Crumb-Snatchers and Ankle-Biters, Part 1: The Good

I don’t really have a problem with kids.  Well, not a huge problem.  And not with all kids.  And the problem isn’t really with the kids, it’s with the parents inadvertently (or, I guess, sometimes advertently) raising jackass kids who don’t know how to act in public.

(Disclaimer:  I don’t have kids and don’t necessarily want kids.  I’ve dodged that bullet a fair many times, thank you, and the world is better off for it.  One of me running around is more than enough for everyone, myself included.)

Having kids in restaurants is almost always a total hit or miss.  They’re either good, meaning they act like normal human beings in a social setting, or they’re kids.  Meaning that they are loud, fidgety, selfish, and just plain annoying.

Since a vast majority of my future material deals with bitching and moaning about things that piss me off, consider this happy story about a pleasant and amusing family a welcome reprieve from horrors to come…

Last summer, I was waiting on a busy night and got sat with a six-top; Mom, Dad, and four kids (three girls, one boy), ranging from ten to four.  I internally groaned when I saw the table, but soldiered on because, goddamnit, it was still four hours until closing time and there was no point getting nasty that early in the evening.

When I greeted the table and took the drink order, I noticed that all four kids were just…  Cool.  They weren’t loud, weren’t fighting amongst one another, weren’t pestering their parents, weren’t fidgeting.  The parents both ordered beers, and all I had to do was look at the child and point, and they went down the line without the normal bratty bullshit. “Water.”  “Water.”  “Can I have a Coke, Mom?”  (Nod of approval.)  “Water.”

Two of the kids started coloring on the kid’s menu while talking amonst themselves, the oldest girl was already lost in a Nintendo DS, and the youngest only looked at me and asked, “Do you have shrimp?”

“Yes, ma’am, we do.”

She smiled and gave me a double-thumbs-up. “Good!”

The weirdest thing about it was that none of the kids ordered off the kid’s menu.  They all found something, from cold-boiled shrimp to clam chowder, that they wanted and, unlike most kids and old people, didn’t take half-an-hour to decide.  Between the coloring, game-playing, and family conversation, the kids acted like normal, intelligent adults.  They acknowledged and thanked me when I brought them things, and treated me like a fellow human who happened to be waiting on them, not as a servant.

All in all, it was my best table of the night.  The kids were almost disturbingly well-behaved, to the point where I openly wondered (amongst my fellow servers, of course) if the parents had implanted shock chips in the brains of their own children and sat hovering over the trigger.

We were busy, and it took a while for the food to come out, but never once did I hear anything negative from the four younglings.

Usually, kids will bitch out anyone within ten feet, family, waiters, or other diners, within five minutes of ordering a meal.  “I’m hungry!  Where’s my food!”

These kids were, with only a slight bit of hyperbole, perfect.  Once the food showed up, they ate most of it, which is very unlike a majority of the whippersnappers I run across, who pick at their food for a few minutes then get bored. 

The two who didn’t finish asked for “doggie bags.”  (One thing I love about kids is that they almost always ask for a “doggie bag” specifically.  Adults ask for “boxes.”  “Doggie bags” are much more fun.)

They were polite and quiet but still funny and, like every kid should be, weird in weird ways.  I talked to the parents as I pre-bussed the table and noticed the second-youngest girl giving me what I thought was a critical look.  “What’s going on over there?” I asked.

She took a second to answer me, and said, in a very serious manner, “I like your beard.”

It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, and I laughed accordingly.

Before I cashed them out, I had to compliment the kids on being awesome and the parents on raising awesome kids.  Luckily, the place was starting to slow down, so I had a good, if brief, conversation with the family.  They promised to come back this summer, and I genuinely hope they do.  And, despite the fact that they were great tippers, I hope that they end up with someone else so that another server can experience a child-heavy waiting experience that doesn’t make someone want to hurt children.

The best thing about this family, though, is that, unlike every other table with more than zero children, there was no mess.  No crumbs, no torn paper, no massive chunks of un-eaten food strewn across the floor; just a single, lonely napkin band.

