Showing posts with label In the weeds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label In the weeds. Show all posts

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Betty, Please

Even before I became a waiter, I had been given the nickname, "Betty" by some of my co-workers in Washington who remembered this Laverne and Shirley episode (at the time, the show was still on the air). A few years later when my friend Curtis and I were waiting tables around Denver together, he also started calling me "Betty" and I named him Hazel. This clip is really funny, but I think because there is truth underneath the slapstick surface. There is nothing quite like the chaotic experience of being "bombed," "in the weeds," "slammed" or "going under" in a diner.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When a Stranger Calls

"Johnny's Pizza!"

"Didn't I just talk to you on the room service phone at the hotel?"

"Which hotel?"

"Oh, never mind."

Whew! Almost busted again.

I worked for a hotel chain in Florida that had two separate phone lines that both connected to room service. One of them was advertised in the rooms as "Johnny's Pizza," trying to pass itself off as a local pizza restaurant that offered a special service to the hotel, supposedly delivering the pizzas for the room service waiter to bring to their rooms "as a convenience". They didn't exactly come out and say this much, but they put the fear of God in the waiters to never tell the truth about "Johnny" and used some pretty slick advertising. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if the pizza hadn't really sucked. It was just frozen institutional stuff that the waiters baked themselves and I wouldn't be surprised if the box cost the hotel more than the pizza did. Taking a complaint from someone over the phone and pretending not to be the person they just saw five minutes ago is a challenge.

I worked as a room service waiter long before Caller ID or any kind of electronic ordering systems. In the mornings, we relied on something called door hangers that customers filled out some time during the night and hung outside their rooms with their breakfast orders. I remember the nightmare of arriving at the hotel at 5:30 in the morning and taking the elevator to the top floor to begin picking up the hangers to organize the breakfast deliveries. I think the hotel was 17 stories. If I was gonna be in trouble, I usually found out about the time I hit the 12th floor and already had 25 rooms that wanted breakfast delivered at 7:00 a.m. Conventions were notorious for this. Since I was the only waiter (and I still had 10 more floors of orders to pick up) I would start to run, snatching the cards off the doorknobs as I flew by. Like that was gonna save me. Two room service carts will hold breakfast for five or six rooms, tops, depending on how much hot food is in the box and how well you stack the tables, so there might be 12 rooms who aren't totally pissed about when they got their breakfast. Those mornings were like Dead Man Walking. It's one thing to get in the weeds when you're on the floor, but to see it all coming an hour before it even starts is to die a thousand times.

Also, one of the worst things anyone can do to a room service waiter during the morning rush is to return something. From time to time, at the hotel in Florida, salt water would back up into our water lines, and the phone would start ringing with customers who said the coffee tasted "horrible" (it did). We couldn't do anything about the lines - the coffee was just bad - but I'd have to bring up juice or milk to replace it and there'd be all kinds of yelling and complaining. Orders would have to be comped, and that meant no gratuity on top of making two trips to the room. I also had to call all the other rooms that were expecting coffee to find out what they'd like instead. And we all know, there is no substitute for coffee in the morning. Not a legal one, anyway.

The busiest time for room service (breakfast) also coincides with the busiest time for housekeeping. The two departments shared the same service elevator, except housekeeping didn't share. They had a key to lock the elevator on the floor that they were delivering towels or bedding to, so that, after five minutes of frantically waiting for the car to arrive, I'd have to wheel my trays through the restaurant, bar and lobby to the guest elevators, knowing that by this time the food would be so cold that the best I could hope for was that the guest was too angry to eat. For about a month, I did manage to get some use out of the service elevator, but only because the housekeeping staff was afraid to ride in it after getting trapped between floors a few too many times. I had reached the point in waiter hell where plummeting 15 floors in a runaway car couldn't be all that much worse than the wrath I was almost certain to face from my third attempt at delivery of "HOT tea!" I was willing to take my chances if for no other reason than to be put out of my misery.

