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Pet Dragon


The Meaning of It All

or, There and Back Again

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Pet Dragon

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So I think I've been carrying on a little too much about the evils of waitressing and distressing mjules. I waited tables for a good eight years, on and off, including my summers of bartending. It's true that it's the bad stuff that tends to stick in your mind, but for what it was, when it was...it could actually be pretty fun.

The thing is, waiting tables is essentially the only profession where your salary is only paid at the whim of, well, whoever walks into your restaurant. And this allows many people to act like jerks. I've seen far too much of it. This is also why I am to this day inconstitutionally capable of undertipping. Even if the service *sucks*.

But it usually doesn't. So here's a story of...

I used to work at this restaurant on the Upper West Side. It's gone now, but that was my favorite place I ever worked. We had a great crew, most of us had been there a long time, and we knew how to work together well.

One night this guy Eric and I were assigned the back room to ourselves. Normally this only happened on slow nights; two waiters like us could handle the room easily even when it was full, but not everyone could do that, so often it made more sense to have three waiters. But we must have been understaffed or something, because it was just the two of us.

As we were doing setup, we kept getting calls for reservations. Eric turned to me at one point and said, "You know, this could turn out to be a *very* good night." I agreed.

For those of you who don't wait tables, oftentimes you "split" a section with another waiter and "pool" your tips. This works well in keeping waiters from sniping at each other over who's getting the better/most seatings. So tonight it would be me and Eric, working the section together.

Well, it got busy. It got *really* busy. I have no idea why. Just one of those nights where the stars were aligned and everyone said "Hey, let's go to Panarella's!" But our section was like...heaven. Everyone had come out in a good mood. Everyone was having a good time. Everyone was ordering bottles of wine. (I am the world's pro at tableside wine presentation.) And Eric and I were just clicking. Even though we were so busy, it felt like I was never rushed while I was at a table. We were both on top of everything, we were keeping up with the orders, we were making sure everyone was having a wonderful time.

Which, by the way, is really what it's all about.

And when we started picking up the first round of checks--man, we were smokin'. We were getting 25%, 30%, 35%...I swear, if I'd seen a $10 tip on a $40 check that night it would have seemed *low*. It was just uncanny. We were getting almost giddy about it, comparing checks in the back station and giggling every time we saw another $25 on a $60 check. It wasn't even about the money at that point. (Well, all right, it was kind of about the money.) It just didn't seem real.

Then I had this deuce--a guy and his girlfriend, clearly on a fairly early date. (You get to be able to tell these things.) We'd had a good rapport, I'd recommended a wine they really loved, they'd had a very nice dinner and I certainly hadn't rushed them. At one point when I came to take an order, they'd been having a conversation about unusual words, the kinds of things that you read in trivia notes where you say "Oh! I never knew there was a word for that!" The guy asked me if I had any good ones to contribute.

I did, as it happened. I'd just been reading this Molly Ivins book and I told them, "Retromingent."

"What does that mean?" they asked.

"It means, um..." At this point I realized this wasn't exactly dinner conversation. Oh well. "It means peeing backwards. It's why they warn you not to walk behind cows."

So there is this pause...during which I'm wondering how I'm going to explain this to the manager...and then they both burst out laughing hysterically, and I make a graceful exit.

"What did you tell them?" Eric hissed at me the next time I passed him.

"You don't want to know," I told him.

So it's the end of the night. We already know we've broken all records--screw Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, tonight is our best showing ever. And I go pick up the check from the Cow Joke couple and take it into the back. Eric is gleefully stacking up twenties and tens, getting ready to cash out; I think it was our last check.

The check was about $120 or $130. I start counting out twenties. Five. Six. Seven. Eight...


The guy left me a $100 tip.

I went back out there babbling about "Are you sure? Did you check..." but he was serious, and that was just the capper on the evening.

Man, if I'd had more nights like that one...and there were more nights and more people like that. More tables who it was a joy to wait on, and not just because of the money. But that one night, they were *all* like that.

I still like remembering it.

So the moral to this story, if there is one, is just this: the difference between a good tip and a great tip doesn't have to be $70. It can be $2. Why not err on the side of generosity? If it's a place you come back to often, I promise you, it won't be forgotten. And the difference between good service and great service--often--is just being willing to let your server give you a good time.

So. Would you like coffee and dessert menus?

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Um...this is very off topic but I just wanted to thank you for the kind words you said about my DeviantART page! I didn't want to add to the thread at Wolverine&Rogue because I think they prefer the comments to stay Wolverine/Rogue related!

But yeah, thanks again!

Have a fab weekend!

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