In the table-turning trade, every shift ushers in a new assortment of characters. And the luck of the draw can either make your day or make your day a ten percent, everything on the side and separate checks living hell. Focusing on the positive, here's a short list of the types of clientele I love to see sitting in my station:
My food & beverage blood brothers & sisters- Unless I literally take a crap on their table and/or call them cocksuckers, this ticket's good for a 25%-plus grat, guaranteed. Then there's the camaraderie factor. There's just something oh so cathartic about engaging your professional peers in witty, work-related banter at the expense of the boorish, butthole customers and anal taskmasters we all have in common. And admit it. Few things feel better than dropping that tableside F-Bomb you know you can get away with. Professionals- Show me guys in suits doing the power lunch or dinner thing, and I'll show you easy pickings and a tip sure to cover my next cable bill, inclusive of the pay-per-view charges. High let's-make-a-deal testosterone levels make my job easy. I simply bait the hook properly: "Gentlemen, the bacon-wrapped filet crowned with crab and hollandaise sauce is our signature." Like pond carp, they can't help but compete over whatever's thrown in the water.
"And to whom should we entrust the wine list?" is my go-to move. If no hard-charger makes a quick grab, the right guy usually gets flattered into action in short order by his deferential associates at the table.
But sorry, working girls, this is, generally, a gender-specific dynamic. Fairer-sexed execs and their dining companions tend to be more frugal (not a bad thing) and keep a better eye on the dietetic bottom line, which all adds up to less for me, unfortunately.
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"We're from New York"-ers- There was a time when waiting on Gothomites really got my goat. They struck me as surly, self-absorbed know-it-alls, plain and simple, who made a point of letting everyone know they came from the savviest state in the Union. But as I took care of their kind time after time, I began to get the message most of them were actually sending (insert vowel-accentuating, nasal accent here): "Listen; 'ya don't need to be extra nice. That ain't what we're used to. And we'll make it worth your while if 'ya just answer a few questions, keep the drinks comin', and take care of us. Capisce? Nowadays, whenever I get a group of these goodfellas and gals, I give 'em what they want and they treat me right. Bing, bang, boom. Fuggedaboudit!
Gays- It's true: As a specific dining public demographic, they're near the top of the food chain from a server's perspective. Generally more genteel and generous than their straight counterparts, who's to say whether such traits are learned behaviors or just something folks either do or don't have in their genes? One thing's for sure; I'm nobody's judge. Suffice it to say, if given the choice between waiting on some Ken and Barbie couple or a Siegfried & Roy situation, I'd play the odds and take the boys. And officially, no, I've never felt recruited to switch teams by the guys from the other league. There's no catcher's equipment in my locker, just so you know.
Parents with well-behaved children- If you think waiters want nothing to do with children, let me just be clear as to what makes us bristle when it comes to the kiddies. Better yet, let me sight a shining example of how good boys and girls behave when they're dining out with mom and dad. During my days at NOCA, a couple and their three daughters became frequent visitors to my station. The youngest- barely school age, maybe- never once made a peep or threw so much as an oyster cracker, let alone the typical tantrums associated with childlike impatience for the pace of an average restaurant meal. The middle daughter- more talkative- asked questions politely, never blurting out of turn or over the table conversations between her parents and me. The eldest, a pre-teen, self-professed food critic in the making, offered me soft and well-spoken observations, comments and compliments over the course of several dinners in my care, never once coming across as purely plaintive, as so many kids are want to do when exposed to certain new experiences.
They were all three angels, a testimony to the efforts of the parents raising them, and quite a contrast to the products of overly-permissive parenting who are allowed to shout and pout in too many dining rooms, all too often.