Monday, December 22, 2008

An, Um, Intimate Dinner

The three women at table 15 started off a little bit, well, challenging.

, I greet them. May I bring you...

Do you have a bar here?
a voice cuts in. Is there liquor here?

, I answer. You have the drink menu right there in your hands. I'll give you a moment to look that over while I get you water.

I return to the table with the water, ready to take a drink order.

We know what we want to eat! seat 2 pipes up, to my surprise. I was sure the drink order would come first.

I jot down the order on my notepad.

I'll bring the octopus and the dandelion salad to start, and then I'll bring the soup as a second course with the pastas
, I confirm.

But you'll bring the appetizers first, right?
the woman in seat 1 asks.

, I affirm, poker-faced. I will bring your appetizers first.

And now we need drinks!
enthuses the woman in seat 2.

Seat 3 clutches the drink menu.
Do the house cocktails have alcohol in them? she asks, looking intently at the selection of cocktails, which list their alcohol-based ingredients.

Yes, they do
, I say.

I want something with a real kick to it!
she says animatedly, making a fist and poking it through the air as she says "kick."

I consider what this statement could mean. Does she want something that was very high in alcohol, or is she looking for something flavorful? I can ask her, but I go with my hunch: that she's looking for the buzz.

What kind of cocktails do you like to order?
I ask, trying to assess what she might enjoy.

She turns her head to look at me blankly then goes back to the menu. In the mean time, the other women at the table, trying to be helpful (I suppose), read off the names of the cocktails.

I go for another question. Is there a particular liquor you prefer?

There is absolutely no response. Suddenly, seat 2 gets very excited.
Beet martini! Get a beet martini!

, says seat 4, with a pronounced lack of enthusiasm.

So you like gin,
I affirm, knowing that drink will be an automatic turn-off to anyone who doesn't.

As there is still no response, I mentally shrug, writing down the order as seat 2 looks at the menu. She is audibly mumbling,
Hmmm... What do I want, what do I want? as she leafs through the menu. She stops at the beer page. She stops at the wine page. She stops at the non-alcoholic drinks page. She finally lands on the cocktail and aperitif page (which, ironically, is actually the first page of the menu).

The restaurant is rather quiet at the moment, but this does not mean that there aren't other things that I could be doing. Like not having to watch her read every word of the drink menu and think out loud.

Good thing you aren't busy!
she observes.

Is it better or worse that she is conscious of her behavior? I don't know. But I stand there, a patient, captive audience, giving no hint that even though I am not busy, her behavior is no less annoying.

She finally settles on an aperitif, and I go to send the orders through the computer. It's late afternoon when the shifts change over, so I sit down to eat family meal while the other servers take over the tables.

When I'm done eating, I stop at table 15 who is now at the end of the meal. Seat 3 now has now turned so she's leaning her back against the wall and has both legs draped over the chair next to her, feet sticking out into the aisle.

I am so drunk! she barks good-naturedly at me as I begin to stack empty plates on my arm.

I smile a small smile of acknowledgment. Clearly in my absence, someone had had another martini.

But approval of their dining experience was not just shared with me.

We want to kiss the chef and owner on both cheeks! they gush to my co-worker Sarah.

That was amaaazing!
they howl, slapping their on the table for emphasis.

Eating here is like getting fucked! they whoop at my other co-worker Morgan, who conveys this story with the assurance that this is, in fact, praise-- and with a look on her face like she's not sure she's working in a restaurant anymore.

Not to toot our own horn, but we are used to hearing the generously positive comments that comes from our diners who make happy faces and tummy-rubbing gestures to express their content.

But really? Like getting fucked? I can't quite imagine expressing my contentment in this way to anyone, really, but especially not to my server, but then again, I can't imagine a more entertaining start to a Saturday night of waiting tables.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Judgment Day

I was three seconds into arriving at the restaurant for the dinner shift when I saw Sarah, who'd been working lunch that afternoon. Before she could even say hello, the first words out of her mouth were Oh boy do I have a blog entry for you!

Knowing how easygoing Sarah is, I thought This is going to be a doozy.

Turns out that aside from a generally hectic service that included parties of people that were really too big for the restaurant all coming at the same time, one party asked for Diet Coke to be put in their children's sippy cups-- you know, those little plastic cups with lids for kids who are too uncoordinated to manage a regular glass.

And if they're too young to manage a glass you might think that they're too young to be drinking diet soda. But apparently not.

