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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Deed Or Bad Seed?

It finally happened. After years of working in restaurants, last week I was out being social and I let the needs of my server become more important than my need to be served. The seed of servitude sprouted and grew a weed. It was Sunday night during President's Day weekend. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant on a three-day weekend knows that the Sunday night is basically another Saturday night, so the restaurant has to be staffed appropriately. The place I was at did not staff appropriately. It was my neighborhood wine bar and I was there with friends to celebrate a birthday. It was hard enough for me to be there since they only serve wine and beer but when we walked in, the place was wrecked; tables overflowing with dirty dishes, the bar covered in glasses, the one waitress running around like a processed chicken with its processed head cut off. The bartender was in the weeds and people were crowded around him desperate for another glass of wine, myself included.

I waited patiently at the bar until he had time to take my order. As I stood there, I looked at the two-top by the window waiting for someone to take their order. There was food in the window that was on its way to dying. A nearby four-top had so many empty glasses on the table that they didn't have any place to rest their elbows. I saw two people walk in and scan the room looking for a table to sit at that wasn't dirty. My heart started to beat quicker. Part of the accelerated pace was due to the fact that I needed a Cosmo and my body knew it was only going to get prosecco, but the main reason was because I was feeling the stress that the waitress was under. Eventually, I got my two glasses of prosecco and went back to my seat. (I got two because I'll be damned if I'm gonna wait that long along again.)

"This waitress sucks," said one of my friends. "I ordered a panini like an hour ago."

"She's really in the weeds," I said, defending her. "Has it really been an hour?" In my heart I knew it probably had been about twenty minutes and there was very good chance that the panini died a slow painful death in the window and had to be re-fired.

The sandwich finally made it to the table with a side of apology. As the waitress walked through the crowd, I watched people struggling to get her attention. It hurt me. I couldn't take it any more. I excused myself from my friends and went to the waitress. "Hi, I'm a waiter at the restaurant down the block. You are so in the weeds and I want to help. What can I do?"

"Oh no, it's fine. We normally have two servers but one called in and then we got slammed."

The bartender looked at me and realized he knew me from the neighborhood. "Let me clear some tables," I told him. "Or run food. What do you need?" They looked at each other for a second and then the waitress said, "You are an angel."

"Where do you put your dirty dishes?" I asked. She pointed to a bus tub under the bar. "Got it," I said. I fanned across the room and cleared three or four tables. I bussed the four-top and cleared the bar. Meanwhile, I looked at my friends who were giving me a "what the fuck are you doing?" look. I didn't care. These people needed my help and I was there for them. We are all servers and we help each other, right? Right? They seemed appreciative. After the room was in good shape again, I went back to my table to finish my prosecco. I had done good.

Thinking back, I wonder if it was the right thing to do. Had I been in the weeds and someone offered to help me, I too would have been resistant. Or more like, "Sit your ass down, bitch, you're in my fucking way." I would have felt embarrassed that a customer was helping me. Maybe it was wrong of me, but my waiter gene took over and I simply had to clear some tables.

When I went to order another prosecco later that night, I thought it might possibly be on the house. It wasn't. Maybe I overstepped the boundaries. Maybe they thought I was a presumptuous asshole trying to make them look stupid. It wasn't my intent at all. I just wanted to help. Is that so wrong?



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29 comments:

BodyModifiedRose said...

You did a good deed.

scott (the other one) said...

Yeah, that was a stand-up thing. You done did good. And you absolutely should have been drinking free the rest of the night.

Practical Parsimony said...

You did a good thing, but at least one drink should have been on the house! However, you did it without a request of repayment, so expecting something after the fact takes back your good deed.

I have done the same thing in restaurants, on the same order but not the same scale as you.

I was in a fabric store I frequent and the woman cutting fabric asked me to help various customers with what they needed after I led one to the fabric she needed. I spent an hour giving all sorts of advice on sewing, plus finding correct sizes of needles and bobbins. I was amused.

Mark W said...

Your entire meal should have been comped.

There's been a lot of times that I've wanted to offer to help, but I've never been able to bring myself to offer. You deserve a pat on the back. And a free margarita.

Chunky Mama said...

Well, I think you did a good thing, and as long is it was helpful and made you feel good, do you really give a shit what they thought?

Diedre Bridwell said...

I am a server, and think what you did was really wonderful. We have all been in a spot like that before, and if more people were willing to be helpful like that in any situation think how much better this world would be! Cudos, I would buy you a drink if I could!!

Paula said...

i feel like that also when i go somewhere that is packed. Its just that as a server we know the feeling...good for you...i would have kissed you

Caveman said...

I can't believe that bartender didn't buy you a glass of proseco.

Mommetts said...

Very good deed. Big Hugs and a chocolate martini!

Jill said...

Once I worked as a hostess at a place that expected me to buss tables if the waiters didn't get to them fast enough. When I started a new host gig and bussed some tables there, I was told they would murder me if I did it again. There, the waiters left the tables dirty when they got in the weeds so they wouldn't get sat, buying them some time to catch up.

But your server called you an angel for helping, so you deserved some appreciation after you actually helped her. You didn't ask for it, so you do not lose your good deed. You get to keep it and she gets to be a jerk.

Workingdan said...

