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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Caught Up! (and Foodservice Peeves, Alex, and Hockey)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Caught Up! (and Foodservice Peeves, Alex, and Hockey)

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I'm caught up! *happy dance* All of my drabble series are written and posted, all of my LJ comments are answered. I answered all of my long Pit of Voles comments the other day and so just have a few little ones to take care of. Whee!

It only took...twelve days?

Oh, I forgot to mention twelve days ago that I did complete NaNoWriMo again this year, clocking 51K words as of 29 November. I didn't write the last day because it was my last day of work before Ocean City, so I spent it getting the office presentable so that I didn't come back to a mess. The novel still isn't finished, but it's getting really close. And I pretty much hate the last section, but that's why Eru invented revision and rewrite. I'll be doing a lot of both, I suspect.

Bobby is sick with a gawdawful head cold. He's been out of work for the past two days, which means that we have lunch together in the afternoons. Which means that I still haven't started my Christmas shopping. Oops. Oh, well, tomorrow is another day.

But because we have been eating lunch out at actual sit-down restaurants, I got to thinking about foodservice pet peeves. Since I used to work in foodservice, I probably pay greater attention to such details than most people. For a long while, I could not sit where I could see an open kitchen because I'd become so engrossed in watching the cooks that I would forget to make conversation!

It kind of annoys me when a host is seating you and tries to make small talk as s/he walks. I realize that this isn't the host's fault; most chain restaurants practically script every aspect of their service employees' behavior, and I can almost see the training manual now: "Make small talk with the guest as you escort him/her to the table. Ask how the guest's day is going or make comments about the weather." Believe me, I spent enough years as a trainer to know how the desk-drivers in upper management think foodservice should work. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to read, "Try to work in a mention of the latest promotion or your favorite menu items!"

But this small talk annoys me not because I dislike small talk--I make plenty of it while running stuff for people at work, thinking it better than sticking them on hold for who knows how long--but because watching the poor host try to walk through a bustling dining room while simultaneously twisting to ask me how I'm enjoying the unseasonably warm weather as we both struggle to shout above the din and sound like we actually care what the other is saying...it just seems like far too much effort when, really, I'm hungry; I just want to be taken to a clean table, given a place to park my butt, and shown a list of food that I can eat. Nor does it make me feel more welcomed. Perhaps because I know too well how restaurant training programs go, it sounds like, "Hey, I'm demonstrating my proficiency in page 14 of the training manual!" or "Hey, if you're a secret shopper, make sure you give me points for asking after your day while I walk you to your table!"

But worse than that is when servers come up to the table and say, "Hi! I'm Alice! Can I get you started with some Fiesta Hot Wings or an Onion Tower?" *criiiinge* Again, it's not the server's fault. At The Piece, one of the opening lines we were taught to use (and I refused to teach to my trainees) was "Hi, can I get you started with a giant milkshake?" A...giant milkshake? "Giant" is just such a odd word to use unless you're talking about a hulking, hairy guy who lives on top of a bean stalk.

It just sounds so phony. "Hey, I'm trying to up my company's sales figures! And, hopefully, my tip in the process!" Now, when I waited on tables for a year before going back to my cave, i.e. production work, I would always ask my tables, "Can I get you started with some drinks or appetizers?" This gets the people thinking, "Hmmm...appetizers?" or maybe lets them know that it's okay to order their cheesesticks now so that they come out before the meal. But it doesn't sound so pushy, I don't think. I was always of the philosophy that most people know what they want to eat. I mean, I'm not going to eat buffalo wings no matter how hard my server pushes them. And I appreciate a server who asks, "Do you have any questions about our menu?" or even gives some of his/her personal recommendations. But using the company's product in an introduction: "Hi! I'm Dave! How about an Ole Bravo Marguarita to get started?" Bleh. I'll take an iced tea, thank you, and you can keep your overpriced, watered-down Ole Bravo for yourself. Especially when every time the server approaches the table, it's with a sales pitch: "All done? How about a Choco-Chunk-A-Cheesecake or a cup of Mocha Mocha?"

Anyway, Bobby is sick: Sick enough to miss work but not hockey. He's playing at a game right now. Last night, we went to see the Caps play the Penguins. Oh, that was a horror show. They went up 4-0 in the first period. And they lost. WTF???

