Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just one of those night


NBA players call it being in the zone. It is where the basket looks so wide that they can't miss a shot. That's where I was tonight, I was in the zone, only my zone pays with a lot fewer zeros in front of the decimal point.

It was a slow night, and I seemed to get all the exact right tables. Big table, little table, it didn't matter, they all were loving me. A birthday here, an anniversary there, it all worked. What wine would you suggest - a home run. How's this fish? It's now our favorite. It is rare when a night goes this smoothly and the tips come so graciously. You take it when you can get it, that is for sure.

A while back I had a new server I was training ask me what effect so many years in food service has had on me (I'm well into my second decade, and hopefully I won't make it to my third!). After thinking about it for a while, my response was that there is almost two correct answers to that. You reach a point where there is basically nothing new. You've seen or done it all, and you are able to deal with pretty much anything. And when you haven't, you still have the experience and credibility to sound convincing. The second part, and the darker part, is that serving in restaurants has really eroded parts of me. I don't compromise my values, but nonetheless, each night is like I am selling little pieces of myself to make my next dollar. And that takes a toll. Especially when the tank is low or empty, and your patience were all expended on the idiot on table 4. There are times when it feels like tables are parasites, feeding on you, sucking the life out of you. Really. Hang out late at night in a restaurant sometime, and watch the servers as they leave. Some will be tired just because it was a long shift, but some will have that hollow look, like they have been drained, have less of themselves now than they did when the shift began.

This I think is something that bonds servers so well together. A few weeks together and you've become one of us. We know what it is like, we can have entire conversations in just a few words, often code words, and fully know where each other is. Those who have been in the biz know exactly what I mean.


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6 comments:

Ranter said...

Wow, that sounds tough. I can understand about the 'seen it all or make it up' answer though. One of our new staff commented that my responses to the customers sounded so polished and professional. It'd just come through much repetiton and was recited on autopilot. It's hard to explain how to bluff your way through a question which you don't have the answer to. It just comes naturally after a while!

Hope you get many more days where things run so smoothly before you find something equally or more satisfying before your 'third decade' in the service!

Patricia said...

retail at the pet store is the same damn way. i had a customer come in last saturday who spent a full hour staring at the fish tanks trying to figure out which ones were "the prettiest" and asking me the same questions every other minute so i had to stand there and look interested in her as a customer while i had 8 other people lining up to get fish. she finally bought some on saturday, i guess one died and she came back in for a second round of customer service hell to return it. another hour of hand holding, in which /she/ helped another customer pick out fish, but couldn't pick out any goddam fish of her own! And this is just before i was going to go on break. I am sure you've met those soul sucking persons many times in your years. at least you can say "well why don't i give you another couple minutes to decide and i'll be back" ... woof. now i'm all frustrated again at this lady. she doesn't even live here, she's from california, it's her son's tank, she won't even see these fish for another year she said! just pick some goddam fish and leave, asshole! Later when she finally left the fish department she was over in the dogs. I was heading out for my break and she saw me, gave me the "hey i have a question" head nod, and i smiled, ignored it, and walked out the store. she can bug someone else for the dog food.

when i worked in fast food, the crew always went out to denny's or mcdonalds or some shit just to shake off the day and regain our humanity. if we didn't, half of us would go home and have "the dream" where you're stuck in the store working. all night. while you're asleep, desperately trying to dream of something else. i have "the dream" working retail too, and probably will serving. At least i'll be getting paid better for the work.

briliantdonkey said...

Love the nights like that. They are few and far between but it is great when tables are spaced out just perfectly, happen to be fun to wait on, AND tip well to boot. I am sure you know, file this one away to help get you through the night on the opposite end of the spectrum which you KNOW is coming. Just a matter of when.

BD

Steven said...

I agree wholly. When I leave work, I feel a little lighter. Maybe it isn't a piece of my soul that I've left behind, but there's certainly a little bit of something that used to be mine that I'm leaving behind at the end of each shift.

Michael Mason said...

Off topic I know, but I just came across your blog earlier this week and am currently reading my way through June.

You note in there that you can track visitors and get an idea of how much traffic your blog gets. Care to share a few tips with me as to how you do that? I'd like to add a counter to my blog.

Michael @ ncf.ca is one of my e-mail addresses.

Thanks in advance!
Michael

Michael Mason said...

I have been contacted by someone else who told me that a blogspot page is no different than any other web page. I have added a counter into the page code.

Thanks to all for the help!