Sunday, March 26, 2006

I know I just posted, but. . .

I decided to do two separate posts, one for my rant about work (see previous post) and one for updates about our family and my own random musings.

My husband has accepted a job offer in Khon Kaen, Thailand (www.khonkaen.com). They've also offered me a job, part-time or full-time, whatever I want, plus free daycare for our daughter. And they are paying our housing and utilities. We'll never get rich in Thailand, but it will be a great experience.

Also, I received my grades on the last three papers of my undergraduate college career, and they were all very good. I was a little worried that I'd forgotten how to write, being out of school for so long, but apparently I can either still write or the professor just didn't care. I have a final exam to take and then I will officially be done with my degree! Yeah! There were a lot of times I almost didn't finish, but now I'm so glad I did. It means a lot more to me now that I have had to struggle for it. And my husband and baby have made sacrifices too, because finishing school has impacted our time together as a family. Still, it feels good to finish what you start.

Random thought: there are a lot of phrases that only make sense within a specific "community." I remember learning about this is my intro to linguistics class, where we discussed my favorite example to date (see this link). It's also true of the community of drinkers. There are a lot of alcoholic drinks with funny names, and until I started serving, I have never heard most of them. When someone asks you for a "fuzzy navel" or a "sex on the beach" or a "screwdriver," it's hard to keep a straight face, especially if you're a Mormon girl who has never had a drink in her life.

On a final, very happy note, I was digging through a closet today and found a pair of jeans from my freshman year of college, and they FIT. Seven years and one baby later, they still fit. It's like the line from First Wive's Club when Bette Midler's character's son asks if her dress is new, and she says, "it's better than new, I haven't been able to fit into it for two years." These jeans may be ratty and out of style, but I've worn them all day.

Customer Education Week

I've decided that every restaurant needs to have a Customer Education Week. It might be helpful if everyone were on the same page when it comes to expectations. Maybe I'm just saying this because I've worked four days in a row, and people tend to get on my nerves more when I work a lot of hours, but still. . . if we laid a few ground rules it might make life easier for everyone. A few suggestions to improve your future dining experiences:

1. Don't expect a server to be able to give stuff away. What makes a customer think that I can substitute lobster bisque for a salad at no charge? A guest asked me this on Friday, and when I informed him that there would be a charge, he said "I'm sure you can work some magic there." Actually, I'm a server, not a magician, and since this soup has to be ordered from the kitchen I can't get it without ordering it through the computer and charging the guest. Even if I could get it, I would be risking problems with my boss. It's not like lettuce and lobster are interchangeable.

2. If having a bunch of servers come out and sing "Happy Birthday" to you with a free slice of cake is important to you on your special day, consider calling ahead. Not all restaurants do this. Mine used to, and doesn't anymore. It has disappointed more than one person.

3. Please hang up your cell phone when ordering. It's rude, and I highly doubt you are paying your server enough to justify the rudeness.

4. Please READ THE MENU. Especially if you think it's cute to have your date order for you. Telling me that you would like to have the tilapia is only the beginning. If you will read the menu, you'll discover a wealth of information needs to be communicated to your server, including the preparation method, the portion size, the side dish, and the salad choice and dressing, if applicable. All of this is on the menu. If you read it, you will avoid a situation that is awkward for everyone, and also avoid tempting me to omit telling you that you have a choice and just ordering you what I think you should have (which would be whatever is most expensive and/or easiest for me).

And just so you know, the custom of a man ordering for his date began back in the days when all servers were men, and a lady could not speak directly to a man to whom she had not been introduced. Since this is no longer a social taboo and I'm a woman, it isn't really necessary for a man to order for his date.

5. It is not generally wise to have small children in a restaurant late at night. I had two children under the age of two in my section at 10:00pm last night. This is not fun for anyone, least of all the child. I can't tell you how many children I have seen asleep in booths in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Get a babysitter, get take out, or get used to eating before 9:00pm.

I wonder if any profession has the same dilemma serving does, in that your employer does not control your income. My boss can control my income to some extent - she determines how much I work, and when, and what section of the restaurant. And a lot of my income depends on how busy the restaurant is. The deciding factor is tips, and that (theorectically) depends on the quality of service that I provide. So when there is a vast difference between what the customer wants (free substitutions, extras, etc) and what I can give, it's a tough spot to be in.

