Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Lesson in Peel n' Eat Shrimp

My sons are at an age that I can recount stories from my formative years. Only the G-rated ones, of course. Um, not that there are any stories that venture out of NC-17 territory. While we were waiting to be served at a restaurant recently, I told Bird and Deal about how I was a waitress for many years. Seven, to be exact. I was about to lecture them on how hard the waitstaff works but I knew they would be like the dog in the Far Side cartoon so I stopped myself. Instead I shared a personal story about one of my waitressing experiences.

I waited tables in an English pub in town. It was part local watering hole, part tourist trap, part college cheap eats, part businessman's brouhaha. I donned the requisite khaki shorts and hunter green polo shirt and set out for the night. I sipped Diet Coke in the back while noshing on ungodly amounts of bread slathered in butter. I was in college then and had no idea that one day my thighs would touch. I remember being in a particularly chipper mood. Again, this is because I didn't have a crystal ball telling me about my mushy future.

A tweed jacketed gentleman of about 50ish came in alone. He was the kind of guy whose jacket actually needed suede patches on the sleeves and weren't there merely for professorial effect. He had a mop of brown hair that was tousled and sloppy, and I recall that his pants were so ill fitting his belt looked as if it could wind around him twice. He ordered a Boddington's and the Peel n' Eat shrimp.

Not only was the entree entitled "Peel n' Eat Shrimp," the menu blurb clearly described it as such. I did not feel the need to be even more explicit when he ordered the PEEL n' EAT SHRIMP. I served 'em right up, and he smiled and nodded, as anyone with a dollop of manners would do. When I checked back, he had cleared his plate and piled up the shrimp shells on the side of the table. I asked him how his meal was in my most friendly waitress voice (This is akin to phone voice but much trickier because people can actually see you.). In one sweeping gesture that caught me totally off guard, the gent (who turned out not to be one) picked up a handful of shrimp shells and threw them at me. In the middle of the dining room. In front of everyone. He exclaimed, "I didn't realize I'd be working for my dinner!"

"Well sir, the dish is called PEEL n' EAT SHRIMP, " said I, suddenly feeling my chipper attitude being chopped away.

The bastard wanted his meal comped.

We said no way. After all, he hadn't flagged me down to complain. I'd like to interject here that I was a very attentive waitress so it's not like I deserted him and hung out in the back smoking with the cooks or anything. Besides, he ate the whole damn thing. He paid but didn't tip me. The good news is that all the other patrons who witnessed his tantrum generously tipped me as a kind show of sympathy.

So I recounted this tale to my sons at lunch as we were waiting for a waitress to serve our chicken and dumplings and crayfish soup. I was hoping they'd get the gist of my parable, as I going all Aesop on them. I asked the boys what they thought of the man's behavior and how it made me feel. I was probing for a lesson in empathy here. Bird and Deal gave the expected head nodding and shoulder shrugging and said that the man was mean. Not exactly what I was going for, but I took it.

Then Bird, who couldn't hide his killer grin that's gonna make him the male version of Helen of Troy one day, snickered and said, "He was rude, but it's still pretty funny." He cracked up while saying this and could barely get the words out.

And with that, we all laughed.
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Drew @ Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

You would have liked a waitress I used to work with. This was on a boat that did dinner cruises, so the windows overlooked the river. (This becomes important later.)

One night she had the table from hell. They were clearly out to have a good time at her expense. And when we pulled into the dock, they got up and left a quarter for a tip.

Then they tried to bolt before she cleared the table. They didn't realize that 385 people were all going to be going down one gangway at the same time, so they were stuck in a huge crowd at the top of the steps.

She took the quarter, held it up above her head and walked over to them. Called them by name -- loudly -- and announced, "I believe you forgot your quarter on the table. You clearly need it more than I do."

They mumbled something about, "That's for you."

She walked over to the nearest open window and said, "Well then I'll make a wish for both of us: For you, that things get better. For me, that if I ever become such a cheap bastard I have the common courtesy to eat at home." And she flipped the quarter out the window.

Even the manager laughed his ass off.

kristen said...

hilarious.... waitressing is one of the hardest, most underappreciated jobs out there. We all should do it for at least a couple of months!

Anonymous said...

Ooof. That SUCKS! I once did the same thing as Drew's friend, only with a penny. In a parking lot outside Country Kitchen. I quit a few weeks later.

Al_Pal said...

Oh, man! Reminds me a story of two quarters being thrown at the door after some cheap-os left that as their paltry tip.

Great storytelling. ;D

Qoddess said...

You've been quoted