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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Waiter Chronicles: Just Deserts

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Last Saturday night a group of four young, energetic people came in for dinner at around 8:30. They ordered bottles of wine, laughed a lot, and were generally a pleasure to serve. As I went to clear their empty entree plates, one of the young men very respectfully held up a short piece of silver wire for me to see and said, "I just thought you should know I found this in my ravioli."

I stared at it aghast.

He suggested that it was a piece from a kitchen scrub brush, and he insisted that he didn't want his meal comped. I couldn't just let it go, so I offered the table free desert. They declined, saying, "Next time."

Right. Like there would be a next time. Would you return to a restaurant that served you Brillo Pad with your pasta?

Well, tonight, half the party returned. I recognized them right away, and, even though neither of them were the offended party from last weekend, when the time came I offered the whole table free desert. I didn't go into details.

The result: one creme brulee, one pumpkin ice cream, and one 22% tip.

The only question is, what do I do if the other half of the scrub-brush party comes back?
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:47 PM | link | 4 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Sree Thparkling Waters

Saturday, November 24, 2007

They just kept coming. Couples, families, dates, reunions: you name the group it was at the Ristorante tonight, the second night of dear city's "Festival of Lights."

With four waiters and one busser, things got out of hand pretty quickly, and they stayed that way for nearly two hours. With a private party of 30 people tying up Grandpa and the busser, it fell to Junior, Pepe, and I to manage the rest of the dining room. Needless to say, Pepe and Junior did a much better job than I did.

I had things under control, for the most part, with my party of eight working on their desserts and my various other parties of two and four settling in. But then walked in another party of eight, this one with a child, and where do you think they were going to sit? "No problem," I though. "Just get it done."

So off I went to make Shirley Temples and prepare bread and rehearse the whole list of holiday specials. Then the other party of eight urgently needed their bill. Then they urgently needed to split their bill over five separate credit cards. Then the wheels fell off. Flummoxed by the separation of checks, I started forgetting things: bruschetta, wine, bread--my gosh the bread! My speech skills deteriorated rapidly, since what was coming out of my mouth couldn't hardly keep up with what was motoring around my head.

It hurt me. One table waited too long for their bill and penalized me by tipping at about 7% (of their $140 ticket). That I can handle. The really bad part is that the sort-of truce that had endured between Angry Chef and the wait staff completely fell apart, and he started yelling and swearing at people. One family came in and ordered an appetizer, two entrees, and a dessert all at the same time. When I explained that the order was okay because it was a family, he responded with, "That's nice. F*** you. F*** your family."

This is what weekends will be like for the next month. I can only hope that I'll get better at it. Or that we hire some more waiters.

It had better be the former; I'm not holding my breath on the latter.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:58 PM | link | 2 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Thanksgiving

Friday, November 23, 2007

It was a couple of weeks ago that Pepe started unfolding brief little descriptions of Thanksgiving at the Guillen house. Lots of food, a big bonfire, and plenty of drink. Then, last week, as if by plan, Grandpa formally invited Meredith and I to their family Thanksgiving. We humbly accepted.

Yes, the food was extravagant and sumptuous. Yes the bonfire was blazing. And yes the wine warmed the belly. But how much greater was the sum than its parts? To sit at table with a family of 10--granparents, cousins, even a baby--and to be welcomed so richly, to be asked to give a blessing over the meal, and to be sent home with plates of leftovers: what a gift.

When you move to someplace new you think about what the holidays will be like in that place. Yesterday was very, very far removed from the vision of Thanksgiving I started having back in April. And as reality often is, it was far superior.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:42 AM | link | 2 comments |

Where's George

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As I was putting up my tip money last night, I spotted some writing on one of the bills. It was a $10 bill with "www.wheresgeorge.com" written along the bottom. Curious, I logged on to the website.

The United States Currency Tracking Project is trying to--ahem--track currency. Basically, when you receive a marked bill, you go to the website and enter its denomination and serial number and where you got it. You're then given a report that shows where it's been before it got to you. If you're interested in tracking it after you spend it, you can create an account and regularly check its progress. I won't be doing that.

My bill has only been tracked at one other place: Crystal Lake, Illinois. Read all about my bill's travels here.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:52 AM | link | 0 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Nightclub

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

About a month ago, Pepe and Junior began talking to the Owners about promoting a club-night at the Ristorante. Junior has some friends who promote after hours club-nights at some other places around town, with reputable success. Those conversations turned into plans, and the first one of those club-nights is tonight, from 10 pm to 1 am.

Now, from the outset of these conversations I made it clear to Junior and Pepe that I'm probably not available to work these events. They protested that we'd be making all kinds of money, but still I demurred. So imagine my surprise when this week's schedule appeared and I was slotted to work at 9 pm tonight.

First, that the event found its way onto the schedule means that it's got a lot more Owner backing than I thought. But secondly (and more obviously), I repeatedly made it known that I am unavailable, especially for this first one, since I have a friend in from out of town.

Two conversations with the Owner followed.

Saturday, November 3
Me: "[Owner], I'm not available to work these Wednesday night events."
Owner: [hastily eating pasta and not looking at me] "Why not?"
Me: "They're way too late. I have a pregnant wife at home."
Owner: "So. She doesn't need you to be pregnant."
Me: "Well, this Wednesday, especially, I'm not available. I have an out-of-town guest staying with me over night. I can't be gone."
Owner: "That's okay. Just don't let it happen again."

Monday, November 5
Owner: "How late are you available on Wednesday night?"
Me: "Uh, [Owner], I'm not available at all. I have someone staying with me from out of town."
Owner: "So, if I need you to come in at 10 for a couple of hours, that would be okay?"
Me: "No it's not. I don't want to be a bad host."
Owner: [silence. No response]

I resent simply being expected to work an event like this. It's Junior's and Pepe's baby, they can staff it themselves. I'm not staying out until 1:30 in the morning to work a nightclub.

But I resent even more the complete disregard for my wishes. I know in the service sector you work when the schedule says you work. I know that any time "off" you may get is an accident of the scheduler, if not an all-out gift. But this seems flagrant. This makes me mad.

Am I being unreasonable?

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:43 AM | link | 6 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Nickname

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I have inhabited more than one nickname since I started waiting tables at the Ristorante: "the professor," "piedra," and "caro" to name a few.

But this one is new.



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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 3:07 PM | link | 3 comments |