Thanks to everyone for their positive support and comments. It's cool to have my own little column and get a taste for being an internet superstar. Okay, anytime the word "internet" is in front of the word "superstar" it cancels out the meaning of superstar. Kind of like negative 1 plus positive 1. Wow. I've been hanging around too many accountants. It's tax season, sigh. Alright, onward with your questions. As always, if you have questions, write to email@example.com and leave your first name and the first letter of your last name. Like this: "John S.".
Q. Hey Ms. Waitress: I have three children, my oldest of which is turning into a spoiled teenage brat (yes, parenting is to blame -- I blame my ex-husband). Boot camp sounds great for him, but who am I kidding? It's a bit harsh. The idea of getting him to wait some tables, however, appeals to me. What do you think?
- Chin C.
The answer is obvious, yes. If school work isn't overwhelming and he's playing a lot of X-Box or Starcraft, throw him into the deep end and let him experience ignorant customers, the virtues of patience and the value of a hard-earned dollar. I've had people thrown food at me, cry tantrums, make impossible demands, and called me ugly things. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, but the humbleness is a lesson that can go along way. Waiting tables is only a sample of society, and he'll realize that in corporate America, the same characters apply from the ones you used to wait tables with. There'll be nice ones, fair ones, ones who are special and stand out...and then there are grown adults who act like spoiled children (usually a boss or supervisor) that you need to learn to be passive-aggressive with. That's what waiting tables ultimately teaches us beyond humility and patience: the art of passive-aggressiveness. I would set the minimum of 6 months to 2 years. Anything beyond that is dabbing into the danger of a career, and that becomes a bit dangerous. Waiting tables is a stepping stone, not a lifetime method of paying bills. This happens if he gets too comfortable with waiting tables, makes friends, blows money and doesn't focus on a future.
Q. I've noticed a trend now where waiters and waitresses no longer tell you their names right off their introduction. It used to be "Hello my name is [name], I'll be your server for the evening. May I start you off with something to drink?" Now it's, "Hi, can I get you started with anything to drink?" Why is this happening? I like to know the name of my server sometimes without asking for it.
- Wan F.
This is something new and after my time waiting tables. Back when I was doing it a few years ago, we always told you our names. I asked this question to one of my close friends who is still waiting tables and he says that it's a growing concern with Yelp, B-4-U-Eat and sites like Chopstix Houston where people can pretty much rat you out or make up stuff about you. There have been many waiters and waitresses who have been blacklisted from waiting tables after rumors about them written online that may or may not be true. A lot of waiters and waitresses don't even use their real names anymore because of such a dynamic shift in culture. The other more timeless reason has been about stalking. Just by giving your real first name can lead to a stealthy search of who you are, especially in an age of Facebook where someone can find the page of the restaurant and then the first name of who you are by looking at people's friends. The internet has made waiting a tables a dangerous job.
Q. Man, I hate it when people propose in a restaurant. I was waiting tables once and the guy just flat out asked the woman to marry him right as I awkwardly stepped in with their food. I'm not even sure why he couldn't wait after they have eaten. Please, for the love of God, don't propose in a restaurant without letting the staff ahead of time! Why do people do this? It helps when we're in on it!
- Henry T.
Oh, God. That is one of the most cliched things ever, right above proposing on the jumbotron of a sports arena! Every year while I was waitressing, there were at least three or four times this happened in the restaurant I was working in. I'm sure if more people became aware how everyone else is also doing this, they'd realize how unoriginal it is. But if someone does insist on having to propose in a restaurant, I've got a few opinions/tips:
1.) Don't pick a tacky restaurant unless it has some memorable value between the couple. Usually do it in a five-star restaurant. I worked in a sushi restaurant and this happened during reverse happy hour. I wouldn't say it was the most ideal moment.
2.) Let the staff at the restaurant know ahead of time so that we can put you in a corner of a restaurant. It may be romantic to the both of you, but it's awkward for regular customers. We usually seat people close to windows or based on waiter territory. More often than not, it's not an ideal place to be proposing. Plus, we'll give you your space.
3.) On the other hand, if you let everyone know, don't blame us for being nosy. You just voluntereed to be our soap opera for the night!
4.) If there's a chance she'll say no, a restaurant is the worst place to part ways. You're still stuck on a table. I've seen this happen personally where she said no, I was a few feet away, and the guy sat there for a few awkward moments before asking "why not". Then, because they were stuck there, kept asking "why not".
5.) If you do propose, do it after the meal. Not before. But don't stuff yourself either.
If anyone is reading this and thinking about proposing in a restaurant, it's just a bad idea. It's unoriginal, there's a crowd (even if it's just the waitstaff), and it's an inescapable awkward situation for all involved if nothing goes well.
Q. You guys are human. You know it, I know it. What are some things that have personally annoyed you as a former waitress that people have accidently done? I want to make sure I don't do them as a customer since I eat out a lot.
- Preetal S.
That is quite the loaded question there, Preetal!
Aside from the obvious like butt-slapping, whistling, getting my name wrong, yelling at me for no reason and leaving their toddlers to cry, I've got to say that I really dislike making hot tea. It's one of those things that requires a lot of work and some time and when you're multi-tasking during busy hours. It's easy to forget or it can cost some time just sititng there and waiting for it to be ready. So hot tea is something we secretly groan when it's ordered. I also hated being involved in a discussion. For instance, two customers were arguing about politics and Lady Gaga. One naturally started whining to me about how the other disagreed with him. It's busy hour and I'm on the clock. Please don't drag me into your discussions about politics and Lady Gaga. Another thing that annoys me is the avoidance of eye contact. Please, look at me in the eye. I'm not a beauty queen, but I'm also not the Hunchback of Notre Dame. There's nothing like taking orders while I'm being talked to like a ghost in the room.
Q. Being in an urbanized area, I find it annoying when so many restaurants don't have areas to include your dog. This is discriminating me as a dog owner, especially when they should know how inseperable I am to my dog. It's insensitive and backwards to think like this. Do you think restaurants should have areas where people can take their dogs in just like coat racks?
- Richard Q.
You've got to be kidding. Most restaurants don't even like kids let along dogs. There are a few occasions where it's okay to discriminate...restaurants are for PEOPLE. You may think your dog is awesome, and you may think your dog is well-behaved, but that is besides the point. They may clog a server's lane, people may be allergic to dogs, your dog may bark, and there could be the smell of pets. And that's not even to mention that it's a complete turn-off for most customers to try and eat with animals all around. No, no and no. Leave your pets at home or outside. A restaurant shouldn't do anything to accomodate pet owners. It's bad enough they allow them to be carried in most flights!
Thanks for the five people who asked! This was a fun! To ask questions, please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave your first name and the first letter of your last name (example: John S.). We'll take the five we like every 15 days!