My brief career as a waiter

English: Spring pea soup, with creme fraiche g...

English: Spring pea soup, with creme fraiche galaxy. The recipe was pretty good, but not exceptional. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Governments all over the world are facing up to the economic realities of balancing the books. After a brief bout of teenage profligacy, I found myself in much the same fiscal boat. The obvious solution in my case was to get a part-time job. This was effective on two levels; firstly, whilst I was working, I was kept out of mischief and unable to spend money and secondly, I was also earning money at the same time.

I worked in a large pub restaurant just outside my home town as a barman. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the social contact with the regular customers and revelled in the camaraderie of my fellow bar staff. To my surprise, I seemed to be good at it as well. For a while everyone was happy. My bank manager was happy that the overdraft was inching down, the one-legged owner of the bar was happy with my performance and I was happy doing the job.

One Summer’s evening, the one-legged man walked over to the bar and told us that several of the waitresses had phoned in sick. Not only that, but we were fully booked that evening. There was only one thing for it. One of the bar staff would have to take a shift on the waiting team. We drew straws.

I might be good at working behind a bar, but I’m useless at drawing straws, so a short while later, the Maitre D’ lectured me on what to do and what not to do. I tried to explain to him that I had the manual dexterity of an elephant wearing boxing gloves but he would have none of it.

My first table seemed to go OK, but it was only two covers. Lulled into a false sense of security about my skills as a waiter, the Maitre D’ assigned me to a larger table – four covers this time. I took their orders and when the very attractive lady in the pretty white dress ordered the pea soup, my heart sank. I’d already tried a dummy run in the kitchen with a tray full of bowls filled with water – it didn’t end well.

As the chef called service, I took my place at the serving hatch. Ever so carefully, I balanced the four starters on the tray. Making sure the tray was rock steady, I set off towards the table. I moved slowly, planning my route carefully so that I avoided any chance of a collision. Arriving at the table, I lifted the first starter and placed it on the table.

The tray lurched in an alarming fashion and the soup came very close to the rim of the bowl. I adjusted the tray, but unfortunately over compensated. Almost in slow motion, the bowl slid down the tray and over the small lip at the edge. Like a heat seeking missile, the bowl and its contents tumbled end over end before landing squarely in the attractive lady’s lap. Her pretty white dress was covered in bright, green soup.

With surprising swiftness, the one-legged man appeared and ushered me away from the table whilst the Maitre D’ appeared from nowhere and apologised profusely to the customers. Before too long, I was safely ensconced behind the bar once more. The one-legged man admonished me and told me that was the last time I would be a waiter. Silently – I agreed with him.

I caught sight of the woman leaving the restaurant later that night with her soup-stained dress. As she walked out, she smiled and blew me a kiss.

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A night at our favourite dodgy restaurant

Restaurant

Restaurant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We don’t go out for a meal that often, but when we do – we know exactly where to go. Lying not far away from where we live in a cobbled street, it’s an easy walk. Last time, as we headed towards the restaurant, we noticed two things. Firstly; the proprietor standing in the doorway (as he normally does) and secondly a bold sign outside proclaiming a new menu.

We smile at each other when we are directed to a dirty table. The slightly effeminate waiter clears the crockery away before telling us that he will soon sort out the tablecloth. After a short delay, he appears with another tablecloth and with a flourish, he lays it over the top of the dirty tablecloth before laying out mismatching cutlery. It’s no surprise that the new tablecloth is even dirtier than the original.

He hands us the supposedly new menus. Indeed they are brand new and in pristine condition. However, they contain exactly the same dishes we are used to, just with higher prices. He makes a show of handing us a handwritten list of specials. It’s a nice touch, but it’s the same list we always get.

We order drinks. Julie goes for a glass of wine and I order a bottle of beer. The menu tells me that I should get 330ml and it’s no surprise to me that I only get a half pint glass. Instead of feeling cheated, it simply adds to the experience.

Before too long, the food comes out. Mine is fine, but Julie finds hers a little dry. When the slightly effeminate waiter comes over to clear the plates, he notices that she has left a lot of food. When she explains, he apologises and calls over the proprietor. After we relay the problem, the proprietor protests that the meat is far from dry and proceeds to cut off a large chunk which he stuffs into his mouth. He manages to chew his way through the meat, all the time telling us that the  meat is far from dry, but he agrees to deduct the cost from the bill.

When the bill comes, I am happy to pay, but Julie notices an anomaly. Although we have not been charged for her dish, we have been overcharged for drinks. When we bring it to the proprietor’s attention, he struggles to work out the new total and blames the heat. Myself and Julie look at each other before glancing out the window at the cold, torrential rain. What makes it even more amusing is that he supposedly comes from a hot country.

By any conventional measure, the restaurant would struggle but we wouldn’t have it any other way and we can’t wait to return.