I must preface this post by stating that it has been fuelled by an awful eight-hour shift at work and a large glass of Soave. But when you get to the end of this post, you will understand how the former necessitates the latter in keeping me sane. I work part time in a busy hotel bar, mostly in food service. I first started my job at the tender age of sixteen, but, nearly six years later, my wide-eyed enthusiasm for hospitality is long gone. And here’s why…
It must be borne in mind that many people, upon entering a retail or hospitality premises, abandon all sense of patience, understanding and, well, common sense. One of my personal favourite cries from a customer is ‘We’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes and nobody has come near us!’. Ah yes. I’m sure you did sit at the table for twenty minutes with your coat still on, just waiting patiently for me to come over to you. And your husband hasn’t even arrived yet. In fact, I think your table’s previous occupants were still eating their dessert twenty minutes ago. So jog on with your twenty minutes.
And on the topic of waiting, it would seem that customers are of the belief that a steak can be cooked well done in three seconds flat on our super nuclear-strength grills. While it’s true that industrial kitchen equipment can be more powerful in some ways, a well done steak just as you asked for it (‘No blood, no blood at all please!’) is going to take a little more time to prepare. So just sit tight and keep sipping your tap water, like a good chap.
Then there’s the customer you likes to keep you on your toes, in case you might get bored on the job. Even after they’ve been served drinks and food, they’ll keep you marching back and forth to the kitchen to get them vinegar, ketchup, garlic dip, butter, bread rolls, gravy and any other condiment or side that tickles their fancy. And heaven forbid that they might ask for all of these things at the one time. Oh no, they wouldn’t taste half as good unless they’ve been requested one at a time. And if their table is half a mile away from the kitchen, even better. And as an FYI to our patrons: the mashed potato is laden with butter. Just taste it. If you ask me to get you more butter for your spuds, you deserve your clogged arteries.
Which leads me on to the Messenger Child. This species of child is one whose parents send them to ‘the lady’ every thirty seconds for more accoûtrements for their meal. After their fifteenth trip to the bar to ask me for something else, the kid’s dinner is cold and barely touched, and their parents are scolding them for not eating enough. Although it’s a step above me being asked for sauces left, right and centre, you can’t help feeling that that child won’t get to eat a square meal until they leave home.
Now for the subject of kids in general, and their parents’ inability to, uhm, be parents. Okay, little India and Mikayla are cute and you love them because, you know, they’re your kids. That doesn’t really excuse the mashed potato smushed into the carpet, the pepper in the milk jug and the sticky hand prints on the wallpaper. You smiling at them adoringly as they scream at ‘the lady’ for ice cream doesn’t fly with me. Your children are turning into little shits and all you can do is give me that ‘Oh, kids! Aren’t they the cutest?’ look. I don’t have kids of my own and to be honest, my job is probably the most effective contraceptive I could ever use. But if I do have children someday, you can be certain that I won’t leave them screaming in a highchair for three hours while I drink myself stupid until they vomit cola and pick ‘n’ mix everywhere (I wish I could say that didn’t happen).
Then, on a different note, we have the lousy tippers. Now I’m not greedy when it comes to tips; I don’t expect a tip for serving a small group or just a sandwich and a coffee. I appreciate a couple of euro or more when I’ve worked hard on a particular table. As a rule, anything over five euro is great; I know that things went really well if a table leaves more than that. And I am mindful of the fact that money is tight for everyone these days. But what gets on my nerves is a 10c tip – your change that you can’t be bothered to put back into your wallet. It’s an insult and I’d rather get nothing than a handful of coppers.If you’re going to tip at all, do it properly! Unfortunately though, I am kind of poor and I still pocket the tip…to my eternal shame.
Another type of customer I hate is the inconvenient customer; the one who wants something after the person who can prepare it for them has gone home. They’re the sort of person who’ll rock up at 11pm looking for a steak (last orders are 10:30 and the chef goes home), or orders a cocktail on a Sunday night when the barman on duty can’t make them because, well, nobody orders cocktails on a Sunday night in our hotel. Nine times of out ten, when the inconvenient customer calls, you’ll find me frantically throwing together a toasted sandwich or making guesswork out of a Screwdriver. I’m not trained to make either of these things, so really, they could be taking their life in their hands.
A question I must ask is where people’s manners have gone. One pet hate of mine is when a customer, upon seeing me walking by, shouts at me for more water through a gloopy mouthful of whatever they’ve been shovelling into their greedy maw. Seriously, it is absolutely disgusting and I usually try to convey that in my facial expression, seeing as I can’t tell them that. Also, what is it with customers trying to get my attention when I’m clearly dealing with someone else? Wait your turn; nobody is going to dehydrate or starve, and I’m going to ignore you until I’m ready to deal with you anyway. In addition, there is a special place in Hospitality Hell (I’m TMing that) for patrons who don’t know how to say please and thank you. For such a simple thing, nothing infuriates me more than hearing ‘I want..’ when ‘May I have…please’ would have been just as easy. Everyone says that manners cost nothing, but a lack of them could cost you a pleasant dining experience if you catch a waiter on a bad day.
While a lack of manners is one thing, patrons becoming insulting or downright nasty is also par for the course in my job. Luckily, I’ve never experienced the sexual advances of our resident alcoholic when he isn’t barred but I’ve had my share of unpleasant experiences. I had one ‘lady’ tell me that I had an attitude problem because I asked her to take a seat as I was unable to take her order right that instant. Another man, standing about 1.5 inches from my face, decided to inform me none too kindly of his displeasure that his wife had been given a sauvignon blanc when she had asked for a shiraz. When incidents like those happen, I’d love more than anything else to show them a photo of a famine-stricken child in Africa and ask them who has bigger life problems. But I could probably get fired for that.
And lastly, there’s that one fecker who pays for a coffee at 10am with a €50 note. You know who you are, and I despise you.
I could go on all night, but my brain kind of hurts and I don’ think it’s humanly possible to catalogue all of the little things that make being a waitress suck. On the flipside, I meet people everyday who put a smile on my face, and my colleagues and I allow each other to blow off steam and laugh off the idiocy that we come up against the rest of the time. However, if one more customer tells me how great the weather is this weekend, and how awful it is that I have to work during the heatwave, they may end up wearing their Caesar salad…