Originally Posted: 2006-01-24 16:05

RANT: The Dining Public. Rules of the Road.

My Dear Dining Public:

Hello. I am your friendly neighborhood restaurant employee. I would like to post below a few rules—or, if you don’t like that word, how about a few “tips”—that you should consider adhering to the next time you decide to dine in a restaurant.

I know, I know: here I am bending over and spreading my cheeks for you to shove your “why don’t you go get a real job” hate straight up my ass, but let me tell you something before we begin, Dining Public--this IS my real job, as it is for many of us who consider this Our Profession.

How do you know that your server, your bartender, or your cook isn’t taking this as seriously as you take YOUR job? How do you know that they aren’t a “degreed professional?” I would never suggest that you or anyone else “go and get a real job,” nor would I come into your place of business and act in a manner that caused everyone else in the building to wonder what fucking rock I had just crawled out from underneath of.

RULE ONE, then, Dining Public, must naturally be for you to stop assuming that all restaurant employees are slumming alcoholic pieces of shit without the intelligence, ability, and fortitude to find and hold down a “real job.” Because you never know who is taking your order, making your drink, and cooking your food.

Sure, there are a lot of uncaring bitches and assholes working in restaurants, just like there are a lot of uncaring bitches and assholes working in all industries. But some of us love this most dynamic and trying of occupations, some of us entered it by choice, and some of us would love to serve you to the best of our abilities. But first, you must learn to follow these simple, not-very-strenuous rules.

RULE TWO. When you enter the restaurant, you will note that there is a large lectern with a big sign on it that says: “Please Wait To Be Seated.” Do not ignore this sign, Dining Public. There is a reason we do not want you to seat yourselves, and it all centers around two basic concepts: 1). Fairness, and 2). Good Service.

“Fairness” is the opposite of what happens when you blunder into the dining room, more often than not shrieking into your cell phones and bearing large shopping bags, and take the sole remaining four-top without waiting your turn, failing to note that there may have been another party destined for that table who had been there first.

“Good Service” is what happens when the server knows that a new table has been seated in her section, and can therefore bring you ice water, consult with you as to what you would like to order, etcetera. If you just sneak in and sit down, we may not notice, and then we may be accused of providing “Bad Service.” So from now on, Dining Public, if you fail to observe the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign, and then you berate your server for not magically divining that she had a new table to serve (albeit one that, like the bitches and assholes you are, did not wait its turn), you will be taken outside, lined up against the walk-in, and shot.

RULE THREE. You can see that there are only 16 tables in this restaurant. You can see that every table is full and that there is a line. This is not new. We did not suddenly experience a drastic up-tick in our business. We have all done this before.

You have observed the sign noted in RULE TWO, and you have given your name to the pleasant hostess, and she has summarily noted it, and the number of your party, on the list. Do not, Dining Public—and I repeat, DO NOT—proceed to wait in line and glare at your hostess with malice and hatred in your eyes. Do not check your watch, roll your eyes, and make snide remarks to your fellow bitches and assholes. If you do this, Dining Public, your hostesses’ hands will begin to tremble as she rolls silverware and she will have to step out back for a few seconds to cool herself off from the radiating heat of your immense and misguided hate. She will leave after her eight-hour shift and want to go home and sob. Have you ever been a hostess? Look at the restaurant, Dining Public. It is busy. You are waiting in line. Deal with it. Do not suggest to the hostess that she move tables (which still have customers sitting at them) and block serving paths (not to mention routes of escape in case of fire) and skip over parties of two (who have been waiting longer than you have) in order to “accommodate” your party of 10.

Also, do not leave your name and the number of people in your party, wait for 20 minutes, and then leave without informing the hostess. That is just plain dumb. Good luck getting seated any faster for Sunday brunch in this neighborhood. And may that 20 minute wait time be increased tenfold for every hostess you fluster, Dining Public.

RULE FOUR. You will note, that beneath the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign, there is another sign. This sign reads: “No Outside Food Or Beverages.” Read it again with me, Dining Public: NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR BEVERAGES. This means do NOT come in to this restaurant with a fucking Starbucks cup and expect to sit and order food. This also means do not come in with cookies or tacos from another restaurant down the street and expect to sit and order drinks.