Even with whatever improvements have been made to room service by virtue of electronic orders (so everyone doesn't wind up ordering breakfast at the same time) there are still some pointers I can offer the potential breakfast room service customer. Don't order anything you're not willing to eat a little on the cool side, and stay away from things like waffles or sunny side up eggs that just don't lend themselves to sitting in a warmer for five or ten minutes. Scrambled eggs and omelets are best for eggs, muffins, biscuits or English muffins hold up better than toast, and you can hardly ever go wrong with yogurt, cereal or grapefruit. Coffee is served in a thermal pot, but often times hot water for tea is served in an identical pot (which makes it taste a little like coffee). It shouldn't be that way, but, "Wish in one hand ..." Although there is a service charge added to the room service bill, it doesn't all go to the waiter, so don't be thinking he's getting rich off traveling all over Hell and half of Georgia with your order of two scones and a pot of decaf. A little extra tip for the mileage on those puny orders doesn't hurt. Finally, if you are going to let your towel "slip" when you answer your hotel room door, please be sure you don't have the kind of body that inspires a lifetime of nightmares.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Jimmy was a six foot four, two hundred eighty pound, wildly flamboyant some-time drag queen waiter I met at House of Pies when we were hired within the same week. It'll be 25 years ago this November since we worked our first shift together. We eventually shared a couple of apartments and I was also friends with his Mom and brother for many years.

Jimmy was always kinda high-strung, and though he covered his tables well in a rush, he could be a hoot to watch because he was so dramatic when he was busy. I loved playing pranks on him and one of my favorites was to get him to proposition the dishwasher in Spanish. I knew just enough dirty slang to get him in trouble, and he would fall for the same joke over and over. We'd be slammed and he'd ask me, "How do I say, 'I need water glasses in the back station?'" Two minutes later, Jimmy would be running away from the dish area screaming, "What did I say? What did I say?" with two or three guys from the back of the house cat-calling him. The dishwashers and bussers were in on my joke - they were the ones that taught me those phrases. After a while, I think Jimmy was doing it more for our entertainment than out of his own naivete.

Likely the worst fun I ever had at Jimmy's expense was the night he farted in the middle of his station. We were really busy, and he was mortified that someone might have heard him. I found him in the back service area trying to rip a hole in his pants so he'd have an excuse for what he said was a fart "so loud it sounded like a Buick backfiring." I told him that I doubted if anyone even noticed, convinced him to stop ripping his pants and we went back out on the floor. My station was right next to his, so as soon as we got to our tables, I said (real loud), "PHEWWW! What's that SMELL?!" Jimmy turned 13 shades of purple.

I may have been the better prankster at work, but Jimmy got even at home - even if he didn't always mean to. The first apartment we lived in together was a shotgun. There was a window over the door in the kitchen that led to a small pantry, and if that window had been left open, when you opened the front door, the window would slam shut and sound every bit like someone going out (or in?) the back door. I didn't know that yet the night I came home about 7:00 to Jimmy's car in his parking space, but no lights on in the apartment. When I walked in and heard the slamming sound, I called out for Jimmy. There was no answer - I was scared - and I picked up the first thing I could reach inside the door (it was probably something stupid like a magazine) and started doing my best Sabrina Duncan moves through the apartment. We didn't have an overhead light in the front room, so the first light switch I reached was the bathroom, and when I flipped it on I saw blood all over the mirror. It looked like Jimmy had tried to write a message, but I couldn't read it and I was dreading finding his body ... he must have been in pretty bad shape to actually write with his own blood.

I searched the rest of the apartment and there was no sign of Jimmy, but I was really puzzled about why his car would be there and he wasn't. Had he been kidnapped? I finally drove up to the restaurant where he worked and darned if he wasn't waiting tables! I was so mad and so relieved at the same time, I almost cried. When I told Jimmy the story about the "blood" he said, "Oh, I just wrote myself a note with lip gloss on the mirror so I'd be sure to see it. It must have melted." I asked, "What about your car?" and I found out he'd gotten a ride with another waiter. And to think I came within inches of beating someone to death with a magazine.

Jimmy and I had a few more adventures - and they usually involved me teasing him, and him scaring me - until we parted company about two years later and he moved in with his boyfriend. He died as the result of a fall about ten years ago, and I stayed in touch with his Mom for three or four years after, but we'd always wind up talking about Jimmy. After a while we just stopped calling each other.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beyond the Tipping Point

Dealing with the same silly questions or the same comments day after day can wear anyone down. When I worked for Sears, I remember hearing one of the gals from the catalog sales department say over and over again, "What is your telephone number so I can look up your order. . . Yes, your telephone number. . . . Because if all the customers were listed under the same telephone number you'd be waiting all day." She was a woman on the verge.

