The Worst of the Worst : Confessions of an Anonymous Portland Waitress

In my last post, I wrote about the customers that bring me joy, make me laugh, and truly make my job worth doing. However, dear readers, I’m sure you anticipated what was to come next. I can’t be nice forever because holy friggin heck this job sucks sometimes. So without delay, let’s jump into my list of the worst of the worst, the customers who occasionally make me wonder if I’m already dead and waitressing is simply my special punishment in hell. After reading, you can let me know if you think I’ll be serving until I’m financially solvent or if I should anticipate being here for all eternity.

Women Who’ve Been Hungry for Thirty Years. These women wear expensive jewelry, they get a weekly mani-pedi, and they have been on a diet since the time of the Reagan Administration. They have the weak joints and impaired brain function of a prisoner of war because they’ve been on a restricted diet for so long, and their skin hangs off their bones like the monster with his eyeballs in his hands in Pan’s Labyrinth—except the skin on their faces, which is usually strung up real tight. But I am not fooled by the permanent “I’m so surprised” look. These women are not surprised; they are cold, calculating, calorie-counting creatures. While everyone else at the table merrily orders their meals, Hungry Women grill me about food preparation and order sides. Fruit sides, side salads, sides of steams vegetables NO BUTTER CAN YOU MAKE SURE THE COOKS DO NOT PUT ANY BUTTER ON MY STEAMED VEGETABLES STEAMED IN WATER NOT SAUTEED IN BUTTER.

These women love things that most people hate, like egg whites and fat-free salad dressing. Of course, they don’t actually love anything. They hate everything because they have experienced no joy in life, no flavor in their food, in such a long time. And they really hate me, a woman who obviously eats fat on a regular basis. They act like I’m out to get them. For years, the same Hungry Woman has ordered coffee “with skim milk on the side” from me, to which I always respond, “We only have 2% milk here.” The disgusted look she gives me makes me believe she’s convinced that I secretly have skim milk, or better yet, Coffeemate Fat Free French Vanilla creamer, but I won’t give it to her in some plot to make her fat like me. To this day, I’m not sure if sheer rage drives her to ask me for skim milk even though she knows we don’t have it, or if she honestly forgets my answer each time. After all, a healthy human brain is made of about 60% fat.

Foodies. Foodies are wicked irritating because they know more about the food in my restaurant than I do before they even try it. It is some sort of dark magic gathered from the glimmering pages of Bon Appétit and the chronicles of Yelp and TripAdvisor. They want me to talk about food and drink so that every word becomes some sexual euphemism, and they expect me to be as orgasmically excited about their order as they are. But I will not fall into that trap. Because when I check in on the foodies after they’ve had their meal, they either continue with the creepy sexual food talk while they touch my forearm and gush over the “redolent baked quince,” or they are sorely disappointed. The latter have spent so much time lost in the masturbatory fantasies of online and print descriptions of food that when they find themselves with the real thing in their mouths, they don’t understand how it can be—what is it?—just food, just a meal, and not some life-altering experience that will save them from going back to work on Monday as a data analyst.

I once served a Reuben sandwich to a man who described himself as a foodie and said he always ordered Reubens if he could get them at restaurants. Naturally, I talked ours up because this was the Reuben to end all Reubens, made with grass-fed, local beef and lacto-fermented sauerkraut and homemade sourdough bread that began with a five-year-old starter. When I went to his table to check in on his meal, he said told me he didn’t like the sandwich. I was visibly surprised and told him no one had ever not liked our Reuben before. “Well,” he said, “I always order Reubens wherever I go, and I’ve never found one I liked.”

What I wanted to say was: Um hellooooo I don’t think you are a foodie with a refined palate, I think maybe you just don’t like Reubens, you big dummy. Instead, I just blinked.

People from Massachusetts and Connecticut. More than complaints about people from MA and CT, I’m full of questions. These questions include:

  • Why do you insist on having as little fun as possible while you are on vacation?
  • Why are you so stressed out?
  • Is there any clothing left in the J. Crew store you just hit up?
  • What did you do to your kids to make them hate you so much even though you paid in full for them to go to [insert Ivy League school here]?
  • What did I do to make you hate me so much?
  • If you adore Portland and visit every year, why don’t you leave the miserable state you came from and just move here? (I’m kidding. Please don’t. )
  • What happens, on a physiological/chemical/neurological level that turns bachelorette parties from Boston into literally the most heinous, atrocious, self-absorbed humans on the planet?

I would greatly appreciate clarification of these questions because I’ve been serving in Portland for years and I still don’t get these people at all.

Doctors. Do you remember that scene in Men in Black where the alien skins a farmer, takes over his body, and then goes inside and asks the man’s wife over and over again for sugar water? That’s kind of what waiting on doctors is like. I used to be pretty hostile to doctors because they, at first, come off as rude, abrupt, and arrogant. (“Sugar…water…more!”) Apparently, the exploitative and abusive nature of residency removes all semblance of humanity from people who, in theory, at one time wanted to help others and do good in the world. Doctors are not big on eye contact, they abhor having to pause a super-smart-doctor conversation to interact with someone as lowly as a waitress, and they are strangely incapable of ordering a meal in a clear, concise manner despite having completed years of rigorous academic training. They are also obsessed with wearing their conspicuous doctor tags around their necks at all times, even in restaurants where these tags afford them no additional privileges and no access to special areas of the restaurant and where they only serve to announce to their server that he or she is about to get a table that is Zero. Percent. Fun.

But—and this is a word of advice to all servers in Portland—now that I’ve discovered that they are unusual, fragile creatures still learning to interact with the human race, I treat them with extreme care. I use my low, non-threatening voice and try not to make any sudden movements around their tables, lest they decide to use my body as a new home for one of their kind. I’m not saying this effort on my part has made doctors a joy to wait on, but I’ve still got my skin.

Couples That Hate Each Other. Please, please get a divorce. I’m begging you. Your passive-aggressive comments to each other—“Well I’m ready to order but I don’t believe she is.”—make me so uncomfortable. I cannot force the cooks to make your meals any faster even though you are both staring at me from across the restaurant instead of talking to each other. The simmering resentment at the table makes it harder for me to do my job because there is no good time for me to check in to see if you’d like dessert. I know you hate each other. Everyone who works in the restaurant knows you hate each other. Do you know you hate each other?

Just get a divorce, and then come back to the restaurant with someone you can stand to be around for one hour to enjoy a meal that is prepared, served, and cleaned up by other people. Eating out is actually fun, but I suspect you don’t know that yet.

Male Regulars Between the Ages of 45 and 65 Who Believe I Am Their Friend/Girlfriend/Mother/Therapist. Dear Male Regular: Even though I see you four or five times a week, I am not your friend. Or girlfriend. Or mother. Or therapist. I am your waitress. Also, your pregnant-looking man gut, despite all the gender fluidity of our time, is not a turn on for me. Also, you got those DUIs because you were driving drunk, not because the cops were out to get you. I cannot and will not fake laugh at your boring stories anymore. Sincerely, Your Waitress. P.S. Thanks for voting for Trump, you unbearable man-child.

Well, fellow Portland servers? Have I forgotten anyone? Was I too harsh to a group included on this list due to misunderstanding or my own ignorance? Comment and let me know!

Read Part I: Confessions of an Anonymous Waitress 
Read Part II: The Most Annoying Things Customers Do
Read Part III: My Favorite Customers