When I go into work, I have my pocketbook in one hand, my apron in the other, and lately I'm wearing my lesbian sunglasses (…lesbian sunglasses because they were seven dollars and fourteen cents at Old Navy, on sale, and the second I put them on I knew that my invisibility as a Total Dyke was gone and I was immediately transformed into Super Queer, apparent for all the world to see. They’re sort of like Uma Thurman’s police officer glasses from Kill Bill, which is an extra added bonus, because half the time I do feel like killing a bunch of people. I don't know what the price of the glasses has to do with it except maybe I have some idea that lesbians tend to be thrifty. Shifty, yes, but also very, very thrifty...).
When I went into work yesterday specifically, Lady Manager was standing right there at the bar, and when she saw me she told me to put my (aforementioned) stuff down so she could take my hands, she needed to take my hands, and she looked toward the bar where the bartender sets the drinks for us to pick up as a place to put my (aforementioned) stuff and even held out her hands, ready to receive mine. She was serious.
Friends, this is not what you want to happen immediately upon arriving at work. She had Something To Tell Me, and it wasn’t good. I put my stuff on the (sticky, ughh, *shudder*) bar and gave her my hands, which was very awkward, I must say, to be standing there holding hands with your Lady Manager, even though I’m a lesbian (even though I’d taken the glasses off at that point) it’s not like we’re just thrilled to be touching all women all the time. I mean, really. It’s not like that. Watch something other than the Playboy channel. This was an awkward situation.
Here I should tell you that my nickname around work is Squirrel. This is because I’m nervous and fast and have a bushy (pony)tail but mostly because I’m nervous. People expect me to twitch and shakily hold acorns up to my mouth then run away to go have a nervous bowel movement at any second. (Side note – have you ever seen a squirrel turd? Like, anywhere? Any evidence of any sort of squirrel poopings? I mean, we see bird turds, and all manner of scat all over the place, but not a single dropping from a squirrel. They are truly, truly nervous and shy little animals after my own heart.) So, anyway, people tend to try to take care of me and my nervousness all the time just to keep me useful.
In that vein, Lady Manager has me by the hands and is explaining to me with Serious Face, like she’s my therapist and also someone who just so happens to have a pair of big lady grown-up panties folded up in her pocketbook if I’d like to try them on, that a large group of little league baseball players and their families are in the area and, if anything like last night happens, they will be descending upon the restaurant, our very place of business, at some point today during my shift.
She’s still holding my hands, and I started to tighten my grip a little.
Then, Lady Manager says, “I need you to administer salt. Just sprinkle it all around and get ready.”
As you may know, salt (like sage, and chocolate, and other things) is good for keeping away evil. It’s just sort of a good thing. We throw it over our shoulder for good luck, we eat it in mass quantities in conjunction with sweets for PMS, we take a little bit of it in the form of Lithium for bipolar. For me, salt is particularly good for my low blood pressure and tachycardia issues. My cardiologist tells me I’m the opposite of everything he tells everyone else.
Soon after I started working at this restaurant, I started sprinkling salt around if things went to shit. I would walk by a bad table and drop salt, or salt an entire section that had been having trouble the night before, or even do a preemptive salting for the whole restaurant in anticipation of a Friday or Saturday night during a certain season of the year, or when certain conferences were in town. Coworkers started asking me to sprinkle (or “administer,” like it’s a rite) salt for them, and Lady Manager got right on board with the salting soon after a woman showed up to the restaurant one evening in her pedicure shoes, complaining and trying to get her food for free.
Salt sprinkling is really all we have, so when things like little league teams descending happens, that’s what you do. I went to the back and got the cylinder container of it, the one with the umbrella girl, and marched myself to the front doors, exited, and drew a big line in the sand, as it were, right in front of the restaurant. Also, because I’ve watched those paranormal investigator reality shows, I sent out a little message, silently, from my heart to the Universe and whatever else was listening:
“I do not welcome you. I do not welcome you evil spirits of the children baseball players and their families, their moms who are tired and angry and little sisters who put macaroni up their noses, and their loud dads with the baseball caps who empty glass after glass of sweet tea, and their uncles who order beers and Jack-and-Coke’s and embarrass everyone. I do not offer safe space to you to come eat chicken tenders in this restaurant. I am not receptive to your ideations of a 12 oz cut of meat cooked to a well-done status of oblivion within 10 minutes. I reject your crayons on the floor and your high chairs. I do this rejection with salt. Hear me, ye children baseball players and their families, and turn away!”
And it worked. I had to sprinkle two more times, but it worked. They didn’t come.
What did come my way was a small party of six. All adults, but, at the end, they started to act like children. I had a trainee yesterday, and at that point I was forcing her to start greeting and handling the tables rather than just shadowing me, so, regrettably (but good, it has to happen some time) she had to be involved and help me handle this:
Everything went fine until at one point I went to the table and a guy announced his steak was “awful.” Not “undercooked” or “tasteless,” but AWFUL. So, not asking any questions regarding the awfulness of the steak, I removed the offending item from the table and tried, repeatedly, to offer him something else instead. He didn’t want anything else, just his baked potato, and to repeat over and over again that the steak was “awful.” When I took the steak, I smelled a little something sour, and when I presented the steak to Lady Manager, I told her as much, and she smelled it and she took the meal off of his bill. She went out to the table, and things were okay. The next time I went back to the table, though, things were not-okay again. Two of the men had stepped away from the table, were sort of standing around as if the table, and their wives at the table, incidentally, were lepers.
At this point, things really got kind of ridiculous. Almost, well, depending on your level of sensitivities, kind of abusive, if you believe that wait staff can be treated abusively at all.
Another man, other than the original Awful Steak Man, announced that Awful Steak Man’s steak was so awful, that it smelled so bad, that he couldn’t stay at the table to eat his own meal, and had to get up. This man did not have any sleeves to his shirt. I looked over and noticed that his shrimp were gone. The steak, though, the steak was still there.
At this point, Awful Steak Man approached with a fork, a fork that had a bit of meat attached to the end of it, jousted it toward my face, and demanded rather than suggested (I mean, the fork with the meat was already in my face) that I smell it.
I sniffed (fuck, I mean what do you do? I’m a waitress. I have no power of refusal here.) and went back to Lady Manager to update her as to the increased level of dissatisfaction on the part of our guests. Hesitantly, she removed Sleeveless’s meal from the bill as well. I went back out to inform him of the good news and, at that, Sleeveless, now bolstered by his power and deciding to act as a kind of spokesman for the group (he was dressed up, after all), applied the rhetoric that “All the tickets ought to be tore up.” Not just one, the one with the bad steak, and not just his, but everybody’s, including the people who were completely satisfied with their meals as evidenced by the fact that their meals were now gone from their plates.
So, I went back for a third time to Lady Manager, all the way outside where she and Friends were smoking out near the dumpsters in the 1000 degree heat, and gave her the bad news. I reminded her that the gentleman didn’t have sleeves. She said, “Fine.”
It was after that that I sprinkled the second dousing of salt. I nearly emptied the container. I sprinkled a third round just before I left, out of mercy and compassion for the comrades I left behind in the battle of Good and Evil known as Food Service.