Observations by Key Monroe~~Home of Right Opinions, Cynical Viewpoints, and TMI in Hefty Doses
|E-mail: keymonroe [at] alltel [dot] net

June 09, 2005

The Sunflower Festival

Gratefully inspired by your comments on the "Exceeding Tip Parameters" post and linkage:

A few years ago, my mom owned her own restaurant in her own town. (This little crossroads is much smaller even than my own little town, which I've pet-named Mayberry.)

The good country folk gathered from miles around to enjoy a genuine southern cooked meat and three by day, juicy burgers, fried catfish, or home smoked BBQ by night.

Children gathered on bar stools for hand-dipped ice cream or malts, and I myself, being between jobs at the time, was a Wednesday regular, as that was chicken 'n dumplin day.

These were good times.

Wednesdays became a family reunion of sorts, as I managed to actually pull my social butterfly of a mother away from her loving customers long enough to sit for a meal. We were often joined by my step-father, and perhaps my aunt would stop by, and my step-sister had a tendency to wander in...and my brother was night manager, but occasionally communed with us by day.

And thus... We would gossip and laugh and bitch and moan, like a bunch of country people who had nothing better to do in the middle of the work day.

The town mayor visited almost daily, and he often stopped by to speak to us about the local goings on. On this particular occasion, the event was the town Sunflower festival, which would be happening the very next Saturday, in the lot between the restaurant and the tracks. (In other words...directly in front of the restaurant.)

So mom buckled down for a crowd, and I psyched Miss Priss for the festival...cotton candy! old-timey cars! pony rides! caramel apples!

But of course, I don't do anything early on a Saturday morning unless I have to, so we pulled in to the party around 11 am.

The first imperative stop was to check in, and let the family know we were there. Soooo...I took the back door to the restaurant, where the Priss hooked up with her cousin, and together they chased down Papa for ice cream.

I continued into the kitchen, greeted my mother, and wasn't surprised to see her in panic mode, given the crowd outside. What did surprise me, was that she wasn't telling me to get the hell out of her kitchen, didn't I see that crowd out there?! No, she was HAPPY to see me, so much and so eerily so that I started backing toward the door, even as she screamed, "Thank GAWD you're here!"

Too late. She was throwing an apron over my head, spinning me around, and tying it in the back. "I've had one quit this morning, and one just NOT show. I neeeed you!"

And with that, and even as I sputtered something about having zero experience, I was given a healthy shove into the direction of the dining area. Having not come in that way, I was seeing and hearing the overflowing dining room, people waiting for tables, one flustered waitress, a frantic cashier, and a take out line to the door, for the first time.

Now, I had worked since age 17, but always at a desk. I had NO waitressing experience before this day. None.

Of course, I'd seen it done, so I understood the concept, but this was a helluva way to train. I filled my apron with pencils, order pad, and straws, and quickly learned the count for the tables...and then I dove in.

New blood!

My gawd, they must have seen me coming. I was chewed out, chewed up, spat out and stepped on. "Where's my this? I didn't order that! No one has taken our order! It's hot in here! Is somebody going to bus this table?"

And that was all on my first pass through, within moments of accepting the apron.

I spent the next hour working frantically trying to restore order and placate the crowd, and then the next two trying to maintain it. After three hours of mad, stress-filled panic, the crowd slowed to manageable capacity, and I took a turn on the cash register, ringing folks out, and dipping ice cream for the little people, the happy people.

During the course of the day, there had been only a few assholes that were so irate that there was no hope for them, and to those few, I explained that I was donating my time, and making no more than they chose to leave me. This seemed to humble them, but only slightly.

And I had already figured out why my mother paid her servers minimum wage plus tips, rather than the standard $3 or so and tips....these bumkins tipped for shit!

I think I made less than ten dollars the entire day.

Nonetheless, I continued to volunteer my time for the following weeks, as long as mom needed me, and until Shrek fired the insubordinate ruffian who had been assisting him at the office while I worked elsewhere.

All this to say: Hell yes, I have a HEALTHY respect for anyone who does this for a living, and who does it well...and particularly if they do so with a smile.

posted by Key on 08:57 PM | Comments (7)
ยป Velociworld links with: ON THE WAITSTAFF

Nothing like trial by fire.

It would appear you are made of steel.

; )

Posted by: Chrissy at June 10, 2005 03:53 PM

Thrown to the wolves, and lived to tell the tale! I've never worked in a table service type place, only in fast-food (in college) - way different.
I am with you, Key -- I tip well for good service, and add on for great service with a pleasant attitude. The really special wait people are the ones who don't intrude, but are cheery and responsive when you talk / joke with them. They are gems, and I reward them well!

Posted by: Barb at June 11, 2005 11:24 AM

You know you've tipped right when their brow furrows and they try to give some back, thinking you made a mistake.

I had a girlfriend once who managed a country club. Her cook up and quit on her one day and she drafted me, in a panic. I had never done anything but my own cooking before, but she said she'd coach me, so I agreed.

I ended up with rich old men coming back into the kitchen, looking for the cook, and stuffing $20's into my apron pocket, telling me it was the best they ever had and I made them look good in front of their family/friends.

I had a blast, she kept me drunk, and business picked up like never before. Then I broke up with her and quit, but it was all fun while it lasted.

Posted by: Bane at June 11, 2005 01:04 PM

Everyone should be forced to wait tables for AT LEAST one day, if not a week. I have been in the short-order business for 18 years, and most of the folks that work for me bust their asses for a pittance.

Posted by: Richard at June 11, 2005 09:54 PM

I feel unworthy - your page looks and feels amazing, your prose is simply beautiful, and your attitude (even during a shit storm) is admirable. I love you more and more everyday.

Now update!

Posted by: Ophelia at June 13, 2005 02:11 PM

Similar experience here. I was in USAF, but was a part time pizza delivery guy to pick up a little extra money, stationed in Denver in the late 60s. It was a slow delivery night, but the waitress had called in sick and there was a mob of dine-in customers for some reason. I was asked to help wait tables, first time ever I'd done that. Wow! I had new respect for waiters and waitresses after that experience.

I never "stiffed" a waitress again, after that. In fact, I probably tip a little too much.

Posted by: GunTrash at June 13, 2005 09:48 PM

I hardly tip, unless my wife hits me or some shit. What I mean to say is . . . Mr. Pink: "I don't tip cause society says so . . . I tip if someone does a great job" or are forced to work for less than minium wage."I worked for minium wage," however,"And when I did, I wasn't lucky enough to have a job that society deemed worthy enough to be 'tipped.'" I stand by that completely. I worked as a Assistant Manager once in a business that isn't allowed tips by law and was making 5.15 an hour with all the responsibilies of a manager.
. . . Then again, I'm an asshole.

Posted by: A Clockwork Orange Happier at June 14, 2005 02:21 PM
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