It was such a strange situation, to have a table be much, much better than you expected, that it remains one of the only really good memories I have from work.  And I like to think that those kids are, at this very moment, being just as awesome.  It gives me hope for the next generation.


Concerning Bike Week ’09

Here’s the deal.

I love Bike Week.  Sure, it turns the already atrocious traffic into a veritable nightmare of blind spots and potential road rash, but it’s fun.  And, despite whatever stereotype you’ve heard, bikers are probably the most fun-loving and consistently hilarious bunch of people you’ll ever meet.

The city of Myrtle Beach, however, has decided that they don’t want the millions of dollars that the bikers bring to town in the course of two weeks (during the Spring and Fall Rallies).  There are numerous theories as to why this is…

-Old people retiring (usually from the Northern US) down here who bitch and moan about the noise.  Fuck them and their shitty, old ears.  It’s only two weeks out of the entire year.  And you don’t hear them complaining about the asshole high school and college kids during Spring Break.  (SPRING BREAK WOOOOO!)

-People (probably asshole conservatives) who are all about “families” (however the fuck you define that) and consider all bikers to be criminals and scumbags who sully our fine town.  Fuck them and their delicate sensibilities.

-???  Fuck them, too.

Listen, bikers are like every segment of the population.  Most of them are normal guys and gals (just with more tattoos and sweet sleds) and some of them are bad people.  You could say the same of teenagers, soccer moms, massage therapists, UPS drivers, and, yes, plate-slinging monkeys.  So they have the tattoos, and they wear black, and the dudes usually have gnarly beards and/or ponytails.  So what?  I’ve also just described half of the people who listened to rock and roll in the 60’s and 70’s.

So, for some dumbass reason or another, the city of Myrtle Beach has taken several steps to eliminate Bike Week.

First, there was the decibel law.  Now, any bike that registers over 89 decibels gets a ticket.  Which is ridiculous.  A fucking lawnmower can hit over 90 decibels.  People who have stinger exhaust pipes on their cars exceed 90 decibels.  When I drive around listening to God Forbid’s “IV: Constitution of Treason,” it’s well over 90 decibels.  So, the cops, who already have enough asinine bullshit to deal with, now have to stand around with decibel meters and fine people for accelerating.

Makes no goddamn sense.

Then the City of MB enacted a helmet law, requiring all within the city limits to wear a helmet or get a ticket.

Now, I think people on motorcycles should wear helmets, but that’s a personal preference I wouldn’t force on anyone.  I rode dirt bikes and quads all through my youth, and wearing a helmet has saved my life more than a few times.  If I rode a Harley or a crotch rocket, I’d wear a helmet.  Granted, it’d be a full-on Viking helmet with horns and genuine animal fur but that, again, is personal preference.

No one should be REQUIRED to wear a helmet, though.  If someone wants to risk death to feel the wind blowing through their beard and ponytail, then so be it.  That’s freedom.  That’s democracy.  That’s America, bitches.

The new Helmet Law isn’t about safety.  If it was about fucking safety, they would’ve passed the damn thing years ago.  It’s about running bikers out of town (again, for some dumbass reason or another, since no one has explained why it’s not complete and total bullshit).

Here’s my opinion of the whole debacle…

It’s prejudice.  And sly racism.

The Powers That Be in MB seem to be of the opinion that all bikers are undesirable, shifty, ne’er-do-wells that only visit the Redneck Riviera to get drunk, beat people up, and cause trouble for all the good, upstanding, God-fearing locals.  Of course, the PTB are all fucking morons.

A vast majority of the bikers work and make an honest living, just like the locals.  They love their families, just like the locals.  They send their kids to good schools, have their own hobbies, go to church, give to charity, and want to unwind, just like the locals.  They’re normal people, they just want to take a vacation, and they happen to like Myrtle Beach.

Then there’s the seedier side of this whole “Anti-Bike Week” movement…

See, after the “traditional” Bike Week, there’s Memorial Day and the so-called “Black Bike Week.”  So, while the tattooed, crazy-bearded bikers (mostly, but not by any means always white) have a whole week to burn up and down the Grand Strand, the following week-or-so is mostly attended by young, black males and females on speed bikes.  So, after Bike Week, the whole town acts like a little old pasty-white lady clutching tightly to her purse because a black teenager walked down the opposite side of the street.

