Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Top Five Things That Scare the Bejesus out of me (at work)

NOT CHUCK NORRIS
Manuel Norris!


I like to consider myself to be the Chuck Norris of the restaurant. I should clarify that statement I suppose. I'm not a gun toting macho man in a sleeveless denim jacket, they wouldn't let me wear that even if I wanted to. Which I don't. But like Mr Norris, I have no fear. It's different when I'm not working. You can just about spit on me and I will take it when I'm out of work. When I was single I would struggle to talk to women in bars and clubs. I suffered from a terrible lack of confidence, if I'm being honest I was quite shy. And in many respects I still am. But as soon as I slip into my Primark trousers and tie on my apron I become less Mr Bean-ish and a whole lot more All Action Hero like. This is my domain and I wear the crease proof trousers round here. My nuts just seem to get bigger, metaphorically speaking that is. Although I do have a pair of trousers that make them look bigger as they are a size too small, the trousers that is. My nuts are a regular size, I assume. But lets move on from my kahuna's shall we.

I can approach almost any table with confidence. I will happily drop myself into any situation, weather it be rowing customers, rowing chefs, over exuberant hen and stag parties, whatever the situation is I will wade in mouth first. No fear. The confidence gives me the ability to bullshit, which is a very handy skill for a waiter. Bullshit has saved my ass on more than a few occasions, actually I don't think I could go a whole shift without having to tell a lie to someone. Forget to order the customers mussels?, "I'm sorry for the delay madam. The mussels that the kitchen sent weren't good enough so I have sent them back." The customer thinks I am just wonderful for looking after their interest. Order a steak rare when it should have been medium? "Fuck sake lads, the bastard wants it medium now, he told me rare! Any chance you can rush it? He's a real ball buster." The kitchen thinks the customer is dick and I get out of jail free again.

But sometimes even my massive work kahuna's disappear back up inside given the right situation. There are some situations/types of people I just cant handle. Here are the top 5 things that scare the Bejesus out of me (at work) in a nifty section I call,

The Top Five Things That Scare the Bejesus out of me (at work)

The guy that does the dishes. Our most recent Kitchen Porter is called Dragon. Well he's not really but that's what I call him. He's from one of the Balkan states. Not sure which one. Maybe one of the ones that had a war or revolution or something. I'm not sure. But his name sounds like Dragon and that's scary enough for me. He is a quiet guy and seems to do a lot of thinking, deep thinking. That is unusual in the extreme in the kitchen. They are never quiet and they don't do deep thinking unless you count wondering what the best way to win at Mortal Kombat is. Or a game made this century. But that is more day dreaming than deep thinking. He is supposed to be ex-army. Others say he worked on a farm. Either way he has seen death at close quarters. And that scares me. Kp's have a difficult job. It's back breaking, hot, sweaty, unrewarding work with your arms deep in grease and left over food all day. Much like being Britney Spears personal assistant. Dragon never complains. He just gets on with it. That's not normal. Our previous Kp's moaned like, well, Britney Spears personal assistant all the time. Dragon just does it with a distant far away look. He could be seeing the horrors of his recent past or he could be just bored out of his mind with the chefs rambling on all day about who would win a fight between Predator and The Terminator. Quiet people scare me, I need noise and ramblings not deep thinkers and scary ass Kp's called Dragon....

Old French Women. Well not all of them but one in particular. She is a fucking nightmare. A wide awake nightmare. She had been coming in for months but I always managed to miss her visits. I would here horror stories from the rest about how she had this person in tears and how the chefs would refuse to cook for her. The wine was never the right temperature, or from the right country. She would say things like, "girl, come here" or when finished a course she would demand that you "take it away" no matter if her companion was finished or not. She never said any of her food was anything more that just okay, yet she came back week after week after week. Then it was my turn. She arrived in one Friday night, prompt and looking immaculate. She appeared to be nothing more than a small frail old woman. She wasn't in my section but I offered to deal with her. "Ha", I thought she looks easy. I'll have her eating garlic from my hand in minutes. "Watch how it's done ladies." I confidentially shouted as I approached her table. And watch they did... They watched me get to explain each of the wines one by one, including description, price, and year. They watched as I explained why we didn't have any vintage French Beaujolais. They watched and giggled as I became more and more frustrated with her as I put up with her snide remarks about Irish beef and how we cant make cheese. There was sweat trickling down my brow as I tried to keep my cool. Her questions were ridiculous and asked in a snooty French way that only snooty French people can ask. I was broken, she had broken me. She owned me for the next two hours. The rest laughed, whilst I cried. I never served her again.

