Monday, October 22, 2012

Waiting to Get Better at Waiting

I am talking about tables, in resteraunts, dives, or pancake houses.

When I was going to college I tried my hand at waiting tables.

Some things I learned....

How to cut a pie so all the pieces were the same. I can't believe I didn't know
this simple trick. Maybe because if I was the first, or even the 2nd person to
get to a pie during a holiday, my piece took up most of my plate if it wasn't
pre-cut. But I learned a neat trick, wish I could show you here, can't but I can
tell you. Cut it in half, spin the pie plate, cut in half again. Spin the plate,
cut perfectly down two of the slices, turn the pie plate, make the perfect cut
again. I may have been the last person on the planet to learn this trick but you woulda
thought I had discovered gravity I was so excited.

Somehow, I never got the pieces quite exact. I never claimed to be an artist and
my boss didn't have the patience to wait for me get better. Fired.

The other thing I learned as a waitress. How to pour coffee. Now I had been pouring
coffee longer than I had been rolling my Papaw's cigarettes. How silly was it to have
to be taught how to pour a cup of coffee?? There is a trick to it when there are 20
people glaring at me shaking their cups in the air or tapping the empty cup on the table so loudly I thought it would break. To prevent an accidental burn, yes, it would still be accidental, I would never want to hurt someone even if they were rude to me, I had to learn to pour the coffee toward the back of the cup, never tanking my eyes off the rim while asking if they wanted cream, to leave enough room. The danger came when the customer wanted to hold their cup, refused to set it down even if I asked very polite while sweat poured down my face and dripped between my shoulder blades. I was terrified of hurting someone so I never quite filled a cup and always seemed so busy pouring, we always ran out of coffee and it only took about 10 seconds for a pot to burn. Fired.

I learned people are rude to total strangers who are trying their best to give them them a pleasant experience for their hard earned money. I learned that after a long
night of running from the burning kitchen of screaming men to the front area where someone may be celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or just their monthly evening out, I was lost. I tried to keep a smile on my face and remember which planet was I really on? I learned that three men could have no shame as they left a tip of one penny each for steak dinners, served by a near tears teenage waitress in training as they laughed at my shock, yes, they waited to watch my reaction, cruel or bad upbringing?

I learned I felt such guilt and shame at not keeping everyone happy, of not doing at last an okay job, if not a perfect job. TV made this look easy. I was fired from there also.

All in all, my waiting to get better at waiting tables would have taken much too long. It was not in future to the next "Flo", to chat and tell my regular customers to "Kiss my grits"... She had confidence and spunk, knowing they admired her skill, they would be back. They would leave more than a 3 cent tip.

That was almost 40 years ago. It's a good thing I got my degree. I would have never have made it in the service industry and I am still in awe of their skill. I pay close attention and am amazed at their comfort level, the banter, the social part of a very demanding job and I always tip at the very least, 25% because they earn it.


  1. I usually tip 15% plus a dollar, or $5, whichever is more. If the job was especially well done, I'll leave more. A half-dozen times or so, I have left the infamous penny tip, but only if the person had been the waiter/waitress from hell.

  2. Hey Gorges, Smythe, that was me if it was 1972!! I was the waitress from hell, but only for a week at that place. I was a deer in the headlights of a Mac truck. No training, I was a woman so, after a slap on the butt, and a "git out thar" I was suppose to be an expert, right?! You guys are too funny, now that it is decades later, of course. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment, T