It was a tense game, i.e. a good game, and it was really a moment in history: the first time that perhaps the four best young players in the NHL--Ovechkin, Semin, Malkin, and Crosby--were all on the ice at the same time. But they were up four points and lost! WTF?!

And the joint was full of Pittsburgh fans. *scowl* Our section was full of them. Of course, I got Eileen Dover in front of me, complete with a bleach-blond femulette and (apparently) her elbows glued to her knees. Which meant that I had a big bleach-blond femulette between the blue lines for most of the game. And while I am convinced that 90% of Pittsburgh sports fans are trash, the ones behind us really took the cake. They managed to dribble beer on my father-in-law, drop a lid and a cup (empty, luckily) on the hapless girl next to me, and they screamed obscenities through the whole game. Now I can make use of the f-word into an art form when I'm angry, but I recognize that shouting it at a public venue with families with small children is simply not good manners.

Some idiot also started chanting for...the Steelers? Right. The Ravens kicked the Steelers' collective ass 27-0 a mere two weeks ago. Go ahead and brag about that.

There was also a bona fide brawl in our section! I turned around and saw a big guy in a Penguins jersey tumbling down the stands (at first I thought: "Crowd-surfing? At a hockey game??"), much shouting ensued, ushers appeared, and one guy bitch-slapped the other. Now I can say that I've been to a game where there was a brawl in the stands.

Speaking of fights, Bobby got ejected from his game on Saturday for punching a guy in the neck. Apparently, the officials weren't calling anything, and the other team was pulling some really dirty moves, i.e. sticks in the crotch or across the wrists. Bobby was skating off and some tough-guy cross-checked him in the back and knocked him to the ice. The official saw it and said nothing, so Bobby got up, dropped the gloves, and punched the guy in the neck. At which point, the guy skated off. Probably a smart move. Of course, for cross-checking a player in the back after the whistle had blown, he got no penalty. Bobby got ejected, which was fair. Punching people in the necks is generally frowned upon in professional as well as recreational hockey, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and a player being needlessly aggressive and antagonistic should have shared in his punishment.

On another note, Alex is now roughly the size of a small horse. I have pictures and even a few little videos of crappy quality, but I just have to get around to uploading and posting them. Last night, though, he did probably the dumbest thing he's done since we got him. We'd just gone to bed; it was around midnight. He didn't want to go to sleep, and I heard him messing with the door on his crate. Then he started to whine. They he started shrieking, so we put on the light, and Bobby shouted, "He's stuck on his crate!"

What?

The dumbass had started chewing the door to his crate, and he got his lower jaw stuck between two of the bars. He twisted just a little and was unable to free himself. So at midnight, I'm holding down his wriggling little body so that Bobby can carefully extricate his jaw from between the bars of the crate, he's screaming, we're both saying, "Good boy! Good boy!"...and then he was out. And the tail started wagging, and all was forgotten. Crazy carpet alligator!

ETA: Hey, it's a cheap and easy way to give me "gifts"....

Stolen shamelessly from my lovely sister-in-law linwe_ancalime.

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  • I think you're taking some of these things a bit personally. ;)

    And really, just because you got some drunk fans behind you doesn't mean you can blame the rest of us from Pittsburgh and call us mean names! :P

    (Really, you wanna see some malicious fans? Go to a Southlake football game and wear a red shirt, see what happens. I suggest wearing armor underneath.)

    And your dog is so blonde. Maybe it really was Finrod he discovered in the bathroom!

    Also, TSO rocks my socks. I just got Beethoven's Last Night, and it's awesome. Especially since there are references to annoying muses. :D
  • LOL! Gets his jaw stuck! Just the puppy equivalent of a kid sticking his head through the railings. Glad he's ok.

