Being a Part-time Waiter During College in Ireland
Like many students I also had a part-time job during my college years in Ireland. The dorm where I was staying with other American students had a kitchen and dining hall where students could pick one of three menu items and one of the student servers would bring it out to them. This was manageable as it was a small dorm with not too many students. Well, I happened to get a job as one of these servers because my best friend was also one of the kitchen staff. So we could say that I got in with connections. Now my friend, who I shall call T-Bone, was a no nonsense guy from Belfast with a very difficult accent to understand and very little patience, especially with snooty students who for some inexplicable reason thought that they were at some fine dining establishment with servers and staff who actually cared what they thought of the food and service.
Needless to say there were some problematic students who weren't pleased with any of the food, even though it was quite good. I had numerous sorority type girls who dragged themselves to their seats in baggy college sweatshirts and sweatpants actually send the food back because it "didn't taste right". At first I would smile through my clenched teeth and take the food back into the kitchen, where T-Bone and I would just change the old plate for a new plate with the exact same food on it to take back to the entitled student hoping they would be pleased, and her original plate would go to the next prima donna who happened to order the same dish.
Sometimes T-Bone would venture out of the kitchen himself to help out with the serving. I remember on one occasion one of the mindless sorority sisters complained to him that her peas and corn mix was touching her mashed potatoes, and that she can't eat her potatoes like that. She asked T-Bone to bring her a new order. T-Bone then foolishly asked the little strumpet why she doesn't just not eat the pea and corn mix? Because she gets sick just from having them on her plate was her logically unarguable answer. By this time T-Bone's face was turning red as his blood pressure raised. With that he took the plate to the trash can in the middle of the room, scraped off the offending vegetables, and none too gently replaced the plate in front of the girl. At first there was a nervous laughter from the table as they thought this was obviously a joke. But oh no, it wasn't a joke.
On another similar occasion a frat boy type jock decided to order a meal that was not on the menu. I don't recall what it was, but it was something absolutely ridiculous and worthy of the deepest scorn. It might have been a Waldorf Salad. Well, Mr. Hot Shot picked the wrong day and wrong server in T-Bone when he voiced his desire for something that was not only not on the menu but never was before or after during the whole culinary history of that dorm. T-Bone clenched his fists and had the student walk to the entrance of the dining room with him as the room looked on. T-Bone stopped at the door and said in a loud voice and with his thick Belfast brogue, "How many stars do you see on this door? None, exactly." With this he turned on his heels and returned to the kitchen. That has got to be one of the most memorable and useful experiences I had in college. Well, this and our short lived boy band called the Mount Street Boys replete with stage names for our members: Yours truly was F-Dogg; the aforementioned Tony was T-Bone; Graham was G-Spot; and Nick was N-Fetamine. I don't recall any of they song titles or lyrics that we wrote up save for one that would most likely have made it to number one somewhere in rural Canada: No Bubbles in My Smack.
I decided to end my career at the dorm kitchen in order to make some big money (about $7/hour plus tips) at an uppity pub just down the street which was frequented by nouveau riche Irish snobs. Now waiting was never my strong suit, especially when having to deal with bills, money, change, floats, tips, people etc., as I am horribly bad at math and with people. I remember one instance where I saw a table with a young couple who were still sitting there without their food one hour after I had taken their order. To be honest I didn't notice until they asked me where their food was already. I went back to the kitchen to ask about the order only to realize that it was still written on my order pad and I had forgotten to hand it in. I duly rewrote the order and added the the time that it was at the moment as the time at which they ordered the meal in order to avoid getting reprimanded by the cook. I then duly went out and told the couple that the kitchen had to run out and buy more salmon as they were out when they ordered and that now they will be getting very fresh food that was still swimming in streams 2 days before. Luckily this explanation was enough for them.
Another time the super-snob owner of the establishment was having a supposedly important meeting with some shriveled up old women. I had the honor of serving them The owner asked me to bring them some coffee. I duly went to the kitchen and poured out two lukewarm cups of drip brewed coffee that was on par with the dregs served late in the morning at a Dennys in rural South Dakota and that we were allowed to drink in the kitchen, not giving it a second thought. A few seconds after I served it the owner called me back none too gently and inquired as to where I got gotten the coffee from. I told him. How was I supposed to know that I should have told the bartender to use the really expensive Italian coffee machine behind the bar?
Sometimes I would find it very difficult to understand certain Irish accents when people placed orders, especially over the constant nerve shattering fiddle-de-dee Irish folk music blasting in the background, which actually sounded like a very close foreground anywhere I was in the pub. I remember one instance where a very bitchy 30 something Irish "lady" barked some incomprehensible order at me, to which I stood there staring at her like some retarded boyscout unable to understand what a tent is. She saw that I was lost or stupid, so she repeated again, to which I asked "Oh, you mean metallic water?" (thinking this was some Irish speciality I was unaware of). To this she finally spoke louder and enunciated what it was she wanted: "No! Tonic water, like gin and tonic without the gin!" Now I got it, but I was left confused as to why anyone would want to drink tonic water without the gin.
My last episode involved an arrogant bartender as well. I was faced with another arrogant yuppie middle-aged women who would not open her mouth properly when placing her order. I thought I had finally understood after the 5th time she repeated it, but in reality I just didn't want to ask her again. Again I thought I was dealing with some sort of exotic drink that the Irish upper crust enjoys drinking, so I made my way to the bartender to place my order. Of course he nodded his head in an arrogant upward motion without even looking at me which can mean "what is it?" or "hey" depending on the situation. I then tried to put on my most confident facial expression and boldly ordered a melon wine. This got his attention, making him wrench his eyes away from the Guiness tap he'd been staring at for the past five hours to glare at me with a look of hatred, superiority, and a tad bit of sympathy. He said: "You mean Merlot wine?" To which it was my turn to avert my gaze to the tap, quickly nod in agreement, and turn to go back into the kitchen to rethink the pros and cons of me working as a waiter and coming to the conclusion that I would quit the next day and go back to the relative safety of the dorm kitchen.