Monday, October 26

I Touch Your Food

As the healthcare debate rages on and swine-flu panic escalates into a perceived "national emergency", let's take a second to look at ourselves. Forget that shit clogging up your inbox about poor little Dudley Dumbfuck with leukemia and AIDS and brain cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease who is wasting away in a hospital right now because CIGNA won't sponsor some experimental treatment that could save his worthless life. Forget the RNC "death panel" apocalyptic scenarios with old people being dragged from their beds and denied treatment because their organs are needed for the young and virile. Forget the swine flu panic, stop biting your nails and worrying about whether or not you should get a virus injected into you at the risk of paralysis to protect yourself from a disease that's identical to the regular flu.
Forget that shit. I want to talk about you right now.
Anyone reading this site has probably eaten at a restaurant within the last week. I want to talk about that experience. I don't care if this was a fast-food restaurant, a Sizzler, or a high-end restaurant. At any given point, if you haven't been eating at home and preparing your own food, someone like me probably touched your food. And I don't just mean before it was cooked, or that they touched your plate while handing your food to you, I mean they probably touched a piece of food literally minutes before it went into your mouth. What does this have to do with health care? Let me explain to you, in a nutshell, how the restaurant industry (FUN FACT: 40% of our nation's economy is made up of the restaurant industry...did I make that up? I can't remember) operates.
If you pay attention at all to eating establishments within the past twenty years, you've probably noticed a lot of young people and immigrants. You may have even waited tables yourself at some point in the past. If that's the case, you already know where I'm going with this. The plain truth is, America's restaurants are operated primarily by today's indentured servants. Now, I don't mean to sound like I'm bitching here, but waiting tables and washing dishes sucks ass. That's why the turnover in restaurant employment constantly hovers around 200%-300% annually. The people who wait tables are either career servers, which means they hate you because they've been dealing with asshole customers for the last ten years and are so jaded to the plight of other human beings that they wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire, or they're temporary servers, which means that they cannot WAIT until they get that callback/book deal/script greenlit/college degree and can quit the living hell of waiting tables. The people who work in the kitchens of restaurants are either illegal immigrants working for less than minimum wage, which means that they really don't give a shit about anything other than working a lot of hours and not getting caught by INS, or legal immigrants who don't give a shit about anything. The restaurant is managed by someone whose job is to be bitched at by his superiors (if it's a corporate restaurant) or to bitch at his employees (if it's a small business) - in both instances, the bitching comes about because the restaurant isn't making enough money.
Now, there's a lot of anger floating around this restaurant, and the cause of this anger comes from a single source: you, the customer.
Waiting tables a year ago was an ok situation. People were coming to restaurants for the right reason: to experience new food and to relax without having to hassle with cooking dinner at home. However, after the "economy tanked", we in the restaurant industry were allowed a rare glimpse into the true nature of our customers: angry, idiotic, greedy, manipulative fuckheads. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you think that you're a good person. But let's be frank here - even YOU wouldn't want to wait on you in a restaurant. Let's go step by step and see where you went wrong -
Drinks - Don't order water. Instead of ordering water, use the secret, superpals code that all waiters use and instead shout "I'm a cheapass!!" instead of ordering water. Honestly, when you ask for a water as your beverage, all I hear is "No Tip". If you ask for a water without ice, I hear "I went to Europe recently and want to show everyone how cultured I am", "I am European", or "I have such severe dietary needs that I can't handle ice". All of this translates into "No Tip". If you order a water with "extra lemon slices" and then squeeze all the lemons into your water followed by a shitload of sugar (which I have to refill after you've left) in an attempt to make your own lemonade, then I have just labelled you as "knuckle-dragging shitflinger".
Please stop doing this homemade lemonade shit at your table. No one is applauding your frugality here. When we see you do this, and then turn to your date and say "it's just as good and it's free!", then we must ask you - why the fuck are you in a restaurant in the first place? Stay home and make lemonade. That way I don't have to deal with you.
What you should be doing in a restaurant is ordering booze, or at the very least, a specialty virgin drink. If you're eating out, there must be a reason, so fucking celebrate! Show your date a good time! Don't be a cheap ass! Did I mention that I hate you?!
Appetizers - Appetizers and entrees are not, not NOT the same thing. That's why they have different names. Don't order an appetizer as an entree. That's something that Nazis do (FUN FACT: Hitler only ordered appetizers whenever he went out to restaurants. He also killed a lot of Jews). If you're getting an appetizer, then get an entree as well. If not, then get the fuck out and go to someplace where they serve combo meals. I don't need you to sit here and use a table for three hours just to eat some fucking chicken fingers when I could be waiting on people who actually have money. If you're one of those people who likes to frequent a certain restaurant, fancies himself a "regular", and has had to "downgrade" to "only ordering appetizers" because of the "recession", then shut the fuck up because I stopped listening to you. If the recession is so bad, then stay at home and eat Ramen. No one likes you.
Entrees - Stop splitting entrees. I'll let you in on a little secret - the reason some restaurants have a charge for splitting entrees isn't because it's so difficult for us to plate a single serving onto two different plates, it's because it's fucking irritating. Again, you say "split entree", I say "cheap ass motherfucker too lazy to cook for himself". (FUN FACT: I had a couple come in a week ago and split an entree. Then they split another entree because they were still hungry. Think about this for a second).
Entrees are the way they are because the chef or owner has designed them that way. If you don't like it that way, eat elsewhere. You won't be missed.