The reaction to this request by the staff was one of visceral disgust. One of us was inspired to run to the office to use to research why it's so awful to feed diet soda-- or any soda, actually-- to a small child. (If you think about it, really there is no human being in the whole world who should drink Diet Coke.) Mostly it seemed the staff was aghast at the message that giving a toddler a diet drink gives, and that made us simultaneously angry and sad.

We often (invisibly) raise our eyebrows at odd requests. Ice for a glass of wine, a non-fat (Be sure it's non-fat!) mocha with extra whipped cream. But more than one co-worker called that family's behavior child abuse. And I can only agree to some extent, only if you're sure to include feeding kids McDonald's ever and exposing them to the reactionary, sexist programming that is the Disney Channel, which is to say that there are plenty of questionable moves that could stand some scrutiny. Amongst our food-conscious, source-conscious, and (mostly) health-conscious staff, this Diet Coke incident just really hit a nerve.

Abuse? Eh, probably not. Mind-numbing ignorance? Oh, you betcha.

So what do we servers do when confronted with a request such as this one? We do our jobs: we smile extra big to cover up the horror on our faces that would come bursting through if we didn't, and we follow through, pouring little cups of Diet Coke for children too small to know their taste buds are being ruled by completely artificial flavors that don't even sort-of exist in nature.

And then we lay the story our co-workers as soon as we get a chance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Conversation

Nice Customer at Table 1: Are two desserts enough for four people?

Me: Not in
my family.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Conversation

Bar Customer: I bet you're voting for McCain.

Me: That's the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lessons in Science

I've never taken a physics class. That's because I could never get beyond Algebra 2 (as it was called some twenty-odd years ago). And chemistry? A disaster. It's the only class I ever got a D in when I was in high school. I was so inept that I couldn't even manage to get an F so that I could at least try to take the class over for a better grade.

So science: not my strong suit. Most of what I've learned about physics is stuff I just sort of experience, like gravity, say. And waiting tables, oddly enough. One of the unexpected perks of my job is having some basic principles of science come to light. For instance:

Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
This means that when I'm trying to set down a plate of food in front of you, I won't be able to if there is something already sitting in front of you, which includes, but is not limited to, the following (all of which I have seen set on a restaurant table at some point):


rear ends
your water/wine/beverage glass
someone else's water/wine/beverage glass
cell phones
Bluetooth devices
dentures (ew ick)
crossword puzzles
Sudoku puzzles
find-a-word puzzles

jigsaw puzzles
knitting projects
mp3 players

portable CD players
baby bottles
soiled diapers

chubby board books
stuffed animals dolls
toy cars
coloring books
baby blankets
birthday gifts
anniversary gifts
graduation gifts
hypodermic needles
prescription drugs
non-prescription drugs
food brought from home
food brought from another restaurant

guns (yup)

sports equipment

So while I'm standing there with a plate in my hand, the pads of my fingers being branded by the searing hot underside, and you're reaching across the table to hold the hand of someone you love so that your arms are outstretched right where the plate should go, and you're staring at me, waiting for me to set the plate down, but I'm trying to give you a momentary benefit of the doubt and hope you'll move, but then I have to say something truly inane and obvious, like Excuse me, please. May I set down this plate? and you say Yes, but you don't move, then I have to say, I'm sorry, but may I trouble you to move your arms?, it would all go a lot more quickly if we just all kept in mind that two objects cannot occupy the same space simultaneously.

It's harder to hit a moving target.
It happens with great frequency that as I am trying to pour someone a glass of wine or refill water or steaming hot coffee that that person will move the glass or cup around on the table. Usually the person is trying to "help" by pushing the glass toward me, but this is not, in fact, helpful when the person continues to move the glass or unless the glass is completely out of reach, in which case I would ask for access to the glass in the first place.

Sometimes people will sort of swirl the wine glass as I pour or sort of absently tilt the water glass back and forth, which is also counterproductive. Sometimes people try to take the glass away while I'm still pouring, which I imagine is just some random act of over-eagerness. And what usually results is my spilling liquid on the table, or worse yet, on one of those items listed above.

An object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by another force.
I'm as guilty as the next guy of flailing my arms about while talking; in particular I tend to make big, outward circles with my arms, as if I were trying to animate the idea of something being as big as the world. But when I'm in a restaurant, I try especially hard to check myself. And here's why:

Many years ago, I was carrying a particularly large armload of dishes I had just bussed from a table, both my hands full. On the top of the stack, there was a precariously balanced portion of lasagna that was to be packed to go. On my way from the table back to the service station, I walked past a table right at the moment when a woman on the aisle was taking off her pull-over sweater. With one large sweep of her arms, she knocked directly into that carefully stacked pile of dishes on my left arm.

