Back in the days before TV talk shows brought Tourette's Syndrome into our mainstream consciousness (circa 1985), I hung my server shingle at a lakeside seafood restaurant in Scottsdale.
I'd gotten the job through a drinking buddy, just days after being fired for arguing with my former supervisor (and that restaurant owner's then-girlfriend) that I was an untouchably gifted server whose services to the proprietor were unequaled even by her. You live, you learn.
During training shifts at the new job, my corporate trainer, "Rod," walked and talked me through my paces - how to toss the house's tableside salad, how to take an order just so. Rod was good at his job. He talked his customers through the details of their dining experience with supremely confident, rote repetitiveness.
In the kitchen, away from the eyes and ears of the dining public, Rod cracked on his customers and made his co-workers laugh, noticing little things about them, and offering astute observations both comic and critical. Rod was a great noticer.
Enter Ken and Barbie. A beautiful, protoypical mid-1980s couple. He, in Don Johnson-esque blazer and soft pastels, and she, bursting out of a black leather bustier topping a teal mini I'll always remember.
Rod the Noticer, along with pretty much everyone else in the dining room, stood silently mesmerized as they were seated. She was absolute eye candy, which Rod took to mentally unwrapping from the moment he laid eyes on her.
"She's perfect, man," he kept repeating to me in the pantry.
"Rod, no mushrooms for table 21's salad, remember?"
"Oh, right, man, thanks. Can you believe her?"
"Rod, crackers for the bisque?"
"Yeah, yeah, right. Crackers."
Rod the Efficiency God was smitten. She was no mere mortal babe to him. He'd found his muse. And his fall from grace.
Arriving back at Ken and Barbie's table, Rod started taking the order. But the script seemed flipped. He fumbled over words I'd heard roll off his tongue many times over. My trainer's train of thought was derailed, and he sounded nervous. He uncharacteristically commited a few sins of omission, forgetting to ask Ken and Barbie about appetizers and their soup or salad options.
And then it happened. Right in the middle of side dish considerations.
"Would the gentleman care for baked potato or rice pilaf?" Rod wondered.
"Butter, sour cream, chives on that, sir?" He seemed to be gathering himself. "And for the lady?" Rod the God turned to his Aphrodite.
"Potato for me, too, please," she said, smiling up at him.
"And would you like butter, sour cream, or chives on your tits, miss?"
There it was. Libido unleashed and barking at thy neighbor's wife in her front yard. A brain fart of Biblical proportions. In the still moment that followed, everyone looked at everyone. Rod turned helplessly to me. I stared at Rod. Ken glared at Rod. Barbie, in deep blush, looked to me, for some reason. With hindsight, it was probably a safer bet than engaging either Rod or Ken.
"Excuse me a moment," Rod broke the silence. He made a beeline for the main hallway.
But even left standing there with Seething Ken and Bustier Barbie, I was way ahead of Rod. I knew if he turned left out of the dining room, he'd be heading off to find our manager. To the right, on the other hand, was nothing but the front doors.
I was right. Rod went right. I'd have done the same.
"He's not coming back, is he?" Ken called out, turning my attention back to the table.
"Nope," I shrugged. "Let me get you a manager."
Our G.M. did what he had to do. He suffered the slings and arrows of Ken's rant, apologized profusely, and comped everything. And he pulled me into his office to talk after service.
"Nice job picking up the pieces," he said.
"Hey, you picked up the tab, boss. Too bad about Rod, though. Good guy." I was trying to say all the right new guy things.
"You know, some people have this condition that causes them to say things like that," Manager went on.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
"Hope it's not contagious." I was feeling suddenly clever and comfortable in our conversation. "In Rod's defense, Jack, I can only say, this girl was absolutely..."
"Like you said," Manager cut me off, "I hope it's not contagious."
Moral of the story, gentlemen? Focus. And above the neckline, whenever possible.-- Anonymous
Anonymous has seen it all in 25 years of waiting tables and tending bar at some of the Valley's most beloved restaurants.