I have my own pet peeves. I get awfully tired of the people who, when they find out my name is Guy, say, "Like Guy Smiley!" or "Hi Guy! hahahaha" and when I was waiting tables, it bugged me to have people ask, "So what's your real job?" Some things I found ways to work around, like the Super Salad issue. "Would you like soup or salad?" became "Would you like salad or soup?" but I admit I lost my cool over some other stuff. At the pancake house, we served coffee in thermal pots and one night when the eleventy-millionth customer of the night asked me "Do you have restrooms?" I said, "No. That's why we put the pots on the table." Kinda smart-ass, but I smiled, so I got away with it.

The most dramatic thing I ever did, though - my biggest tantrum - happened at one of those turn and burn chain restaurants. I was swamped and tearing through the restaurant with a shoulder tray of hot food when one of the customers in a booth reached out and grabbed me. "We are ready to order NOW!" I pulled my arm away and used it to completely wipe all of the condiments and place settings off the empty table next to them and set down the tray of hot food in its place, and then turned to them and said in the sweetest voice, "Sure. What can I get you?" They were shocked and asked me if I didn't need to serve that other food first. I said, "Oh, you're right! I'll be right back" and I picked up the tray, served the food, and acted like nothing had happened. I felt insane, but I think they were scared not to be nice to me after that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I was used to people just pointing at their coffee cup when I asked them if they'd like coffee, so when the old man kinda waved his arm toward his side in front of him, I figured he was one of those kind that just didn't feel like answering me. Oh Christ, another weird one. The restaurant was packed - both dining rooms. It was a Sunday about 1:30; a pancake house on Colorado Boulevard, way too close to too many churches (and the lunch rush that followed services) for my sanity. I had the front station - just barely inside the door with a big round as the main table. I was working three 4-tops, two or three 3-tops and about 5 deuces along with the round where the old man was sitting with five other members of his family. I poured coffee for him, told the folks at the table I'd give them a moment to look at the menu and I'd be back to take their order. In the time it took me to turn around and get to the service entrance, the gentleman had flipped over the back of his chair and bitten off his tongue. I didn't see a thing (unless you count the arm spasm, which I found out later was actually a heart attack ... he may not have wanted coffee after all).

I was picking up an order and my manager came rushing up to me and said, "DID YOU SERVE ANY FOOD TO TABLE 20?!! DID YOU SERVE ANYTHING TO TABLE 20?!! ANYTHING?!! It kinda freaked me out that she was being so crazy but we were really slammed and it just wasn't registering with me that table 20 was my new 6 top. I went back around the corner with a ham and cheese omelet, hash browns and toast for table 3, saw the old man lying on the floor on his back with blood all over his face and someone starting to give him mouth to mouth, but there was nobody at table 3! The first thing I wondered was how that man had gotten so bloody, but almost immediately I panicked because I thought he was my customer from table 3 (hardly anyone is recognizable after they've bitten off their tongue) and I was sure the cooks were gonna kill me if I wasted that order. I went back to the kitchen with the plates, put the omelet in the window and said, This man is dead, but I think you can save the hash browns." I was right. They were pissed.

Just about that time, (maybe 30 seconds or a minute after it had happened) I just forgot everything that I was about to ring up, which orders were about to come down ... just all of it. I went back out to my station, and my customers who saw the whole bloody mess were walking out, whether they'd eaten, paid, still had to order or had already placed their orders. They were totally grossed out. I had one table that was around the corner though, table 18, that couldn't see what was going on. They screamed from across the dining room, "Where the hell is our food!" I had to step over the man's legs to get to them, but when I reached their table, I said, "I'm sorry" (in my nicest voice) but one of my customers has died and I wasn't expecting it. Let me check with the kitchen." It was so surreal. They weren't even shocked. Just hungry and mad and indignant.

I walked back through my station, stepped back over the man's legs and around the corner to check on table 18's order. I don't remember if it was ready, if I served them, or they walked. By this time - maybe 2 minutes into it - I was coming unraveled. People were moving into my station from the other tables to watch the resuscitation efforts, but since the customers that were supposed to be at those tables were gone I couldn't make hide nor hair of any of it. About this time I remember the son (or son-in-law) from the round table saying, "I can't believe this. This is just so embarrassing. I can't believe this is happening." There were three kids with them, all under the age of ten, and (I guess) his wife ... the kids' mom, anyway. I was trying to comfort her 'cos she started getting a little hysterical, and just about then the EMTs arrived. They injected the man with a huge needle - I mean HUGE - and zapped him with those paddles as they were getting him on the stretcher.