That was a very noble thing to do! But I do think you should have at least gotten a free drink out of it.

mb said...

maybe next time ,.if you ever go back there again,,drinks will be free.
maybe they were too slammed to even remember what you were drinking and what table you were at,,,maybe...
i hope for the best. i would have comped your whole table.

The Artist Formerly Known As Bagel Fairy said...

I always re-arrange the bus tubs when I'm at my old cafe so that the silverware, china, and trays are all in their correct places. I think working in food sometimes ruins a night out because one cannot focus.

Martin said...

I'm curious. I've been slammed in a neighborhood bar, and I've been all alone and suddenly slammed in a fine dining place. I've also been a customer in a fine dining place that got slammed.

In the neighborhood place pitching in is great if they know you know what you're doing.

In the fine dining place, customers' help should neither be offered nor accepted.

As for the drink? I presume you helped out due to helpfulness, not selfishness.

carmar76 said...

this post made me smile. helping ppl is a good thing, and you did it w/ panache. : )

NellieVaughn said...

That was very sweet of you. Once or twice, I have visited a restaurant that wasn't properly staffed. I've thought of helping. I've thought of standing up and going to the server's aid. Thoughts count for nothing without action.

Anonymous said...

I thought what you did was stellar, just stellar. You didn't do it FOR a free drink, you did it out of pure altruism. Whether or not you got that, I am sure that either God, Shiva or my next door neighbor is looking upon you and smiling right now. Watch out for that last one.

JoeinVegas said...

I think it was very nice of you.

injaynesworld said...

You can't control how people receive a gift, especially one given from the heart. People who never learn to be grateful receivers in life, find that they receive little and they bitch about it.

You done good! And they should have at least comped you a freakin' drink.

Jaye said...

I've been a server for what seems like a million years(just a weekender now)and although there have been times I've wanted to do what you did, I never had the stones...Good for you...Good deed indeed!

http://midmichiganflowergardening.blogspot.com/

LaLa Lady said...

I did the same exact thing at my grandmother's funeral lunch last month.

Mary A. said...

You touched my heart! YES you did the rigth thing. But the drink should have been comped. Admit it -- if YOU had been the one receiving the help, you would have comped it. It's not like it was a bottle of Cristal. . .

Bustednuckles said...

I made that decision once.
My friend, poor thing, had twenty three breakfasts backed up after the bar owners decided to do breakfast and advertised it without thinking.
The poor thing was chief, cook and bottle washer all by herself and not one regular stepped up to help.

My mistake, I bussed, served, washed and served drinks without any servers or food handlers card,for two years.
Also, I worked on cars all day and would walk in greasy and dirty and serve drinks, behind the bar, for free, another three years.
Cash my own checks and never once had a problem with the till.

BTW, do you have "Pull Tabs" or any such type of gambling?
Did that too.

It was damn nice of ya for what you did for that lady, empathy seems to be hard to come by these days.

SharleneT said...

You did the right thing. Karma returns when least expected. Years ago, when computers were young, there was a special on PC clones at Sears. The saleslady didn't have a clue about them. I was getting one for my daughter and had brought some disks to make sure it was, in fact, a clone. Began demonstrating to other customers and sold EIGHT in that hour! The manager came over, asked what department I worked in, found out I was a customer, and comped me my daughter's computer. We then showed the saleslady that she had to include the electric cord in the box for the customer.

You did good, BW; you did good. But, I do agree with Martin. The place makes the difference. If you're a regular and they know what you do, it works. If they don't know you, you'll scare them to death thinking you're trying to score their tips, if any. Kudos.

California Girl said...

Cannot believe you weren't comped. If helping out is considered presumptuous there's really nothing to live for. You're a good soul.

JoBo said...

Bitchy, you are a kind soul... I was slammed one morning all by my lonesome in our small town cafe and was lierally doing everything but the cooking for 18 packed tables. One of my dear regulars was kind enough to run the coffee pots around for me & even get new cups for people that were just showing up. That was over 15 years ago and I still remember and appriciate his sweet gesture. Bless your Bitchy little heart! :)

Sarah said...

You did a good thing, and you asked for permission first, it's not like you just got up and started doing it. I have wanted to help before but never had the nerve to get up and do it for a stranger. However, my friend was bartending one night and I went in to see her. She got busy, so of coarse, I got up and helped. But that is different because she is a very good friend. I drank for free because customers were buying me drinks, and since I wasn't technically working, I could partake. Yay!

If it were me, I would have absolutely comped your bill, and if comping was not allowed by management, I would have bought it myself. You got her caught up, and probably made it so she could actually make some money. We all know that when you are so far in the weeds it sucks because you are working harder than you ever have before and you aren't making squat because you can not give great service when you are that far in the weeds.

Haruka said...

Whenever I go into my old KFC I'm always picking up straw wrappers and pop lids while my wife tells me, "You don't WORK here anymore!"

msq said...

First, I am really offended that you didn't get at least 1 cold, strong martini out of that. I can't believe these people let you work and didn't compensate you for it. If it had been me working I would say I appreciate the offer but I just can't let you work. And I'd be humiliated. Or maybe, I would feel ok with you. And if that was the case, I'd'a got you good and drunk for helping me out. Personally, if I see a place that busy, I don't stick around (unless it's the only game in town). Even if you don't literally work in that situation, your mind is working.