This summer, I, like many of my college-attending peers, split my weeks between an internship here at The Frisky and a part-time job. I happen to be waiting tables at a German restaurant near my home. Waitressing has provided me with an excess of strange knowledge and bizarre tales. Once I don my black button-down shirt and black dress pants pulled out of storage from my sister’s days in the high school orchestra, my status as a human seems to change. Observing people is therefore my favorite part of the job by far.
Anyway, here I have compiled some of the more interesting experiences from my days as a waitress, categorized into The Good, The Bad, and The Strange.
The Time My German Minor Actually Came In Handy: Okay, I’ll admit it. I have formulated the most nonsensical, least-hirable combo of majors and minors. I am an English major, German minor, and Biology minor. FAQ: Are you going to write science textbooks in German? Yep, you hit the nail on the head right there. I never took German for its utility, but when I realized that a German restaurant was hiring, I figured it couldn’t hurt. It turns out that I am actually one of two people in the entire restaurant staff that speaks a lick of Deutsch, but apparently that gives me a slight advantage, especially with the older folk. After one customer said “Danke,” the German word for “Thank you,” as I served him the check, I responded with the appropriate German “you’re welcome.” He was stoked. We had a nice little conversation. He and his friends left the restaurant very pleased, and I was left with a 25 percent tip. Worth three years of collegiate-level German classes? Sure.
The Time An 85-Year-Old Man Was My BFF At The Bar: As a German restaurant and bar, we offer a very wide selection of German beers on tap. It is important for the wait staff to be at least somewhat familiar with the beer so that we can make recommendations to customers. Therefore, we are allowed to have a beer at half price at the end of each shift. Usually I am tired enough that I really just want to go home, so I don’t stick around for my beer. One day had been particularly boring, as in I had one table of two in the five hours I had been there, so I decided to talk to a few of our regulars at the bar as I enjoyed a Palm, a Belgian amber ale that I would highly recommend.
I sat down next to Mark, a man who boasts that he was a member of the first graduating class of the high school I also attended. He is probably 85-years-old, is at the bar most days, and loads of fun to talk to. His drink of choice is his own version of the martini, i.e. straight vodka in a martini glass. The bartender, probably in an effort to curb Mark’s single-handed demolition of all of our vodka, had started giving him Greyhounds (vodka with grapefruit juice) and Mark seems pretty pleased. Anyway, the day I joined him at the bar was the most fun because we were just two pals kicking back. I talked to him about what I like about being an English major and he told me about how he hates the parking lot behind the restaurant so much. I haven’t had such a quality conversation at a bar maybe ever. (Disclaimer: I only recently turned 21 so my experience in bars might be relatively limited).
The Time My Faith In Humanity Was Restored: One fine, sweltering Saturday, I broke two glasses in one day. All of my tables inexplicably wanted to be seated outside in the 85 percent humidity, so I was stuck going back and forth between the beautiful air conditioning and the oppressively warm outdoors. Naturally, I was in the worst of moods. One of my tables, a couple with their dog tied up to a bench, was probably sitting outside for about two and a half hours. I was getting irritated that they were around for so long, but they were very nice and their dog was very cute. I brought the dog some water because I like dogs more than I like people and this pleased them.
Anyway, they were outside long enough to witness both glasses break and my mood deteriorate. As my shift neared its end, I started to get more annoyed that this couple was still around because I couldn’t leave if they were still here. This table, however, soon turned out to be my favorite table ever. While I was clearing a table nearby, the woman asked if I was getting off work soon, but I told her not to worry about it. “No, no,” she said, “We’ll just have the check.” I obliged. When I picked up the check to close their credit card and get my tip, I found one of the nicest notes I’ve received to date. The note described her and her husband’s various trials when they used to work in restaurants. He once had spilled an entire tray of dirty dishes on a new bride, while she once spilled six beers all over a table. She told me not to worry about a broken glass (or two) and that I was doing a great job. She told me to enjoy and learn from the experience. She also left a really great tip. I plan to keep that note forever as a reminder of how I want to treat the people I meet.
The Time A Customer Wanted To Key My Car: It was my first big table. There were 11 people, about four or five of them small children, and almost all of them obnoxious. The most obnoxious of all, perhaps, was a scary man to whom I shall henceforth refer to as “The Patriarch.” He was large, red-faced, and angry. If you could smell testosterone, you would be able to pick up on his scent from a mile away. Serving the table was stressful, but overall fine until it was time to pay for the meal. The Patriarch obviously wanted to demonstrate his power and wealth by paying for the large group, but his nephew also wanted to pay for his share. The Patriarch was, after all, his guest for the weekend. Placed in the middle of the debate, I freaked out and just put everything on the nephew’s card, even though The Patriarch had asked me to use his card first, before the nephew approached me. When The Patriarch found out, he glared at me and said, “Where is your car parked?” No laugh. He is not joking. Panic! All I could assume was that he wanted to do some damage to my car, so I lied and said that I had walked to work and then basically ran away from him.
THE BAD AND STRANGE:
The Time I Was Asked Out During My First Shift: I don’t know if it’s because I’m in college and college boys don’t generally do real dates, but I am pretty sure I had never been actually asked out on a date until I started waiting tables. Most of the restaurant’s business comes from the bar, which is full every single night, almost exclusively with men. As I was standing around at about 9 p.m., a man in his 20s was walking to the bathroom and stopped to tell me I should date his friend. Okay. I will get right on that, sir. On his way back, the man stopped again to further his point, legitimately asking for my number for his friend to take me to dinner. Is this what being an adult is like? Hopefully not, considering it felt like 7th grade when people only discussed feelings through mutual friends. I told him I was unavailable and pretended to be busy. He was back the next Tuesday and said “Oh, so you’re here again.” Uhh, yes. I am here again. I work here. Conclusion: getting asked out on dates is overrated.
Despite the ups and downs of serving rich people German food, the biggest lesson I think I’ve taken away from this experience is to treat others with respect, regardless of their relationship to you. Sounds basic, but anyone who has associated with humans before can tell that not that many people have mastered this idea. I actually feel that everyone should, at some point in their life, work a service job. It is a humbling experience and one that gives a person insight into (unfortunately) how it feels like to be treated by others like you are less important simply because of the job that you do. Even working as a waitress for just a few summer months has guaranteed that I will always leave a good tip!
[Photo of waitress with customers via Shutterstock]