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!


Why?
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.


2 comments:

Julie said...

Vanessa--
I'm not a waiter, nor have I ever been one, but your writing still speaks to me. You should write a book (if you haven't already done so...)
Thanks.

James said...

Well, at least they didn't ask if the water tasted too watery.