The force was great enough that it sent me stepping backward and swaying back and forth to keep those plates on my arm. I don't remember how I managed it, but I know that I ended up in a sort of semi-squat, one knee almost touching the floor, the stack of plates leaning back against my chest and shoulder, the other arm hugging the tower to me. The restaurant fell silent as I struggled to keep the pile aloft for a couple of seconds that seemed like minutes, waiting for the the dramatic crash that never came because somehow the bussing gods were with me, and I managed to save that piece of lasagna.

Okay, so the lasagna wasn't exactly at rest, but you get the idea. The same principle of arm waving goes for wild gesticulation resulting in the upturning and breakage of glasses of wine and water. And I can't count how many times I've been elbowed in the gut or backhanded in the face by someone who was so into the conversation that my presence went completely undetected. So the lesson: keep your hands close in. I have to remind myself of this one often.

Balance is golden.
Please don't pull drinks off the tray when I'm trying to serve them to you. Please. They're balanced on there carefully, and I'm adjusting my hand underneath that tray to compensate for weight changes. I've set the heaviest objects in the middle of the tray, directly over my hand to maximize support and to get the best balance. Sometimes, though, heavy things have to go on the perimeter, so when that heavy thing is lifted off, the tray works like a see-saw, and if I'm not careful to counterbalance, the drinks on the other side of the tray will go flying, or more likely, crashing to the floor.

I don't expect you to be touching my tray, so when you do, I'm generally not ready for it to happen, and I can't anticipate the weight change, and if there's a drink I'm trying to serve with my other hand, I can't use that hand to help catch the tray. I suppose once in a while I might be working a cocktail party where it is expected that you should take your own glass off the tray, but in that instance the drink will be proffered, but it will be clear that you've got the go-ahead.

But otherwise, please don't touch my tray!

Balance is golden, the corollary.
There is a science and a strategy to clearing tables of empty (or not so empty) plates. Big ones need to go on the bottom, utensils need to be consolidated in one place (generally on the big plate on the bottom), there must be allowances for food left on plates (especially food that is to be wrapped to take home), a balance must be found so that plates do not fall over (see lasagna story above). Before and as we are clearing tables, we are calculating how we are going to approach the next thing we are going to pick up-- what's furthest out of reach, what one dish will compromise the stack because it's shaped differently, how we're going to reach over to grab a dish without dropping the dishes we are already holding or without elbowing a customer in the eye.

So when I'm clearing plates and you've waving one under my nose, shoving it toward me repeatedly, trying to get me to take it from you, there's a good reason I don't: because I can't right then. Sometimes a customer's desire to be "helpful" is so persistent that I have to take the plate and set it back down on the table until I can get to it. It makes me feel mildly like a jerk, but I always smile and say thank you when I do it.

Oh, and stacking plates doesn't help. Resist the urge to do it.

Well, that's all the science I've got in me today. Next stop: organic chemistry.

Just kiddin'.

Class dismissed!

Friday, August 1, 2008

You Can Take the Waiter Out of the Restaurant...

...but you might as well have left her there.

I just got back from a visit to my home state of California, to the little hamlet on the east side of the San Francisco Bay known as Oakland. It's the home of the Athletics, Fairyland, and Jack London Square. And it's got a lot of good food going on.

In the six and a half days I was there, I made it a point to eat out in a lot of restaurants, hitting some of my old favorites and trying some new places as well. In theory, it seems like a lovely idea to have a week to sit in restaurants and be waited on instead of being the one to do all the waiting, to have someone refill my water glass, reset my knife and fork for each course, bring me stuff just because I asked for it. I won't need to clear away stacks of plates on my arm, take orders, or scurry to the kitchen to get hot food out with all due expediency.

But sometimes it doesn't really work out that way.

I find it exceedingly difficult to sit and mind my own business when I'm eating in a restaurant (those of you who know me will not be surprised about that minding-my-own-business part). I used to be fairly insistent on sitting facing the dining room to get a good view everything, but out of necessity, I've had to start sitting with my back to the action, or else i'll have trouble paying attention to dinner. And to whomever is dining with me.

I have a tendency to eavesdrop as the servers greet the tables next to me, run through the specials, and describe a dish; I'm not just looking for ways to be critical, but I'm actually curious to hear other servers' verbage, maybe learn something new. I'll note at what point they appear to start getting really busy, what the division of labor is, how they interact with each other. I'll wonder what it's like to work there.

