Industry Studies: "Garçon?"
I'm industry. Service industry, to be exact. Not trying to differentiate between FOH (the degenerates you see) and BOH (the unknown people that you are assume are really just microwaves & Mexicans), because both are just different sides to the same coin, neither more important to the value of the currency.
With that being said, I am FOH and this will be heavily biased toward that fact. We're the biggest, most reckless, volatile, fun-loving, thrill-seeking, bipolar, both self-entitled and self destructive, quick-witted mob in the world next to the fucking drug cartels. The only difference between us and the Illuminati is that we blow our money on drinks after work instead of using it to buy banks. We're well versed in the human condition and the best of us all have P.H.D.'s in Bullshit. You could plug a lot of us into a plethora of other fields purely because of our ability to mold ourselves to our environments and play pretend just long enough to close that fucking deal. With a smile, nonetheless. Bitch. You're probably wondering why we don't strive for that then? Some of us actually make bank in the industry and consider it a career. Some are taking advantage of the easiest way to make solid supplemental income while working toward an alternative career. A lot of us are intelligent as fuck, just supreme underachievers. Some just like the carefree lifestyle and would prefer to get shwasty on the regular, meet new souls constantly, have flexibility in their schedules to pursue adventures, and bide their time while waiting for the occasional new-hire pussy and/or dick. And just to be realistic, a lot of people are fucking idiots and manage to barely scrape by in this industry, making up the overwhelming stereotype of the dumb server that you feel compelled to clarify four times in a fucking row that you want a straw. Whenever, they have time, of course. Meaning you have ten seconds to get me a fucking straw you knuckle-dragging doorknob humper. I know, I know. I'll be right back with that. Chill lady. I'm not that guy you need to worry about.
Wait, wait, before I lose you, allow me to descend from my alter for a solid second: A lot of us will also bring you cold as fuck coffee, that while we will pretend to be puzzled as to why you don't like it upon reaching the table, know deep down the shit was left over from the morning crew - or worst, from last night that the closers decided not to empty. Shit, SHIT, I don't have time for this. Fucking coffee drinkers. Pop the top. Is there any steam? I think that was steam. Maybe? No, the coffee is that fucking cold that my mere vision warmed it. And as I look for coffee bags to brew, I realize it hasn't been stocked in months and sugar caddies look like they have alopecia. We've had this same thing of cream for a year and a half? Fuck...
They'll blame your late dinner on the kitchen despite knowing damn well they just didn't enter it into the system. Why? Because it's the path of least resistance. The path lacking blame. On the most basic of levels, it is what dictates our money in a ludicrous system of smiles, hand jobs and tips. Hospi-fucking-tality. I'll get into this more later. Until then, I'll be right back with your coffee and...
Alright, looks like you just got sat multiple times and you probably have things to do. Staff meeting out on the patio. Don't sweat too much, need you to look good out there. Man, that table is really pissed with you right now. Good to come out?
Yeah, I'll be right there. Is this about inconsequential and irrelevant topics that pertain absolutely nothing to me since I actually do my job? If so, I'll still be there, because I have to. It is? I thought so. There are people up front, I'll just seat them real qui - No? We need to talk about restaurant awareness and 53 second greets? Seems backwards and arbitrary, be right there. My gaggle of cunt tables can wait - no, gladly anticipate my return! Tips? What tips? 20%...17%...15%...gofuckmyself%
When you work in the restaurant industry, you automatically relinquish your rights to a normal night out. If you're worth a shit, you tend to work on the traditional nights everyone else enjoys. On the nights you do make it out, you look like a twitchy, nosey weirdo with every annoying cliché question you overhear, every dinging of To-Go systems, and every accidental droppings of ramekins. You can't help but to observe the members of the wait staff and fill in the blank, soulless moments in between them talking to guests and walking to the computer. Try it sometime. Wait for the canned smile to drop. It'll drop like the Twin Towers, pancaked into it's own blueprint. I like to then envision what the fuck is going on in their microcosm at that moment. Let me tell you, it's never happy thoughts.
So naturally, when my girlfriend and I are out for date night at our favorite restaurant, we are a bit hypersensitive to the drunk, sloppy bitch two seats to my right yelling out to our bartender, and good friend:
Roman is a master of his craft. Dudes a mixologist, which is a very hipster yet accurate way of saying someone understands and vibes well with bottles of alcohol. On top of that, he like any other quality tender of booze understands how to mesh with various people frequencies. These two dipshits had a frequency somewhere in between that of Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Mariah Carey's 2016 New Years performance. Divided by any song by French Montana. Hehe...man, that's bad.
