One of the jobs I held in high school into college was as a waitress in a small diner. At first I worked the counter, and as I developed a little bit more skill and could keep up with the experienced waitresses on the floor, I was allowed to also cover some tables.
I loved working with Rosie and Gladys. Gladys was an older woman who was kind, but was also your typical no-nonsense New Jersey lady with a good sense of humor and a good way of keeping everyone, including our tempermental boss, in line. Rosie was a sweetheart, a really tall, buxom girl with rosey cheeks to match her name, and big lips. Her mouth was her most outstanding feature, and if it was today, you’d swear that she was full of fillers, but since it was the early ‘80’s, they were all natural. The two of them had formed an interlocking team that ran so smoothly, you would swear they had developed telepathy. I wondered how I would fit into their system without messing up the works.
Man, when I look back at the positive, earnest but inexperienced little dumbbell I was back then, I wonder how they didn’t just beat the tar out of me for making their day harder. I tried as hard as I could to be as good as them, as savvy, and quick to recognize what the customer wanted before they did, but I’m certain that I was in their way far more than they told me, and that it took time to train me and push me into the right way. I will always be grateful to the two of them for showing me the ropes, and to that job for teaching me some valuable lessons.
I think that everyone should experience what it is like to wait tables. Since going out to eat is a universal experience, it would do everyone good to see what it is like on the other side. Our tipping custom in America makes the diner be the arbiter of whether or not the server has done a good job or not, but having never actually done the job, they sometimes base their tips on things that have nothing to do with the job. Or, the absolute worst, is that they find nothing wrong with stiffing the hardworking server. The only thing lower than stiffing the wait staff is pulling one of those stupid pranks to make their tip money gross with ketchup or sticking it in a glass of soda or some such prank. Only adolescents who have not yet fully developed their social conscience or adult douchewaffles do such things.
Another less learned is that it costs you nothing to smile at your server and be polite, and vice versa. That should pretty much be a normal rule for how people behave in public. It costs you nothing to be polite. Oh, I know that most people these days are rude, but it is a mark of character to be civil among swine. My father also taught me that in the way I watched him treat everyone around him, from the janitor to the president of a company. It doesn’t matter what uniform you wear, because we are all people underneath
Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention to how your significant other treats the server. If he/she feels entitled to treat the wait staff badly, how do you feel about that? If you are okay with it, and it is undeserved, then you are a scumbag and should stop reading this right now, as you are unredeemable and show set yourself on fire. However, if you are a reasonable person and get uncomfortable when you eat out because someone you eat with is always rude to the server, don’t put up with that. Call them out! It is unacceptable, and you should not be accepting that behavior, that IS reflecting on you as well. The server is dependent on you to get a tip to make a living wage, and they can’t complain or their spineless manager will just tell them to suck it up, even if the table’s behavior is most egregious. It’s up to you.
I learned a lot about how to teach wait staff, but also how to order food so that the kitchen understands how you want it. Most people who eat eggs know how they like them, but that is learned behavior. Just because Mommy always made them scrambled wet doesn’t mean that as an adult, you have to eat them that way. Maybe you would rather them more cooked, or “scrambled dry”. Maybe you want them more runny, so over-easy, sunny side up or poached is your thing. Whatever, it is, you learn the lingo and you get the food the way you want, and everyone is happy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen customers or friends I was eating out with get all fussy because their food wasn’t prepared the way they wanted, but it WAS prepared the way the menu stated or the way they told the server. Adult humans all should be able to communicate regarding their food, and if you can’t manage that, just shut up and eat it already.
Mostly, the most important lesson of all, is to generally be aware that there are other people around you in a restaurant, and try not to act like hungry, hungry hippos. Don’t let your children scream and run around, don’t be obnoxiously loud, and don’t torment your server to the point that they have to neglect their other tables. You are not the only person on the earth, special snowflake, so be nice.