Common sense...the sense is described as common because the majority of people should have it. And because it is common, the sense is usually pretty reasonable. However, it's becoming increasingly apparent that many consumers are lacking in the entire common sense arena (a.k.a. are morons), and I'm beginning to rethink my terminology.
Life is a process of picking and choosing our battles. I find it a daily struggle not to punch people square in the face, but I just see that as a battle where I wave my white flag of surrender. Because realistically speaking, I need to stay employed, I don't have the time to ice my knuckles, I don't have the money to get sued, and I'm really not too fond of being arrested. I'd much rather hash it out over a cocktail and get on with my life.
That being said, in addition to the constant battling inside our heads, we also have the obligation of picking our careers and the paths we wish to follow. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices along the way and sometimes there are seemingly endless stepping stones you have to take or obstacles that need to be overcome. Sometimes you make mistakes. And let's face it, sometimes you end up pumping gas, selling encyclopedias, telemarketing, maybe setting up a quaint little lemonade stand on the side of the road like the good old days.
At any rate, I've tried to take to heart the fact that as a general rule, people work. There's a job out there for everyone, and unfortunately those jobs are not always pretty. They are also not always fun. Frankly, most of the time, work can be a real kick in the nuts. So when a 1-800 number appears on the caller ID and the guy on the phone tries to interest me in a time share in Saskatchewan, I remember that he probably hates his job more than I hate having wasted 5 minutes of my day, and telling him to fly to Canada and go f**k himself will probably not improve either situation.
I call that compassion. I'm such a giver.
Ultimately, you can't blame a person for trying to make a living. Unfortunately, there isn't high demand for professional pudding tasters, massage testers or gingerbread house builders. Or writers. In order to allow plenty of time to write while not starving or getting evicted, the part-time job opportunities for an aspiring writer with piles of student loans are quite few and very indiscriminate.
Thus, for the time being, I have chosen to don one of these:
Ok, well, more like one of these:
So, yes, I am an all-smiling all-dancing food service employee.
I am the professionally coiffed and iron-pressed white shirt that delivers your glass of wine and your chicken a la whatever.
I make extravagant meals and unnecessarily garnished martini's possible.
You're welcome, diners.
But back to common sense. People seem to have zero common sense when it comes to eating in a restaurant. Being nice to people that are simply doing their jobs is a courtesy. Being nice to people that are doing jobs FOR YOU, is common sense. A combination of the two will make you awesome.
We all really just need to try to be more patient and understanding. Close your eyes. Take a few breaths. Think about the situation.
For example, I hate going to the DMV. Despise it, in fact. I prepare myself for the fact that there will be long lines, the clerks will move at the speed of a snail on sedatives, and most likely, there will be a problem with my information. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact of life. However, common sense should tell me that being rude, huffy, or difficult in general, will only make my experience worse. Common sense should tell me, that when someone is doing something FOR ME, I should probably be friendly, whether or not I think they are mentally-capable of performing simple tasks. Regardless, these people do have lives, desires, thoughts and stories outside of their occupation. They should be treated like human beings.
Human beings with thankless jobs.
I am a server. Being a server does not need to be a thankless job.
You get all dolled up, pull some people together, go to a restaurant and sit down at one of my tables. I am here to serve you. Not because I like you, and not because we're friends. But because it is my job. And because it is my job, I'll pretend we're at least quasi-friends for the next 90 minutes, or however long it takes for you to get drunk on food and loosen your belt.
So, we're in this meal together now. We're basically halfway to dating. Accordingly, I have made a list of things you should and shouldn't do or say, especially with someone handling food you are soon to ingest (no, that's not a threat...not at all). As well as my personal favorite pet peeves.
This is my common-restaurant-sense. Bon Apetit!
1. Don't talk to me like I'm retarded, or don't speak English. Opening your eyes really wide, nodding, and saying "Salisbury Steak" very slowly isn't going to register it more clearly, it's just going to piss me off. If I did the same thing while setting down your "D-i-i-i-et C-o-o-o-ke," you'd probably be offended.
2. Please don't stop me with an arm full of plates and a tray full of drinks to ask for honey mustard. Chances are I'm not going on a pilgrimmage to Mecca...I'll be right back.
3. If I am not your server, do not order things from me. We do not have a magical restaurant supercomputer. So asking me for an order of calamari only means I'll have to go find your server and then have him order it for you. Let's cut out the middle man.
4. Speaking of which, don't ask me to please "find" your server. This request doesn't need much explanation. I probably have orders to take, drinks to get, and food to check on. I don't understand why anyone would think running around the busy restaurant to find Tonya on her smoke break is at the top of my priorities. Playing Where's Waldo is only fun when you're 8, and Tonya won't be dressed like a candy cane.
5. I have no problem with a diner sending back food. I didn't cook it, I could really care less if you don't like it. But there is no need to tell me how "repulsive" "inedible" or "disgusting" it is. That's just plain bad etiquette. I'll probably go back and tell the manager that you're a jerk. You'll still get your food, but now everytime you come in, we'll say "hey, it's that jerk again...man, that guy really is a jerk."
