How Waiting Tables Prepares You For Your Baby’s First Month

Matt AbrahamMatt Abraham currently lives in China with his criminally insane cat Durden, his beautiful one month old son Kal, and his supportive wife Jenny. For more, check out his critically acclaimed debut novel Dane Curse (available for 99 cents) or contact him at authormattabraham@gmail.com and danecursepi.wordpress.com

I was terrified when I had my kid four weeks ago. He was tiny and fragile, screaming and shaking, and all I knew was that I wanted to succeed as a parent. However, the only skills I possessed dealt with waiting tables. What was I going to do, upsell him a bottle of wine or crumb his bib between courses? But after four weeks of fathering I realize there was no need for concern, because as surprising as it sounds, the skills I gained from working in restaurants were the only ones I needed to successfully deal with an infant. After all, he was just a weepy egocentric human who was demanding all my attention, and even on a slow Tuesday night you’ll see four of those… So if you’re a waiter who’s expecting their first kid you can rest easy, the following six lessons from your time spinning trays are guaranteed to get you through the crucial first month of parenthood with ease.

Kind of.

Lesson 1. No matter how bad it gets, don’t panic.

It doesn’t matter if your apps are dragging, the POS machine is down, or table twelve just found a human finger in the flan; you don’t panic. Personally, I apply this cool thinking to everything I do as a dad. Like right now my baby’s been crying for ten minutes straight, the cat’s crapping on the new white rug, and smoke from the toast I forgot I was making just set off the fire alarm. But am I freaking out? No. I’m writing a blog post. Because waiting tables taught me to keep a level head. Or maybe because I got six fingers of gin in me. Whichever. The point is I’m not panicking.

Lesson 2. You develop an iron bladder

It’s happened to us all: You have to go to the bathroom, but you’re weeded like Snoop Dogg at Reggae Fest with no one around to cover your section, so you seal up your bladder like a sous-vide bag and wait (sometimes an hour) before finally finding three minutes to sneak downstairs and drop your urine like one of those planes that fight wildfires. Congratulations. This ability comes in crazy handy when you have a baby. See, the first thing you learn as a parent is never wake the baby. Never. Even if they’re lying on your chest and you just drank a gallon of tea you sit there as still as possible like the kid’s pinning you to the sofa like they’re fucking Mjolnir, because the hard truth is a quiet baby trumps dry pants every time. Seriously. I’ve never wet myself to keep my baby quiet, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who has. It’s the right call every time.

Lesson 3. You’ll eat every meal like it’s a shift meal

If you’ve never seen a restaurant worker eat before their shift picture a team of piranhas working on a cow, except with more silverware and fewer niceties. And there are two reasons why: first, there’s only a tiny window in which that food can be consumed before the barbarians arrive, and second, there are precious few actual edible bits in a shift meal, and you got to fight for them. Seriously. I’ve seen cooks throw shoe leather into a hotel pan of Salisbury steak to add mass. Basically I’m saying if you want to eat you’ve got to move quickly.  Which is the same way you eat around a baby; you just power it down like it’s the Nathan’s Hotdog eating championship, because you got maybe three minutes before that cross between Golum and a potato you spawned wakes up and starts asking for shit. But whatever, tasting your food’s for pussies anyway.

Lesson 4. Booze won’t make it better, it’ll make it a lot better

Alcohol’s your friend, ally, parent, therapist, and old war buddy poured into a convenient bottle. I heartily recommend it to restaurant workers and new parents alike. But only AFTER the shift. And never when you’re breastfeeding. Unless you’re the feedee, and not the feeder. Then your freak flag’s flying so high I don’t think a glass of pinot will do much damage so go nuts.

Lesson 5. You only have friends like you

Thanks to the vampire hours most restaurant folk keep it was impossible for me to have friends who weren’t also in the industry, simply because my schedule guaranteed I’d never see them. The same thing happens now, except it’s with my kid-free friends, and if I ever do see them I have no clue what they’re talking about. “Taylor Swift’s twitter feud? China’s currency? Trump?” What the fuck are those things? I live in a world of diapers, man. Let’s talk about that.

