Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Nightmare......

Moments ago I was neck-deep in the most frightening, anxiety-ridden experience of my young career as an Italian restaurant server. My anxiety passes like some kind of a blurry, speed-driven hallucination; and I take a second, a deep breath to try and revisit the episode. What just happened? Just take a few breaths. Wow, it’s bad…ughhh, it’s really bad.
 I’m like a young, well-practiced actor slipping and stuttering through a Hollywood film studio audition. And despite whatever has happened here, I have no shot at success. My head spins frantically without truly grasping the grave seriousness of how screwed I actually am right now. I’m in way too deep, and I swallow hard as I realize my downward spiral. I’m three-quarters of the way through the never-ending, worst day of my life! Everyone and anyone who has waited tables will agree that they have survived the day sent to them from the dark, smoldering depths of hell when absolutely nothing, and I really mean, nothing at all goes right.
All I see surrounding me are inflated caricature renditions of the faces of my most regular regulars scattered at random throughout the full and seemingly never-ending dining room sitting, waiting, and tapping their nails and knives on the pressed white table linens with their chins sunken into their palms thinking “What the fuck Daniel?” I have food to run for all of them by the way, which has been dying in the kitchen window, sauces have long separated and meat and veg has gone cold, but of course no one seems to be around to give me a hand. The kitchen is relentlessly screaming “service”, and that means me. There is no busboy working apparently and no other server to be found to help run any of my food and the dining room is full, I think, but I don’t even have time to think. And while I’m trying to think, I don’t even think anyone is working the salad station. ?HoIa? Jose? I need fifteen side caesars, 12 side Greeks, and two mamma’s salads or tu mammas, right.
Do I really have to walk back out into that dining room right now? Shit. Shoulders are slumped, my back is arched and I probably look like I just want to fall face-first off a cliff right now.
OK, yeah, our front room is packed with people impatiently waiting to be seated; apparently they’ve been standing a while. I watch reluctantly as a number of our usually happy and often-seen families file back out the front door of our usually very convenient and accommodating neighborhood restaurant before they were able to have been sat at any, let alone their favorite, table while they patiently waited for over an hour. Their children probably needed to be bathed and asleep by now.  
Is there even a hostess on right now? I’m grabbing piles of plates stacked up and placed teetering on tables’ edges out of the way on my guests’ tables whom are most likely thinking without a doubt “Can someone please take this shit out of my way and refill my wine glass…like 5 minutes ago?” This restaurant is about to fall down around me. The ice machine just ran out of ice and there are no more sliced lemons for drinks; there’s no bread ready to serve to my tables, a dead bug was just discovered in a salad somewhere but I have yet to answer to them, an undercooked steak was served and someone just spilled a glass of red wine all over the place ruining their table cloth and a white blouse, not to mention the floor I have no time to have cleaned. “Oh no! Can I get you a new, clean table cloth? Ok, well, uhhh, well here, do you mind changing it yourselves? Uh and there’s a bottle of red up on top of the wine rack over there if you would like another glass or two. Yeah it’s whatever, here’s my wine key, take what you’d like. Sorry I gotta go.”
I need to open a bottle of Chianti for another table as I scramble to fill both decaf and regular coffees for yet another four top of two elderly couples who have no clue what is going on around them. Shit, we never brewed decaf coffee today! Why must I now, in the middle of the greatest disaster of my life, have to brew decaffeinated coffee?! I briefly consider serving them all regular coffee, but quickly dismiss that dumb idea as I imagine giving one or more of the old guys a heart attack with our very strong and dark Italian roast. So I have to start brewing decaf and try very hard to remember not to forget about it while I’m going mad attempting to accomplish 15 other things at once…as I sink. Who drinks decaf coffee anyways? That’s like snorting baking soda, it ain’t doing shit for ya. Hey as long as their coffee is hot and their meatballs come with angel hair pasta they are fucking golden, my retirement home friends. I run, like RUN, salads for someone thinking it is funny that I remembered to do that one simple task considering that I was sure I was going to forget to run their salads while needing to do a hundred other things, then I get the others their coffee. Sadly enough I think the old folks only get out every few months, but the last thing I want to do is to forget about them so as to avoid one of them croaking in their cardigan before getting back to their retirement home. I know that’s an awful thought, sorry. So I act with urgency and utmost respect for them, of course. I have multiple desserts to plate for others who don’t seem to be in any rush for some reason, I could really use the table people. Salads need to be dropped on table 23 and 27, the first of whom had been sitting entirely too long before AND after ordering, shit, shit shit! I am so fucked! Where’s my wine key? How am I going to open this bottle of Chianti? And I greeted table 27 with an apology, which is basically the worst thing you can do as a server of any caliber, variety or locale. But I also thank them because, let’s face it, they deserve a little praise because they didn’t walk out after not being greeted for almost ten minutes and deserve an explanation, or has it been twenty minutes? They should have probably been eating a free appetizer by now if I