I know during some of this, people were asking for more coffee and wanting me to tell their waitress that they had changed tables. I kept stepping over the man's feet (and eventually, the man's feet and a bunch of equipment) to get through my station and my boss was still asking me if the guy had eaten anything. It was only then that I realized she was worried that those people were gonna sue the restaurant, like she thought he might have cut himself on the food. In the meantime, the man was dead and I was so wigged I couldn't have told you my name. I asked if I could have a minute to calm down and smoke a cigarette, but my boss said I needed to clean the blood off the floor because we still had people waiting to be seated. It was a spot about as big as two dinner plates. Who knows why I didn't walk. It was just a really crazy moment.

I did work through the rest of the afternoon and we found out the next day that the EMTs were able to bring the old man back to life. I never did thank my customer at table 3 (who was probably most responsible for saving him). I didn't even ask him if he'd like another omelet. It was all so sudden and, I think because it happened in the middle of such a huge rush, everything kind of exploded in my head. I guess you can tell by the choppy way I remember everything - kinda like 30 snapshots or really short pieces of film strung together with gaps in between - that I was in shock. For a while after that, I was really freaked out if anyone even coughed or moved suddenly. I wanted to take their pulse before I took their order. "How are you today?" had a ring of sincerity to it that had never before been a part of my delivery. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only one of my customers to die in my station, but I'll save the other one for another blog post. Just remember: If a customer doesn't answer you when you ask them for a beverage order, it doesn't necessarily mean they are ignoring you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Corporate Idiocy

Corporate restaurant executives and their suck-up store managers are notorious for not knowing their ass from page five. I don't think it's only because they've never waited tables themselves. I truly believe that they are either selected for their capacity to be completely delusional, or those kinds of jobs just naturally draw the reality-impaired.

The worst corporate restaurant experience I had was working at a Marie Callender's. It was also my last restaurant job. What a bass-ackwards mess they could make of the simplest tasks. For instance, when you key in your order, the terminal spits out a copy of the chit for the cooks and one for the waiter. The waiter is required to hang their copy above the server side of the window. When the food comes down, the cook throws away the kitchen copy of the chit, so the wait staff has to be on constant watch for their orders 'cos there's no ticket with the plates. Furthermore, they've gotta scan the other chits hanging up on the window to make sure they're not getting another waiter's food. When I asked why the kitchen didn't just drop the ticket with the food, the manager said, "That is not the Marie Callender's way of doing things."

Also among the Not-Marie-Callender-Ways are:

Closing the bus stations next to the open stations and leaving the bus stations in the back of the restaurant open so waiters had to walk the full length of the restaurant to make Cokes or iced tea.

Mixing all of the six-slice and five-slice pie servers into the same bus tubs so that every time you reach for a slicer to cut the pies, you've got to make sure you've got the right size (pies to go are cut one way, served pies are cut another .... there are about 70 of the six-cut slicers and maybe 10 of the 5-cut). You need a new slicer for each pie, the pies are at the front of the restaurant which is a really long haul for the back stations, all the slicers look the same when you're in the weeds, and if you cut a pie wrong, you've ruined it for serving. A separate place to keep the 5-cut slicers? "Too much trouble."

Not allowing the huge, overflowing salad bowls to be served with dinner plate underliners. "They have to ask for a plate if they want one" (Which they always do.) A large salad order automatically means two trips from the kitchen.

Not fixing the keys on the order terminals, so "Breakfast #1" actually ordered "Breakfast #3" in the kitchen, and "Breakfast #3" ordered something else entirely.

It was like waiting tables in a Far Side cartoon.