And while we're on that subject, let me point something else out to you - you are not a fucking chef. I know that you like to watch Bravo reality shows about chefs and probably have a Food & Wine subscription, but that doesn't give you license to criticize or change my menu. Stop asking to have entrees prepared especially for you. I have fifty other people to wait on and my cook has two hundred tickets up. When I punch in "Special Order", he reads it as "Drop This Item On The Floor". You are an asshole and should die. It's not that it's hard for us to make your salad just the way you want it. Honestly, 90% of the time I agree with your changes. It's just that everyone else in the restaurant wants to change their entrees as well, and when you multiply special requests by 200, it slows down my kitchen and I then have to listen to you bitch about why it took so long for your special order to come out. You understand how this could be a "lose/lose" for me.
If you like to change menu items, split entrees, and be an overall asshole, then stay home. It's a lot cheaper. Admit to yourself that you only like to eat out because it makes you feel powerful to have someone else wait on you, then try cooking for yourself. Better yet, go to a soup kitchen and feed homeless people all day to see what restaurant work is like. Then kill yourself
Desserts - I don't care if you order dessert or not, but let's just say this - if you're going to get dessert, get dessert. Don't ask me a million fucking questions about calorie content, taste, what my preferences are, etc., and then decide to forgo dessert. I don't mean to be sexist here, but women are by far the worst offenders when it comes to this. A group of women will be finished splitting their entrees, and the single fat friend they keep around to make them all feel better about themselves is still hungry. All the questions about dessert really get her going, until she's drooling from all sorts of lips over the thought of some awesome dessert, and then the Lead Bitch (you know who you are) will say that she's not going to eat dessert because she's watching her figure. Now this poor fat girl whose only redeeming quality is making her superficial friends look better by comparison has to go without dessert, because she'll be damned if she's the only one at the table macking on some brownies while these other bitches look on in disgust. And all this after you cock-teased her by asking your waiter what the most decadent and delicious desserts are, making him describe it in such minute detail that she can practically taste it before you tore it out of her mouth with your anorexic claw.
No wonder she eats her feelings.
Meanwhile, I've just wasted a lot of time explaining a dessert to you that you won't buy when I could be in the kitchen dropping entrees on the ground.
Get the Fuck Out - Seriously. When you're done, unless you left an exorbitant tip (by which I mean more than 20%), you need to leave. You don't live here, and no one wants to listen to your theories about moral relativism or Kuhn's postmodern works or even what your baby did today. You are done at my establishment. You have paid me, I have serviced you, now you must go so that someone else can start the dharmic wheel of my servitude once again. If there's nothing to eat on your table, then why are you still at the fucking restaurant?
After You Leave - Once you're gone, I or one of my immigrant compadres will pick up your dirty Kleenex off the table, sweep up the Cheerios your asshole kid threw all over the ground, take your half-eaten entree to the dishwasher, who has to deal with your disgusting shit, clean up your spilled drinks, and seat the next person there. You have no idea how disgusting you and your fellow restaurant patrons are. I have picked up snotty Kleenex, cigarette butts, empty containers, children's toys, and a number of soiled diapers from the same table you are sitting at, and trust me, it's as gross as it sounds.
Where Does Health Care Come In? - Like it or not, the food service industry will always hate you. There's really nothing you can do to change this, it's just what we do. You don't tip enough, you don't order enough, or you were rude to us. Frankly, we're impossible to please. But there's some justification to our hatred, and it's this: you probably work a 9-5 job, Monday through Friday, have weekends and federal holidays off, and have benefits.
We have none of that.
In fact, it is impossible to have any sort of physical ailment and wait tables. You need full use of all hands, fingers, feet and toes, and can't be sniffling or coughing when you do it. Waiters need to be impossibly healthy or we don't get paid.
That's why we hide it.
We have rent to pay just like everyone else, so we can't afford to miss work. We don't get sick days. We drink and party a lot, and if that ever catches up to us, well, we have Visine, Day-Quil, Pepto-Bismol, and a whole other host of OTC drugs to conceal our condition from you. A number of us probably have swine flu right now and are still waiting tables because if we don't, we can't live.
We don't get sick days. We don't get paid time off. We don't get holiday pay. We're expected to be working our hardest when everyone else is having fun and relaxing. And if we get sick, we can't afford the $300 it costs to go to the doctor and get some prescription meds for a potentially serious condition. We just suck it up until we get so sick we can't physically make it in to work, or we power through and work until we get better. Going to the doctor is expensive. Health care is expensive. Try paying for that when your only source of income is some shitbrain who tips you $3 on a $70 check because "he didn't bring me my water fast enough". It's impossible without either government help or a change in attitudes about tipping, and I don't see anyone starting the trend to tip better so their waiters can have healthcare.
The next time you bitch about a public option for health care, or think that nationalized health care is a bad idea, look at the people waiting on you in a restaurant. Think about how much we hate you. Think about how we aren't washing our hands because we have to rush to refill you water glass for the sixth time. Think about what we're doing to your food right now.
If you don't believe me, ask anyone who works in a restaurant what their plan is if they get sick. If they don't laugh in your face outright, they'll probably say something like "wave a magic bone over the problem and pray". Do someone a favor. Tip better.
I have spent a lot of time in management in a fast-food restaurant, for those of you who are curious. I want you to know that it's even more disgusting than anything I've described here.

Now come serve me a drink so I can stiff you on the tip.

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