Lesson 6. Babies and customers are NEVER right, but you still have to give them what they want

Every part of waiting tables is great. Except for the diners. They suck more than if a black hole manifested in the Dyson testing facility. With complaints like, “Where’s my food, I screamed my order at you a minute ago… This bottle’s too cold, warm it up… and, me me me me me me…” it’s amazing more of them aren’t killed annually (probably because it’s illegal, thanks Obama). So all you can do is shove whatever they’re crying for into their mouths in the hopes it’ll shut them up.I forgot if that point was directly about babies or restaurant guests, but you get my point, it works both ways.

Bonus Lesson. When it’s over you’ll miss it

Sure the industry sucks with all the doubles and clo-pens, but it’s full of the best people in the world. And you get to work and drink with them all night before waking up at noon in some strange place with no recollection of what you’ve done like a God damn werewolf. It’s awesome, and I miss it a lot. They say the same thing about newborns. That they grow up so fast and you’ll miss the time when they were itty bitty. It’s hard to believe, but I guess if I still long for my waiting days, despite being bossed around by bald assholes who thinks they’re the center of my universe, I don’t see why I won’t miss parenting a newborn despite that very same thing happens here on a daily basis, too.

True Story: The Grand Marnier Mishap

As a waitress, I know when a waitress serving me is trying to fuck me over.

Last night, I ordered a Grand Marnier, no ice. The waitress looked at me with a dumb look on her face and said “A what?!”. I repeated it patiently to her, asked again for no ice and she walked off. I waited 15 minutes…no drink. I saw her walking by and I asked her nicely if the drink was coming. “Oh yeah!” she said, and ran off. Okay…she forgot about it. It happens.

She came back with a Grand Marnier that had obviously been sitting at the bar too long because the ice I asked her NOT to put in had pretty much melted all the way, making it a very light orangish color. Gross.

“Uh—I asked for no ice.”

“Oh…sorry” she said and placed the drink in front of me.

I was shocked. I asked her to get me one with no ice, she rolled her eyes and walked away. She came back 5 minutes later with the same drink. She had obviously just scooped the ice out with a spoon. Gee thanks…that makes it a lot better. So I said to her “Did you just go and scoop out the ice?” “Yeah.” she said. *sigh*….Well at least she was honest. I told her to take it off my bill and went to get a Grand Marnier (no ice) at the bar. They seem to actually know how to listen to an order.

The Waitress Confessions

True Story: The Best Buy Bandit

One cold and snowy day in December, back when I was a hostess at The Hot Spot, I was standing around wishing I had something to do.  My daily cleaning tasks were done and because of the weather, there were only a couple tables in the restaurant.  No one was walking in and the phone would ring maybe once every hour.

Standing at the front desk, I can see outside into the front parking lot.  While glancing out the big window, I saw a girl running up to the restaurant.  I guess she was cold and wanted to get inside as fast as possible.

“She looked like she was in trouble.”

The girl swung open the front door and glanced behind her nervously.  Strange, I thought.  She actually looked like she was in trouble.  She finally came through the entrance doors and into the front lobby and looked around quickly.

“May I help you?” I asked.

“Where’s the back door?” She demanded.

I looked at her, stunned for a moment.  First of all, we don’t have a back door for customers.  Secondly, why would she just want to walk through the whole restaurant just to get to the back (if it even were possible).  She kept looking out the window and ducking down.

“The only door is the one you came through.” I told her.

“Fuck!” she cried as she opened the lobby door and then stopped dead in her tracks.  Two guys stormed into the front door wearing Best Buy uniforms, faces and arms red from the cold outdoors and started blocking her way out.

“Don’t fucking touch me!”

“Get out of my way! Don’t fucking touch me!” she yelled.  They two Best Buy employees held up their arms as if to say “We’re not laying a finger on you” and she pushed her way through the door, turning left to run down the side alley next to the restaurant.  Right as she was about to step off the walkway, a police car came to a screeching halt.  An officer jumped out of the car and caught her, bringing her into the back seat.

I turned to the two guys and asked “What the hell was that all about?”.

“She stole hundreds of dollars worth of stuff from the store so we chased her all the way here.” One of them told me, out of breath.  They sat down for a moment, trying to regain their composure.

“Do you guys need a glass of water or something?”

“No, no.  We have to get going.” They explained.

I imagine the adrenaline was overwhelming, chasing and catching a Best Buy Bandit.  Even just running from there must have took a lot out of them, especially running through the snow and slush.  They soon left to talk to the police and I guess to get back to work.  I wonder if they got a round of applause upon their return.  Or maybe even a bonus.

