I am a big dork. Just ask my wife. I have a penchant for doing dorky but mostly cute stuff all the time. Like the time I went on and on about how the mimosa I had just made had the PERFECT balance of Champagne to orange juice when I had in fact forgotten to put any Champagne in it. A glass of OJ in any situation is now known as “The PERFECT Mimosa” to my family and friends.
So, in the spirit of self-deprecation, I decided to put together a list of dorky stuff I (and others, I’m hoping) have done while working in restaurants. Much like catching your penis in your zipper, these should only happen once before you learn…
The tray tipping thing: This occurs when, as a rookie busboy or server, you are walking around a table, serving a round of ice waters or cocktails and are not familiar enough with the principle of leverage. You are doing fine, but serving the glasses all from one side of your tray because you are nervous/not paying attention; and as you lift the fateful glass that upsets the balance of the tray that is resting on your left palm, the tray flips, dropping whatever was remaining on it directly onto the person with the most expensive, most stainable clothing at the table. They are also usually the person with the capactiy to get the most indignant about it.
In New Orleans, they have a street party called White Linen Night when all the galleries on Royal Street host wine tastings and cocktails and everyone goes in all white. Then everyone goes to dinner. I did the tray-tipping thing with a party of six. This was actually many years along in my restaurant career, but I had as yet not had the pleasure of experiencing this one for myself. Four of the six icewaters went directly onto a rather buxom woman wearing no apparent undergarments with her white linen blouse. The good news is that I didn’t do this “wet T-Shirt” move on the 300 lb. guy with the man-breasts.
The pouring-too-much-wine-thing: The scenario wherein somone at a large party orders a bottle of wine for the table. You present, open, pour the host his taste; he approves. You then proceed around the table, being careful to pour women first, concentrating on your technique of turning the bottle slightly to prevent drips, etc. Then, just as you are pouring the last drops of the bottle into the last person’s glass, silently congratulating yourself for your oh-so-accurate matching pours for each person, you realize you haven’t poured any for the host after his initial one ounce taste test. This is especially effective when done with very expensive bottles of wine of which you have only one in stock.
The tipping-out-on-your-own-money-thing: In this scenario, you made great money at work the night before. People were just throwing cash at you for no good reason (hey, it could happen…). So you’ve got a wad of cash in your pocket when you get to work and you forget to separate it from the cash that evening’s guests have given you. You finish up, pay the house what you owe for cash tables. You tip out your busser, bartender, and host their percentage of your stack; and, feeling magnanimous because you’ve now had TWO really great nights in a row, maybe buy a round for the kitchen. Then you go home and discover that “hey, I thought I left that money from last night on my dresser…”
The “Nice-to-see-you-again-sir” thing: This is when you cheerfully greet a gentleman at a new table that you recognize as a returning guest, only to discover that this time he is with his wife, not his girlfriend. She gives him the “When were YOU here before?!” look. He gives you the “Could you BE a bigger dork?” look; and you are thinking “Why, oh why, didn’t I take that job with the Post Office years ago?”. Unlike the tray-tipping scenario mentioned above, where the manager or maitre’d has your back with some comped food or an offer of free dry-cleaning, recovery here is impossible.
Once when I was working at a local, very expensive hotel, a slightly ditzy but loveable server on the crew walked up to Carlos Santana’s table and greeted him with “You look familiar. Have you been here before?” (Mr. Santana and guest both thought this was just hilarious and have returned every year since to have her wait on them.)
The saying “Good evening, sir” to a woman thing: I don’t really think I need to comment further on this one. Although once I did walk up to a table of two very butch lesbians and asked “How are you gents tonight?” As Linda Ronstadt would say I am a “credit to my gender”.