Roman took the higher road and pretended not to hear, electing to not be the caged seal clapping for dead fish. I like the low road. Shit is scenic as fuck.
"He's Ethiopian. Trust me, I know this dude. He's told me. Dudes Ethiopian as fuck. Look at him."
Hehehe...yo, he's definitely not Ethiopian.
The level of discomfort at that bar top was palatable. Oh, did I fuck up your groove? Spotlight getting hot now? Most of society gets away with frolicking in hay stacks, but eventually you hit that fucking needle. Just a prick is all it takes to upset the balance of theatre between the obnoxious and the bearers of nonsense. Basically, cutesy shit dies once you get punched in the mouth. And rightfully so in this case; what is he? A polar bear. Fuck off. I'm not making this about race by any means either, as I'm fairly certain the chick was Filipino, or some jazz. It's the spectating dynamic that ties into something much, much larger for those in our positions.
The spectating dynamic is essentially constant expectations of being in the hospitable dance monkey dance, mode. At surface level. Which, in all honesty, is part of what earns us money. You're not really tipping for the food, refills and prompt service. Those are gimmes, you're suppose to get that. You're tipping for entertainment. For comfort and sometimes familiarity. For a brief exit from your normal reality. For as cliché as it is, the above and beyond treatment; anticipating your needs before you know you have them. The problem is that it's a lot like acting, and actors are fucking empty lunatics nine times out of ten. Dealing out pleasure and good times every Friday night at the expense of your own humility, ego and key hours of societal bonding times takes a subtle toll on a person. After a while, you start to feel, well, fake. Especially once people start to really like you for your server-you. The transition from entertainment mode to sincerity is an awkward one. No one wants to hear Dave Chappelle talk about black culture, they want him to yell out "Rick James, bitch!" This is where that surface level of the spectating dynamic begins to rot out.
I've found the majority of people I've come into contact with serving are nice people. It's a small minority that cause the spectating dynamic to really rear it's ugly, bitchy head. Same phenomenon when it comes to stereotypes by the way, but I'll cover that more in the future. It's the people who comment about you like you're a lamp. The one's who will grab a servers hair to bring it closer to their friend, just to showcase how shiny it is. The one's who will talk about something as small as your voice to the rest of the table, and carry on a lengthy conversation while you're expected to stand there for the duration, because, they're ready to order - after they've spoken about you like a prized dog at a show. The one's that think it's proper to let you know ahead of time that they tip great, like it's going to bring you out of your stupor and put a little pep in your step. Fuuuuck off, way to take advantage of a janky system in the first place by trying to dangle a carrot. Look asshole, talking about tips is like talking about dick sizes. If someone is going around constantly trying to ensure a narrative of their cock being the end all be all, you gotta' wonder...thou doth protest too much? Neither of your tips are impressing anyone. Probably the worst, grossest and most artificial of them all? The one's who want to use you as a third party to bounce loaded jokes off of in an effort to look good in front of their company. Yuck. I'm George Carlin compared to you bro, tread lightly and hope I'm not feeling frisky.
Women deal with all of this the most, by the way. Yeah sure, I get hit on all the time by gay dudes and the occasional Scottsdale cougar, but it's a more playful dynamic. Very little chance of it progressing into intimidating levels of creepiness. It's not uncommon for a woman to get her ass slapped just for bringing some dickhead an ice tea and he fancying that she automatically put a lemon on it. This goes back to the whole argument earlier with Roman and dos dipshits - people try to get away with as much as they can before having their behavior called out. In fact, not only do they have to deal with these scenarios the most, but they also tend to get a shit return from it. A common misconception is that tits = more tips. Not necessarily. Works for dive bars and with the occasional lonely asshole. Most of the time, tits = more hoops to jump through. Majority of men who want that attention either have a wife back home watching their bank account, or are single and think that you wanted to know how they like their steak cooked because you just can't wait to jump onto their cock. Why else would she ask me those kinda' details about my life bro?!