Luckily, the vast majority of my customers are polite, considerate people who tip adequately and make my job enjoyable. Kudos to good restaurant patrons everywhere.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Drunk People Give Great Tips

Had a very a interesting Saturday double. Luckily, the Hermans didn't come in (they did the Saturday before, and I did a less than stellar job as their server, so maybe they gave up on me). The day was going fine, nothing awful and nothing spectacular, when I was seated a family of six people. They proceed to order a bottle of wine, a beer, and two sodas. Then they each ordered an appetizer. This is very quickly racking them up a large check, at least by the standards of the "Crimson Crustacean" where I work. Then, the father decides he doesn't like the wine, so he orders another bottle, this time a Pino Grigio (the first was a white zinfadel). He was super picky about the way I opened the wine, poured the wine, etc. Maybe this is a bad attitude but, you know, it's a two-star restaurant, and these are $18 bottles of wine - I didn't break the cork, I didn't make a loud pop when I opened it, and I didn't spill it. What more do you want from me? Long story short, five of the six of them ordered lobsters, only we didn't have two-pound lobsters so two of them had to get three-pounders, then the father and oldest son ordered desserts and after dinner drinks. After the guy raised a huge stink about having to have a three-pound lobster instead of a two-pound lobster, my manager gave them two of their appetizers for free. It was over $300 still. Total tip? Eighty-five bucks. Not bad. Even if he was a total pain.

On another note, my daughter has been sick all day. All she wanted was to be held and watch Barney. I never thought I'd let a child of mine watch Barney, but what can you do? She loves the songs. Her fever peaked at 103, but we gave her some Tylenol and it came down. I hate having my kid sick. There's nothing as miserable as watching her be miserable and not being able to help her.

Bought luggage for our trip today. Every little thing gets us that much closer.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Saturday double

I worked a double today, which means I arrived at work shortly before noon and left the restaurant well after midnight. But, I made decent money so that makes it worth it, I guess.

This couple came in today, I'll call them the Hermans. The Hermans come in every Saturday afternoon. They have a favorite server and always request her. Unfortunately, she was fired last week. So today they request me. I've waited on them once before and I remembered several of their preferences. What I didn't realize was that the $5 tip on a $30 check last time was not, in fact, indicative of their ability to figure 15%. Today they tipped $5 on $50. There are an amazing number of people in this world who still think that $5 is a decent tip, regardless of what the check amount is. Grrr. They had better not start requesting me, or I may become the worst server in the history of the world for one hour every Saturday.

Other than that, it was a fairly normal day. Usually Saturdays are great fodder for appalling stories about the people who come into the restaurant, but not today. Unless you count the guy who wanted all his drinks made with Hennessy. Strawberry daquiri, with Henessy. Raspberry margarita, Hennessy. Which begs the question, is it still a margarita if there is no tequila? A daquiri with no rum? Hmmm.

Which reminds me of the lady who came in last week and ordered a glass of "burgundy". For those of you who don't know, burgundy is not a category of wine. You can order a glass of white wine or a glass of red wine, or a blush wine, but there is no such thing as a burgundy. It is not necessarily wise of a server to tell this to a guest, however, so I ordered her a Cabernet Sauvignon. Then she asked for ice, which she PUT IN HER WINE.

(Yes, I'm aware that most, if not all, of the people who will ever read this do not drink and have no frame of reference for how appalling this really is, so let me just tell you: you don't put ice in wine, especially red wine. If the wine was supposed to be cold, it would have been chilled. It is gauche to put ice in wine.)

She and her dining companion then proceeded to complain about the lack of options on the menu, order snow crab, ask for extra butter, complain about the butter not being hot enough, and tell me that it was my fault if they got sick from the cold butter. Mind you, at this point it is 11:30 at night and the butter is cold because the kitchen staff put it in the fridge for the night. I didn't realize the butter had actually had a chance to cool off, or I would have gladly warmed it for them. To top it off, they stiffed me completely. But what can you expect from people who put ice in their glass of "burgundy"?

Anyway, on a non-work related note, my husband recently posted his resume on a job board for TESOL jobs in Thailand. And, he got two responses! They are not from schools in our preferred cities (we have a definite idea of where we want to live) but still, it was exciting that they were seeking him out. He is very qualified though. I'm alternately excited to go and scared to go.

Chantrea has started signing "please" and "thank you". It's beyond cute. Sometimes she'll be pointing to something she wants and I'll say "what do you say?" She then signs "please" and "thank you" in rapid succession, like "whatever, just give it to me and I'll do whatever you want." But, at least we are establishing a good habit, right?

Right.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Getting Started

I've wanted a blog for a long time, but couldn't think of a name and never seemed to have the time to start. I've finally decided on a name that wasn't too lame or too limited to circumstances - I didn't want anything that incorporated my current occupation or location since they are bound to change soon. But sleep deprivation, that seems to be a constant theme in my life. Maybe it's because I seem need a lot of sleep, or maybe I just don't sleep soundly, or maybe I'm just a chronic worrier. Or some combination thereof. I've already taken my generic Tylenol pm so I'm just waiting for it to kick in. I could seriously get addicted to that stuff, but I only take it when I've had a particularly stressful night at work or when I have to work the next day and don't think I'll be able to sleep. Since my sleep schedule is all out of whack, I don't feel tired and I have to work a double tomorrow (Sat), I need a decent night's sleep tonight. And just to warn the five people who may be planning to read this blog on a regular basis, there will be a lot of ranting and raving about my job. I'm a server in a restaurant and this blog will probably be the forum for venting my frustrations about people who are uneducated, rude, messy, overly demanding, smell bad or just don't tip. So be forewarned.