I'll think
Hey, why are you standing there chatting with your co-workers when this table over here needs more water? I'll hear a table give the server a hard time and resist the urge to lean over and say Nobody cares if you already ate chicken for lunch today! Would you just order already!

After years and years, I think I have finally shaken the habit of popping up out of my chair when I hear a bell ring in a restaurant; it's generally the signal that hot food needs to be taken to a table, and in pretty much any restaurant, it's the number one priority. So I've been conditioned to make a dash for the kitchen when I hear that bell. I've finally gotten to the point where I just sort of flinch when I hear the bell but I don't actually try to stand up.

Pavlov and that dog have got nothing on me.

Once, when I was in a restaurant in Boston that I had never been to and, in fact, not even eaten at that night, I was walking out past a row of tables and saw a check presenter with a credit card sitting on top of it, the universal sign for "I'd like to pay the bill now, please!" Reflexively, I reached for it, went so far as to put my hand on it for a millisecond before pulling it away as if I'd been given a strong electric shock.

And this is not the first time this has happened. Maybe some sort of electro-something therapy is just what I need.

I have, on more than one occasion, wished other diners a pleasant evening on their way out the door. I've offered up my napkin when I've seen a spill, pointed people in the direction of the restrooms, even offered answers when the server's not nearby and someone wants to know what that white stuff is on their plate. It's the cauliflower gratin! I'll chirp, having analyzed the menu moments before.

Once my friend James and I were having dinner next to a man who ordered coffee with his dessert. It came in a French press pot, but he didn't know how to use it, so when he poured the coffee, a bunch of coffee grounds ended up in his cup. He looked disappointed and confused, and I debated with James for a good long while if I should show him how to use the pot. Would I insult him if I showed him? Or would he be grateful not to be getting coffee grounds in his teeth?

In the end, I leaned over and asked him Can I show you something? and probably not quick enough to say no, he said with some hesitation Yes, and so I plunged that press down and said in the least condescending way I could muster That keeps the grounds from coming out. And of course I was smiling in a waiterly way.

Thanks, he said reluctantly, wondering if he shouldn't be encouraging my behavior.

Did I embarrass him? Possibly. Was he really glad to drink chunk-free coffee? I'm sure of it.

Anyway, I managed to keep myself mostly in check at all of the thirteen restaurants I was served in this past week. There was one case of disorganized, not very good service where watching the staff was a bit agonizing, but otherwise I have to say that I pretty much just sat back and got waited on. And loved every minute of it. And didn't pop out of my seat once.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Funk

A gazillion thanks to everyone who's gotten in on the first couple of entries so far. It seems my Tale of the Screeching Child and the Vomit Towel struck a chord for several people who either laughed out loud or suffered some form of post traumatic stress disorder. So thank you for your feedback and comments!

So last week, I sort of tumbled into a crabby funk with regards to work. This happens to all of us once in a while, even those of us who normally enjoy going to work and being waiters. One day I was fine, and the next day I thought I would smack someone on the back of the head with a drink tray.

By the end of my shift the other day, I was so at my end that I said to Marty and Sergio, I'm not speaking to anyone for two weeks!

they asked.

I can't tell you
, I said with an exaggerated pout, because I'm not talking to anyone!

Can we get that in writing? their raised eyebrows seemed to say to me.

Sergio shrugged and went back to polishing glasses.

Here's what part of what contributed to my malaise:

On Thursday night, I greet the people at table ten and ask if they'd like to start with tap water, which is standard procedure at the restaurant.

This is my first mistake.

The young man says yes, and the bright-eyed doe across from him bats her eyelashes and says she'd like hot water and lemon.

There is no rational explanation for why that request makes waiters the world over want to throw a tantrum. There is something so deeply annoying about being asked for hot water and lemon. I don't know why. It's not much more effort to do, and yet it makes us feel somehow instantly irked and resentful. Especially when we're already feeling a bit maxed out.

But this we never show. I walk back to the espresso machine, prepare a small pot of hot water, put a cup on a saucer with a spoon, go back across the restaurant to get a wedge of lemon from the bar, fill a glass with tap water, and bring everything to the table. As I'm setting down the waters, I ask if they have any questions about the menu.

This is mistake number two.

Does the anchovy pizza taste like anchovies?
Doe-eyes asks, leaning over her cup of hot water toward me and blinking her eyes hard.

