Assholes at My Station

A waitron’s tale of horror

| May-June 1996

There is an insidious force in our country today. It threatens to destroy the very fiber of our forefathers’ vision of equality and fairness. We must fight to bring down this destructive ideology before it is too late. This evil philosophy, my friends, is “the customer is always right.” This is not a new paradigm, but an all-American false truth that has grown into a monstrous policy of support for unbridled asshole-ism.

The following heinous restaurant story is absolutely true. The names have not been changed because there are no innocent to protect.

Mr. Rhodes had a reservation for seven people at 8:45 one Friday night. At 9:30, management had still not allowed me to break up the table being held for the no-shows (God forbid they should show up and have to wait!), and I was watching my night’s income dwindle thanks to my one-third-empty station during the best part of the night. By 9:40, shortly after I was granted permission to reset the tables for waiting guests, in came the Rhodes party of not seven but nine. An extra table was carried in over the heads of the noisy crowd, and by 9:45 the Rhodes party was seated. I was relieved to have warm bodies at my tables as I approached with a friendly greeting, took their cocktail orders, and got the ball rolling. Things progressed in a virtually perfect manner, with drinks, appetizers, salads, and more drinks brought, cleared, and refilled at precisely the right moments. I had that great, high feeling waiters get on busy nights when all is cruising along at a fast, smooth clip.

As I helped clear the last of the salad plates, Mr. Rhodes motioned me over and said matter-of-factly, “You’d better get our food out here right now or I’m going to write a letter.” I paused for only a split second, blinked, and said, “No problem, sir! I’ll bring it right out for you.” I turned and went straight back to the kitchen to personally expedite the main course, which was already coming up on the line as I came through the door. One minute later, picking up a tray stocked full by the backwaiters, who were poised to follow with two more trays full of food, I went out the kitchen door, where I ran into none other than Mr. Rhodes himself. He had followed me to the kitchen and waited outside the door for me. His tone was glib and his words were well practiced: “You’d better comp something or I’m gonna write a letter.” He turned smugly, preceding me back to the table. I said nothing until the hot food had been placed before the nine guests, at which point I approached the vexing and perplexing Mr. Rhodes for clarification.

“I don’t understand,’ I said. “Is something wrong?”

“We waited for over half an hour for our dinner,” the clearly deranged Mr. Rhodes said in that infuriatingly frank voice. “That is completely unacceptable. Do you know who I am?”