It will not happen, Dining Public, nor should it be allowed to.

Is it your “sense of entitlement” that leads you to believe it is no big deal to drink a fucking Starbucks in a place with coffee as good as ours, especially when it is in direct defiance of a posted sign? Our barista will be happy to make you a triple no-foam hazelnut whatever, and it will be cheaper, more delicious, and certainly sourced and made with more care than whatever is in that fucking insidious little green-and-white cup.

So, to the bitch who gaped at me in frank astonishment when I asked her to please hurry up and finish drinking whatever was in that little green-and-white cup so that she could be seated, and then spluttered at me as if I were the one who was being rude, and then left: GOOD. Little Green-and-White Cup Bitch, I hope you found the non-existent restaurant that DOES allow outside food and beverages, and I hope you went there, and that you never, ever come back here.

RULE FIVE. You will note that, in addition to this restaurant being very small and very crowded, with both customers and servers maneuvering around the floor, there are also many different types of people seated here. “Many different types” means white, brown, yellow, straight, gay, pierced, tattooed, loud, silent, half-naked, mostly-clothed, etcetera. That is to be expected. We live in a large city, and, despite some relatively recent and disturbing housing trends, this is still a semi-diverse neighborhood.

Now that we have that established, Dining Public, I would like to have a few words with you about your children.

First-of-fucking-all, do NOT allow your children to run about the restaurant like shrieking little turds that have somehow grown legs. Since you seem to be unable to comprehend that this is both 1). Rude, and 2). Stupid, how about if I tack on a third adjective which you *might* be able to understand. That adjective is “Dangerous.”

It is dangerous, Mom and Dad, to allow your offspring to dart about at knee-level when there are servers carrying heavy, hot trays. Although I doubt that you know this, Mom and Dad, since you still seem to be children yourselves, at least developmentally, and have therefore probably never worked anywhere, much less in a restaurant, we restaurant employees have developed a system for warning one another of our physical presences during the rush: a soft “Behind You,” or a light touch on the back or the shoulder as we move around our fellow employees, is both standard and acceptable.

This is so no one is hurt, so that nothing is spilled, and so that our service of you, and your children, continues to go smoothly.

But your children, Mom and Dad, while certainly adorable, are incapable of uttering anything but “yarrrghererer bleearrrghghghghggh” and so are not going to be able to inform the server that they are “behind her,” and are, in fact, about to deliver a shattering blow to her knees with their flailing limbs, possibly causing her to drop a tray on their precious little heads. And your feeble “Jimmy, look out for the nice lady,” from around your mouthful of soy milk doesn’t cut it either, dumb-ass.

As an aside: I don’t care how many times a week you come in here, or how much money you spend in here, Mom and Dad—I don’t care if you OWN this fucking place. You will most certainly NOT allow your children to run behind the line. Yes, this is a fishbowl kitchen, with the line area accessible from the dining room. Yes, children are attracted to the sights and sounds of what we are doing back here. Hell, I am still fascinated by it. But no, it is not “cute” when little Jimmy toddles back behind the line in the middle of a busy service. There is fire, steam, and boiling liquid. There are knives and large hurtling bodies. Perhaps I can show you some of my scars, several of them quite heinous and ALL of them earned behind the line, and then you will be convinced that back here is not a “cute” place for children. Or perhaps I have to drop hot egg-poaching water onto little Jimmy’s head. Whatever you want, Mom and Dad. You’re the customers.

Secondly, Mom and Dad, do not attempt to ram your large Jeep-wheeled stroller through the front door when it is clear to everyone (except for your blind asses) that the stroller is not going to fit. Do you see how the door jamb is splintering as you continue to shove that monstrous thing against it? The door is designed to be wide enough to admit a patron who uses a wheelchair, and it is wide enough for that. There is no law that says we have to make it wide enough to accommodate you and your ridiculous stroller. There is also no law that says we can’t laugh at you when you ask us why our door is not wide enough to fit your stroller through, “because really, Jimmy’s stroller isn’t *that* big.”