    And I agree, conversation can not be done when walking single file, much less over all the noise. But then again, I'm a person who should never talk to the general public to begin with, so generic chit chat doesn't cut it with me.
    • I find most retail/foodservice chitchat to be very annoying these days only because experience tells me how contrived it is. Of course, I was on the other side of the counter for six years, so I buck up and force myself to be nice to the person who probably has a pimply sixteen-year-old "manager" looking over her shoulder to make sure that she suggests buffalo wings to me.
  • Ugh, I especially hate that "Would you like to start off with our Bloomin' Onion" stuff, because sometimes, my dad actually says, "Sure!" and it's naaaaaaaasty stuff to eat and smell! :P

    Awww, I always think it's so funny (or charming, if not funny) how dogs can be so depressed or stressed one moment, then all wiggly and tail-waggly the second they're out of trouble... :D

    And I don't know where my gift came from. I don't have a pair tree around here. :P I've been surprised that all these people on my friends list seem to have "nekkid elves" lying around to give each other, too... and that they'd give them up! ;)
  • And that's why I really like little neighborhood diners like the Salonika, where the sign says "cash only," the waiters range from surly to silent, and the grilled cheese sandwiches are nice and sticky and come with Soup-Of-The-Day and a big iced tea. A real restaurant!
    • It sounds like The Trolley Stop in the historic district, only our servers are quite nice to us now that we go in there every other week and know how we tip. :^P But I can get a monstrous powerhouse sammich there for $5, which in Howard County (where it's hard for Bobby and me to sit down and eat for less than $30), that's pretty darned good.
  • I agree with you on the waiter/restaurant thing.
    And... if you don´t mind my saying so, that kinda behaviour is very American. I know the aim is a high service level, but it can be too much and the problem is that it just seems to rehearsed, as you said.

    We reacted to this when we were in New York, everywhere you went it was like:
    "Hiiiii, how are you? Where are you guys from? NORWAY!?!? WOOOOW!!"
    And let me tell you, I don´t think any of them ever looked us in the eye while saying it, and if we´d ask them where Norway is, I doubt anyone could have told us.

    So it can be too much. I´d much rather have a more descret service when I´m out.
    • It is definitely an American thing! When Sharon and Kirsty were over, Kirsty constantly remarked on how much better the service was here than in the UK. They actually come and refill your drinks, ask how the meal is going; apparently, this is uncommon in England.

      I know that the difference between the US and the UK is how servers are paid. There, they are paid a flat rate and not often tipped. Here, our servers depend on tips. When I waited tables, my pay was $2.38 an hour (with minimum wage being $5.15, except for tipped employees). So I really had to suck up to tables in order to make my living.

      This also tends to cause conflicts when European guests go en masse into American restaurants...and then don't leave a tip. It's not intentional, but still, those servers depend on that for their living. There are also those brilliant Americans who don't believe that they should pay a server's wages with tips...and so don't. In the first case, it's just a misunderstanding; I can forgive it. In the second, that's just plain rude.

      How is it in Norway? Do you all tip or do your servers get paid like everyone else?

      I have worked in all aspects of a restaurant and now dine out at least two or three times a week, and I totally agree with you: I prefer good but discreet service. A server who is constantly in your face or phony is nearly as annoying as one who's never around when the drinks are low or you need to get a check in order to make it to your movie in time.
  • I'm caught up! *happy dance*

    Okay let's make loads of new ones! I am far from caught up *sighs*

    Awwww Alex! Wew that none of his teeth got hurt, that must have been scary. And aaaah you have baby hooligans over there! How cute! I mean over here we just have legions of people who love to fight, use baseball bats (or worse) to hit a 'fan' of the opposite team, where they organise fan fights between two soccer teams to show off their macho-state. And in the mean time Feyenoord for example gets punished by the UEFA over and over again, because of what their 'fans' do during or around the matches. Great huh? As a student I used to live near to a soccer stadium and the street where I lived was enroute for the police escort to get the 'fans' into the stadium. I made sure I remained indoors the whole day.

    As for the waiting thing, here they are quiet, polite and nice. Hubby, if we ever go out for dinner, always asks himself what the speciality is of that day, but they never are pushy or anything like that.
    • In honor of getting caught up, today I...started a new novel. *facepalm* I'll never learn, will I? :^P

      Compared to European and Latin American football, no American rivalry will compare. I mean, we have a few stadiums that are a little rough, where I wouldn't want to go wearing opposing colors, like the "Black Hole" in Oakland. But the worst that we have is the occasional fistfight in the stands. Assault with intent to maim is rarely involved. ;)

      In fact, I think that Little League sports have more of a reputation for that, with some parents killing other parents or game officials over calls made against their kids. I mean, wow. When I was still involved with rec skating, I had to sign a contract every year that I wouldn't get violent at team-related events!

