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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Hate People WHen THey’re Not Polite

Blind date. In my world that means having lunch with an editor I’ve never met before. He emailed me a month ago and said something nice about my list and we made a date and it was today. I guess I could have looked him up on FaceTweet but that’s not how I roll. I just go to the restaurant, snort some Ritalin in the Ladies Room and wing it. This young man was funny, slightly aloof or shy, knew his shit. Refreshing. He ordered a lobster roll which was impressive. He brought me a galley for a book he edited. It was full of blurbs and I always admire editors who work hard to get the blurbs. He was smart about the kind of books he wants to work on, well spoken, and polite.  I basically judge editors by the way they treat waiters. Is there any better indicator of a person’s character? When I was a young editor, I remember having lunch with agents who are my age now. They seemed really square and arrogant to me. Glory days and all that crap. Dear Lord, grant me one wish: what was it?

How do you treat waiters?

38 Responses

  1. Polite goes a long way.

    Having once been a server, I always try to be polite. I’ve never seen the point of being an asshole to anyone I’m not related to and even then, I always end up feeling dreadful and exposed.

    • Ditto. There’s nothing lost by saying please and thank you.

      Likewise, my tips start at twenty percent—and not just because it’s easier to move the decimal to the left and and double it.

  2. It is difficult work, being a waiter. I try always to treat them with cheerful respect. They don’t get paid shit. Sometimes the tips aren’t so good. Sometimes their customers are overgrown babies.

    I tended bar seven years and sometimes waited tables. Started in the business as a cocktail waiter in a gay bar. Started tending bar there after a month on the floor. Later tended bar at a rock bar, a resort bar, a hotel disco, a downtown businessman’s bar, and a piano bar. Waited tables and tended bar both on slow nights. Dealt with all kinds: drunks, fools, shysters, thugs, dealers, the lost, the lonely, the players and the played, the layers and the laid. Came to the end of it with a bad attitude about everybody and a drinking habit that chose to linger for a further five years.

    Saw a lot of shit. Took a lot of shit. Saw how the servants get treated. Learned how the servants treat themselves. So now I try always to treat waiters the way I always wanted to be treated when I was on the floor, tray in hand, or behind the bar, speed tending on a busy Saturday night–with respect and with goodwill.

  3. Having spent soooo many years in service industry jobs myself, I am very polite, even when they’re the ones being an ass, especially when they are being an ass because I have seen too many plates spit on by disgruntled waitstaff with mental health issues. Ever been behind the scenes at a 5 star restaurant? Some scary people are riding a razor’s edge back there, don’t give them a reason.

    • I have a few dietary restrictions, and I love my own cooking too much, so I rarely eat out. When I do, I’m a bit high maintenance but polite, and I tip well.

      My father was a career waiter, working the kosher hotels on Miami Beach in the winter, and the Catskills (Brown’s, Grossingers) in the summertime. About ten years back my husband and I took part of a folk music conference at Kutsher’s. When I saw all the Hispanic waiters in the dining room, I nearly broke down crying, remembering not just my Papi in his starched white shirt and black pants, but my childhood, eating the filched roasted chickens and other goodies he brought home. I waited tables under his tutelage on the Beach during Christmas holidays when I was fifteen. Those old snowbirds at the Seagull Hotel could teach me a thing or two about special requests. My tips were all in quarters and dimes; I’d walk home with enough to fill a sock that could knock out a mugger.

      Now the Borscht Belt is the Bhajan Belt, the kosher resorts are yoga retreats. The Seagull is either demolished or catering to beautiful gay men and supermodels. Even though I was raised Catholic and am considered Hindu, I think I’d feel more at home if the clientele at those places were still little old Jewish people. But that generation, some of whom had numbers etched on their arms and the timbre of Poland or Hungary in their voices, are nowhere to be seen.

  4. I’ve only had one occasion to speak harshly to a waiter. Some years back, in another city, I attended a business luncheon. Well-known power lunch place. Only woman sitting at a table with six men. I’m wearing my Pendleton Wool suit, the one I spent 3 months sewing and tailoring from a certain Vogue Designer pattern. It was my best outfit and I so desperately hoped it would camouflage my nervousness.

