Diners Clubbed

It's a wonder we don't hear more news of restaurant staffers going completely postal.

They've got the motives -- long hours spent on their feet, often with demanding customers, and with little control over (but ultimate blame for) the kitchen, low pay and, too frequently, lousy tips.

They've got the weapons, certainly -- sharp knives; big, glistening cleavers; and industrial-size Veg-o-Matics to dispose of the evidence.

And they've got the opportunities -- many restaurants stay open late, until 1 a.m. even. When it's dark. When parking lots are empty. When if a few customers didn't actually make it to their cars, who would be the wiser?

Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. (That's the sound of your heartbeat thudding in your ears.)

Thankfully, as we all know, waiters and waitresses are calm, collected and capable. They enjoy their jobs, don't mind the sacrifices, and handle their professional challenges with rational clarity. They don't really want to hurt us.

At least I don't think they do. After reading through The Waiter's Revenge, though, a Web site dedicated to anecdotes written by disgruntled waiters, I'm not so sure. (Find the site at www.geocities.com/SoHo/1227.)

Consider the "Waiter's Haiku":

The man is choking

He has shoved too much bread

Into his big mouth

Or selections from the "Revenge Against Bad Tippers" list.

• Bad Tipper Suddenly Goes Bald. (Especially the Women.)

• Bad Tipper Is Placed Naked in an Old-Fashioned Stock in Front of the Restaurant and Subjected to Verbal Abuse for Several Hours.

The site operates as an open forum for restaurant staff, and, while often hilarious, it also lends insight into a high-pressure profession the average diner may take for granted. Read through it, and as you do, keep in mind that the minimum wage for servers in Arizona is only $2.13 an hour. Tips are critical to survival. Niceness counts. Customers have a much greater impact on their servers' livelihood and sanity than many may realize.

While one of the site's chat-room members worries that the site encourages hostility toward customers, The Waiter's Revenge creator Christopher De Voss says no.

"I don't see this site as reinforcing poor service," the independent restaurant consultant and fellow waiter replies. "I find a lot of the stories quite helpful, and in a stressful job such as this one, humor is an elixir. Every job should have this type of page. Imagine what a lawyer's revenge Web site would be like, taxi driver's revenge, doctor's revenge, etc."

It's also cheaper than therapy. You don't have to interpret too deeply these condensed selections from posted "Waiter's Dreams" to see that service isn't always as easy as it looks.

• "The restaurant is closed for remodeling, but people keep showing up at my house to be fed. I'm in the shower and the doorbell rings. I answer wearing just a towel and there's an endless procession of guests stretched around the block. They come in and crowd around my coffee table, because the manager left a note on the restaurant door that service would temporarily be relocated to MY house. They demand intricate culinary delights. And all I have in the damn refrigerator is a tomato and a container of soy milk."

• "I am slammed with customers and I go to the bar to put in my drink orders. There's a very large venomous snake at my station. I freak out. No one listens of course, and just yell about their drinks. My manager starts in on me, asking why I can't serve my drinks -- everyone else can. I point at the snake but he shrugs and tells me to work around it."

• "It's a very busy day, and I have tables everywhere, even in the ladies restroom! I am wearing only a shirt, a tie and shoes. My manager looks at me and says, 'Where's your name tag?'"

"Stories From Under the Table" are real-life nightmares that bring new compassion for suffering of our noble waiter and waitress. An edited sample:

"I'm the only waitress and a lady comes in with her son. I've waited on them many times before, and know they're trouble. They complain that the breakfast specials are the same as the week before (although they had not ordered any specials last week, complaining they were too expensive). Their drinks come, they complain. Their food comes, they complain. Nothing specific that can be fixed, just that nothing here is ever right.

"They finally leave. I go to their table, and picking up an empty cup, find my tip. It's two pennies. I'm furious. It's better to leave no tip than to pull this, and I know before the week's up they'll be back in. I can't help myself; I march to the front door and yell that they've forgotten something inside. When the son gets close enough I throw the pennies at him, and -- they bounce off his head! I feel sooo much better until the mom comes in to tell on me.

"My boss suggests they leave dollars the next time, so as not to risk getting a dent in Junior's skull."

Understandably, the "You Know You're Getting a Bad Tip When . . ." section of The Waiter's Revenge is the most popular, notes De Voss. Two of the Top 10 favorites include: #7, You hear, "You were the best waiter we ever had!" And #1, Your guest orders water, lemon slices and sugar (presumably to make free lemonade).

So be considerate when dining out. Leave good tips. Remember, as The Waiter's Revenge motto reads: A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. Forget, and it could kill you.

After Dinner Mint: Pick up a copy of this month's Gourmet to read about Restaurant Hapa in Scottsdale. Gourmet likes it, calling it "the most compelling place in town," and describing the food as a "thrill." Chef-owners James and Stacey McDevitt's restaurant serves creative Asian-American dishes zinged with dramatic sauces -- check it out.

Contact Carey Sweet at 602-744-6558 or online at carey.sweet@newtimes.com


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