Waitress is next on the list of my first seven jobs. I was a pretty poor waitress, but sometimes it was fun. Yes, fun. One day during setup at a resort, we played stripper music on the jukebox and threw silverware around the dinning room, as if we were casting off clothes. Flying forks, knives and spoons. All over. Then we picked them up, debated whether or not they should be washed, and set all the tables. You decide.
As a waitress, I worked at various resorts, restaurants and greasy spoons. If a bar was attached, I drank too, usually as much as possible. One slow afternoon, a bartender of my acquaintance used a little book entitled “Booze” and made every drink listed. The Zombie was our favorite, but that may be just because it was last. Or, because it had two kinds of rum, liqueurs, fruit juice and pieces of fruit, plus a little umbrella. That afternoon, we swore eternal allegiance to all drinks with little umbrellas.
In my experience, people wait table for tips. The more your patrons drink, the better the tip. Breakfast, for instance, is not a lucrative meal. Dinner is. But sometimes there are unavoidable problems. Like the kitchen catching fire. That episode led to free drinks for patrons and food that came so late it wasn’t even fun. And the best tip I ever received was waiting on a banquet of plumbers. Plumbers have had my respect ever since.
Once, I worked at a diner-type establishment where the cook/owner often walked out. I was not apprised of this, however, until it happened. I was left with burgers on the grill, fries in the fryer and no clue how to make a chocolate egg cream. The patrons sitting at the counter helped me by calling out things such as, “flip the burger, honey,” and “the fries are ready when the light is green.” An egg cream is made with seltzer, milk and chocolate syrup. No umbrella needed. True to form, I only worked there once.
At other venues, I was often afraid of chefs, dishwashers and assorted others who hung out in hot, steamy kitchens. Returning a displeased patron’s meal was the worst. One chef, who spoke only Greek, threw rolls at wait staff he disliked. At least rolls were soft. I also encountered growling chefs, one armed with a giant knife, and of course, the drinkers, who as a rule were not happy drunks. I was glad for the stainless steel pickup table that was in front of the ovens, burners, fryers and grill. And ice machines give me the creeps (see below).
The job I really hated was cocktail waitress. I disliked it so much that I unconsciously caused my own firing. Customers, usually single men, propositioned you, and if you got through that, serving drinks was really boring. As I recall, the men who did not offer their services were just plain obnoxious, and so were their wives. Girlfriends tended to be kind. I offer no social analysis; it was the Seventies.
As a cocktail waitress, I violated Rule One which is: ALWAYS USE THE SCOOP IN THE ICE MACHINE. If you insert a glass directly into the ice piled up in the machine, rather than using the scoop, you risk breaking the glass, and if it breaks, there is no way to find the pieces and the whole thing has to be drained, and then everyone is without ice and you get fired on the spot. It was about my third night.
We nearly always tip liberally in my family. Everyone has heard these stories and knows the drill. It’s the right thing to do.