Waiter Nightmare – Type 1: Dreams


Yes, you still have them after twenty years in the business. After about ten years they abate quite a bit, until you take on a new job. Then you’ll have them for the next year or so. Repeat for each job change. Also, periods of intense stress and long hours, like Holiday Season, will bring them on.

My nightmare is usually structured the same – just the location and details change. It’s like one of those fever-dreams that go in circles endlessly, never achieving resolution, and also never giving over into a new topic.

I am on the floor of an unfamiliar restaurant (in my dream it’s where I work, but in reality I’ve never seen the place). The general sense is that it’s getting busy a little too early. I already have a couple of tables, and I’m not really caught up with … whatever. And I’m not quite in the rhythm of the shift, either.

I have to go back to the kitchen to get a coffee. Perfect example. It sets the carousel spinning.

The coffee station is not set up. I have to make the coffee. Grab the bag . . . Wait! Where are the coffee bags?

Off to Dry Storage. It’s like picking through the warehouse at the end of Indiana Jones. Endless.

Meantime, I have the sense that I’m getting new tables while I’m back here searching for coffee. The searching goes on and on, heartbeat racing so much it’s a wonder I’m still asleep. Finally, in that semi-conscious way, I force myself to have the coffee, and get the hell out of Dry Storage.

Now I have to freakin’ make it. And all the while I know I’ve been seated two more times and I’m still not on the floor. I start the coffee. I figure I can take the first cup out of the machine and save some time – at this point, who cares if it’s too strong? So while it’s dripping, I go to set up the rest of the stuff: creamer, teaspoon, sugar caddy.

No creamers prepped, and no half and half carton nearby. Off I go to the Walk-In.

The Walk-In Experieince is a repeat of the Dry Storage Experience. And I’m getting more tables on the floor.

Eventually, what seems like hours, I have a station full with like a dozen tables, and I still have not been back to the floor. I know I’m getting fired, and it’s not my fault . . .


7 thoughts on “Waiter Nightmare – Type 1: Dreams

  1. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Tue, November 18, 2008 / 7:48 pm

    Wowie zowie, I thought I was the only one who had these dreams! And you hit it right on the head, that is that they are more prevalent when starting a new job or after a really busy night. WOW! In mine, i am going and going and never seem to catch up…. then in the middle of it all, i get that one customer who asks tons of questions, one of which i don’t know the answer…so i run off to the kitchen … and of course the chef is busy .. and then mad that i’m asking a dumb question when we are up to our knees in alligators… finally i wake up …and don’t want to go back to sleep lest i return to that imaginary restaurant!… good post!

  2. chris Sat, February 12, 2011 / 3:37 am

    I know this is old, but I just woke up at 4 in the morning from a horrible waiter nightmare. It’s been 20 years since I wore an apron, but I still have them occasionally, so I googled ‘waiter nightmares’ and this came up. They are different now because they usually involve elements of my past along with elements of my present. In the one I just had, I was waiting on half of the restaurant, and a lot of my guests were people I hated in high school…and I was 40…so they were looking down their nose at me for being a 40 year old waiter…who SUCKED, as far as they could tell. Of course, it’s hard to wait tables when they are miles apart and none of your pens will work and every single food item comes out wrong…all of which pales to the embarrassment of realizing that you’re standing in the middle of your section totally naked, HA!!!

    • waiternotes Sat, February 12, 2011 / 10:50 am

      That is an awesome story, Chris! It’s bad enough, as you say, being 40 years old and waiting on people from your past that you hate. But infinitely worse if you’re not doing well at it! Thanks!

    • waiternotes Sun, March 4, 2018 / 3:24 am

      Chris, if you’re still anywhere: I was rereading my own post and laughing, and then laughed WAY harder at your comment here. Brilliant! I’m 56. And I’m glad my subconscious isn’t as evolved as yours. Because THAT is REALLY a nightmare for me. Thank you!

  3. Freya Evony Tue, July 2, 2013 / 9:46 pm

    I used to have these nightmares too. When I waited tables to get through college I would on occasion have a dream where I was stuck in the weeds and could not for the life of me catch up. However, in a couple of dreams there was a spin. I once dreamed that I went to work and the manager had decided to change the floor plan including the bev station, where the condiments were, and of course the bar was now outside by the pool area. Yeah – a pool was built while I was at home and now we offered pool side seating.

    In another dream, the kitchen goes on strike unbeknownst to me. When I arrive to work, the kitchen staff is picketing outside but in the back since they are not allowed to picket at the front of the house. When I walk inside, another waiter tells me that they are outside picketing but management refuses to close and now we have to make the food and wait on our tables. Of course, my section is completely full and no one has drinks, bread, and least of all their orders taken. Ha!

    thanks for the post – every waiter I have ever met has at one point or another had a waiting nightmare!

    • waiternotes Sun, March 4, 2018 / 3:30 am

      Freya. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your comment 5 years ago. Jeez. But I just reread my own post, and your story. Super! So good. I love it.

  4. Teresa Wed, February 19, 2014 / 7:38 am

    I haven’t waited tables for 15 years and I had one this morning. This one started with glass wear. Then ice. I went to manage and greet my now full section and found a customer had been sick in the booth…that is a new twist.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

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