      *imagines fistfight on rollerskates*
      *cracks up*

      As for service, just out of curiosity, are Dutch servers paid full wages or do they rely on tips (in whole or in part)?
  • Miss Nightowl reminded me of this: Catherine Tate (a comedy show over here... very funny) does a skit about "American" restaurant workers. They look mysteriously like TGIFriday's employees, they sing, they're loud and too cheery, and they wear lots of swag on their suspenders (braces). It's actually quite funny, but only because it's so true. :-P

    I used to make idle chitchat with customers when it was convenient to do so. There was no way I was going to suggest clarinet reeds to a guitarist at checkout, but if s/he was buying a book from a particular artist, I might ask, "Are you going to their concert next month?" or something similarly cheesy. Or suggestive sell guitar picks.

    I am lukewarm about suggesting specials in general. I suppose it's okay if it's not of the "Hi, I'm your server, buy our buffalo wings!" variety, but I've never bought a special (I can rarely eat the specials). Then again, Kirsty has, and it came from a looooong list of foods so I guess it is useful to most omnivorous guests (if they listen, so therefore it's NOT useful to most omnivorous guests).

    I like the "rule" on Stained Apron too: "Don't ask for the specials and then order a cheeseburger." ROFL

    And BTW, welcome back to the Land of the Current Day's LJ and Comments. ;-)
    • Thank you! :^D

      Have you seen Office Space? The restaurant in that movie is patterned after TGI Fridays as well. Maybe they'd take the hint? Naaah....

      I always found "small talk" difficult. I would always ask, "Hi, how are you today?" as a way of greeting, at my tables and sometimes at carryout/cash as well. (On grill, of course, I was welcome to be my usual surly and slightly obscene self. :^P) But I could never quite bring myself to ask, "So how ya likin' this weather?"

      Is the Stained Apron back to updating? For the longest time, the site was dead, which was a shame because it was good entertainment at work!
  • I can understand your problem with the food-service thingy. In Europe, service is usually very discreet. The serving person may turn up once or twice to ask if you would like to have anything else, but that's about it. I've always loved the service in Italy because I felt that people there were - though not rude - never artificially friendly. (Though I have the feeling they all went like "Aww! *squee* How cute!" whenever I tried out my mad language skillz, hehe. ;)) So well, I'm prefering a discreet, though friendly service anytime.

    Also, is it true that in the US they immediately present you with the bill if you don't want to order anything else? (At least that's what my father told me) Because over here, we usually sit at the table for a long, looong time after having finished with actually eating, to talk etc. and you only get the bill after asking for it. Just wondering about that... :)

    Also... *points to X-mas sock* Can I have him back after you're finished with him (now that sounds dirty... ;-P)? Also I fear he's not too happy about the hat... ;)
    • Well, that depends on where you put the hat.... >:^)

      Yes, the bill is usually given as soon as you are finished eating here. Sometimes, it is dropped off while you are eating with the caveat, "If you need anything else, just let me know!" I think that the reasons for this are multi-faceted:

      1) Our servers are tipped, not paid a wage, so the more tables they have, the more money they make. In the industry, servers will speak of "table turnover." Having a high table turnover is considered a good thing (from the PoV of both servers and restraurant owners) because it means that you get people in and out fast. So you make more money.

      Servers here tend to become resentful of people who will sit for extended times after eating, drinking coffee and chatting or whatever. When I was a server, I tended to be understanding of this. I also did not do well as a server; maybe this is why? ;) I do not like rushing my meal. At home, Bobby and I will sit for a half-hour on most nights after eating, just talking and listening to music.

      If a person sits long at a table after eating, they are supposed to tip extra accordingly because as they sit and chat, that table could have been occupied by other paying customers.

      2) Americans are always in a big effing hurry. At The Piece, we used to get people who would announce as soon as they sat down, "I am in a hurry," as though--oh!--let's stop the world and serve them immediately because they are in a hurry! Most Americans want the bill as soon as they are finished eating because they've always got someplace they'd rather be.

      Not me. I enjoy a leisurely meal. Sometimes, I like when the kitchen is slow because it allows Bobby and me to really sit and talk and enjoy ourselves. American restaurants have the habit of delivering your appetizers and having the main course on the table before you've even finished half of your soup; they are suggesting dessert before the main course is even finished. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Most people like this; I don't.

      So it's a fault of our system for paying our servers and our culture both, I suspect. :)
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