That was one of the most unexpected experience that I’ve had working at the restaurant.  There I was, just wishing something exciting would happen and I get to see a thief caught red handed.

The Waitress Confessions

True Story: The Psycho Stalker

One day, back when I was working as a hostess at The Hot Spot, a woman strolled into the restaurant looking rather shifty.  I cheerily greeted her as she came through the front door, but she continued on past the front desk with not so much as a glance in my general direction.  As I hostess, I was used to being ignored by customers and I figured she was just too focused on trying to find someone she was supposed to be meeting for lunch.  Discretely following her, I kept a few paces behind in case she needed my help, that is, until she finally came to a stop behind a nearby table.

“She stood there for a few moments, nervously clutching her purse and eyeing the man sitting in the booth.”

She stood there for a few moments, nervously clutching her purse and eyeing the man sitting in the booth.  His back was facing her and as she ducked up and down to get a better view of the guy, I thought that maybe she was meeting him on a blind date and she was trying to size up the guy before deciding to take a seat or run out of the restaurant before he noticed.   It was weird, however, that the man had only asked for a table for one when he entered the restaurant.

“May I help you?” I asked politely.

She shook her head, so I walked towards the front desk making sure to be a available if she needed a menu or not.

She finally took a deep breath and approached the table, quickly sliding into the booth to face him.  No “Hello!” or “Hey! How are you?”.  They started up in what seemed to be the middle of a conversation they had already been involved in.  And it was quite the heated discussion, if I may say so myself.  The man’s plate arrived to the table and their waiter asked the woman if she’d like anything.  She shook her head and continued to stare at the man who was now picking up his fork and knife to eat.

“The man was trying to shush her, but she wouldn’t have it.”

After about 10 minutes,  I could hear the woman’s voice more and more as the conversation grew more intense.  The man was trying to shush her, but she wouldn’t have it.  He finally had enough and asked the waiter for the bill.  Their server placed it on the table and walked away to give the two of them some space.  Before I knew it, the man was coming up to the front desk asking me to quickly get the waiter because he needed to leave right away.  I got their waiter and the man paid, all the while as the woman stared angrily at him.

“She had that You’re Dead To Me look  that Lily sometimes has on How I Met Your Mother.”

He walked out of the restaurant, saying a quick thank you, as the woman stayed behind still sitting in the booth.  As I walked by, I was a little scared.  She had that You’re Dead To Me look  that Lily sometimes has on How I Met Your Mother.  She was fuming, then suddenly she was up and running out of the restaurant.   I went to the front desk to look out the window into the parking lot and saw her yelling at him as he was opening the door to his car.  She continued to run towards him and then threw herself between him and the driver’s side door, slamming the door shut and preventing him from getting in.

“She tried to hold on for dear life he attempted to exit the car by the passenger side.”

The man then calmly walked around the car to the passenger side door and unlocked it and slid into the seat.  The woman pulled the door open on her side and as the man climbed into the driver’s seat, she threw herself onto him, her legs dangling out of the car. He tried desperately to push her off, but she’d wedged her legs into the door of the car that there was no way he was getting her off of him.  She tried to hold on for dear life he attempted to exit the car by the passenger side.

Meanwhile, people walking by were starting to watch the scene unfolding before them as the man finally freed himself from her grasp. He ran out of the car and started heading back towards the restaurant.  I quickly ran to be behind the front desk so he wouldn’t notice me watching the craziness of what was happening outside.  I saw the woman getting out of the car and slamming the driver’s door as the man asked me to (very politely might I add) to call him a cab.  So I did.

He waited in the front lobby as the woman paced around outside waiting for him to come out.  She had finally had enough of waiting and stormed into the restaurant and took a seat right next to him.  I mean, she literally made sure that the whole side of her body was touching his.  And then she just glared at him as he blankly stared ahead.  She talked, he didn’t.

I finally saw the cab pull up to the front door so I told the man that his cab had arrived.  He thanked me and got up to leave.   The woman shouted at him to not go, but he wouldn’t listen.  As he climbed into the cab with her yelling at him, she did the same thing as when he was trying to get into his own car.  She threw herself onto him, making sure to dangle her legs out of the car so that the driver could not drive away.   After 5 minutes, I could tell the cab driver was starting to get extremely angry.  He yelled at them to both get out and drove away, never looking back.

“He attempted to get back into his car, but she was a complete maniac and was one step ahead of him the whole time.”