I've been asked variations of this question before. Is the lamb really lamby? Is the chocolate cake really chocolatey? These can be totally valid questions, but when it comes to anchovies in particular, I've been down this road many times before. Usually a question like this means one of a few things:

  • they like anchovies and want to make sure the pizza is bursting with anchovy-goodness.
  • they've never had anchovies and they want to try them, but there's some hesitation that the pizza will be too anchovy-y.
  • they don't generally like anchovies, but maybe they once ate something that had anchovies in it and they were cool with it, and they're trying to determine the exact level of anchovyness in the pizza to see if it will be like that caesar salad or bagna cauda they once ate and didn't find offensive.
  • they were sent from the universe to annoy the crap out of me.

Right now, I'm leaning toward the latter.

I tell them that the anchovies are definitely prominent, which is part of why that pizza is so delicious, and, when I see faces scrunch in disapproval, I add that there are other wonderful choices, too.

Okay, the man says. Do the clams taste like clams?

I am biting my tongue, quite literally, to keep from saying Nope! We only use chicken-flavored clams!

Really, I'm just a bit numb. I have no idea what clam-intensity scale they are using to base their opinion of clammyness on.

I tell them that the clam pizza is a signature dish and is wonderful and that the clams do, in fact, taste like fresh, delicious clams.

I even manage to say this without sounding sarcastic or condescending. Or at least I hope so.

And then I have one of those flashes of Wow, I can't believe I do this for a living.

I step away as they contemplate the menu and I immediately start wondering how much of a jerk I might have just sounded like. Was I being just a bit too judgmental? Probably. Did I totally misread them? I can't tell. Was I nice enough? I tried to be. Did my tone of voice betray my quickly dwindling patience? Let's hope not. Was I supposed to be trying harder to sell them on the clams? It's too late to go back and figure that out.

These are a lot of thoughts to think about one table and a pizza I wasn't even going to eat.

So as it turned out, they got the clam pizza! And they liked it! And they didn't stay for dessert! And I didn't completely lose my marbles!

It's a few days and few shifts later, and I'm still in a bit of a lull. But it will pass, and when it does, maybe I'll treat myself to an anchovy pizza. It's my favorite.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Noise Pollution

I'm working the bar last night, and it's a particularly challenging start to dinner service. A toddler is screaming in a pitch so high and agonizingly loud that every time he does this (off and on for about an hour), people in the restaurant visibly flinch, trying to shove their shoulders into their ears to block the noise. One customer at the bar, startled, drops her fork. After each ear-piercing shrill, the restaurant falls completely silent, people laughing nervously and smiling tight, fake smiles because if they don't, they might get up and throttle the parents for not dealing more appropriately with the child.

The parents of the toddler, clearly unaware that sixty other people who have ears are being subjected to his unfortunate ability to tip the decibel scale, are actually encouraging his noisemaking by tickling and playing with him as he screeches. And screeches. And screeeeeches.

I wish I could say I'm exaggerating. But I am not.

Simultaneously, at the apartment building right next door, there is some construction going on. On an early Saturday evening. The workers are just on the other side of the wall separating the bar from the apartment building. It sounds like they're about to come right through the wall.

And then I would probably have to make them martinis.


The pounding ceases only temporarily when the drilling starts. When the invasive, violent sounds of what must be a very large drill stop, the pounding starts up again.


And in concert with the screaming child and the hammering, two doors down, right outside their shop, the clothing store is hosting a tiny street fair that features a band complete with amplifiers, so every time the front door of the restaurant opens, I can feel bass guitar reverberating through my arms.

This all on top of regular restaurant noise: folks dining and talking, the music that plays in the background, the kitchen ringing the bell to call us over to pick up food to deliver to hungry customers.

I'm so busy I have no idea what time it is, but it can't be later than 6:15. At this rate I expect to lose my hearing altogether by about 6:19.

The whole scene verges on the comical. All we need is a marching band and some sirens.

I'm already thinking a few hours ahead, to when it slows down enough so that I can grab a muffin. On the way to the garden seating area there's a ledge behind the brick oven where servers keep their bottles of water to hydrate themselves during service, and today, there is also a basket of muffins I made this morning, a cute little wire basket lined with a big, stripey, super absorbent Williams-Sonoma dish towel. On busy nights I'm always glad to have a little snack to bring my blood sugar back up a bit.

Tonight, those muffins are my little blueberry light at the end of a fourteen-and-a-half-hour tunnel. (I'm on a double shift to boot.)

In the midst of the circus of noise, Amanda, one of the servers, comes up to the bar. I'm always happy to see Amanda.

