Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Nobody's Really Allergic To Parsley... Are They?

I realize I go on a bit about Waiter Rant, but it's simply the best blog involving the service industry. I'm admittedly a Fan Girl! This post is a nod to his excellent writing and story-telling, and for that I apogize in advance as I doubt my serving stories will measure up.

But, here goes.

Oh, how I abhor my serving shift. One night a week, I step out from behind the cozy bar confines and try my hand at serving dinner. I'll be honest. Serving is the hardest job in any restaurant. It's difficult to carry those trays, smile, repeat specials and salad dressings without smirking, taking shit from the kitchen all the while. Bartenders don't have to kiss much ass. There's a bit of swagger attached to bartending, and you can get away with much more. In serving, it's all about the precious customer.

Don't even begin, for one second, to feel sorry for servers. Don't think, for one moment, about feeling superior, either. It's the hardest job in the restaurant because it's the best paying job in the restaurant.

I like to keep my hand in it, and Monday nights are relatively mellow, so I enjoy working the floor.

Four-top reservation comes in, my first table. First couple arrives early, I greet the table with bread while the busser pours water. "What can I bring you to drink? Wine? Cocktail?" I suggest. I always push the booze, it's likely what makes me less than gracious. Also, being a bartender at heart, I'm all about libations. Lubricating customers makes them easier to deal with... pretty much one of life's great lessons.

Of course, they don't nibble. It's Monday. The woman in the party, without looking at me, says "Iced tea. No lemon." Her husband, staring at his menu, says nothing. I wait for an uncomfortably long time before giving up and fetching the iced tea. As I return, the other couple arrives. Before sitting down, Husband #2 barks "Chianti!" His wife scolds him, but he looks me in the eye so I bring it to him promptly. Wife #2 never looked at me, and never ordered a drink.

Why is it that some customers refuse to look a server in the eye...?

They place orders quickly, all the while staring at menus. "Pollo Picatta, absolutely no parsley!" Wife #2 demands. "She's very allergic," Husband #2 adds, unprompted. He catches my eye and appears quite serious. I think of that Sex and the City episode where Carrie's hottest boyfriend ever, the writer, Berger, who eventually dumps her, challenges her on her alleged "parsley allergy."

"Nobody's allergic to parsley, you just don't like it! Just tell the waiter that! He gets it," he pleads. Carrie sobbed, called out on her behavior by the very type of customer most wait staff prefer. Of course the show led us to believe that Berger was bad, a man with a temper. How dare he correct Carrie in public? In front of a lowly server no less!

I liked that Berger dumped Carrie. He was far too good for her. I drifted from the job at hand, and it's a blessing that I even remembered their salad choices while blocking out the thought of Sarah Jessica Parker having sex with Mikhail Baryshnikov, an obvious Berger rebound. The things that cross your mind when you should be concentrating...

We're running a bit behind tonight, and it's been about six months since I cleared salad plates. I'm leaning on the kitchen a bit. Just as I'm finally picking up the Pollo Picatta No Fucking Parsley, one of the other servers, in a very well-intended attempt to help me, is busy applying parsley to each of my plates. I pretty much freak out.

The kitchen, not even giving me much shit for a change (refreshing!! because it wasn't their fault and they'll revel in telling this dumb server parsley story endlessly), re-plates the food and cooks Wife #2 a fresh plate. Allergies, albeit alleged, are taken seriously by all.

The four-top requested separate checks, as each held a $10 off coupon. Now, we only give these precious cards to the rare and pushy customers who have complained enough to management about their food/service on a previous visit, so as soon as a server sees this coupon, their heart sinks a little. No-Parsley-Ever Couple tips me $3.00 on an adjusted $45.00 check. Couple #1 tips me $11.00 on an adjusted $60.00 check. What in the...?

No Parsley never knew what we did for her and her party, behind the scenes. It's a shame, isn't it?

Serving. The hardest job in the business. Certainly the most ego-crushing. Good thing it pays well in the long run. It takes a thick skin and a heavy dose of humor.

Thank goodness for that delightful three-top with the $134 check and the $40 tip. Next time, I think I'll write about them. But writing about nice people wouldn't be as interesting, would it?