Server or servant?
The front door of the restaurant was held open momentarily by a blustery gust of watery wind. I struggled with that door, along with my umbrella, before entering the foyer victoriously and a little wet. Nobody ever notices the little victories.
I unwound the constitute elements of my winter attire; scarf, coat, and gloves before donning the universal elements of my bartending uniform; tie, shirt and apron. The extra five minutes of dressing and undressing was well worth the dryness of that crisp, clean, uniform.
One cup of coffee and a counted cash register bank later I stood behind the bar. When it rains around here the bars seem to gain a little extra atmosphere, damp clothes have a way of doing that. Put a lot of damp clothed people in a smallish room and, well, you probably get the picture.
I didn’t have much time to think about it because very quickly I was very busy. Damp clothed people apparently can be very thirsty. Half a dozen or so manhattans, two hot buttered rums, seven assorted red wines and a hot toddy later, and I had run the gamut of rainy weather drinks.
After making change for one woman I turned to face another woman standing in the area between brass rails that is usually reserved for cocktail service but is often utilized for a variety of other services such as change requests,Togoorders and the like.
I prepared for just such a request.
“Go to my car and get my bag,” said the lady holding out her keys.
“Beg your pardon?” I said while finishing up the two Scotch old fashioneds that I was already working on.
“Go to my car and get my bag,” she said again, adding a jiggling of her keys for emphasis.
“Uh, it’s pouring down rain,” I said not quite sure of exactly how to respond.
“I know,” she said. “I don’t want to get wet.”
I turned and took a drink order from two golf buddies before responding.
“Neither do I,” I said.
“I’m a customer here,” she said as if that in and of itself entitled her to whatever whim she fancied.
“I understand that, but I have a job to do here,” I said making a circling motion with my hand surrounding the drinks that I was making. I also looked around the bar and surmised that a trip to the parking lot would probably take me at least 15 minutes including dressing and undressing time. Our bar was full, which meant that all of those customers would have to wait that extra 15 minutes before I could fulfill their needs. The needs that I was actually being paid to fill.
“I’m sorry, I said as politely as possible. “I don’t have time.”
She looked at me incredulously. “You’re a server,” she said. “You have to do what I say.”
Sometimes in the restaurant business people confuse the word server with the word servant. One is a person paid by an establishment to do a specific job; making drinks, serving food etc. The other is a person paid by someone to do what ever he or she wants them to do. The two words are not interchangeable.
Here are some things you can reasonably expect a server to do:
Tell you the specials.
Get you something to drink.
Take your food order.
Box up your leftover items.
Here are some things that servers often do as a courtesy:
Take pictures of you and your friends.
Sing you Happy Birthday.
Call you a taxicab.
Here are some things that a server probably won’t do for you*
Change your baby’s dirty diaper.
Warm up your car.
Loan you bridge toll, valet fees, or money for a cab.
Watch your kids while you go somewhere else for a drink.
Soon, I went back to doing what I was being paid to do and the lady headed over to the hostess stand. The hostess soon looked at her dumbfounded, and soon after that the manager mimicked that very same look.
About an hour later another lady approached our far less busy bar.
“Can you do me a favor?” she asked after waiting for me to conclude the transaction that I was already involved in.
“Sure,” I said.
“I don’t have an umbrella and it’s really raining. Is there anybody who could walk me to my car?”
I looked around at the much less crowded bar.
It was about 15 minutes before I returned, a little damp but no worse for wear and tear.
Sometimes, it’s when you ask for special consideration. And sometimes it’s how.
*All things that I’ve actually been asked to do while bartending.