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

Friday, January 05, 2007

We Only Hit and Run

We're so busy in the dining room that the floor manager asked me to pick up a table.

"How many?" I asked.

"Just a five-top."

"There's no way. The bar is packed, look at the service printer!! I'll take a deuce, maybe a three." I'm dreading what he's asking of me.

"I really need you to do this."

"I'll screw it up, I promise you. I'm not a very good server," I'm begging. He walked away from me and I realized I was stuck.

Is it strange when you're a diner in a restaurant, surrounded by servers in neat white oxford shirts, black ironed pants, and perfectly pleated aprons, and suddenly someone in all black and no apron approaches your table, looking a bit scruffier than the servers with their unison ball-point pens all in a row, to take your order? It strikes me as odd when the bartender goes out on the floor, outside of the little high-tops in the bar area, and that's the excuse I give my floor manager every time he asks of me this unreasonable favor, but it never seems to get me off the hook.

"Could I bring you some drinks?" I ask the nice couple who have unfortunately been assigned to me. "Do you know the specials?" asks the male. I wasn't expecting that response, and I stall for as long as I can, but finally confess.

"Actually... I'll be right back, just one sec," I say, nervously, and literally scurry away. I always lose my cool when I leave the cozy confines of the bar wood. It's entirely embarrassing. When I ask one of the servers in the station to run through the specials for me, he laughs and hands me his little cheat-sheet, which he committed to memory hours ago, being the professional that I am not, in this moment.

When I return to the table, I take their orders, realizing just as they're giving them to me that I don't have a pen, or a pad. I'm pretty certain I began to sweat. I'm relying on memory but I'm proud of myself when I get back to the POS and enter it correctly.

I serve the very nice and sweet couple their salads, followed by their appetizer. The woman says to her companion, "See! It's very traditional here! They serve the salads before the appetizer, and then serve the entrees!"


I didn't spill anything on them, and I served them the meals they ordered, but it wasn't my proudest restaurant moment. Still, they tipped just over 20%, and seemed generally pleased. The floor manager declined to offer me any more tables that evening, and every other evening since. I imagine he learned his lesson, and I learned that servers are expected to be far more charming, competent and confident than bartenders.

It reminded me that barkeeps get away with more than we should... and that I chose the right position for the front-of-the-house.

Oh I just don’t know where to begin
Though he says he’ll wait forever, it’s now or never
But she keeps him hanging on, the silly champion
She says she can’t go home without a chaperone
Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
He used to be your victim
Now you’re not the only one
Accidents will happen
We only hit and run
I don’t want to hear it
’Cause I know what I’ve done

- Elvis Costello, "Accidents Will Happen"