Before I entered the food-service industry and began what I call “the Dark Ages” of my life, I used to think I knew people and the restaurants they populate. I thought I knew—but I had no idea. I had no idea how petty people can be and how utterly nonsensical they could act. Here, I present to you,
What I Learned From Working In the Restaurant Industry.
1. While old people should be respected, they’re borderline insane.
I’ve been raised to respect the elderly. They deserve our patience and our care. Whenever I see a Senior Citizen trying to load her cat food and Ben-Gay into her car at a Ralph’s or Von’s, I always offer to help. However, they have serious issues.
They need a continuous supply of scalding hot coffee at all times. Seriously. There are no coffee machines that can brew coffee as hot as they want it. They cannot have anything spicy. They will ask you about the spiciness of everything from the Clam Chowder to the Poached Salmon to the Chocolate Cake. Seriously. They want to know how spicy the chocolate cake is. And best of all, they cannot hear. You have to stand right next to an old person’s one good ear and shout the specials right into the hearing aid. Even then, they’ll ask you to repeat everything very, very slowly. Since they can never see the menu because the print’s too small and the lighting’s too dark, they’ll break out one of those combination flashlight/magnifying glass thingys to read the menu. Finally, they will walk very slowly and unsteadily through the most heavily trafficked parts of the restaurant. You’ll be carrying a tray of six overfilled martinis and they’ll be ambling through the main hallway like they have all the time in the world. And they don’t. They don’t have all the time in the world. Look—I appreciate all that you did for us during World War I and all, emancipating the French and deposing the Kaiser, but I have drinks to drop off here. Oh, and by the way, Frenchies—feel free to NOT let Germany walk over you every. single. time. Feel free.
2. Babies are cute but will destroy everything.
In a couple of years, I hope to start a family with the right woman. I’ll raise four kids and avoid any of the mistakes my parents made—leaving me and my sister home alone since we were in Kindergarten, refusing to buy me Happy Meals because “they’re a waste of money,” forcing me to read the Encyclopedia as “entertainment,” and making me rake the lawn for $1. Kids are cute and yeah, I suppose that in a way, they’re “our future,” whatever that means. Anyway, your little six-month-olds are cute but you need to get them under control. They’re walking claw machines that grab anything within a foot’s reach. How many more times will your baby lunge for your $17 glass of Saxon-Brown Pinot Noir before you strap that blobby blob down? And WTF with the putting everything in their mouths. You need to stop feeding them menus, tablecloths, your purse, and, most of all, your phones. If I had a dollar or every baby I saw chomping down on an iPhone, I’d be richer than the Sultan of Brunei. And he was rich. He’d fly women from all over the world to attend “parties” at his palace. Ok….maybe that’s not rich; maybe he just had a lot of frequent flyer miles. No matter; keep your babies under control, folks. And stop feeding them Cheerios when they’re going to end up not in their mouths, where everything else goes, but on the floor. And then I’ll have to do that super annoying thing where I have to hunt down the one broom that our giant restaurant has. WTF with the ONE BROOM for a two-story, extremely high volume restaurant? And that broom always has (1) a broken handle and (2) only about 5 bristles left. Do you know what a pain it is to clean up cheerios with only 5 bristles? It’s not fun, friends. It’s not fun.
3. People aren’t very smart.
Every menu should have a big warning on the cover that says, “HEY—THERE ARE STUPID QUESTIONS. READ THE F***ING MENU BEFORE YOU ASK ANY OF THEM.” I say this because about 90% of the menu questions people ask are answered on the menu. “What’s the dressing on the Chicken Salad?” It’s on the menu. “Does the burger come with onions?” On the menu. “How much is the Filet Mignon?” Waiters don’t memorize prices because they’re ON THE M*****F****** MENU, you dolt. This is only the start of the inane questions we get. Questions like if we have pizza (at a Seafood Restaurant) or a vegetarian menu (at a Steakhouse). Questions like, “If I leave my car here and then walk to the Hockey Game, will my car get towed?” Really. Do I look like parking enforcement to you? Do I have one of those chalk-on-a-stick tire markers and an orange vest? Why the f— would I be the person who would answer that question?