I am scared witless about dropping & spilling. I spilt wine on a customer a few years ago and she tore strips of me in front of the whole restaurant. It still hurts. She was right to be annoyed. But she went over the top. And it was only a little bit of red wine on her black dress. But she got the fucking arm in. All the usual demands of wanting to speak to the manager and insisting that we put her child through university as recompense. She demanded that we replace the bottle of wine, a given, but then went on to ask for a reduction of the bill and wine to be added to the rest of the table, of 25. Never once did she ask is to get her dress dry cleaned which we would do in such a situation. She just saw and opportunity to get stuff for free and went for it. She was a teacher after all. But since then I have a morbid fear of dropping and spilling. I was left shaking like a fat boy outside a closed sweet shop. Spilling drink or gravy on a customer is one thing but dropping a steak knife or a hot plate on them could scar them, and more importantly me for life. I get freaked out by that thought alone. I have had a few very near misses over the years. Some customers will never know how close thy came to getting their ears loped off or their head caved in by a tray of glasses. That's why I don't/cant work with a hangover. I need all the hand to eye coordination I can muster just to ensure I don't gouge a customer's eye out.

Very attractive women scare me rigid. No pun intended. I cant cope with very attractive women. I tend to go red very easily and start dropping stuff. It's called table 27 syndrome. That's were the very attractive ladies usually end up. If I was serving their mothers I would Mr Smooth and ever so charming. But faced with their daughters I tend to get all tongue tied and forget my lines. I went to wink at a girl one night, not in a sexy way, just a cheeky wink and ended up blinking at her instead, Smooooooth I am not. I also start dropping stuff around them too. What is that all about? A very attractive woman is like kryptonite to me. All my usual powers of speech, hand to eye coordination and ability to wink just seem to vanish. Things are different when I get home though. LMM is very attractive and I have no problems winking at her.*

Sudden Nakedness. Very highly unlikely. But I do have a recurring nightmare were I am standing naked in the restaurant on a Saturday night in the middle of a full sitting. But then again that is probably the dining publics greatest fear rather than mine..........

* Sentence added in order to keep the peace you understand.

23 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Anonymous Boxer said...

The thing that scares me the most at work is to receive a phone call that begins "I'm a retired Engineer and I have a few questions about your products."

and that naked fear - I seem to be missing my pants in a class that I failed to attend all year and it's now the final.

I clearly need help.

ellie said...

......I went to wink at a girl one night, not in a sexy way, just a cheeky wink and ended up blinking at her instead

Spat coffee! Too funny x

dave said...

Manuel, you have the patience of a saint.
It's examples like those why I could never work in that environment.
Old French woman would have been told to Fuck off and get out. Angry teacher would've got a steak knife through the heart.
I'd be out of a job within minutes. Possibly even held down by other customers whilst they waited on the cops showing up.

My hat is off to you Sir.

sheepworrier said...

Hmm, I seem to have the same reaction to very attractive women. Its not healthy I tells ya, not healthy at all.

Dennis said...

Great post. The thing is, attractive women don't faze me, and old French women & Dragon? Bring 'em on...hell, even Chuck Norris.

It's your nuts that have me peeking over my shoulder (I think that came out wrong).

I mean, statements such as "My nuts are a regular size, I assume..." and "...whatever the situation is I will wade in mouth first" make one stop and think.

We all know, if this was truly the case, you'd never leave the house.

Peace,

- Dennis
www.donttipthewaiter.blogspot.com

Manuel said...

Boxer: I feel your naked pain/trauma

Ellie: I thought I had got away with it too but one of the other wait staff saw it........I looked very "special"

Dave: I'm working on a tumor.......

Sheepo: It's terrifying......

Dennis: Hahahahaha

fatmammycat said...

Snarf to all of them, but a hearty Guffaw! to that French woman.
Only the French can truly do food snobbery so perfectly. I have been out to many a meal with French Gay and the icy way he picks apart a menu is staggering. And god help us all if there is bad service.
Sometimes I catch the flare of his Gallic nostrils, the toss of his head, the muttered 'merde' and it's all I can do not to slide down off my seat and disappear under the table until the squall has passed. He never actually says anything that would be deemed offensive, it's just the 'way' he says things. 'What ez dees?' is said with such a bloodcurdling barely contained horror over some imagined ingredient error, that waiting staff blanche.
( He claims the first time he saw a Pot Noodle he almost choked from a convulsion of laughing-like they don't have pot noodles in France, the bloody great fancy)
Oh my sympathies Manuel, a french grande dame must be the very apogee of snooty.

