In The Weeds: Stuck on Band-Aid Brand
This week I want to share a solid gross-out story that was submitted to me by a friend who is currently waiting tables in California. It started as a simple text that I received on Sunday: “Had a guest find a Band-Aid in his food last night. He put it in his mouth. Call me! XO.” Those 20 words were enough to bring on goosebumps and dry heaves. Apart from a condom or a severed human fingertip, I can’t think of anything more revolting to find in my food than a Band-Aid. The only thing that comes close to the trauma caused by chewing a Band Aid is the trauma caused by being the server to the person who chewed a Band-Aid. I called her to get the full story. I kept a barf bag nearby. You should, too.
My friend is fairly new to this busy restaurant, and she explained that she was already near tears from being super weeded in an unforgiving section of two big tops and several smaller tables.
Sidenote: I’ve worked in many different industries in my life, but there is a certain level of stress only found in food service that causes grown men and women to cry. It’s only dinner, but crying is such a common occurrence for restaurant employees that managers openly talk about it in pre-shift meetings. “We are going to be full by 6:00 and we need everyone to turn all their tables by 7:00 or we’re gonna be f*!ked! It’s up to YOU to make sure that doesn’t happen. It will definitely be intense. So we need you to hold it together. If you must cry, cry like a professional — in your car, on your way home.” Can you imagine if banks held weekly employee meetings on how not to cry at work? Or if fellow auto factory workers would openly and regularly say to each other, “I cried at work yesterday when the line starting moving too fast, but other than that, yeah, everything is going pretty good. How are you?”
Anyway, right when my friend started to tip to that crying point, she dashed over to her 10-top to start clearing their dirty plates. You can tell when a server is weeded by watching her clear a table. If she is slammed, she will not make eye contact with the guests. She will be stacking plates at an awkwardly fast pace and hoping your table conversation carries long enough to finish the clear and get the heck out of there before coming back in a few minutes to offer dessert. Those few minutes of bought time will allow her to grab the salads for the 7-top, take yet more extra “extra olives” for the martini girl on the 3-top, and maybe if she is extremely lucky, she can even take an order on the 2-top. But my friend wasn’t nearly that lucky. She wasn’t lucky at all.
The group of 10 got quiet as soon as she approached. Large tables are never quiet. Never. It’s impossible to get 10 people at a table to all shut the f*#k up at the same time for even a few seconds. The guests looked away, and her eyes followed their gaze downward to the plate in front of a man, the host. In front of him sat a mostly empty plate. And on that plate sat a well-munched Band-Aid.
Her hopes of keeping it together were dashed and time began to shift from fast forward to slow motion. Now in addition to all those people who were waiting on her to wait on them, she knew she had to devote assloads of time to dealing with the ultimate fucktastrophy of a guest chewing on something Biological. Guest ingestions of foreign objects should be classified into tiers. The most horrible would be classified Biological and would include things like hair, blood, fingernails, scabs and Band-Aids. The slightly less nauseating tier would be classified Unfortunately Probable and would include such things as Saran wrap, latex glove bits, wax paper and rubber bands. The lowest tier would be classified Natural and include things like bugs in salads, dirt on potato skins and the occasional speck of crusty dried food on a supposedly clean fork.
The guest and my server friend exchanged the expected dialogue. He expressed disbelief, disgust and the probable need for therapy. She expressed sincere apologies, shock and empathy, and the promise to comp not only this meal but any meal he or his children or grandchildren will ever eat in this restaurant or any other restaurant on the planet for all times in the future forever. Good restaurants tend to go really overboard by throwing money at a problem in hopes that despite chowing down on a stubbornly chewy Band-Aid, the guest will walk away happy and eager to return for another meal. Yeah right. You think this guy is going to get a free $600 dinner and just never mention that he ATE A BAND-AID to whomever will listen when that restaurant comes up in conversation?
As if a mystery Band-Aid was not bad enough (it could have been wrapped around a finger… it could have been wrapped around a toe), the man found it in his entree of Octopus Two Ways. One half of the plate was fried octopus and the other half was chilled octopus with sea salt and endive. I’m not a very experienced octopus eater, but I know that octopus has that rubbery texture thing, a lot like I would imagine a Band-Aid to have. So the guest was probably thinking it was a chef’s “surprise third way” and was really gettin’ after it. It was probably only after it failed to break down that he finally got suspicious and discovered the hurling-worthy truth.
In the end, the guest took every advantage of a free meal and started ordering expensive wine and champagne. His wife stayed classy by demanding free restaurant swag, like T-shirts. While nomming on a Band-Aid is about as gross as it gets, it was a mistake, not a conspiracy, and I don’t think guests should just be able to suddenly own the place when upsetting errors occur. Comped meal? Yes. Gift cards? Yes. Free dessert? Absolutely. Blubbering apologies? Of course. But I mean, I’ve walked into some pretty sick gas station bathrooms that probably would have given me crabs had I used the toilet, but I never came out demanding free slushies and bear claws. What is it about restaurants that turns people into entitled pricks?
I’ve been noticing the enormous difference in how customers behave and treat workers in an office as opposed to a restaurant. For example, you’d never hear a person sign in for a doctor’s appointment and then five minutes later start making a scene. I HAVE A 1:00 APPOINTMENT! I BOOKED AN APPOINTMENT! HOW MUCH LONGER AM I GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT? You’d also never hear patients ask a doctor for an exam room with a better view or for him to knock 50 dollars off the bill when they don’t like the quality of the exam robe. They certainly wouldn’t ask him what else he did or what his real job was. I think I’ll explore this topic next week.
In the meantime, dear ones, chew slowly and do be kind. You never know, in this economy, your server could end up your doctor … and vice versa.