Earlier I wrote about Waiter Nightmares. Of course there’s another kind. Real Life.
For a Real Life Waiter Nightmare, I’m gonna have to go back to the early days.
It’s funny that as I’ve become more experienced and also straightened out my attitude, when the worst things happen I end up with my funniest and/or proudest moments. I think this is because I’ve come to realize that almost any situation can be turned to work in my favor. Not to trivialize what pilots do – it is much more important and crucial – but being a waiter is like flying a passenger jet. If you hit trouble, but still manage to get down safe, you’re a hero. If you hit trouble and don’t get down quite safe, but you do the best you can to keep your passengers calm, you’re still a hero.
Of course, I’m speaking for my own Waiter Nightmares, which usually involve trying circumstances beyond my control. If you, the waiter, are responsible for the nightmare, that’s another story.
Before I scour my memory, I’ll add that what is a nightmare for one waiter’s career, is a normal day on the job for another. My heart goes out to you. You fellows and ladies working the Lunch Crush with short staff, where the kitchen always goes down, day after day, and it’s just become part of your job to pretend to be cheery and make the best acceptable fraudulent excuse, and then go hide in the back until some (ANY) of your food comes up, because you are not going out there again without something to bring them. Oh, it can be tough.
Again, as I recollect, let me add another point that’s becoming clear. If a waiter has worked both lunch and dinner shifts during his/her career, the Ultimate Nightmare probably happened at lunch.
Why? Consider that most waiters are between the ages of 18 and 28; most waiters make a great effective hourly wage (i.e., including tips) and almost all of it is cash at the end of the shift; most waiters work 3-6 hours a shift.
All that facilitates the most-assured probability that our waiter has been out drinking the night before. And late.
There should be no chicken/egg debate here. The whole thing is a perfect storm. People inclined to the party life as youngsters are drawn to the beauty of easy hours and easy money as a waiter. People with no such inclination, who just want that same good job out of high school, are seduced by the environment of partying, fun, frivolity, and free spending they see night after night on the job. People from the same group who resist are nevertheless eventually swept along in the peer pressure from all the other waiters.
So when you work lunch as a waiter, you work lunch with a hangover a lot of the time.
I’ll also add (I’m stalling here because it’s hard to recall a specific memory) that a true Waiter Nightmare must involve guest discontent or even rebellion. Mere bad conditions behind the scenes doesn’t qualify.
I remember a time in Northern California at my first good job. There was flooding in the back of the house. Toilet stuff and everything. And it was deep. The managers were putting planks on the walkways so we wouldn’t get shit-juice on our shoes and carry it to the dining room. But the broilers were still working, and the fish and steaks didn’t hit the ground, so we were taking out hot, tasty food right on time, for the most part. In the back, people were falling on their asses in effluent, but the guests had no idea. We just had to throw away our shoes at the end of the night.
. . .
I still can’t think of one. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
[Edit: Here it is, my real waiter nightmare.]