Tonight was the type of night that makes waiting tables fun. I come in at 5:13 - thirteen minutes late, because of lack of a parking space - and am immediately told I have an 18-person party coming in at 6:15. I rush and get the tables ready and wait, guzzling black coffee and waiting for the first ones to arrive.
They do, and I chat them up. They're from out of town, and I love selling Baltimore almost as much as I love selling the restaurant. I genuinely like both Baltimore and the restaurant, so it's easy to do both. "This part of the city is Fell's Point," I tell them. "The oldest part of the city." (Uh, I have no idea if this is true.)
"Just down the block, there are cobblestone streets. Down over there (I point in a random direction) is where Frederick Douglass grew up, and over there (I point towards Friends Bar) is where Billie Holiday used to sing."
One woman is from Portland, and the other is from Australia. I tell them to try the Polish mulled wine, and they both do, and thank me for the suggestion.
They're enamored with me. So are the rest of the guests, when they arrive. I take their drink orders. And, oh, these people are drinkers. Not only drinkers, but they're vodka snobs, meaning the vodka martinis are Gray Goose and $9.00 instead of Barton's and $7.50. Seventeen of the eighteen people drink alcohol, an unbelievable ratio. And most of them have two or more drinks.
Then I get a sniff that these people are going to be even better than I imagined: the company is picking up the tab. Obviously, you're going to eat and drink a lot more if your boss is paying. I begin to smell blood.
I continue talking with them, working hard to make sure everyone's place is clear and everyone's drink is full. There's a set menu of six items they can choose from, so questions are minimal. I just take their order, and bring it to the kitchen. After each course, I quickly take away their plates and silverware and reset them. I know exactly how much I can carry down in one load, and exactly how much I can carry up in the next. I know that Woman A needs her water refilled before she even knows it. I know all the jokes I tell, and use every last one of them. I sell them on desserts, even though they've already had three courses.
Their overall check? In the area of $800. My take for the evening? $150, which was an 18% gratuity. I've got to tip out 20% of that, but that still means I walk with $120. I work for just a shade over five hours.
Some nights, like Wednesday, I can work all night and make $20. But tonight, I worked for five hours and made three times the hourly rate I do then I make as a teacher. That's awesome.
I still want to quit, though. Soon. I want to get my payoff amount for my car and see if I can just pay it all off in one swoop once I get my coaching money.
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