    The waitress spilled half my cocktail into my lap. She then slopped about 1/2 a cup of ice water across my right shoulder. The men and I gently laughed about “my luck” with beverages. Then, as she angled the first course towards me, I noticed the soup bowl contents were, again, tipping towards my lap. I quickly grabbed the bowl and told the woman firmly “I thnk you have spilled enough on me today.”

    The men were impressed. I’m sure the rest of my meal was quietly sabotaged by this waitress, but what disturbed me more was: why? It was my first meal at that place and obviously my last. Never-the-less, the meeting went quite well and quality fabric can withstand the unexpected, unfavorable incident. My dry-cleaner is also a saint.

  5. I totally agree about waiters. And a guy who flirts with one while trying to appear globally suave is really not on

  6. We are friendly, courteous, and frequently ask what they recommend if we don’t have a preference. We tip well, too, and very well for excellent service.

    If I go out with someone who is rude to the staff, I won’t do it again. By the same token, if the service or food are poor, I probably won’t go back. I appreciate drama on stage or page, but won’t be in the cast.

    • “but won’t be in the cast.” Love that, Frank!

      One of my stepfathers is a sweet man, but he believes the word “tip” is defined as $5. Every check, no matter the amount, gets a $5 tip. Last time I was home about 15 of us met up at chain Mexican restaurant, a place where you pay on the way out. We had beers and margaritas and nachos and big meals — fun for all !!

      When the check came, Dad snapped it up and made a huge deal of treating us. “No, no, put your wallets away! Your money is no good here! My treat!” As we were standing, he took that $5 bill out of his wallet and flipped it, with a snap and a big proud smile, onto the center of the long table and stuck a toothpick in his mouth. So proud.

      My sister, claiming she forgot to use the bathroom, went back in and gave the waiter his real tip. This tactic has saved our dignity for about 25 years now.

  7. A family member is a server and I have heard too many stories about tramped on lettuce put back in bowls to not be nice. I tip well and am always, always respectful. It’s one of the hardest jobs out there. I’d rather clean your toilet than serve you and your party of four.

    • Bear in mind that if you’re a server, you often end your nights cleaning toilets anyway.

  8. Years ago a man who wanted to invest in my business took me to dinner; I desperately needed his money to expand my manufacturing firm. He was impressed by my business model, liked what I said and he had very full pockets, a dream come true for me. During the first fifteen minutes after being seated he ‘demanded’ we be moved twice, so we could be near the windows and the view of the water. He treated the waiter like shit, like he was wad of gum on the bottom of his Topsider. The waiter was top-notch but if it had been me I would have jacked-off in the guy’s chowder. The investor didn’t leave a tip but I did.
    I took the guys money but did not introduce him to my employees because I never forgot how he treated those he considered beneath him. The guy was obviously trying to impress me but what a jerk. The one thing I liked about him, the color of his money but it was tainted. The business became way-to successful, way-to fast. I got sick, really sick, the business went under and the guy… he died young.
    Moral of this story, stay where you’re seated and you will remain successful and alive.

  9. I treat waiters like family.

    Speaking of lobsters and family, I’m in Nantucket with my ex-husband, his girlfriend, my boyfriend, both our kids, plus spouses and my darling granddaughter of two years old, who rattles away in Mandarin and English.

    What was my point?

    Oh, we had a lobster feast and we’re all getting along. I think, somehow, this is relevant????

  10. My daughter was playing around on the floor near our table — after we told her to just sit quietly until we were done. The child is not a good listener and we had a margarita or two. A waitress carrying a full tray of hot and fragrant food tripped over the kid obstacle and launched hot melted cheese, rice, beans and drenched enchiladas and chimichangas in the direction of a waiter who was returning to the kitchen. He screamed and all the attention in the restaurant was squarely focused on us. Feeling bad, I went to help the waitress up and her shirt got caught on a chair embellishment and pretty much got ripped right off. Somehow her skirt disappeared from her body and all eyes looked down to see part of the garment under my foot. I couldn’t help noticing her tatoo, an unusual one that resembled a late Picasso work, located in a place she’d never see. She was pretty mad and embarrassed by now and when I moved toward her after noticing a piece of damp shredded lettuce on her cheek and a tomatoe wedge in her hair, I lost my balance after stepping in a pile of greasy chopped meat and stumbled, our heads clunking together painfully and both of us crashing to the floor, me on top of her and her with legs upraised
    like they were in gynecologist stirrups. The mostly inebriated patrons of the restaurant were either clapping or laughing, although a few tried to help, making things worse. After awhile the scene resembled a 1970’s partially clothed orgy in the main room of Plato’s Retreat. Of course, someone filmed it with their cellphone and posted it on YouTube. The restaurant manager mumbled something about my kid being a little monster, I told him it was just an accident and he called me an asshole, so I called him a shitfuck and next thing you know, we were barred from that restaurant. Food wasn’t that good anyway.
    Based on that experience, I guess I’m not too good with waiters and waitresses.

