Minimum Wage Memoirs: The Morning Shift

It was the first time in a long while that I had been scheduled to take the early morning shift. Usually if I work breakfast, I clock in at 8:00. However, someone went down sick, so the formidable 6:00 AM slot fell to me. As I walked into the restaurant, I felt good. It was a crisp, clear morning. I encountered no omens on my drive in. As we opened the doors and a few old-timers trickled in, I thought This won’t be so bad. I’ll probably just have a few guests. Nothing to strenuous. Then I’ll sit back relax, sip some Hot tea and eat a few syrup sopped biscuits in the break room...

Little did I know that this was to be the longest morning of my commercial culinary career. The following takes place between 6:21 and 7:43 AM.

As I walked up to the table I realized that I had waited on them before, though I couldn’t remember if it was a pleasant or a vexing visit. It was a couple in their mid-50s.

In as genuinely a country fresh tone as I could muster at 6:21, Hello folks, ready for a Rise’n Shine breakfast with some Momma’s pancakes?

Without looking up, the wife says: “Oh…it’s you again.”

Ignoring this opening salvo, I take their drink order: "COFFEE, BLACK, No Cream, don’t bring us any cream; If you bring us any cream we will throw it back at you; We don’t drink cream;"

After the black coffee is served and then taken back because it is too black, I bring back the same coffee with a little water and stir-job: “mmmhhh, this is what I’m talking about.” As I’m about to take their order, Grandma’s husband in a tone of aggravation: “Son, do you not serve half and half with your coffee any more?” Well, actually Sir, you made it abundantly clear that you were adverse to any form of cream. (Yes, I did use the words abundantly and adverse) “No, no, I didn’t want any cream, we DO need some half and half though!

[Background: half-and-half is most definitely “cream.” When someone orders cream we bring them half-and-half. It’s half creamer, half milk, but definitely cream.]

At this point Ched’s blood is starting to boil and he hears mean Ched knocking on the back door. Sir, half-and-half is cream, that’s why I didn’t bring you any, because you told me not to. “Don’t you think we know what half-and-half is? Just get it for us!”

All right, are we all good on coffee? What’s that? You’ve been ready to order for 20 minutes? All right, what can I get for ya’ll this lovely, happy, chipper morning?

They order two Old Timer’s (indicatively) breakfasts with crisp bacon, not too runny eggs, and no set-up. Yes sir, I heard you: No set-up. What’s that? You really don’t want the set-up; no set-up; you will not eat it; I will be forced to take it back; No set-up; Okay sir, I think I’ve got it. Yes Sir, I did write it down and I will tell the cooks.

Ten minutes later, their food comes up and I’m about to pick it up when mean Ched stops me in the server aisle in the Kitchen:

Mean Ched: Ched what are you doing?

Benevolent Ched: What do you mean, “what are you doing?” I mean, why are you giving them good service? Because I’m a 4-Star waiter and our motto is “pleasing people.” Don’t give me that load of hooey. I saw you serve them the half-and-half that was wedged under the coffee maker from last weekend! That was an honest, working man’s mistake. Rubbish. Well… Come on, you know you want to “modify” those eggs. Just a little horse radish will do the trick. Or, You know very well that hair follicles when cut up just right look like pepper flakes. No, get thee behind me! They were just having a bad day, they won’t give me anymore trouble. I'm sure of it. I’ve got principles.

Reveling in my moral and ethical triumph, I brought the food out hot and just the way they ordered it. As I set the food down, they both stopped talking as they perused the plates with their jaundiced eyes. Then all of a sudden and with horrifying synchronization looked accusingly at the empty tray I was now holding. As he was opening his mouth I thought, No way. no way. I triple checked this order. “WHERE are our Biscuits?”

[Background: A set-up comes with every breakfast that we serve and consists of a little bowl of gravy, a little bowl of grits and two biscuits. This is very clear from the menu.] I’m sorry Sir. The reason I didn’t bring you any biscuits is because you asked me not to. You said that you did not want the set-ups that came with the meal. Well, we don’t want the set-up, but we want the biscuits. I never told you I didn’t want biscuits, I told you I didn’t want a set up!

Biting my tongue, and fighting the urge to go find the Horse relish, I come back with the plate of biscuits. Seeing the plate, the wife, who I now realize is Cranky Breakfast lady,

demands to know why the biscuits are different sizes…Because they are biscuits. That's just what they look like. “Well, could you get me some the same size…” Hmmmm...

Epilogue: 20 minutes after these encounters, the waitress in the section next to mine drops a maple syrup bottle which shatters into hundreds of syrupy pieces, one of which gets allegedly lodged in between Cranky Breakfast lady’s foot and sandal. She calls the manager over, says she’s bleeding. The meals are now on the house, and Ched who has persevered to the end of this ordeal walks away with empty, sticky hands ( I had to clean up the syrup).

It’s now almost 7:00. As I stand in front of the Fireplace to attempt to recompose myself, the host walks by and sits, in my section, 9 older men wearing fishing hats and calling for coffee and separate checks…

To Be continued…perhaps.

Missed the Previous Memoirs? Don't Fret!
1. Crazy Meatloafman/Crazy Ketchup Lady
2. First in Line, Last to Leave!

Minimum Wage Memoirs
December 7, 2006


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