One of the reasons that I appreciate good waitstaff is the memory of how very much it sucked when I tried it. In retrospect, I probably have a legit waitressing disability that may have qualified me for a special training program, right?
It was summer, and I was nineteen or twenty, when I took this god-forsaken part-time waitressing job at an outfit called “Smokehouse Sally’s.” You may have deduced that their specialty was barbecue. This was before barbecue was all chic, and I don’t know that these folks had any particular barbecuing experience or ability, but what did I care?
Also, I never met this alleged Sally person. More on that later.
The guy who hired and trained me was a dick. I’m sure he blamed Sally. He scheduled me for these short shifts about a week apart, a strategy taken directly from Chapter One of Moronic Strategies For Training Waitstaff. My disability, or perhaps my standing as a human being, dictated that if I was shown 37 seemingly unrelated procedures on one day, then didn’t get a chance to practice until a week later, I forgot at least half of them. I felt pretty confident about swirling salt and ice in the coffee carafes.
The customers were fine, unless you expected good tips. When Dick let me go after three weeks and three shifts, I was only too happy to check waitressing off my summer job list. No need to seek a restraining order to keep this chick out of the smokehouse!
It wasn’t long after that when I read a blurb in the paper that told of the demise of the Smokehouse Sally’s owners, due to some messy cocaine dealings. I didn’t cheer, but I didn’t shed a tear, either.
I did take away my lifelong respect for the challenges faced by waitstaff, and my commitment to tip twenty percent unless there is a big reason not to.
My early experience may have, however, contributed to the irritation I feel when my students ask for ranch dressing when I hand out their daily free healthy snack. And they make it abundantly clear that twenty percent of nothing is nothing. That’s some high level math.