There was a movie that came out when I was in high school. It had Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jamie Lee Curtis (?), I think. I don’t know really. It obviously wasn’t Oscar-worthy. But it was about this daughter-mother duo who would go from place to place being, well, grifters.
They’d con free dinners, free hotel stays, free cars by pretending to find a bunch of glass in their dinner, or slipping on a “wet” floor in the lobby. The movie wasn’t all that exciting, truth be told and I’ll not be sad if I never see it again.
I worked in the restaurant industry for many years, first as a hostess, then as a waitress and occasionally bartender, and I saw this happen infrequently. But it did happen.
I used to work Sunday afternoons at a pizza joint while I was in college. The money was never stellar but since most of my friends were sleeping off hangovers, and baby Ben was with his father, I didn’t have anything to do but sit at home. And working would at least give me an extra $50-70 dollars (yeah, it was shit money for serving) to tide me through the week.
Sundays are a notoriously bad day to work in the restaurant industry, any server knows this. In a diner, you might turn a number of tables more than normal, but the people you’d serve were often religious folks or older people, or both. In lieu of a tip you’d occasionally get a pamphlet about God, telling you to renounce your sins (as an aside, how did they know that I hadn’t?) and that you would go to hell if you didn’t. Sometimes you’d get a verbal “you’re the best waitress EVER” tip, and sometimes you’d get nothing.
And at the pizza place where I worked, we were usually slow as hell. While this was boring, it meant that I could get paid (something) do my homework, and, like I said, it beat the shit out of sitting at home under my parent’s disapproving eye.
About 2 PM on one Sunday, I got seated a two-top of old people. I popped over to get their drink order and they ordered immediately: a large pizza, two salads and a couple of Cokes. They were typical Sunday diners: rude, entitled, and unpleasant.
I called these sort of people The Crusties.
I imagined my $3.00 tip as I rang in their food and got their sodas. Lacking anything else to do, I strolled back to the kitchen to get their 2 salads. I dropped them off and they grunted a monosyllabic “uh” rather than say thank you. It was all I’d expected from them, so I loudly said in my saccharine sweetest voice “You’re welcome.” It was my passive aggressive way of reminding them that I wasn’t a servant, and I’d perfected it so it sounded completely sincere.
(and yes, I’m aware that this didn’t do anything to affect anyone’s attitude. It just made me feel better.)
A couple minutes later, as I was checking on my other tables, the Female Crusty beckoned me over with a couple of finger snaps and a wave. Just like I was a dog. I put up my first finger, signaling that I’d be there in a moment yet she continued snapping. This only made me move more slowly.
I finally made my way back to their table and inexplicably the old bag ordered a bottle of light beer. I walked back behind the bar to grab the beer and as I’m standing there, talking to my manager Old Man Crusty storms up to us. When my manager asked if he could help him, the old man opened up his palm and showed us a large crescent of a fingernail.
“This,” he said accusatorially, “THIS was in my salad.”
My manager fell all over himself apologizing, promising free meals and free desserts and shoving his face so far up the old guy’s ass that I rolled my eyes.
The salads were pre-made every morning by the line cooks, and although I frequently told them that they had “poquito huevos” (small balls) after they’d catcall me, they weren’t unsanitary. I couldn’t imagine that these dudes, who routinely worked 80+ hour weeks to support their families in Mexico would cut their fingernails into the salads. I’d worked with these guys for years and although I could see a staple accidently falling into the salad mix, the fingernail made no sense.
Anything that made it’s way into the food at any of the places I’d served was usually put there by servers or by accident. While I never spit into food, I will tell you that I may have accidentally on purpose added some hot pepper to the sauce. Maybe.
What made me increasingly suspect of the motives of these Old Bags was when their attitude shifted 180 degrees. Knowing they’d get anything comped they could think of, they began ordering multiple drinks, extra appetizers, and eventually desert. And now, rather than treat me like the piece of scum on the bottom of their shoe, they were unfailingly kind, gracious, and overall pleasant as hell. They now asked after my son (his picture was on my server book), made jokes with me, and smiled when I spoke.
Not normal unless you’re mentally ill.
Of course, after they left without having to pay a cent for their meal, to-go bags brimming with unfinished food, I knew my fate before I walked over to the table. They’d left me exactly nothing. Zero dollars and zero cents. I’d run my ass around for nothing. Less than nothing, if you want the truth. I lost money waiting on them.
The government, you see, looks at the gross amount of money a server sells and takes a certain percentage of that as assumed tips. They then tax the shit out of it. So, for the whopping $3.19 I got an hour, I saw maybe 10 cents of that. Less if I’d had high sales. So the government was taxing me on money I hadn’t made. My paychecks ranged from $0.00 (they totally wasted money printing me this check. I always meant to frame one of these) to maybe $3 or $4 a week.
I just sighed as I bussed the table. Nothing more to do. They’d eventually get what they deserved.
Karma, after all, is a total bitch.