Dining Tip: Don’t make the server cry
I wait tables on Friday nights for a little extra cash. As a teaching assistant, I am grateful to receive a tuition waiver and a small salary, but the extra $100 I bring in on some weekends is still necessary. I’ve been serving at the same small Italian restaurant since February 2010. It’s not a fancy joint, but the clientele is upper-middle-class, many of whom commute to Chicago for their Important Office Jobs. The food is hearty and affordable. A nice dinner with a half carafe of wine, an appetizer, and two nice entrees might set you back $50.
Waiting tables here is nearly second nature to me now. Though it’s physically very tough, I can practically run on autopilot. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a charming server, I’ve never dropped a dish, and I always smile.
Having been in the service industry for nine years off and on, I’m accustomed to generally rude customers. I’m pretty good at ignoring inconsiderate patrons’ remarks. I’ve developed a tough skin because you have to in this line of work. But I didn’t realize until last Friday how easily a person could still hurt my feelings.
I was sat a table of three around 7:00 pm. They sat for over an hour waiting for the rest of their party, which we were told would total five people. By 9:00 pm, their party had increased to nine people and we were forced to relocate them to a larger table, much to their chagrin. After two hours, they still had not placed any food orders with me, but were well on their way to getting tipsy. Suffice it to say, some of their comments to me were a bit inconsiderate, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.
Around 9:15, I took their dinner orders as well as another round of beverages. The booth where they sat is deep and impossible to serve unless I ask the people near the end to pass things down.
I tell a woman on the end, “Here’s that gentleman’s San Pellegrino if you could pass it down for me. And here’s the extra glass to go with.”
She barks, “It. With it. Don’t end your sentences with prepositions.”
I joke, “Oh, I’m from Indiana. It’s common—“
She cuts me off. “I don’t care where the hell you’re from. You’re American. Use proper grammar.”
I completely shut down.
I checked on my other tables and, when I decided I had a spare moment, I stood in the kitchen and cried.
I tend to play up the folksy, small town girl persona because it’s warm and it works for me. I’ve received nothing but compliments on my service and my boss often tells me how sweet my tables perceive me.
Of course I know that, technically, I used improper grammar. In my defense, at 9:15 pm, after commuting to school at 8:00 am, studying until noon, teaching from 1:00-3:00, commuting home to change clothes so I could wait tables at 4:30, I was not as careful with my regional colloquialisms as maybe I should have been.
To correct my grammar is to strike so incredibly low. I pride myself on my intelligence and my penchant for the nuances of the English language. Her comment was not only rude, it was insulting. And it hurt. I felt so small.
Some people have forgotten that dining out is a privilege, not a right. That, as your server, I’m doing you a favor by catering to your needs. That I’m still a whole, intelligent being with feelings. I recognize that there will always be mean people in the world, people who bully to make themselves feel bigger. I also realize that I am a strong, articulate, capable young woman who shouldn’t let that get to me.
But I am also human and deserve to be treated as such.