Manuel said...

FMC: That's exactly it, it's not what they say but how they say it.......So you cant even get them thrown out.....aaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhh!!

Mudflapgypsy said...

It's only if you find them attractive Manny. If you don't I'll bet you aren't fazed at all.

Fucks me up everytime too though.

Put a sign saying No French Allowed. Keep the oul bitch out.

I would say you are an introvert and need some downtime to recover.
The give away being the normally shy and can't talk to women etc. When you put on your uniform you are ON. Full on performance. Like acting really.

Tell me I'm right, go on.

Am I correct?

Manuel said...

muddy: That is indeed correct, it is a performance.......and I am De Niro.....or the guy that plays Kevin Webster.....

Caro said...

My waitressing career started in a Chinese restaurant when I was 14 and ended 2 days later. In that time I managed to topple the water from the flowers into someone's sweet and sour (which the kitchen fixed by ladling more sauce on top - see I lied and said it was the customer's fault), knocked a whole stack of aluminium trays (makes a very impressive sound) and insulted the owner mortally by not understanding a word he said (the cranky fucker couldn't spleek Eengleesh for shit).

So my hat's off to you - it must be very difficult not to scald/stab/otherwise fatally wound the punters.

MJ said...

I’ve been making enquiries about you.

Medbh said...

I had the American equivalent of your old French woman once. She only wanted men to wait on her and sat at the same table every week. One night I was stuck with her and she was a bat from hell. Nothing was to her liking. I was ready to punch her. When she gave me her credit card I ran it through and then totalled it up drawing a line through the space for the tip. She balked at that until I said, "Madame, I consider myself a professional and I was unable to make your dining experience pleasurable this evening. I could not in good conscience accept a gratuity." I walked away with the biggest smile. What? She thinks she can shit on me for 2 hours and then leave me an insulting tip? I didn't fucking want her money.
The table left 20% in cash and were gone when I next went by.

bendersbetterbrother said...

"She was a teacher after all. But since then I have a morbid fear of dropping and spilling."

If you're going to spill something over a teacher and invite their wrath you may as well make it worthwhile and make it Polonium 210.

fatmammycat said...

Well played Medbh, what a fucking liberty!

Nick said...

Yes, it would be the cantankerous customer querying everything and demanding more and more that would drive me nuts too. I had plenty of them when I was a bookseller. It doesn't matter what you do to satisfy them - the whole repertoire of softening-the-customer ploys - they just carry on regardless until you want to smash them over the head with a very heavy object.

Manuel said...

Caro: One day Cro one day.......

MJ: Good grief......what?......he's a stalker you know....

Medbh: Get in! Well said!

BBB: Hahahahahaha.....may as well be hung for a something as a something or how ever that goes....

FMC: I agree, quite the retort.....

Nick: Isn't book selling a nice relaxing career? It looks it......

Upset Waitress said...

God dammit Manuel, I'm too woozy to scroll down past the Chuck Norrison image. For fucks sake, can't you start making an after hours post that consists of 2 lines? BLEAH I'M SLIDING TO THE LEFT NOW. ByeeeEE girlfrie3ND! I'[[ come back manana when I'mn soberer!

Nick said...

Bookselling a nice relaxing career? I wish. The Christmas nightmare, the new-academic-year nightmare, humping all those giant boxes of textbooks, the customers looking for the little green book by whatshername - I could go on. I think every job looks like bliss if you're doing a different one....

Manuel said...

Upset Waitress: TUT TUT TUT.....I would love to able to write like you.....but I don't have the ability to self edit.....

Nick: "the customers looking for the little green book by whatshername"

Eek I did that last week.....crikey...

Ali said...

I love this post.

It's funny how we slide into that server persona (like supehero secred identities) and suddenly become nigh-unfazable.

Dude, I'm so glad I'm in America and far, far away from snobbish French folk.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! All that talk about nuts has squirrels running before my eyes.
That French tart sounds familiar - maybe it was Houllebecqs mother on a clandestine visit:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,2278227,00.html

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