The day I left Marie Callender's, I was working a brunch. I told the manager before the restaurant opened that we only had 3 bottles of Tabasco sauce total for all three dining rooms. I offered to run to the store and buy some. (Brunch in Texas without Tabasco can get ugly.) He declined, so I spent my entire shift swapping out one bottle from table to table ("Excuse me? May I borrow that for the table next to you?") and shooting myself in the foot for tips. After I'd been on the floor with a full station for 7 hours without a break, I told my manager that my station was covered and I wanted to step outside for a cigarette. He said, "Now, Guy, I told you that not everyone smokes, so when you want a cigarette, you need to say, 'I would like to have a break now.'" Was I pissed? I told him, "For God's sakes, I'm over 40 years old. I'm not gonna play "Mother May I?" with you. I'm going to smoke. When I come back, I'll cash out my tickets. I won't work here anymore."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sleeping with the customers

I just received my first blog comment and, oddly enough, it mentioned the very thing I came here to write about today: Waiter nightmares. I'm sure most waiters have experienced them, and even former waiters like me still have them from time to time. I used to work with a waitress who would sleepwalk while she dreamed about still being on the floor. Her roommate found her in the kitchen once at about four in the morning with the refrigerator door open muttering, "Table 18 needs mustard." Another waitress friend of mine told me she dreamed she had taken jobs at two restaurants about 6 blocks away from each other and was scheduled to work the same shift at both of them. She said she was running down Colorado Boulevard with trays full of food 'cos she had accidentally hung tickets for the wrong restaurant on the other one's wheel.

One of my most vivid nightmares was of the classic "I'm the only one working and there are way too many customers" variety. A little background to this one: In the days before brewed decaf coffee (I can still hear that shrewish screech, "Do you have BREEEEWWWED decaf?" when it finally did come available) we used to serve instant Sanka packets with small thermal pots of hot water. They were the same ones we used for hot tea and no matter how many times we ran them through the dishwasher, the plastic always held onto a sort of mixed tea/Sanka odor. The pots held about a cup and half of water that they didn't really keep hot and were likely to leak all over the table and the customer when they tried to pour from them. There were also only about 8 Sanka pots for a restaurant with seating for 400. "I'll have Sanka" was enough to make me feel like I was having a stroke.

In my nightmare, I'm in the service area and I can hear a low rumbling that is building to a frightening volume. When I walk out into the dining room, it has become an endless sea of toothless women with white curly permanents, banging little plastic pots on the table and chanting, "SANKA! SANKA! SANKA!" (except it sounds like "RWANKA! RWANKA! RWANKA!") A mob in polyester pant suits. They are angry, and I'm the only one working. That's all there is to it, but every time I dreamed it, I would wake up trembling.

Another one I had pretty frequently was where my station kept expanding. Working in a pancake house, you already have an ungodly number of tables, and if you're on a graveyard weekday shift, you will probably have the entire restaurant to yourself at some point. In this dream, there are construction workers building booths and knocking out the walls of the restaurant. I'm taking orders as fast as I can, but every time I come out with plates, the building has gotten longer until I can't even see the end of my station. I don't even think of quitting, but I know it's just a matter of time before the customers turn on me and pick my bones.

The one I still have from time to time is just about pure humiliation. I am working in a restaurant where I have no idea what is on the menu - sometimes when I look at the menus they're blank - and nobody will tell me. Customers are demanding their food, but I don't have any clue what they ordered, and every time I try to deliver food, the people are missing. The customers become more and more hostile and somehow I think the whole thing is my fault, even though I've never even seen this restaurant before and I have no idea why I'm working in it.

Even as bad as the dreams could be, the reality was usually worse, but I've never been more proud of the work I did than when I waited tables. Many times, I wasn't proud of the restaurant I worked at, but I knew that it took a lot to be a good waiter and the work was far more demanding than most people believed. It felt good to know I had earned every penny of what I made.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"I'll just have . . . "

The first job I had was at a pancake house. It was also the 4th, 7th and 11th, or something like that, because I kept quitting and then coming back. I must have been a little bit of a masochist.

I started out working the night shift at a corporate store located next to a bowling alley ... with 80 lanes. Our location was the only one with two dining rooms because it was actually made over from an Italian restaurant and discotheque that was popular and then not-so-popular in the 70s. Someone had been shot and killed in the disco after hours and the rumor was the place was haunted. I believed those rumors every time both wheels were wrapped and I had been waiting 45 minutes for a short stack and a side of bacon. I could just feel the evil spirits hovering over my station. The place was far too big for the kind of turn and burn service we specialized in (it was 35 steps from the wheel to the closest table) but it was a great place to learn how to move fast - or die trying.