4. People want the restaurant to be as hot as a Nick Lachey band.
That’s 98 degrees for those of you who don’t specialize in 90s-Boy Band Trivia. Even in Newport Beach, where the temperature always floats between 60 and 90 degrees, they want all windows closed and all heaters at full capacity. They want bonfires in the middles of their tables and if a dolphin farts in the Pacific Ocean a hundred miles away, they want all the patio windscreens down. And fast! Let me explain to you how this feels when you’re a server. First, I have a lot of muscle and a high metabolism, both of which make me warmer than most people. Second, I’m taking some of those Green Coffee Bean Extract diet pills right now, which makes you even warmer. Long story short story, we get really, really hot working in a restaurant, running around to retrieve your sauces one. at. a. time. First you want more ranch; then you want more blue cheese; then, you want another side of ranch and bleu cheese. Ranch and bleu cheese. Boy, do you love your ranch and bleu cheese. Boy, do you love asking us for ranch and bleu cheese. Never mind that you’re already putting unheard-of pressure on our chairs and patio floor; you want a side of ranch to accompany your order of ranch on a plate. Ranch on a Plate. You’d probably order that, wouldn’t you? By the way, shouldn’t all that extra fat around your bones keep you extra warm? But no. It’s the opposite. So even on those gloriously sunny days where we blast the air conditioner so you’ll receive a pleasant gust of cool air as you walk into our restaurant, there’ll always be at least one joker who asks that we turn off the air conditioner. Seriously. Order some wine to warm yourself like a New Yorker would do. When I was in Boston, we’d sit on the patio on a Sunday night in December WITH NO HEATER and I’d have to shed my jacket and my watch to cool down (watches make me very warm). Californians. You don’t know what hot means and you don’t know what cold means. But anyway, don’t be the joker who wants to change the entire temperature of a restaurant just because you’re not happy and because you didn’t plan properly to bring your Chico’s or Old Navy jacket with you. I understand that, judging by how you’re dressed today, you buy new clothes only when a sitting President loses re-election (1992), but seriously. I’d rather stare at you in your powder-blue jacket from the 1970s than let you turn off our precious air conditioner. Ironically, there’s a very special place in Hell for those people who ask for the air conditioner off when it’s a sunny Summer day; it’s ironic because you’d probably ask Lucifer if he could turn the thermostat UP a bit.
5. Waiters are all really, really old.
Much like the ancient art of Stripping, I always thought Fine Dining Serving was a job designed for Law School students and others working their way through some state school that accepts people with less-than-2200 SATs (yes, Virginia, those people actually do exist. And no, I don’t know how they live with themselves. Do you?) Sadly, I was mistaken. Servers are old. I don’t mean hot-girl-in-her-late-20s-so-the-bloom-is-off-the-rose old. I mean Viagra-taking, Rogaine-applying, testosterone-supplementing old. I mean old like fewer-than-a-dozen-eggs-left old. In my restaurants, I’m considered YOUNG. It’s like when I was one of the youngest associates ever at the internationally renowned Management Consulting firm where I used to work, before it all went wrong, before I traded in Black Cards for Black Aprons. You know how advertisers strive really hard to reach that coveted 18 to 45 demographic? Because people over 45 are pretty much invisible to the rest of us? Yes….well, let’s just say that no one is advertising to my coworkers. Well, I suppose that Shady Acres of Florida and all sorts of MediCare Supplemental Insurance companies are advertising to them. But no one actually interesting. I’ll frequently find my colleagues discussing things like TV Shows on CBS, What Being a Baby Boomer Is Like, How Much They Missed The Miss The 1960s, Why The Beatles are Better Than The Rolling Stones, Where They Were When Kennedy Was Assassinated, How Much a Cup of Coffee Cost in 1978, How Much Their Osteoporosis Medication Costs, and other profoundly interesting things. Look, Baby Boomers—I get it. I GET IT. You miss your glory days when you would jump into the back of your El Camino and talk on the CB radio with creepy truckers. Awesome. AWESOME. Now please shut the f— up and finish filling up your ice tea cups. Seriously. You know your coworkers are old when they have kids older than you. They have CHILDREN OLDER THAN ME. Some of them even have cats older than me. Well, they’re feral cats….cats weren’t domesticated at that time, before things like computers or electricity were invented. Anyway, if you ever wondered if you were too old to work in the restaurant industry, I have news! You’re NOT.
So that’s part 1 of…..let’s say three parts. I have tendency to start many things and finish only a few of them. Still, that’s better than you, you who starts nothing and therefore finishes nothing, except for your ranch-drenched Blue Cheese Crumbles with Blue Cheese Dressing Salad, Topped with 100% Pure Gluten and 100% Pure Fructose Corn Syrup. Good luck with that, champ.