It’s a fucking moronic situation.  During Bike Week, there’s nothing to stop the “One-Percenters,” that small segment of bikers who openly break the law and live as “outlaw bikers,” from rolling into town and raising Hell.  Like a hard-ass Hell’s Angel or Warlock is going to crawl into a hole and cower because he’ll get a ticket for not wearing a helmet or revving his engine.  He’ll laugh at the cop (and his decibel meter) and keep tearing up the highway.

But, after Bike Week, you’ll see signs in some of the more popular spots, like Broadway at the Beach or down on Ocean Boulevard, reading “No Gang Colors.”  Oh…  OK…

Any motorcycle club in existence can wear their vests, patches, and colors, but a random black guy wearing a green jacket and riding a green bike is suddenly wearing “Gang Colors?”  And so fucking what if a group of black guys on bikes are all wearing the same color?  Bikers who ride together wear colors or other markers so they can identify their group, regardless of skin color.  There are hundreds of thousands of bikers riding around MB, and it’s probably hard to keep track of your friends when there are that many other bikers on the road.  Would you rather have bikers cutting across entire lanes of traffic because they lost their friends and then spotted them taking an exit or riding together in an orderly formation?

Last I checked, this was U.S. of Goddamn A., not some Nanny State.  I mean, if the PTB were worried about mobile Bloods and Crips getting in a fire-fight in front of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville because of colors, why weren’t they worried about Hell’s Angels and Mongols slaughtering each other at Suck Bang Blow or Beaver Bar the week before?

What we have here is a bunch of laws passed by a bunch of stupid, stupid people.  I would give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re looking out for the MB residents, but they’re doing anything but.  I’ll stress again that Bike Week brings in millions of dollars.  MILLIONS!  In this shit economy, those of us who work for or own local businesses need that fucking money.  Badly.  The high gas prices last summer put a serious crimp in our collective cash flow, and we’re looking to make up for it this year.

The bikers have even started a boycott against MB, with the motto “Not a Dime in ’09.”  And I agree.

Bikers, don’t spend any money in the Myrtle Beach city limits.  Come to Murrells Inlet, Surfside, Pawley’s Island, even North Myrtle.  You don’t have to wear a helmet, or pussyfoot the throttle, and we welcome your business.

Show those fuckers that discrimination based on class, race, or lifestyle isn’t tolerated in a modern capitalist society.  When they see how much worse Bike Week ’09 is compared to Bike Week ’08, they’ll repeal their bullshit laws and ordinances, and they’ll beg you to come back.

Ride on, bikers; be you black or white, young or old.  Just don’t spend your money in the Myrtle Beach city limits.  The outskirts of the Redneck Riviera, however, await you with open arms and cold beers.


Customer Stupidity: Part 1 of Infinity

I’m not all that old, but I’ve been around.  I’ve lived all over the Southeast, from big cities to places so far out in the middle of nowhere that cell phones don’t even work.  And I’ve met and known many different people from many different backgrounds and occupations.

From my personal experience, the following occupations see the largest amount of bullshit from the stupidest of people…

1. Doctors

2. Cops

3. Servers/Teachers

It’s not all the same stupid bullshit however.  Doctors and cops both have to deal with stupid bullshit that could, at any given moment, kill or seriously injure somebody.  Servers have to deal with stupidity as well, though it’s rarely a case of life or death (unless someone with a serious food allergy isn’t vigilant, which I’ve seen happen).  More often, it’s a case of “good tip or bad tip.”

In our on-going (and virtually never-ending) series on “Customer Stupidity,” we will deal with all the ways in which the average restaurant patron is dumber than a canyon rock, badger placenta, fern leaf, or a cast member of “The Hills.”

Example Numero Uno comes from personal experience…

My restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, so it is germane to ask whether the customer would like to sit outside or inside.  This simple choice is usually offered as a simple question; “Would you like to sit inside or outside?”

A surprising number of people respond as such; “I don’t know.  How is it outside?”