The certainty of death and taxes doesn't have shit on the guarantee that old fucks will save their final nickel and dime on a gift card. Really...$1.17? Throw it into the tip! That won't even cover your god damn next iced tea! Taking a firm stance on this one folks. I don't care how much of an entitled shithead I sound like. This action goes against all altruistic logic that humanity has bled to form. That $1.17 is essentially free fucking money. But no. You're going to just let it be lost to the abyss that is your oversized grandma purse. Sandwiched in between your glutton of coupons and AARP card. I don't even know if AARP cards exist. I'm just mad, people. No, no...I'm cool.
"You know what...how much is left? $1.17? We'll actually share a coffee. Do you have decaf?"
Low key savage? Yo...I'll feel bad when this cold, definitely caffeinated brew blows out grandma's heart in the middle of the night.
fast forward...ten days, give or take
Saw this old couple again. I remembered their order from before; fish and chips with an extra plate and an extra tartar sauce. They enjoyed that. Brought her sugar for her ice tea without her asking. They enjoyed that. Brewed coffee ahead of time for them. It was actually decaf this time. They enjoyed that. When they handed me two gift cards, I told them I'd run the one from last time with the remaining $1.17 first. Might have given them both aneurysms of pleasure for remembering. They enjoyed that. They enjoyed their time out of the day with me. I...enjoyed that. The daughter, A.K.A. purchaser of gift cards, showed up later and told her mother how to tip. I made more than I probably should have. I'll take that. At that point, I didn't need that.
I shattered my own reality for a split second, reaching for something a little more hopeful versus the usual pathways of discourse. I think that's healthy. Pathways seldom venture offer the most nuanced shit. You gotta' see the good in the shit you hate doing. Call it reluctant reasoning upon recollection. It's real easy to slip into a pattern of bitterness. It's a lot harder to realize that you're not wrong in theory, but in slipping into that pattern you no longer offer anything to yourself; let alone others. We mislead ourselves through our after work venting sessions. Something that is of the upmost importance in the industry, by the way. Shift might end at 11:30pm, but the decompression doesn't stop until much, much later. Aside from the money, these are the more alluring aspects of the profession, just so you know. Where there are basic understandings that not everything you say is fully meant, but everything said has understood passion behind it. Not only do we get fucked up and vent about just how bad our ten top was that night and how preposterously fucking weird table 26 was in that they only wanted to lick the breading off the chicken, but we take the time to lament with like-minded individuals on what the fuck is going on in the outside world in between strong, altering substances.
What I'm getting at is that it's easy to get lost in the sauce, literally and figuratively. It's easy to become the stereotypical server that expects above-standard money, but won't give even standard service. It's easy to be, well, a human. That's the thing I suppose. Servers, are human. Seems silly to emphasize, but it's the most forgotten thing in the industry. Often met with demeaning whistles and finger snaps. Shit reserved for dogs. Brings me to the word of the evening...
What is in a word? Literal meanings. Cultural backgrounds. Media narratives. Juxtaposed insecurities. Ignorant assumptions. Wild possibilities for ingenuity.
What else could you demand? Everything, naturally.
. . .
Your shouts for entertainment fall upon deaf eyes. My ears already echo-dry of the same vibrations over, and over, and...
. . . .
"boy," c.1300, from Old French garçun (11c.; Modern French garçon) "menial, servant-boy, page; man of base condition," originally objective case of gars, perhaps from Frankish *wrakjo (cf. Old High German recko, Old Saxon wrekkio "a banished person, exile;" English wretch). Meaning "waiter" (especially one in a French restaurant) is from 1788.
Some moments hit that "Ah-Ha" switch and stick with you for life; adjusting the normal path of comprehension by a few degrees. Enough to leave you with a few answered questions and a whole lot more new ones. Researching this word on an off the cuff idea for a story is one of those. Servant-boy. Menial. Fuck me, "a banished person, exile?" Come the fuck on, could you hit more of an exposed nerve with any other verbiage? A pollinated seedling amongst a terrestrial grove of shit. That, is a way to describe the hopeless industry worker that envisions just a little more than what is expected of them. I actively refute the day-to-day standard of being treated like the servant-boy that I am perceived to be. While garnishing the benefits of said perception. It's the equivalent of standing upon the stool as a child and...
radio silence...we ask you to enjoy the following as we attempt to redirect pathways to a more, well...
Why am I writing about this? To give insight into my job? To gain sympathy? To be defensive of criticism? Maybe to break down the ego and culture, like I do with every other article. To explain what it is like. The industry culture, humor, pace, decisions, recklessness, identity or lack there of...