By this time, the man was finally starting to yell. I could see him yelling at her to get away from him.  He attempted to get back into his car, but she was a complete maniac and was one step ahead of him the whole time.  I saw him trying to push her away from the car door and then suddenly he was off running.

“He had somehow grabbed her own set of keys and was running to her car.”

He had somehow grabbed her own set of keys and was running to her car.She chased after him and caught up to him before he could figure out which key was for her car and a screaming match began. All the while he was trying to fake her out by running back to his car and quickly spinning around to run back to hers.  Finally, he gave up trying and it was a wave of screaming and crying from the girl.  She tried to wrestle her keys away from him, but he held on with all his might and then he did something that made me think …

“Did he really just do that?”

I even asked it out loud to the two other waiters who had joined me to watch the crazy show in the parking lot.  We were shocked.  The man had thrown her keys into the middle of a busy street and made a run for it as she watched where they landed.  She stared with her mouth hanging open as she realized what he’d done.

“She ran right into the middle, grabbed her keys like a football player running drills, and made a mad dash for his car.”

He ran as if running for his life and you could see the split-second-decision-making the woman was doing.  Keys or The Guy?  Keys or The Guy?  She decided to make a run for her keys as the man jumped into this car.  At that moment, no cars were driving down the road so she ran right into the middle, grabbed her keys like a football player running drills, and made a mad dash for his car.  She was too late as he pulled out of his parking spot and headed towards the exit.  She tried to run out in front of his car, but he had already pulled ahead of her before she had a chance to  pretty much throw herself onto his moving vehicle.

She bolted towards her own car, got in to the driver’s seat and drove off like the dickens, heading in the same direction he did.

The whole day, the staff talked about what must have happened.  Some thought that it was his mistress and he’d just called it off and she couldn’t let it go.  Some thought it was his wife of girlfriend who was checking up on him to see if he was cheating on her.  Some thought it was some Psycho Stalker.  Whatever it was, it was one of the weirdest moments I’ve ever witnessed at work.

The Waitress Confessions

True Story: The Dashing Diners

Last night, I was working a double shift at The Hot Spot .  After my 15 minute break, I saw that the manager put me in a section that I’m not usually in (at the front of the house, near the hostess desk and the front door).  Now, normally, that’s a pretty good section, but seeing as how it was a quieter night, I only had 2 tables.

It started off well and everyone was very nice and polite.  I saw my table #6 lifting their hands to get my attention, so I walked over and asked if everything was alright.  They were 3/4 done their meal and thought maybe they wanted to take the rest To Go.  But, the girl asked me for another Coke and the guy asked for a glass of water.  So, on my way towards the kitchen, I picked up the Coke, grabbed a glass of water, and headed back to the table.

As I got closer to the table, I noticed that no one was sitting there anymore.  The plates were still on the table, so nobody had given them the bill in the few moments I was gone.  I ran to the hostess desk and asked if anyone saw them leave.  One of the hostesses said that they said they were going out for a smoke and would be back.  I felt better, but when I looked outside I didn’t see them standing by the door.  I thought to myself Maybe they went to smoke in their car…it is really cold outside, but I knew better.  They had just dined and dashed.

I waited 15 minutes, just in case they’d come back, but they never did.  I was furious!  It was the first time this has ever happened to me and I couldn’t believe it.  How can you just walk into a restaurant, order drinks, appetizers, two main meals and just leave without paying?

I told a coworker about it and he told me that Karma’s a bitch and that they’ll get what’s coming to them.  He said that this happens from time to time and to just let it go, because there’s nothing you can do about disgusting people like that.  He’s right.  There’s nothing you can do.

So, I put on a smile for the rest of my customers and something amazing happened.  I got the best tables I’ve ever had on a Saturday night.  I was getting 20-25% tips all night.  One table said that the next time they would come, they’d ask for my section.  Another said that it was the best service they ever had.  It was just amazing.  Starting the night off with a bunch of thieves, I thought that maybe it would be “one of those nights”, especially since it was a full moon, but it turned out completely differently.

Sure, Karma’s a bitch.  But, it can also turn around and send good vibes to a good person who deserves it.  Thank you, Karma.  Just one question to the couple who left without paying:  How do you sleep at night?

So, to all those diners out there, please show some respect and actually PAY for the food and service you are receiving.  Otherwise, you’re just a thief.

The Waitress Confessions