Thirdly, you will please read again what is written above about the blessed diversity of our patrons and our city before you even THINK of opening your mouth to ask me if I consider this a “family atmosphere.” I am sorry you do not like my answer, Mom and Dad, which was: “No, not really,” and which I gave to you in the manner in which you asked, that manner being snide, confrontational, and accusatory. I am sorry that you do not like the music that is being played this morning, since it is “not appropriate” for little Jimmy. I am also very, very sorry that you apparently don’t like being seated next to a table of gay men who are talking loudly about whatever “gay things” they did last night.

I have a suggestion for you, Mom and Dad, and here it is: EAT AT HOME. Eat at home, in whatever sterile environment you have concocted for yourselves and little Jimmy behind the protective barrier of your own front door. Because there is NO LAW that says we have to create a “family atmosphere” in this restaurant—or in any other public place, for that matter—and if you can’t deal with that, Mom and Dad, you can always learn to make your own omelets. It’s really not as intimidating as it looks.

Or, better yet, allow me to take you outside, where you will be lined up against the walk-in and shot. Little Jimmy will then be given over to wolves for the rest of his upbringing, wolves which will not allow him to run rampant in a restaurant, wolves which will undoubtedly do a better job at raising him without bias, wolves which will not instill in him the family values of hate, fear, and entitlement that you seem to wear as a triple badge of fucked-up pride. Yes, Mom and Dad: hate, fear, and entitlement—your legacy, being passed on to the next generation, without shame, rolling down the sidewalk in a giant, Jeep-wheeled stroller, even as I write this. You disgust me.

RULE SIX. Dining Public, we exist to serve. If you have dietary needs, we will do whatever we can to make you something appropriate AND delicious. However, you will note that your server is not carrying a crystal ball. Nor is she wearing a large silken turban, or even a name tag that tells you she is Molly the Mind Reader.

Therefore, vegans, if the menu s-p-e-l-l-s o-u-t that an item comes with cheese, then it comes with cheese. Do not even *think* of receiving your veggie burger, making a disgusted face, and shrieking: “Is this soy cheese?” No, you fuck, it is not soy cheese. It is real cheese, straight from the cow’s teat. If you didn’t want cheese, you should have said so. Molly the Mind Reader couldn’t make it in today, so this normal person had to pick up her shift.

You see, vegans, our menu specifically s-p-e-l-l-s o-u-t that we can make an item “vegan friendly upon request.” “Request” being the petition of the customer. The “customer” being you. Our menu also delineates, clearly, which items contain cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, yoghurt, honey, or whatever hundred-thousand other animal products you have arbitrarily decided that you can not eat.

We are not an All-Vegan Restaurant—ah, further reading of the menu reveals that We Serve Meat!—thus, RULE SIX dictates that you must inform your server of your dietary needs before she brings you your food, covered, as the menu specifies it will be, in cheese. And as an aside: to those of you who are “vegan” because it is trendy, or because you are dating someone who is “vegan,” and not for “health reasons,” or because of any legitimate belief about/gripe with the American system of food production, which is, unfortunately, based on the exploitation of both animals AND humans, you ought to be taken outside, lined up against the walk-in, and shot.

RULE SEVEN. Tipping. There are no hard-and-fast rules about tipping, Dining Public, and I have no desire to raise that endless debate once again, either on Craigslist, or anywhere else. I have no desire to hear again that old chestnut: “Well, it’s not *our* fault that you people let your bosses pay you slavery wages. Why don’t you go get a REAL job?”

Consider for me, Dining Public, what your support of the American restaurant industry, which, as it is currently structured, allows owners to pay servers minimum wage or less, means in the wider spectrum of things. Also consider the enormous political clout of the National Restaurant Association, which has repeatedly defeated efforts to raise the minimum wage, and the immense buying power of the restaurant industry as a whole.

Consider what your endless demands for fast, “cheap” food and fast, “cheap” service will mean in the long run.

Or don’t consider it. I don’t give a fuck. A good tipper is going to be a good tipper all of the time, and a bad tipper—well, a bad tipper is going to be a bad tipper even if the server gets down on her knees and delivers killer oral sex along with the eggs Benedict.

But just remember this, Dining Public. When you die, and you get to Heaven, and instead of the Pearly Gates you always imagined you would see, there’s a large lectern with a big sign on it that says: “Please Wait To Be Seated,” just remember, Dining Public, you read it here first: Jesus hates bad tippers.

And Hell is just through that door. Outside. Next to the walk-in.

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