"Nights" were considered the inferior staff at the pancake house. The lowest on the totem pole, we often weren't even given bussers and sometimes split the whole restaurant between two waiters, closing the back dining room. It could be really slow at night, and that's why nobody wanted that shift. I remember an especially slow period of about 3 weeks that only ended when we discovered that the bowling alley next door was turning off our sign along with their lights when they closed. Ever since then, if we had a lull in business, someone would say, "Is the sign on?"

Admittedly, there were times when we didn't mind being slow. We'd sometimes play a game where we bet how long it would take for someone to walk out without being waited on, or we'd send one of the regular customers to the liquor store and use the strawberries and fountain glasses from the dessert bar to make strawberry daiquiris. However, getting too "relaxed" could really bite you in the butt if one of those big parties showed up like Amway or the "UFOs" (people that actually believed in UFOs ) or palm readers. Sometimes it would be an entire bowling league. Those groups never let you know when they were coming and they were really weird people. Completely out of step with how to behave in public. When you asked the first arrivals, "How many in your party?" they'd say, "Oh, I don't know ... 60 or 70 I think" and all Hell would break loose in the kitchen (the cooks always blamed the wait staff for their arrival), and whoever had seniority would be "On for one" with the whole front dining room. The other waiter would have to open up the back room.

These groups were always "Separate checks" and they were always in a hurry for their food. They expected to be served before they started their meeting and that usually meant you had less than 30 minutes to take their orders, ring them, hang them, serve their food and drop the check. We were not allowed to add a gratuity. The orders would run the gamut, from full dinners to, "Oh, I'll just have a chocolate shake." Never mind that I had to make that shake myself from ice cream that was frozen so hard I couldn't get it out of the 5 gallon tub with a blowtorch. There were a lot of menu items the waiters made ... desserts, salads, toast and english muffins, soft boiled eggs (cracking them) and grapefruit (sectioning) were some of them. Shakes were probably the worst. After you dug out the ice cream, you had to babysit the shake machine 'cos they were notorious for losing their grip and throwing your shake (and any others that were on the machine) across the service galley. There's a little clip on the shake canisters that is supposed to make them stick, but it was no guarantee -- even if you could find one of the canisters that had the clips.

The best way to work these parties was to diagram the room. I'd just number off customers and write their order on a sheet of notebook paper. When I got to the back, I'd re-write a copy for the cooks with all the stuff they had to make on one ticket (this was pre-computer days) and drop toast - loads of toast - and get to work on the drinks. Technically, our corporate office allowed us six minutes for the first customer and one minute for each additional, but these groups didn't see it that way. "All I asked for was a spinach salad, and english muffin and hot tea with lemon" was the usual attitude. Never mind that the only part of that order that I didn't make myself was the hot bacon dressing that came from the cooks who had enough to do cooking everyone else's order and could care less if they ever gave it to me.

That was another problem: The cooks. I worked with some pretty rough guys. Some of them on jail release. The waitresses had it easier, 'cos a lot of them were dating cooks or at least flirted with them enough to make that seem like a possibility, but a 20-year-old who "looks like a faggot" has a tough row to hoe. Once in a while, there'd be one who showed mercy, and after a time of proving myself I had a great team going with some of the guys. In the interim, though, I had food thrown at me, I was threatened, strangled, and called every name in the book. Being on the bad side of a cook could make your life miserable.

I have distinct memories of those harrowing rushes with the unexpected parties: Visions of plate after plate of curled toast sitting under the heat lamp (either because I'd over-estimated how many orders I needed or it was dead before the food came up and I had to toast more), the smell of maple syrup burning in the bottom of the warmer because nobody had time to put water in it, the feel of my skin burning after being hot-plated by a particularly nasty cook or the sound of a ham and cheese omelet as it hit the carpet face-down after falling off the back of my tray. Some things I'll never forget.

I'm really not sure why I kept coming back to that restaurant. It was some of the hardest work I'd ever done and the pay really sucked. It wasn't uncommon to get a tip of 35 or 50 cents, and though that might have been 10%, ordering the cheapest thing on the menu didn't make it any easier on me. Maybe I came back because I already knew the taste of that poison, and there was no risk. By the time I finally walked (the 4th and final time I was employed there) I had so many regulars that it felt like that movie "Groundhog Day" every time I went to work. By then, I was on days. I would see people in the grocery store and think, "There goes Crisp Bacon, Two Over Hard, Cottage Cheese, Rye Toast Dry, Butter On The Side." Of course, I would avoid all eye contact.