could find the front of the house managing owner, or if they had a server who could handle his shit this evening. Oh, and I’m sure they or at least one of my tables where planning on getting a little toasted on some nice red wine tonight and planned on being at home and getting romantic by this point in the evening. Yet I have even managed to keep them from enjoying that God-given right. I’d be pissed too! Did I drop checks on 12 and 28 yet?!?! Tony Bennett’s playing in the background. And I hum nervously, but not just nervous like my mom constantly does. I’m humming so fast and loud that I’m just buzzing hmmmmmhmmm mmm mmmmh, okay kind of like my mom, trying to drone out the cries of pissed-off customers, while I pretend to not see them waving their empty bread baskets at me. My eyes rattle in my skull, I need a cup of coffee and want to fast forward nine hours to 11:00 p.m. This is the worst thing ever!  
However, there is one table whom has stayed in my immediate and short attention span, 27. They have been somehow miraculously been in perfect timing somehow through all of the chaos, and soon to receive their salads (hopefully, please God!). I picture a pair of white doves sitting on smoldering debris in an active warzone, that’s weird-oh it’s my ignorant lovebirds. Ignorant to what inexcusable failure is going on around them, they are happy and in love on a date or something. Holding hands maybe, that’s kinda gay, but whatever they are what is holding it all together for me. I love them too because that’s all I have right now. They remain my focal point, the pace at which I should be with all of the other 18 or 30 tables at the moment. It is exactly that usually simple and thoughtless rhythm which I am frantically trying to recover for the other 90 or so (and for really good reasons) impatient and pissed off people in the restaurant. Is there really no other server coming in to help me?  I am struggling as is, sweating through my shirt, and have seemingly forgotten and feel like I’ve abandoned most of the tables in the restaurant. Once I’ve gotten stuck in a certain section I just can’t get out because people grab at me like a scene from a zombie movie. People from all over the dining room are approaching me with lists of demands and needs. I can do nothing but say sorry quickly and keep walking to whoever is waving something at me, then laugh it all off before grasping that just as the restaurant filled up, so shall it empty. I am beyond maxed out, and there is no way I can wrap my head around taking care of 100 people simultaneously all by myself! I suddenly have EVERYONE asking for their check at once.
They have all lost faith in me and they all know me well. I’ve seen my regulars all on a consistent basis more so than I’ve see my mother over the past 6 years for God’s sake. Nice huh? Not so much right now. Sniffle. Momma? Where are the other servers, the owners, a busboy? Anyone??? I am just so fucking screwed! Is anyone even cooking my food? I feel so dreadful because my regulars, my people basically pay my bills, so then I guess this shitty performance is comparable to me just slapping my mom right across the face. My stomach hurts, and so it should considering these people come visit me more often, give me more money and don’t get asked to babysit nearly as often as my mother does. Their glasses sit with nothing but ice melting in them as the heat from my melting face seems to warm the 3,800 square feet around me. Is the A/C even on? Credit cards lie lonely on the table cloths, people are leaving cash on the tables and leaving without knowing what they owe. It’s really that bad. I might be sweating measurable amounts of perspiration at this point. Does anyone have a squeegee? No one will ever be asking to sit in my section again, rather quite the opposite…if they ever come back. How could anyone forgive or forget this hellish experience? I’m hopeless, I’m done…my brother owns the place and I’m fired after dinner. I’m even tempted to just walk out the back door and abandon the whole deal right now.
Deep breathe Danny. This can’t really be happening. Did I just get sat another table? Ffffffuck me. Can someone take them? Are they deaf? Hello, anyone? I didn’t even think there was an open table in the restaurant and one just happens to appear of course! Oh right, the people leaving cash and running left open seats. They sat at a dirty table before I can get it flipped, but they’re not part of our large local deaf population but way worse. They are European tourists. Really? This rarely happens, but it has happened often enough, the Euro tourists, that any of my servers, had I known where any of them where, know to immediately fuck with me for having to deal with them.
I speak slowly and pronunciate well. “No, we don’t have coke lite but we do have diet coke; sorry you can’t bring your mini dog in here and please try not to smoke cigarettes in the dining room, please?” Is this guy really rocking, like Rocking, a designer fanny pack? What an asshole. These are those who think every “garcon”, or waiter, around the globe is on a salary courtesy of the ownership.  So they don’t expect that any gratuity of significance is necessary for the waiter except fucking pocket change, by practice. I’m sorry, but I am not here as a courtesy and I’m not doing you a favor. Well, fuck you very much Pierre! At least I know to expect it by now. It might just add up to enough to buy me a few pieces of gum or maybe even a cigarette if I still smoked, and you’re making me want to. Sorry, Stephane but we’re not in London, Miami or Marce here. Cough it up s’il vous plait.  
