In the Weeds: Scene and Heard
Every restaurant has its share of silly, seethy, or strange conversations going on at the tables at any given time, but as a server, you usually only get snippets. It’s hard to find enough tasks to do while continuing to loiter around a table that’s gotten into some juicy talk. We have all slowly poured water into glasses, crumbed a relatively crumbless table, and cleared silverware one piece at a time while listening to guests flirt, gossip or – our favorite – fight.
Servers love a good fight. We can detect it in the energy surrounding the table. The voices are low, the shoulders are up, and if we are really lucky, someone starts crying. Oh, it’s just too good! Fights are rare, much rarer than the also entertaining under-the-table groping. No doubt the server who finds a fight in progress will quickly let every other server, manager, and kitchen worker know. It becomes a spectator sport as the staff begins doing “drive-bys” on the table. This means that the server has walked into the kitchen and announced something like, “Fight at table 22. He just told her that he misses the girl she used to be…before they were married, before kids. Drive by! She is just about to cry!”
Nobody loves a fight more than managers. They love to act all oblivious as they stop at the table to smile and say, “How is everything tonight?” just to get a reaction. Their thin lips curl back revealing their coffee-stained teeth as they turn to walk away. We know it’s mean and heartless, and we aren’t proud. But it does break up the monotony.
Bartending, on the other hand, provides an opportunity to hear all kinds of amusing conversations all at once. Once people order their drinks, they start talking and don’t think for a moment that you are listening. I could be standing one foot directly in front of someone, but the bar top seems to provide an imaginary sound shield in their minds. I’ve been keeping track of the best sound bites the last few weeks. Here they are.
Brunette woman with a normal sized upper body, but a lower body that didn’t quite fit on the bar stool :
“I don’t know. On my profile I listed my build as medium, which it is. His profile said slim and medium builds were acceptable. We met for coffee and his next email said I had misrepresented my build. Can you believe that? I was shocked. What a power complex he must have.”
Barbie look-alike wearing the biggest diamond ring I’ve ever seen:
“So I went to the bank to get a money order for this little piece of property we are buying. I asked the teller girl for a money order for $358,000…like whatever, not a big deal….but she totally stood there for a second staring at me like she couldn’t even imagine the number. Where are these girls from seriously? Have they never seen more than $1,000 all at once?” (Cackling laughter from the Barbie friends).
Middle-aged man business man with a younger protégé:
“Let’s hurry up and drink a few vodkas. My wife is meeting us here for dinner in a bit. We’ve been married 20 years and as far as she knows, I haven’t had a drink in 10. So once we get to the table, I switch to iced-tea and you keep up appearances.”
The strangest conversation I’ve heard by far was actually between a man and woman, and I accidentally got involved. The woman came to the bar alone and sat for about 20 minutes having a drink. The man approached her while I was standing there and asked her if it was okay for him to sit next to her. She agreed and they quickly began introducing themselves and exchanging pleasantries. I thought it was a typical pick up or possible blind date. He started asking her all about where she was from and what she did, etc. They were making quite a show of it because even a few other patrons sitting near by asked me what was up with them. I asked if they wanted to order an appetizer. He said, “Well, I really wanted to share the tuna, but she has always hated tuna.” She slapped him on the arm and said, “Honey, you aren’t supposed to know that!” I looked at them quizzically. She explained that after 17 years of marriage, this is how they do foreplay….by meeting in a bar and pretending not to know each other. I’m all for keeping it hot in the bedroom, but on the other hand, my theater side was screaming, “Well stay in character for God’s sake!” But instead, they asked me to go along with this Tomfoolery for the rest of the night.
Is there no end to what we service staff are asked to do? Here are some guidelines. Water no lemon. Extra hot plate. Extra cheese. 20%. Gluten allergies. Split checks. Side of ranch. 25%. Accomplice to your sexual role playing. 50% and up.