  11. I tend to worship anyone who brings me food.

  12. Been a waiter, been a bouncer, have worked behind the bar. If someone spits in my food and tells me I’m ugly, all I’ll do is pat their hand and tell them I understand before giving them money.

  13. With respect if they are good at what they do. Knowing that they make their living on their tips. Making certain I tip very generously for good service.

  14. My only problems have been in Paris, at the cafes. If I’m alone, the waiters (and cab drivers) can be quite rude, though my Parisian neighbors at the tables are great. Unfortunately, the tip’s included over there, so I order light and then, instead of doing the polite thing by leaving a euro or some change, I leave a U.S. penny.

    I know. It’s a pathetic gesture, but it’s all I’ve got.

  15. Typically I treat them like a human being. A good waiter or waitress can be a blast. As long as they don’t hover or totally ignore you for the big table/tip, we’re good. My dad however, who was normally a very nice man, for some reason always had a big hate on for waiters. Always. He had a special stink eye he’d lay on waiters that horrified the rest of the family. I have no idea why. We’d typically apologize

  16. If I tip exactly 20 percent and no higher, that generally means I was unhappy about some part of the service. I once left a 15 percent tip in Quebec City for a waiter who was flat-out rude to my face throughout the entire meal. I later wished I had left nothing — I’ve never done that before — but to me, 15 percent is so low. To that waiter, however, it was probably an above-average tip. Maybe I at least defied his expectations?

  17. I treat everyone with respect and politeness, but especially waiters/waitresses. My son was a waiter for years and I got to hear too many stories about how some customers would treat him – even when he was practically groveling at their feet. (i.e. he won awards for excellent customer service, etc). The old adage “the customer is always right” really gets abused in that profession. Some would come in with that attitude draped around them and there would be nothing he could do that was right.

  18. …and as we’re contemplating the parameters of civil behavior both in and out of dining and drinking establishments, we are all aware what song betsy is quoting from in the post’s title, yes? qu’est-ce que c’est?

  19. If you ask me, these new young ‘uns are amazing.

    Anyhow, we’re all waiters. Why be an ass in the meantime?

  20. I was brought up in an area where job meant changing sheets and pouring coffee. I always did it without objection. If I’m at a table with someone who mistreats another person because they feel that person is below their station, the target’s been set. I will find the most inopportune time to embarrass them. I once took it too far in the presence of the CEO of the finance company I was working for. One of the women was such an entitled brat and made the mistake of voicing her superiority in front of me. I came back with a clever retort and the CEO… well, he started laughing and I was a favorite from then on out. I later learned he had worked for his fortune. Something the ass kissers weren’t privy too.

  21. Since I’m half deaf and waiters/waitresses have to really work with me to understand them, I tip big. I want them to remember me and keep on working with me so I understand specials and such. It’s worked so far.

  22. Polite & courteous, always. One of the few rules I live by: Never, ever fuck with the people handling your food.

  23. My two sons never learned to pick up after themselves, but I did manage to teach them to tip well. Chalk one up for small parenting successes.

  24. I like to take them home and fuck them. Sometimes they can’t get off work. Then I slap them.

  25. I pick stuff off restaurant floors if I’ve dropped it, practically lick my plate clean, then stack the dishes when I’m through. I say please and thank you, try to make allowances if the food takes a while to get to me, and leave a 15% tip. I’m not impressed by people who act like waiters and cab drivers are off their radars when it comes to manners.

  26. i talk to them in a polite, thankful tone, involving them in my food choice if i’m not sure what to select. after all, they stand between my growling stomach and my food!

  27. instead of continuing to TRY to write, i think I’ll become a server and hope most of you (except for or maybe especially Vince P) come into my restaurant!

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