Today finds me trying to beat the oppressive heat by chilling in the "igloo room" here at the Fortress of Solitude. Many people ask me if the Fortress is real, to which I can only say: It may be, or it may be a metaphor for the sense of isolation I feel as a consequence of urban dehumanization and a technology that allows me to disconnect from established social norms. But the property taxes on this thing are killer. All of which has nothing to do with my topic for today: I hate waiting on children and old people.
Yesterday, the chef where I work stormed upstairs to confront me. He wanted to know why I had the highest number of special requests and food returns. He impugned (and I do so love that word) my abilities and experience as a waiter. "What is your problem, man?" was his question.
My problem is that I'm the new guy. The new guy gets the crappiest section in the restaurant, until he pays his dues. I'm told that the average at York Grill (89th and York Ave. Come on by) for this journeyman status is two years. This section happens to be at the back of the dining room. It is the place the owner stick all the noisy, obnoxious kids and old people too infirm to walk anywhere else. And that, chef, is my ultimate problem.
For I work on the Upper East Side, the land of priviledged elites. These are the people who spoil their children, who do not discipline them because they fear crushing little Dalton's self-esteem and creativity. They also seem to think their obnoxious little monster has the critical faculties of an adult. For example, they'll order precious little a Kobe beef burger (at $21), when what the kid really wants is a Happy Meal, then ask little Morgan if they like their burger. Well, of course not. What the hell does a five-year old know about Kobe beef? So when they say the burger tastes "funny" it gets sent back. Even better, I had one kid order the chicken milanese plain, then cried because he really wanted chicken fingers. We sent it back to the kitchen to cut it into strips. He remained unmollified, because he wanted goddamned chicken fingers. And I'll get five of these tables a night.
See, children really are like drunk, miniature adults. They're clumsy; one girl, a regular, consistently knocks over her glass no matter what I put her water in. (I'm thinking of just standing there with a water pitcher and pouring water down her gullet like a baby bird.) Which means a scrum of people rushing to clean and re-set the table. They act out; little Chicken Fingers gets bored, and proceeds to fling his bread crusts everywhere. It looks like a bakery exploded by the time he leaves. They're demanding; they don't want the jonah crab ravioli in a seafood nage. They want pasta in butter. And dammit, it had better be the pasta they're envisioning in their tiny, unformed, spoiled little heads or they will pitch a fit. I had one girl send back her burger because it wasn't cooked to her liking; it was too rare. So we cooked it some more. Then she was unhappy because it was overcooked. Just go to Burger King. I hear you can have it your way there.
And really, the ancient adults I end up serving are little better. These people have lived a lifetime of being rich and having their every whim catered to. They also believe they know better about food than I do, or the chef does, by virtue of the fact that they've been eating since Millard Filmore was President. They want the flounder, but they don't want it stuffed, and they want the sauce on the side. They don't understand that I can't bring them a side of broccoli rabe because we don't have any broccoli rabe in the goddamned kitchen. And really, if you want the pan seared ahi tuna, don't order it well done because that makes it no longer pan seared. That's called "cooked".
These people have no problem sending their food back, either, because if they're going to pay $36 for something it had better be the way they want it. I don't generally disagree with this sentiment. However, if they've changed the dish, we really have no idea what it is they're envisioning in their minds. They're basically trying to change the dish on the menu into something completely different. One guy so ancient that I think he witnessed Moses receiving the Ten Commandments ordered the sirloin steak, but he didn't want the blue cheese gratinee that it comes with. He wanted goat cheese. And he didn't like garlic spinach, he wanted plain spinach. And instead of the potatoes it comes with, he wanted steak fries, but without the paprika we sprinkle on them. Really, at this point, why not just stay home and cook the dish you want. Is there any wonder the chef hates my guts?
And this is what chef doesn't understand. I can't say "no" to a customer. I can say "I don't recommend that." I can say "the chef doesn't recommend that." But I really cannot say "no." Little Chicken Fingers wanted french fries (again, really, if you want chicken fingers and french fries, take your kid to McDonalds), which is a subsitution off the prix fixe menu, which is not allowed. Chef calls me downstairs and gives me a hard time. What do you want me to do chef, make a little boy cry? Really?
All of this would be simply fixed if I didn't have to wait on old people and kids. Which is, like, 90 percent of the customers seated in my section.