Waiter’s Holiday . . . Uh, no

Hey, no one posts to their blog every single day. And if they do, they’re boring.

I called in sick on Tuesday at Michael’s. And no, this was the rare occasion that my ‘illness’ was not what I call a Waiter’s Holiday. That would be when you are anything but sick, and you just want to take the day off.

As a generalization, waiters do not call in sick when they actually are sick. ‘I can’t call in sick. I need the money.’ I’ve even seen waiters pimp their illness for better tips! As Mikethewaiter noted recently, we can be a self-centered bunch.

Of course the implicit reverse of this is, ‘I don’t need the money right now, so I’m calling in sick.’

It reminds me of a weekend about fifteen years ago. I was working at the Fish House. The schedule there was a fixed affair – wherein you are always scheduled, for instance, Thursday through Sunday (coincidentally, that was my schedule for years at the Fish House). If you want a day off, it’s on you to get the shift covered by one of your mates. Same for vacations. The managers washed their hands of the whole thing. Personally, the fixed schedule is my preference over the manager-written schedule. You have high predictability because it never changes; you have high flexibility because you’re not dependent on currying favor with the manager; you have ultimate fairness because others can’t curry favor with managers to get better shifts (or get them off). The schedule is the schedule.

Anyway, back on point. Super Bowl Sunday was approaching and my gang of friends was going to rip it up at a fancy seafood brunch down in Orange County. At the time, the attraction to us was that they put a bottle of Stoli on ice in the chilled buffet bar, next the shrimp and oysters and everything. We also expected a lot of girls to be there.


Being scheduled Super Sunday, I couldn’t find a waiter to cover my dinner shift. But I was able to switch with the On Call server. That put me just a step away from having the day off. I consulted the manager, who told me that it would not be exceptionally busy at the Fish House Super Sunday, so, barring a server calling in sick, I would have the day off.

That wasn’t enough for me. I then went to every server scheduled that night – five of them – and told them my plans. I asked them fairly if they were planning on calling in sick to get the day off. If so, I wouldn’t bother with the On Call switch, I’d just work. To a man, they assured me they wouldn’t. There was one woman, though, who was at the time a good friend of mine. She said I would have no problem. She was meeting her boyfriend in San Diego for his bike race on Saturday, coming back Sunday afternoon. No problem.

We hit the Stoli and beers and peel-and-eat shrimp pretty hard that day. The girl thing was a disappointment, but everybody was getting trashed, so it was fun anyway. I called dutifully for my On Call at 3 p.m. Just a formality of course.

‘We’re gonna need you at five.’

I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t. I was seething. My woman friend had called in. She claimed ‘car trouble.’

I immediately quit drinking and started watching my friends have fun. I was sober enough to drive, and ended up at work, having a quite profitable evening. I got home to find my roommates crashed out already. Next day, I was bright-eyed and fresh. All told, it really wasn’t so bad.

Except for the fact that I knew she and her boyfriend had two cars. She could have taken his home to cover her shift. And of course, it was all a lie anyway. I couldn’t believe she would be so selfish as to do that to me, when I’d asked her (again, fairly) in advance. I had acknowledged she might be planning to lie and call in to have the day off. If so, I was willing to defer to her and let her have it. We were not friends for a full year after that, and even then, it was never the same.

So what did I do for my Waiter’s Holiday? I was actually sick. Caught the stomach flu, or the something flu. Almost the whole family got it in a three day period. I spent 32 hours in bed. Felt okay to work yesterday, but had to nap between shifts. Then crashed again when I got home. Well, crashed after watching the Lakers handle the 76ers on Tivo.

Today again, I had a rock solid two-hour nap between shifts. I’m pretty much feeling better now. Another good night’s rest and I think I’ll be up to snuff again.

Yesterday was poor all around. Thirty-five dollars at lunch and $65 at dinner. Today, on the other hand was $110 at lunch and $155 at dinner.

The mood at Michael’s for lunch has been pretty good. Volume is down, certainly, but the guests are spending. It’s as if the only ones left are the ones who can really spend money – and they’re doing it. Today I had only three tables. It’s been like that.


5 thoughts on “Waiter’s Holiday . . . Uh, no

  1. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Sat, December 6, 2008 / 5:21 pm

    glad to see you are having some “up” days to counteract the “down” days. Hope you are feeling better.

  2. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Sun, December 7, 2008 / 2:46 pm

    In all my years in this business, there has only been one good super bowl shift … everything just came together well and it was lucrative and smooth …. but usually it is not a desirable shift…

  3. waiternotes Sun, December 7, 2008 / 2:56 pm

    So true about Super Sunday. Add in that most restaurant workers, even the non-sports fans, are disappointed not to be at a party somewhere else.

  4. MikeTheWaiterDotCom Sun, December 7, 2008 / 4:41 pm

    can you believe i was again directed here by google alerts…. how cool is that ? maybe some day, i too, can make it to the big leagues!
    peace, mtw

  5. waiternotes Mon, December 8, 2008 / 12:42 am

    Mike: I’m very excited about the Google Alerts thing. Thanks for letting me know.

    I wouldn’t call this blog the big leagues. From the looks of your comments sections, you’re getting some nicely rising traffic.

    Also, I have my own blog in my Google Reader – the news reader thing I mentioned in an earlier post. It’s possible that this is how I got on that ‘list.’ You should look into it.

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