Armed with only a cork-topped plastic tray, I encounter the best and worst people on Earth. Every night. I've seen people who are otherwise pleasant, upstanding members of our society let alcohol activate the most wicked parts of their personalities. I've seen people turn loving or hateful at the drop of a hat. Like my sisters in the trade, I'm left to deal with the effects of unrestrained, uninhibited alter ego.
In preparation for this article, I carried a piece of paper in my back pocket for weeks as I was worked, reporting on real-life situations whence I grew to hate my customers.
Then, I had a meeting of the minds with my co-workers — over drinks, of course. In this meeting they not only confirmed my scribblings but added to the discourse. Everything you read below is based on first- or secondhand accounts of stupid shit done in Phoenix bars. I do not wish to sound harsh, dear reader; I merely speak the truth of my reality.
Tricky McPlastic: When asked whether he'll be paying with cash, this customer says yes. But when I come back with a tray full of drinks, the customer will hand me a credit card and say, "Is this okay?" Well, it would have been okay if you had told me five minutes ago. Now, it's actually a huge pain in the ass. You may not know this, but I already paid the bar — in cash — for your drink. See, I'm allotted money at the beginning of the night with which I buy drinks from the bar, getting reimbursed by you. But I can't tell you that because then I look like the difficult one. You just wasted five minutes of my life, asshole.
The Well Waller: The United States has a 99 percent literacy rate. Therefore, 99 percent of the people who come into a bar should be able to read the sign in front of a waitress well that says, "Do not stand in front of the well." Still, countless people, in varying states of intoxication, stand, wait, dance, flirt, order drinks, and look annoyed in the one place that the waitress needs to be. Let's play role-reversal: This would be like the waitress coming into your cubicle, sitting at your desk, making a phone call, and then getting annoyed when you ask her to move.
The Relay Team: If you enjoy running, that's fine. But don't assume your waitress enjoys it too. When she asks you if you want anything to drink, you should actually tell her anything and everything you'd like to drink. Don't send your waitress off to the bar to get you a gin and tonic, only to mention when she returns that your friend wants a rum and Coke. Then, when she brings the rum and Coke, don't tell her that each of you needs a glass of water. Believe it or not, you're not the only thirsty customers in the bar.
Stubborn Burro: Some customers are stubborn, refusing to move when asked. Where I work, it's often too loud to ask people more than once (without shredding your vocal chords) to move. If you, the customer, do not move when asked, it is totally appropriate for the cocktail waitress to tap you on the back or shoulder with her free hand or kick you in the shin or calf if she doesn't have a free hand. Please do us both a favor and move. Otherwise when that tray comes crashing down, it will likely fall on you. Not pleasant, trust me.
The Ass(umer): Cocktail waitresses are stigmatized. Common assumptions about waitresses that aren't usually true: They're stupid, uneducated, slutty, flirtatious, or all of the above. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me, "So what is it that you really want to do?" or been surprised when I said something remotely witty or intelligent. Once, I was waiting on a customer from France, and began a pleasant conversation with him in his native tongue. After a few minutes, an intoxicated and obnoxious woman loudly asked one of her friends, "How does the waitress know French?!?" I know it's tough to believe, but we're not all bimbos.
Grabby Paws: Though a waitress is there to serve you, she's not there for your amusement. In what universe do people think it's acceptable to grab, grope, tickle, fondle, or touch your server in any way? Such acts are sexist, insulting, condescending, degrading, and simply so very wrong. In addition to the ever-popular ass-grab, I've had at least one customer attempt to tickle my armpit as I've held a full tray over my head. Really, buddy? Oddly, touching is something considered appropriate by far too many people. Given that server has been, historically, a woman's job, the notion that it's okay to reinforce antiquated gender roles is not cool.