I'm trying for a beautiful synopsis of ill-conceived ideas. All I've ever wanted to do was to express things, and in return be understood. Which is such the anti-thesis to a position of constantly embracing the fake. Offering up recycled responses reminiscent of reoccurring shit sitcoms. A perpetual loop chipping away at my soul with every cliché formality. Gross out of principal. Unfortunately, my realistic showcasings are too small of a niche to follow.
A man I considered my friend was fired a few nights ago. Allegedly. Or maybe he quit, depends who you ask. Roman. Different guy mentioned earlier, but every bit of the same cloth. Back of House. It hurts my feelings and I don't appreciate having to chase down individuals to catch the cliff notes of where other mother fuckers wronged them. The principal of the matter fucks me up. I'm shedding a few salty tears right now because the ones that supposedly rep family aren't. He'll be fine though. Life tends to aim its kicks toward the dick, you just gotta' learn to adjust.
A word really shouldn't fuck with me as much as this one does. And it wouldn't, if the while not often understood meaning didn't already play into the often understood practice.
I'm Gucci though mother fucker, as they say in Paris.
Within this profession exist a few particular moments I tend to lose myself in. Performance, regiment, and training. Theatrical pride, comfort, and influence - are the underlying dark meat encompassing this bone of a metaphor. But you throw bones to dogs, and I know ya'll aren't the kibbles n' bits type. Perhaps I save this one for a later date. I'm not trying to gamble with attention spans here, I just realized long after coming up with the idea for this series that I won't get it right the first time. This one will span for a while. Maybe for the duration of my fingers' twitches. A work in progress. In the mean time, I'm gonna do what I do best. Talk shit.
"Oh, are we ok? Should we leave?"
Come the fuck on, lady. Why are you testing me. We closed a half an hour ago. Shows over bitches, try again tomorrow. You read the hours on yelp before you scheduled this abomination of a girls night out. Ya'll ordered pretzels and fried chicken while repping a cheat day. Cheat day from what, éclairs? I'm just saying, the stools are pissed at you right now. If you didn't see the hours on yelp, you saw it coming in. They're on the god damn door. And if you didn't see them coming in, the tell-tale signs of fuck off should have rung a bell. Lights up. Chairs up. Music off. I didn't even fade the music, I cranked that shit all the way up, then all the way off. The equivalent of your influence on any desperate half-a-chub dick, I'd assume. Which, by the god damn way. Could your conversation throughout the night have been anymore stereotypically preposterous? All you and your accomplice in this crime against my sanity cackled about essentially boiled down to whorish pleasantries while using "like" as a verb, noun and adjective. If the chef in the back is asking me how can I stand your voice when he's amidst the noise of ventilation hoods, ovens, timers, clanking of pans, dishwashers trying to debate in his ear how the original Captain America was black and fucking Desiigner bumping in the background - yo, you too loud ho. You couldn't sell the transcripts of your talk to even the worst Paul Rudd movie. Well, maybe you could. I can't speak on that behalf. Slappin' da' bass was the peak, unfortunately.
But seriously. Back of house is dark, lady, and I'm not even talking stereotype. Lights are off, and they're shuffling out. The people that you literally do not ever expect to see, are walking out looking at you with the fiercest brand of shade. Should you leave? What the fuck do you think. We could have a foreclosed sign on my forehead at this point and it wouldn't be anymore obvious than it is at this god damn moment. It's now 11:29 PM and all of this has transpired in my head, complete with a goofy ass polite grin as I weigh out my options of being accommodating versus being fired should my tactical asshole approach not pan out. It normally does work by the way, because I'm a firm believer of being able to get away with saying anything as long as you have a smile on your face. I could feel it. This was that majestic moment never caught on camera when shit gets real. Worldstar moments of the industry. You hear about them at any restaurant; legendary moments of volcanic eruptions of the collective bitter soul. The petty shit you aspire to. The kind of moment you can attach to a "Wolf of Wall Street" meme.
"Have a good night ladies, thank you!"
This wasn't one of those. Told them they were fine and eventually they left. Probably just seven minutes after that. Hey, what are ya gonna do. Anti-climatic, sure, but that's the nature of the beast. There's a whole lot of pent up anger peppered with "what ifs" and "I shouldas." At the end of the night they left happy and I left alive with five extra bucks. The saga continues.