I have to tell you something
, she says a bit sheepishly, her head turned down slightly, her lovely, expressive eyes looking at me sideways.

Thinking she's going to tell me I need to re-make a cocktail or that there's a change on the menu, I say,

A kid just threw up out near the garden and the mom grabbed the towel out of your muffin basket to clean it up.

I stammer, incredulous.

Amanda tells me again.

I am so freaking busy at this point, I don't even know what to say, if I should say anything at all. I have bottles of wine to open, cocktails to make, checks to drop, food to serve, water glasses to refill, cash to ring into the register, a credit card to run, champagne flutes to wash and polish.

I shake my head back and forth fast, like I'm trying to remove water (or excessive noise) from my ears.

Amanda says,
Maybe I shouldn't have told you right now.

I laugh because if I don't I will cry, scream, and bludgeon.

Good thing I adore Amanda or I might develop really negative feelings about her.

Nah, I know part of the reason she is telling me this is because she is just as shocked and disgusted by the entitlement as anyone, except, of course, for the woman who deliberately pulled out this cute dish towel from a cute basket that contained food and was clearly not meant for wiping up barf.

Sure the mom's probably a little freaked out and maybe embarrassed that her kid a) puked, b) puked in public, and c) puked in public in a restaurant. But it's not like the staff isn't scrambling to help. We have napkins and we're happy to share them. And look! We're coming with them right now!

Yeah, yeah, I know it's just a dish towel. But really. It's the idea that she just usurped it. It wasn't an emergency. If her kid were bleeding profusely, I wouldn't care if she pulled off my shirt to stop the bleeding. But I have no doubt that if my cat puked and I reached into her bag and pulled out the first cloth-like thing I could find she wouldn't appreciate that either.

The rest of the night was a little more normal after that. By "normal" of course I mean chaotic, frenzied, and really, really busy. I swear I do more deep breathing when I'm bartending than I do when I'm sitting in meditation. If I don't, I'll fall apart. I know I need to start breathing more consciously when I can feel my heart beating like I've just done a spinning class.

Cardiobartending! It's the new strip tease-pole dancing workout!

And at least the woman who used my towel didn't destroy the actual muffins. So come midnight, I had my muffin. And after such a crazy night, it was worth the wait.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First Course

For some time now, I've been threatening to start a blog about my career in restauranting, but I've put it off and put it off and now something's happened and I can't put it off any longer.

I had a restaurant dream.

Those of us in the business have restaurant dreams all the time, but this was no ordinary restaurant dream. There was no panic because I didn't recognize anything on the menu, nor anxiety because I didn't understand the new configuration of the restaurant, nor freaking out because I had fourteen tables sat at the same time, nor embarrassment because I'd forgotten to put on pants before I got to work.

I was walking down a dark hallway and stumbled upon a little family restaurant, just a humble hole-in-the-wall with a kitchen table for dining at, and there was my arch academic rival from high school in a gingham apron holding a steaming pot of food in her oven-mitted hands. She was smiling, and I was surprised to see her in food service when she was so super duper smart and destined to study law or molecular biology or just be handed a Nobel Prize in chemistry one day.

Ha! I thought. She's just a waitress!

But then I thought Wait! So am I!

When I relayed this dream to a few co-workers at the restaurant the next day, the host, Julia, piped up with words of assurance. "You're not just a waitress," she said as I popped a straw into an icy gin and tonic. "You're also a bartender!"

This would indeed be true.

(That arch academic rival (who I still think of fondly), by the way, is actually a medical doctor. But can she clear a six top in one pass by herself? I would intuitively answer No.)

It was a weird dream for me to have because a) I rarely use the word "waitress" (my goal in life is to bring back "waiter" as a gender-neutral term) and b) I actually love waiting tables, and I would never belittle someone for doing it.

I'm fortunate enough to wait tables by choice and not just by circumstance. In about eighteen years, the restaurant thing has really grown on me. It started growing on me years ago, and despite the fact that about 99% of waiters claim to hate their jobs, I feel like I've lucked into a pretty fantastic career.

Not that it doesn't come without its challenges. Read any other waiter or restaurant blog and you'll know that there's plenty of madness to write about in the hospitality game, and in my time, I've amassed a few choice tidbits of my own. Once in a while, in the craziness, I forget why I love my job, so as much as anything, this blog is to help me remember that good things come from waiting tables, even when it makes me feel a little nutty, even if I'm not likely to get a Nobel Prize for it.

So who's up for a second course?