Saturday Redux: "The Dork List" or Things You Should Do Once, And Only Once

I first published this post way back in June when I had only a dozen or so regular readers.  Now that I have at least 2 dozen regular readers, I thought I’d bring it back, kind of like reruns of Desperate Housewives in mid-season…

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”.


5 Responses to Saturday Redux: "The Dork List" or Things You Should Do Once, And Only Once

  1. My dorkiest experience? I just started serving at a swanky Country Club. The GM, a real Sopranos-type Italian, came into the club with his lady friend, who I addressed as “Mrs. GM”. Awkward!

    He was a skank, though. His son also worked there as a server. And was non-plussed. Son-of skank.

  2. jannovo says:

    My mother was a whisky-voiced mother of 6 who started smoking–and maybe drinking–at 16. In her later years, she looked androgenous, but after all those kids and years with my father, if anyone addressed her as sir (which happened regularly), she would squinch up her eyes like Clint Eastwood and demand, ” Do I look like A MAN to you?” Whereupon the hapless waiter would wilt and run for the hills. Except for the ones who still didn’t get it and continued to address her as “sir”. They are all, hopefully and deservedly in true Darwinian fashion, sorting nails at a workshop somewhere. jn

    • nativenapkin says:

      I miss “Mom”. She was the best. When you coming out to visit. The room is always here…

      • Jan Novotny says:

        Things you should do only once (except in South Dakota where quotas are boundless. And some people could use some boundries): I am working as a pizza cook in a sports bar which shall remain nameless (though Andrew Zimmern, the Bizarre Foods guy from the Travel Channel, was in a few days ago. No aspersions I hope on our mecca of fine dining and my current employer. The metal head that I work with who’s only 21 but has been arrested 5 times already was estatic to be cooking for his hero) . We were short our kitchen manager last week due to his failure to moderate: during an employee party on Sunday, he got drunk, passed out on the bar and got suspended. The kicker? It’s not the first time. Btw, watch Full Throttle on Tuesday night at 11 (check for local time). It’s a reality show about a bar/concert venue at the Sturgis Motorcyle races about 20 minutes north of here. They can hold 10,000 drunk bikers and semi-nekked girls and have 80 bartenders on shift a night. The owner basically operates his own bank for the 10 days of Rally, racking up ~$100,000 a night. And the guy just looks like some dreaded-up slacker dude. It’s pretty impressive. The cliff hanger from the first episode–you know the one where an employee gets all insulted and irrate and stomps off the job–is the owner of the aforementioned pizza joint and the guy who hired me. The meter is running on his 15 minutes of fame. He is so basking in the glow of his public bad behavior that we’re screening Full Throttle live with a Wings & Pitcher special.

      • Jan Novotny says:

        I don’t know when I’ll be on the West Coast but thank you for the offer. We should talk soon. I’m starting to draft up my bakery business plan but still need some artisan bread making experience. Trying to figure that out…Besides pizza cook at the sports bar, I am working in the bakery at Safeway. This is a community about the size of Napa and there are two Safeways here, plus another chain with a couple big stores. And we crank: Another kid and I spent our whole shifts wrapping product. We’re just one store and Mondays are our slowest baking day. It’s pretty impressive and a solid foot-in-the-door education. jn

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