6. I know it's a time old tradition to say "give my compliments to the chef." But I'll let you in on a little secret. A "chef" did not prepare your meal. Jose the line cook did. He makes about $7 an hour and he really couldn't give a crap that your spaghetti was "just delicious."
7. Another popular request is, after finishing your meal, to "please let the chef know" that your dish was "too salty" "too bland" "too spicy" or "didn't have enough chicken." Are you serious? I have things to do. Don't order it next time. I'm not trekking back into the kitchen to let the staff know that John Doe at table 9 is watching his salt intake.
8. Recipes are called recipes for a reason. We have a menu that tells you how dishes are prepared and what ingredients are in them. Some modifications are fine, but if you want a personal chef then you should probably hire one. Don't go to a restuarant and slow the entire kitchen down because you feel the pompous need to design your own meal. Hearing sub-this extra-that no-this add-that makes my ears bleed.
9. Don't ask me to get you a fuller glass of wine or an extra shot of vodka in your screwdriver. Unless you want to get charged for it. We aren't old drinking buddies. And don't ask me to try to rush your food. We aren't old eating buddies, either. Basically, please don't ask me for any special favors, we aren't old buddies at all. Capiche? Good. And on that note, don't say "I'll take care of you." To a server that is loosely translated as "I will not take care of you." Good tippers do not have to reassure their server that they are, in fact, good tippers.
10. Speaking of good tippers, if you have the audacity to hand me the American Express Black card (yes, the triple-thick extra heavy one with the ridiculous spending limit and embossed lettering) then you better be a good tipper.
11. If I went to your job and stood in front of your desk yammering on my cell phone, you would probably find me rude. Believe it or not, a server does not enjoy standing at the edge of your table like a goon waiting for you to finish your conversation. I'm not sure when it became acceptable to talk on the phone without excusing yourself from the dinner table, but let's put an end to it, shall we?
12. If you want fast food, go to Burger King. If you don't want your food fully cooked, by all means just order a plate of salmonella with a side of e. coli. But most restaurants tend to serve their food free of violent bacteria, which takes cooking time. So please don't ask me if your food "is coming." What do you really expect me to say? "No sir, actually it isn't coming after all. They decided to give your food to the homeless. The homeless send their thanks."
13. It's nice to say please and thank you. It's nice to remember my name. It's nice to smile or tell me something is good. I am not a monkey. I do eat bananas but I don't sling feces, so it is perfectly okay to interact with me. Some people avoid eye contact like I'm a baboon with an evil streak.
14. Do NOT snap at me. There are plenty of acceptable ways to get my attention, and snapping is not one of them. I'd rather you smack me on the ass or stand on your chair and scream at the top of your lungs.
15. Don't leave coin change. To begin with, it always falls out of the the check presenter. To end with, I really don't need your thirty-seven cents. It is a restaurant, not a drug store. When you leave I don't go and drop your change in a cash register, I put it in my pocket. Jingling around the restaurant with a pocketfull of change is not my idea of a fun night.
16. I know that one of the joys of dining out is not having to clean up after yourself. That doesn't mean it's okay for you to behave like a manic caveman. That also does not mean it's okay to allow your children to "let loose." If your table looks like it was occupied by a pack of rabid squirrels and not humans, my next step is to call animal control and have you captured.
17. Don't hit on me. Not only am I at the unfair disadvantage of being paid to be nice to you, it's just awkward. And not classy. Unless you are irresistably attractive and/or rich, in which case I'm completely game.
18. If you don't know how to tip, don't go out to eat. If you aren't sure, ask someone, before you ruin some poor server's night by giving them the shaft. You might as well write "suck it, loser" on the bill, then take that bill, slap your server across the face, then while they're clutching their throbbing face, kick them in the groin, then while they're keeled over in pain, give them an elbow between the shoulderblades, and while they're writhing on the ground in the fetal position, stomp them in the ribs, and after they begin crying, laugh and point at them, and as you're overwhelmed with laughter, call over all of your friends, then as you're all standing there laughing hysterically, remind the server that you still aren't going to leave a tip, and then stuff the bill in their pants and walk out. Yeah, if you aren't going to tip, you might as well do that.
19. I don't wait tables for the exercise. I have a treadmill for that. If someone at your table asks for another drink, and you want another drink, ask for another freaking drink. If I ask you if you need anything, and you do, then freaking tell me what you need. But please don't have me beating a path back and forth getting one beverage and one condiment at a time. It's cruel. And I'll give you dirty looks.
20. This is the last and most important bit I need to share. Seriously, if your server does a great job, please tip them well. An extra $5 will probably not break your bank, but it can make a world of difference to someone who works for tips. We all have expenses, and bills to pay at the end of the day. Remember that when you're pulling out your calculator to compute the exact 15%, or digging in your pocket for a quarter.
Well, that's my common-restaurant-sense.
Again, diners, you're welcome!
And for good measure, here's a cute baby in Starbucks garb. Yep, I worked there too!