I waited tables for the majority of my younger days, and as you can imagine, when you’re not necessarily the definition of graceful, maybe this is not a route you should take as a chosen profession.
The restaurant I worked in had an upstairs and downstairs – but for breakfast, only the downstairs section of the restaurant is open. However, when a large breakfast party would come in for a buffet (you know, church group, business meeting, something like that) – we’d set them up in the upstairs section. We had a party of about 25 people coming in for a buffet, and for some reason, probably because the more artful, senior waitresses were out sick that day, I was given the party. Honestly – the buffet piece was cake. Usually we’d set up coffee decanters, pitchers of juice, and an array of food and allow everyone to basically take care of themselves.
Ok, so I see why I was given the party.
Anyway, I was taking care of roughly 8 or 9 tables downstairs while the folks upstairs were serving themselves in the buffet. All I really had to manage was checking on them, smiling politely, and going back downstairs to manage my real tables. Of course, waitressing is all about perfecting your timing so you can balance all of these things with ease – something that did not come naturally to me.
At what I would call climactic point of this little story, the buffet was wrapping up, and all of my downstairs tables were nearing the end of their meal. I had about 5, maybe 8 minutes to begin cleaning up the buffet before I had to wrap up the breakfast tables. I popped upstairs and quickly ran through my token goodbye-party phrases, as the roughly 20-30 people started to put on their coats and say their own goodbyes. I started cleaning up and put a somewhat large amount of juice glasses and coffee cups on a tray to send downstairs. As I rounded the corner to go in the backroom, what I didn’t know was that the bartender had rolled up the rugs from the night before and put them against the wall. This knowledge would have been helpful as I rounded the corner, because without it, it was easy to trip over them. When you trip and you’re holding about 30 glasses balanced on a tray, I promise you, the tray will go hurtling out of your hands, which is what it did in this instance. It landed with an astonishing crash ahead of me. I say ahead of me because I was of course on my way down as well, landing straight into the now broken 30 glasses. When I finally stood up, with the help of at least 3 of the buffet party I had just served, they helped me realize that tiny shards of glass were cutting into both of my arms and parts of my face. If memory serves me right,I looked something like this:
I was ushered downstairs by one of the owners who had entered in the midst of the commotion, while he cleaned up the disaster, so I could clean up myself. I walked into the kitchen, no surprise to the cooks, covered in blood.
While two of my coworkers helped me bandage up the disaster that was previously my face and forearms, the owner came downstairs with some of the dishes from my party. I thanked him for his assistance, and asked him if he could please go check on the 8 or 9 parties that had now been utterly abandoned for at least 15 minutes to see if they needed anything. 15 minutes in breakfast time is an eternity. What I didn’t know was that he took that opportunity to go out into the dining room, clap his hands together to get the attention of the room I was managing, and state very loudly, “ALL RIGHT FOLKS, IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP YOU HERE, YOUR WAITRESS JUST TOOK A DIGGER IN THE KITCHEN”.
If I had known that, it would have been slightly less awkward to walk out into the dining room to these same people, sitting patiently with their checks and money in hand, looking like children that had been delivered news of the reality of Santa Claus.
Quietly, to the group, I said, “Um, is everyone okay?”
The group, in reply, “Um, we’re all okay, but how are YOU?”