ice bin or restocking anything. I’m hitting on the pretty hostess under the guise of “checking to see how long the wait is up to.” I’m realizing I just got a text message, so I’m running into the bathroom to check it for fear my manager will catch me with my cell phone out and will take it away for the rest of my shift. I’m starting to hit on even the ugly girls who I work with. Wow. This food better be ready soon. I’m marching back into the kitchen and yelling “HEY, IS TABLE 54 UP YET?” as if the cooks would intentionally hold back a finished order for no reason whatsoever. I’m almost starting to break a sweat as I glance over at your table and realize Angry Dad is looking borderline homicidal. I’m checking the computer and confirming that I did not forget to hit the “send” button when I was typing in your order. I’m begging the ugly busboy for sex at this point.
This could get bad quick.
Oh thank God, your dinner’s up. I tell Mikey “thanks but no thanks” and follow the food runner out to the table.
“Took long enough,” offers Furious Dad.
“This is going to be worth the wait, sir. Trust me.”
(Translation: If you want to take it up with the cooks in the kitchen, all of whom are batshit crazy and have seen prison time in the last five years, go for it. It’ll turn out great for you. Trust me.)
Sirloin for you, salmon for your mom, and the surf and turf for that happy father of yours. And yeah, you catch me grazing your sister’s arm with mine as I gently place her chicken entrée in front of her with a look that says “I will rock the crap out of that body of yours.” But you’ll do nothing about it… and like it.
“Enjoy your meal, and let me know if you need anything else.”
(Translation: Your waters are all adequately filled and you have plenty of napkins so there really is no reason for us to speak anymore.)
For the next twenty minutes or so I fall back into my server-downtime program and you and your family seem to make it through your meal without Angry Dad unloading roundhouse kicks on everyone around him. And if you must know, I’m pretty sure Ashley would hook up with me tonight. That’ll probably happen at Mike’s apartment after work… I heard he’s having everybody over for some beer pong. She gave me her number and told me to text her when I get cut, since she’s one of the early cuts tonight. Hmmm… I wonder if she knows the new meaning of “text her” and “when I get cut?”
Ah, here we go. The home stretch.
(Translation: I’ve got your check in my apron pocket and I want you to leave.)
“Real good, real good,” says Angry Surprisingly Content Dad.
“Great! Well, if you guys are all set, here’s the check. Everybody have a great night, and come back soon.”
(Translation: Get out. Go.)
And then it happens.
The barrage of dessert orders. Oh no. Oh crap.
Your family—your stupid, fat family—proceeds to order the most extravagant desserts known to man. God forbid you all order something simple like “a slice of key lime pie untouched by the human hand.” No, it’s four super-deluxe apple pie sundaes. Approximate prep time? About seven hours.
I hate you and your family right now, you have no idea. I begrudgingly nod my head as your Dad starts literally licking his lips. Ugh, I didn’t know people actually did that. I start to walk away.
“Oh wait, one more thing. Chad? One more thing!”
I already know what’s coming.
“Could I have a hot tea with lemon? (quickly) When you get a second, when you get a second.”
And there it is. The single worst beverage a customer can order at a restaurant. Don’t ask me why this is, but the whole process of getting a hot tea for your mom is so annoying to me I can’t even think straight. Ask any server in any restaurant: you shoot daggers at customers who order hot teas. It instantly ruins your mood. You immediately contemplate if there’s even a small chance that a jury would ever find you not guilty of choking a customer to death.
Maybe it’s because it’s such a time-consuming process for such an extremely low-priced item. Maybe it’s because the server will always burn themselves with scalding hot water when preparing it. Maybe it’s because ordering a hot tea is like, pretty much the most pretentious thing a person can do. Or maybe it’s just something that cannot be explained. My advice to you and your family? If you want to live, you’ll stop ordering hot teas at restaurants.
I get your family the crap they ordered. At this point I am thoroughly fed up with you and your stupid face. And the other stupid faces you brought along with you. But do I make these negative feelings known? Of course not. I power through like a true Great Servertm. I smile, I make small talk one last time, and I wish you and your family well on your future endeavors in life. I try to telepathically convince your sister to leave her cell number on the table napkin she’s scribbling on.
And just like that, you and your family are out of my life forever. I watch you as you all make your way out of the front door of the restaurant, lingering next to your table. And the second—the very SECOND—your feet touch the sidewalk outside, I grab the little black check presenter you left your payment in and high-tail it back to the server station at cheetah speed.
Twenty bucks on eighty-two! Wow! Hey, maybe your family wasn’t so bad after all. After that rough start, they were all pretty nice and I probably misjudged them to begin wi—
Wait a second. Something doesn’t feel right. I’ve got that sinking feeling right now. You know, the kind you had in high school when you walk into your next class and realize you have to take a test you completely forgot about?
I double check the cash. Yeah, it’s a definite twenty-dollar tip. I definitely counted right, so that’s not what’s wro—
And then it hits me.
I’ve been ignoring all my other tables this entire time.