Keep in mind that the customer must park their car, disembark from the car (INTO THE OUTSIDE), and enter the restaurant.  Usually, the host or server-acting-as-host is honest about the outside temperature and conditions.  Either “It’s pretty hot out there,” “Oh, it feels great,” or “I’ll take you out there and you can decide where you’d like to sit.”

What we don’t say, and what we want to say, is this…

“You just walked inside from the outside.  What am I?  The fucking Local on the 8’s?  I’ve been back in the kitchen cutting lemons and making cocktail sauce for the last two hours.  You’ve been out on the goddamn beach all day getting a tan, and you, quite literally, were just outside five fucking seconds agoYou tell me how the fuck it is outside!”

Why people would even venture that asinine question in the summer is far beyond my understanding.  Myrtle Beach in the summer is either “Hotter than Fuck” or “Not Quite as Hot as Fuck.”  If the air-temperature outside your mini-van is hot, odds are that the same air-temperature outside the restaurant (all of 100 feet from your mini-van) is going to be comparable, if not exactly the same.  Add in the fact that the heat index in Myrtle Beach is pretty much always north of triple-digits, and you have a whole mess of shit that I shouldn’t have to tell anyone.


Turnaround is Stupid Play

Maybe someone can help me with this…

Do all the other restaurants in the world have a ridiculous amount of turnaround when it comes to servers?  Or is it just restaurant-heavy tourist towns like Myrtle Beach?

Thankfully, it’s not so bad at my current place of employment.  We’ve hired almost a dozen new servers, hosts, and whatnot in the last two months, and only one has been fired.  That’s some sort of record, and a rather amazing one at that.  If Ripley were still alive, he’d draw a cartoon and embellish the shit out of it.

Hell, two summers ago, I must’ve met over fifty people in the course of a single month.  They’d show up, work for two or three days, and disappear into the mists of time, never to be seen or heard from again.

It got so bad that we instituted an unofficial restaurant policy:  We won’t even bother to learn your name unless you’re there for more than three days.  It usually went something like this…

“Hey, you!  Blonde Girl!  Help me run this food.”  “My name’s April.”  “I don’t care.  You’re lucky I didn’t get creative.  Now grab that tray and try not to drop everything.”

For a while, we intentionally called every new server by a different name every time we addressed him/her as a kind of good-natured hazing.  One guy (who actually ended up staying on for quite a while) got called every name we could think of.  Rupert, Shamus, Eldridge, Gulliver, Billy Bob, Booger, Dick Grayson, Abdul Alhazred; after a week, the poor guy would answer to damn near any word he heard.

Turnaround is understandable in a place where nearly everyone is from somewhere else, and everyone in Myrtle Beach is from somewhere else.  People just up and move with little to no notice.  And, of course, like every other restaurant in the world, we hire our share of coke-heads and other various junkies; they seem OK for a few weeks, then come in all hopped on something and, inevitably, get fired.  As well they should.

So, rest of the serving world, chime in.  Is turnaround a big problem in other places?  I imagine it’s probably twice as bad in L.A., where 3/4 of the servers think they’re going to be the next Zac Efron or Megan Fox (i.e., good-looking but minimally talented actors).  New York is probably pretty bad, too.

But an interesting question is, what about the smaller towns?  What about, say, Atlanta?  Or Seattle?  Or what about the really small towns, like Possum’s Asshole, Alabama, or Moose Knuckle, Manitoba?


Plate-Slinging Monkeys of the World Unite!

Greetings and Salutations!

I am a bartender and plate-slinging monkey toiling away in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Consider this a place to vent, bitch, gripe, threaten strangers with horrifying deaths, and (infrequently) relay an occasional story with a happy ending.

The service industry is a pretty fucked-up place.  First of all, we get paid jack and, consequently, must live off of tips.  Which means that we spend a vast majority of our time kissing ass, running around like toddlers on speed, and kissing more ass.

There is much more to the typical server, however, and we will cover this over time.

Not only will we be breaking down the intricacies and eccentricities of the serving life, we will be telling stories to exemplify these concepts.  These will, hopefully, shed cold, pale light on the horror, shame, and hilarity of our lives.

We will also accept and relay stories from other servers, should they feel the need to tell them.  Or should they ever find this sanctuary.

Bon appetit, bitches!