The internet has been seeing a lot of restaurant checks and server horror stories lately, most notably the “Redditor Waitress vs. Non-Tipping Pastor”. And now, I have joined their ranks.
When I first heard about it, I thought, “Way to do God proud, Pastor.” Then, when I heard she later called and got the waitress fired, it upgraded to, “Sometimes I wish I believed in hell, you asshat.” But I hadn’t experienced such an insult where someone clearly went out of their way to offend me, as it happened to this poor Applebees Redditor. Until this week. Apparently, some people think to themselves, “What would Pastor Bell do?”
Now let me be clear. I’ve worked all levels of front-of-house for eight years. I don’t mean I haven’t been yelled at, scolded, complained to, stiffed on tip, sexually harassed, condescended to, and all those other fun things humans think up to fuck with one another. These are simply occupational hazards. We deal with a lot of asshats in the restaurant business. We deal with so much disrespect, I feel like Aretha is talking just to me.The trick of the trade is to emotionally stunt yourself until you feel dead inside. THEN, you’re ready to go to work for the night. You’ve heard “if you can’t handle the heat, get the fuck outta the kitchen”? Front-of-house has the same mentality. If you can’t handle the job, then find somewhere more suited to your delicate constitution, cause this sure as hell isn’t it.
With that said, we all have hard days. Sometimes you just can’t shake the rude tone or abusive language of a table. Occasionally, you’re wound so tight and tired, the attitudes that would normally roll right off your skin decide to stick instead. I could make excuses. [Over]working two jobs, I had already worked ~60 hours by Sunday. My broken toe is still healing, I ache all over, and sometimes only candy and smiles keep me going. On my way at 9am, I easily could have been that sour-faced server that ruins your brunch with forgetfulness, irritability, and a hangover.But no. Somehow, I was in a great mood. It was a beautiful day, I knew there was a solid staff team on, and I had cash to buy people lattes. There’s nothing like walking into a bar on a weekend morning with a pile of hot coffee and fresh muffins—it’s great to see my friends happy. Soon, we were open, and my roommate and friend decided to visit for brunch. Then an adorable family was seated in my section, with the cutest 9-year-old girl ever. By the time they left, she had made me a present with the wax toys we give to kids. My housemate looked jealous, and said he never gets gifts from happy children at his job. Yea? Well I have to soak up the great moments when I can, to hold me through the crap ones; I just didn’t know a crap one would be my next table.
They screamed “ASSHAT” from the second they set foot in My Bar. The hostess pulled together a table for them, which they blatantly passed by to beeline for a corner booth instead. Six kids, clearly hurtin’ or still drunk from the night before, disheveled and un-showered, and so fucked up they could barely read the menu. I watched with my coffee as they all fell into the cushions, and one curled right up as if he were at home. When she tracked me down to tell me I had another table, all she could do was sigh and say, “I’m so sorry… they’re total dicks.”
Well that’s fine. I’m great with hungover people, they need compassion. Call me the Alcoholic Angel of Mercy—I’ll clear you up happy, right quick. So I popped over and asked if I could get them started with some drinks. All wanted water, one desperate coffee, and three wanted mimosas. The others cringed visibly, and I mentally wrote them off as needing constant refills. The one curled up like a drunk cat was, in fact, still intoxicated. That should have been my first flag.
But the real kicker was when I took their orders. Normally, I don’t care to note the race of my tables, but it’s relevant. Here, we had three white kids, two brown, and one black. While ordering, the black kid said he had an unusual question. Used to this, I laughed and nodded. Pointing to the Fried Chicken and Waffles on the menu, “I feel like this is only on here for a certain demographic…” And the table erupted. Some saying, “yea, seems racist,” along with others telling them to shuttup—and all at explosive noise levels. It’s usually best to smile and walk away. But as a white girl being told by a black kid that her bar’s menu is racist because we serve fried chicken and waffles… I take issue. I told them it’s a regional favorite and we serve southern cuisine—so welcome to Columbia Heights. Shut up and drink your free water.
The rest of their stay went relatively smoothly. I was repeatedly told how grateful some of them were every time I appeared, because whatever they were going to ask for was served before they even asked. One guy said he wanted to be called ‘biscuit’ every time I came over, and made me laugh. Their food was made promptly and properly, and inhaled at likely-unhealthy speeds. My section wasn’t seated much, because they were so Goddamn loud and obscene that all tables asked to move further away. Well, that’s peachy. Their bill totaled $125, though, so that should be a solid $20+ tip, and would make up for lost money. It was only 1pm, so I didn’t mind much. When the check was dropped, the Drunk One took issue with being charged for bottomless mimosas when he only had one. Two others had bottomless, and I was sure he had more than one, but didn’t care enough to argue and bumped the check down.
After they left, I assessed the damage. Between four of them, I was tipped a total of $15. One guy (pretty sure it was the kid who thought fried chicken is racist) didn’t tip anything. And finally, the Drunk One, the arsenic cherry on top of the whole fucked up shitpie. Not only did he tip me zero, but he wrote a little note on the tip line. His food cost of $21.00, plus a tip line of “dontrobme”, for a total of “kthxbye”.
That was the last straw. At least be a normal dick, like your reverse-racist friend, and don’t tip anything. But don’t come into my bar acting like a fool, degrading our atmosphere with your train-wreck attitudes and illegal intoxication levels, and ultimately go OUT OF YOUR WAY to insult the server who went above and beyond to help your disrespectful asses.
The busser saw the look on my face as I stormed away to the kitchen, and followed repeating with a calm voice, “Aw, come on now, Jules, don’t be like that…” and let me explode in the dish area. I saw several shocked faces from kitchen staff, who have never seen me more upset than disappointed over being out of my favorite dessert. After I blew off some rage, he offered a hug. It worked wonders, and kept me from crying. But I still burned with humiliation. Because that’s what it is. Imagine you worked hard all day in your cubicle, doing whatever it is you do, and your boss leaves you a post-it saying you won’t receive pay for the day’s hours. Because he’s drunk and feels like being an asshole. But at least he included a “thx” in the note. His sadistic glee definitely helped the situation.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the worst serving experience I’ve had. But I’m not going to rationalize away Asshat’s behavior; no matter how much worse other shitheads can be, he is still one of them. When I told my manager about it, he wanted to know which table, so he could have a few words with them. They were gone, but I told him how shit like this is all over the internet anymore. He responded, “You should Facebook that kid; people like that aren’t welcome here. He tries to come in again, let me know.”
So here it is. [He needs a name, so why don’t we call him Scott.]
Scott, you are no longer welcome at My Bar. I will count it as my due payment if you never come again. Don’t get upset with me– it’s company policy. Asshats are not welcome at My Bar. You know where. But just to be safe, let’s make it the whole of Columbia Heights. It will be a public service to my neighborhood.
At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the stellar staff at My Bar. The rest of that day, and every day before and since, we have been a goofy, supportive team. They are my family, who I love with my whole heart– this includes our kickass regulars, who never fail to brighten my day.
And since a day isn’t complete without Aretha…