Restaurant work, though occasionally economically rewarding, is toxic to an individual’s psychological health. It’s no wonder that so many of us in the service industry become raging alcoholics. How else can we maintain our sanity? With daily exposure to people’s eccentricities–like social workers–we intimately deal with the worst human behavior imaginable. To survive, we’re forced to develop coping mechanisms. There are stealth ways we can exercise our power to dominate guests who refuse to play by our rules. Here are a few of our favorite tactics and the affectionate names by which we refer to them:
The Penalty Box – It is impossible to order your own food in a restaurant that has table service. You don’t know how to use the computer system, so it’s not in your best interest to be overly dismissive of a waiter earnestly trying to take your order. We are the gatekeepers. If you give us the dust-off one too many times, we may be forced to put you in “The Penalty Box.” Your table will now sit on a deserted island until you realize that you will not be fed without our participation. This usually results in your panicking and flailing your arms around until you can get our attention. We will return to the table when you have had enough time to realize the error of your ways.
The Irish Polka – We desperately need your table back for a later reservation but you insist on nursing the last drops of your bottle of wine. Eventually, we give up trying to be nice and just drop the check without waiting for you to ask. Of course you’re still oblivious, yammering on and on to your friends about something you read in The New Yorker. We know you haven’t submitted a credit card yet but we send a shill over to the table to ask if he can process your card. “You’re not ready yet?? Whoops!” We call this “The Irish Polka.” It’s a clumsy dance where somebody’s toes are always getting stepped on. Sorry… but it’s time to go.
The Cropduster – Drawing the ire of a server can have negative consequences that may be invisible to the naked eye. One of the ways an angry waiter may seek retribution for your insubordination will be to repeatedly send his comrades by your table to “Cropdust” the area, or, in waiter terms, walk past your table repeatedly passing gas. You better hope we didn’t have chili for family meal.