Tales of a Freelance Waitress


My first waitressing experience was rather unfortunate. School was out for the summer and I was thrilled to learn that my favorite local café was hiring. I was told to show up in black at a designated time, and shadow one of the more senior waitresses. She explained that the tables were numbered, and orders were to be placed in carbon paper pads, then torn out and sent to the kitchen or bar. This seemed relatively simple, I was a college student after all, how hard could it be? My first solo order was a middle aged couple who requested a dish of ice cream, one scoop vanilla, two scoops chocolate. They were in a rush, something I tried to convey to my mentor-waitress behind the bar. The order took significantly longer than I thought needed to procure three scoops of ice cream, and I was rather perplexed when I was handed two hot chocolate cakes with vanilla ice cream.  Apparently, my waitress short hand involving multiplication signs and abbreviated flavors was easily misconstrued. Such a faux pas may have been forgiven, in the event that my ensuing orders went through error free. Alas, this was not the case. A spiral of confusions led to two more botched orders, prompting a table of patrons to leave the café. Amongst the surplus of salad and absence of tips, I was politely asked to leave. They would be in touch. 
Despite my far from auspicious start, this was not the end of my waitressing career. A few months later I was presented the opportunity to waitress and tend bar in a part-time capacity at a local brewery. It was a perfect fit-the menu was limited, the tables had no numbers (I would keep tabs under names like “green shirt” and “bald guy”, some of the more creative ones had to be scratched out before the presentation of the bill for obvious reasons) and best of all, the more the customers ordered, my propensity to mess up was cancelled out by their inability to remember what they had ordered in the first place.
Granted, working at the brewery was far from uneventful. Although the waitresses were practically tenured, the transience of our bar staff was an unsettling trend. One memorable character, we’ll call him Jo, had the finesse and intelligence of a baboon, yet somehow I found myself working under his unsavory management. One perk all wait staff received was a smoking break (it is a nonsmoking facility) every half hour. It is a shame I do not smoke. As a waitress, one gets used to lewd comments and inappropriate glances-its par for the course. You politely ignore, always have a boyfriend/husband or if the circumstances require, brother in the mafia, and bring them their drink with a smile, resisting the urge to spit in it at all costs. Jo’s persistence was beyond the usual flirt and ogle. Every shift, Jo would ask me out, I would turn him down, and he would proceed to make what I am sure he thought was seductive eyes at me for the remainder of the night. At one point he suggested during a lull that perhaps I would like to entertain myself by dancing on the bar. Considerate, but no, thank you.
The final straw came when Jo decided to open the beer boiler, emitting a billow of smoke and promptly setting off the fire alarm, shutting off the electricity. It was at this moment that Jo decided to take a cigarette break. In a panic, I called the owner, desperately wishing I was not quite so technologically impaired. He told me to leave the intimidating fuse box alone, wait for him to turn the electricity back on, and most importantly, make the customers happy. I took the latter very seriously, and proceeded to pour pitcher after pitcher of complimentary beer, while conducting a rather impressive bar-wide sing-along of 100 bottles of beer. Electricity was soon restored and surprisingly, Jo was requested to leave.
As a waitress, one has to master the art of synthesizing friendliness, aloofness and a small amount of enigma to be successful. No one likes an overly flirtatious server, but stoicism is a trait best left to the Romans. A winning smile should always be utilized to encourage a customer to purchase another drink, but complying with a patrons request to dance on ‘Beatles Night’ is not OK, no matter how much you love Lucy in the Sky. Giving out numbers is strictly prohibited, though yours truly may have faltered on one occasion. It was not my best moment, but he had dimples and danced salsa; I could not resist.
When all else fails-beers on me.