September 2007 – December 2007
I’d never wanted to wait tables, but I was pretty desperate, and the money was supposed to be pretty good, which it was most nights, except for the douchebags who ran me ragged and tipped less than fifteen percent. Oh, by the way, Oprah’s comment about tipping ten percent because of the recession is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. If you’re broke, don’t go out to eat. What kind of a strategy is that, anyway? Servers don’t count? Are they supposed to make less money because you took out a loan on a house you couldn’t afford? What about the bills servers have? That’s like adopting the principle that you’re only going to pay half of your cable bill because we’re in a recession. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine, has some of the best food I’ve ever had. Their wine list is incredible, and the staff was great to work with. It was one of the few jobs I really enjoyed going to despite some of the shitheads I encountered. The locals were great. No complaints there. But, the Leaf-Peepers are another story. Canadians have established their own reputation in restaurants, so I won’t go into that. Leaf-Peepers are those bored soon-to-be-retired or retired folks who travel up from New Jersey or Deleware or Connecticut or NYC to sit on a bus and drive around because the leaves have changed colors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the scenery, and I was fortunate enough to grow up in Maine and see such wonders as changing deciduous foliage without being pressed for time and having to jump back on a tour bus.
Leaf-Peepers are on a schedule. By the time they bombard the doors of the restaurant trying to get a table, if they hadn’t seated themselves and the hostess had to take extra time to explain that it wasn’t a chow-hall, they’d probably have about a half an hour to order and eat before they had to get back to their bus. This is fine for those people who wanted some oysters, a lobster roll or the lobster bisque, but some of them would order a lobster. Oh, how they want that fresh Maine lobster. The restaurant cooks that lobster to order, meaning they take the squirming crustacean and drop it into boiling water. Hearing it scream is truly a remarkable experience; much more rewarding than seeing a bunch of leaves about to die. The problem is that the lobster takes longer to cook than it takes to shuck oysters or stuff a lobster roll. So, after the Peepers have taken the time to tell you they’re in a hurry, and chit-chat for ten minutes before they look at the menu, when the food arrives, they’re down to about five minutes before they have to be back on their tour bus.
People walked out. It was a nightmare, one of the worst day I’d ever experienced in the service industry. The owner, acting as a hostess, sat nine tables at once in my section. And those Leaf-Peepers, in case you forgot, were in a hurry. Those who have ever waited tables know that getting nine tables sat at once is insane. They weren’t just two-tops either. There was an eight-top and plenty of four tops. Then the owner wanted to know why I was having a hard time keeping up, and why two of the tables she’d sat who’d ordered lobster walked out of the restaurant when it didn’t arrive in five minutes. She even had a problem with me telling a man who’d said he’d been waiting for thirty minutes that he hadn’t been waiting for thirty minutes, but five. She even checked my tickets. Order times and expediting times were on, faster, actually, than normal. So, what was the big disaster?
An elderly man wearing one of those USS Eisenhower baseball cap called me back to his table.
“Where are these clams from,” he asked me.
“The ocean,” I replied and moved on to another table.
The eight top wanted separate checks, and they wanted me to put their orders in individually, so my eight-top table turned into, essentially, eight tables. Then, one woman ordered a half a dozen Spinny Creek oysters at a time. When she asked for a third, I simply replied, No. She tipped me a penny. It wasn’t even a wheat-back.
Two of my tables who had ordered boiled lobsters left before their order came out, so I had to cancel those orders in the kitchen.
One of my tables decided they wanted to use a different credit card to pay for their food after I had already ran the first card and brought the check back to their table.
I was sweating, and wondering why people shot up schools or post offices or why James Oliver Huberty shot up a McDonalds with an Uzi back in ’84. The day ended, eventually. I’m not much of a server. In fact, I hate it. I don’t want to handle your food. Perhaps a better server would have breezed through that day, but I was left in shambles and had a night shift to look forward to. So, what is my take on Leaf-Peepers? Put on your fanny pack, take a Greyhound to Red Lobster and buy a fucking scenes of New England Calendar.