Oh great my favorite lowlife, Aaron, is here. Don’t act impatient asshole you just sat down. He ‘s spinning his upended bread plate on the table like a quarter on a granite countertop. Aaron does it all the time actually which totally pisses me off because basically, who the fuck does that?  Well, Aaron does. Put the plate down and put your hands on your lap, dickhead. Do you need a toy to play with or something? His wife obviously never fucks his chubby ass. She’s the bitter-but-I-don’t-know-why type. And of course he and his miserable wife have a movie to make. If Aaron doesn’t get immediate service in order to get out as soon as possible he will annoy me to the point of wanting to commit suicide. He’ll go as far as complaining to the owners, yet nothing will come of it. Did Aaron just walk into the kitchen? In fact, I think they may have just missed the previews for their show as the bread plate continues to twirl. They come at least two nights a week, I want to say Monday and Friday usually. For the record, my disrespect for Aaron comes from the fact that he used to place large catering orders to be picked up midmorning to take to and schmooze doctors into purchasing medical equipment from him. He had been leaving huge tips on his carry out catering orders for years and has the tip put on a gift card and uses that to purchase his meals with me, all while it’s being paid for by his corporate employer.  He’s basically a slime-ball crook and rips off his company for hundreds of dollars a month. I don’t really hate ‘em, like I said they kind of are annoying, but they love me and take good care of me always! Where’s their dinner? I put it in hours ago it seems! Can someone run it if it’s up? Hello, anyone?
And as I take a quick, sweeping glance around me trying to reorganize the unorganizable, all these melding faces read, “where the fuck is my server, my bread, my salad, my appetizer, my pasta?” oh and, “where are my lightly done slices of Sicilian pizza I told you I would be in for today while I was here eating dinner last night…Someone ate them?!?! Hahaha. You should have been expecting me and could have had my piping hot food on the table before I got here, if you have remembered that I had told you that I was going to be here today…oh I ‘m not done yet…get over here so I can take up an unreasonable amount of your valuable time telling you some stupid story about my well-bred show dogs who eat better than that schmuck sitting at table 21…or how I think the country’s government should be run. Oh and guess what? I could be a football commentator in my free time apparently.” Ask me if I really, truly give a fuck, please. Doesn’t your husband care what you have to say? Wait, you just yelled at him for speaking so never mind. Sorry lady, but that first question was rhetorical, uh that..wait…that means, uh stop..that means don’t answer me Jody. Stop talking please. I, uh…uh hello?, I have other tables to take care of if it had not occurred to you. Did you really just start talking about space flight? What the fuck, lady? I gotta go. Can we resume this conversation during dinner later or maybe lunch tomorrow, please? Ok, yeah thanks for that.  
The problem I’m having lies in the fact that I have such a long, clusterfuck of a mental to-do list ever revolving in my head right now (more bread for 12, check for 28, table 11 “be right with you”)  that there is no way in hell, without the physical presence and omnipotent help of Jesus Himself like right now, that anyone is going to leave this restaurant, my dear and second almost permanent home at all  happy and in a reasonable or even rational amount of time. And dare they even think about leaving a gratuity close to what is strived for, let alone any gratuity whatsoever! WTF!?
I sit up in my bed in a cold sweat and realize that I may have also been completely naked during part, or all, of my horrifically bad dream bordering on nightmare…no I’ll definitely call it a nightmare. And where am I? I think I’m in bed, ok I like my bed it’s a nice and comfortable bed. 
While standing in the middle of the dining room, my manhood swinging in the breeze and in front of my disappointed audience, I probably should have also just started to cry to put icing on that shitcake. I have nothing to be embarrassed about, ya know, but Jody has no need to see my prick. Fuck! That was not awesome! Did that really happen? Wait…ok. I don’t think so. Ok. It was a dream. I must be in bed still, but I’m sweating profusely.  I sit up thinking, “what the hell” and after coming to my senses at 3:45 a.m., I realize that it was not the first, or will be the last horrifying, work-related nightmare. But it was probably the worst to date and happens to be reoccurring as of late. My back is wet and I need a new pillowcase. Is this healthy? I start to really doubt my career in my hazy mid-reality state and I need to be up in 3 hours before stepping back onto the stage that hosted this very nightmare.


  1. Hey Flipping, I feel ya', I've had some horrendous nightmares myself. The worst included when I was working at an Outback Steakhouse, on the Titanic, at an Evanescence concert playing in a Hot Topic somehow constructed in an empty lot by a local pub twenty five miles away.

    Sometimes though our lives actually resemble the dreams though: was my first night in the weeds at this big bar I work at and it reads like one of those nightmares, I was completely unprepared!

    My sympathies to you man, and I'm glad I found your blog. Keep it up, I love your writing and feel free to swing over to my blog if you felt like it.

  2. Dear Flipping Tables, I just found your blog from savingmalachi's blog and this post was awesome. It is disturbing in a way because it brings to memory the work nightmares I have as well. I think psychologists should come up with a term for this occurence because its become obvious many food servers experience them. On my days off, I usually wake up from a work nightmare, my latest one is too horrifying to recall but I love, love, love how you were able to capture it all in this post. As I was reading it, I was almost able to watch your dream like a scene from a film. Thank you so much for sharing this post and I will look forward to reading your other posts as well. Glad I found your blog. Take care and hope you have better dreams.

  3. Thanks for the good words Malachi and Gabriella! I keep posting because of the feedback. Spread the word!