It’s a lame and cliched joke to say that in my early 20’s, “I was actor so, you know, I was really a professional waiter.” Hardy har har. But, I mean… I was an actor/professional waiter. At several different restaurants. The flexibility, the (sometimes) decent pay with less hours, the social aspect of working with a bunch of other young, creative types joking through the dinner rush and then getting drinks after work together — all of it seemed like an appealing way to make rent while taking auditions.
But, as it turned out, I hated waiting tables. Mostly, because I was really, really terrible at it. Some people are fantastic servers. They’re charming, efficient, knowledgable about the menu, and just fun enough to make you feel like you experienced something special while also being respectful of your space. I am not that person. I’m awkward, and shy. I’m afraid of strangers. I creep up to tables nervously to ask if they want dessert in a tiny, high-pitched voice. They can smell my fear and it makes them want to give me a five minute head start then hunt me like a wounded gazelle.
In all seriousness, being a server is stressful. Your pay depends minute to minute on whether everything is going smoothly when, in reality, most things are out of your control. How many people come in at the same time, what and when they order, how busy the kitchen is, and whether or not the bartender is slammed at the moment — these things affect the guests. Sometimes, no matter how hard you’re working, people are going to walk away unhappy. Or worse, get mean.
Sure, there are bad servers out there. I’ve had plenty of them (and I’ve tipped 20 percent anyway because 1. I don’t know what’s happening in their lives, and 2. I’m not a monster who thinks I can dictate people’s ability to pay for their basic needs because my sandwich is cold.). But for the most part servers want your meal to be awesome. That gets us a good tip. So we’ll try desperately to please you, but also, it’s a two way street.
There are things you can do too to make things more pleasant and run more smoothly for everyone. Because for every bad server, there are a hundred bad customers, and they make it a drag for all of us. And you might not even realize you’re being that bad customer! So, let me give you a few tips for being a rockstar diner. Because rockstar diners sometimes get a free cookie at the end of the night because we like you. A. Free. Cookie.
THE DOs AND DON’Ts OF DINING WITHOUT BEING A JERK:
DO put your phone away when the waiter comes over to the table.
The situation: The server has come to greet your table but you just thought of an amazing tweet, and you have to type it out right now. It’ll take like two seconds. “No!” you say, “You don’t need to come back in a minute, I’m almost done.”
Why you should put down your phone: First, of all: basic human decency. It’s rude to not put down your phone when another human being is talking to you. But from a more logistical sense, you being distracted on your phone stops up the whole process. There are meals and drinks coming out, waters to refill, and other tables that have orders to give. The two to three extra minutes your server has to stand awkwardly staring at you while you ignore them may seem insignificant to you, but it throws the whole rhythm off.
So put down the phone and interact with the people around you, or order take out so that no one can make you stop looking at unlikely animal friendships on Bored Panda for 30 seconds. Your call.