The internet has been seeing a lot of restaurant checks and server horror stories lately, most notably the “Redditor Waitress vs. Non-Tipping Pastor”. And now, I have joined their ranks.
When I first heard about it, I thought, “Way to do God proud, Pastor.” Then, when I heard she later called and got the waitress fired, it upgraded to, “Sometimes I wish I believed in hell, you asshat.” But I hadn’t experienced such an insult where someone clearly went out of their way to offend me, as it happened to this poor Applebees Redditor. Until this week. Apparently, some people think to themselves, “What would Pastor Bell do?”
Now let me be clear. I’ve worked all levels of front-of-house for eight years. I don’t mean I haven’t been yelled at, scolded, complained to, stiffed on tip, sexually harassed, condescended to, and all those other fun things humans think up to fuck with one another. These are simply occupational hazards. We deal with a lot of asshats in the restaurant business. We deal with so much disrespect, I feel like Aretha is talking just to me.The trick of the trade is to emotionally stunt yourself until you feel dead inside. THEN, you’re ready to go to work for the night. You’ve heard “if you can’t handle the heat, get the fuck outta the kitchen”? Front-of-house has the same mentality. If you can’t handle the job, then find somewhere more suited to your delicate constitution, cause this sure as hell isn’t it.
With that said, we all have hard days. Sometimes you just can’t shake the rude tone or abusive language of a table. Occasionally, you’re wound so tight and tired, the attitudes that would normally roll right off your skin decide to stick instead. I could make excuses. [Over]working two jobs, I had already worked ~60 hours by Sunday. My broken toe is still healing, I ache all over, and sometimes only candy and smiles keep me going. On my way at 9am, I easily could have been that sour-faced server that ruins your brunch with forgetfulness, irritability, and a hangover.But no. Somehow, I was in a great mood. It was a beautiful day, I knew there was a solid staff team on, and I had cash to buy people lattes. There’s nothing like walking into a bar on a weekend morning with a pile of hot coffee and fresh muffins—it’s great to see my friends happy. Soon, we were open, and my roommate and friend decided to visit for brunch. Then an adorable family was seated in my section, with the cutest 9-year-old girl ever. By the time they left, she had made me a present with the wax toys we give to kids. My housemate looked jealous, and said he never gets gifts from happy children at his job. Yea? Well I have to soak up the great moments when I can, to hold me through the crap ones; I just didn’t know a crap one would be my next table.
They screamed “ASSHAT” from the second they set foot in My Bar. The hostess pulled together a table for them, which they blatantly passed by to beeline for a corner booth instead. Six kids, clearly hurtin’ or still drunk from the night before, disheveled and un-showered, and so fucked up they could barely read the menu. I watched with my coffee as they all fell into the cushions, and one curled right up as if he were at home. When she tracked me down to tell me I had another table, all she could do was sigh and say, “I’m so sorry… they’re total dicks.”
Well that’s fine. I’m great with hungover people, they need compassion. Call me the Alcoholic Angel of Mercy—I’ll clear you up happy, right quick. So I popped over and asked if I could get them started with some drinks. All wanted water, one desperate coffee, and three wanted mimosas. The others cringed visibly, and I mentally wrote them off as needing constant refills. The one curled up like a drunk cat was, in fact, still intoxicated. That should have been my first flag.
But the real kicker was when I took their orders. Normally, I don’t care to note the race of my tables, but it’s relevant. Here, we had three white kids, two brown, and one black. While ordering, the black kid said he had an unusual question. Used to this, I laughed and nodded. Pointing to the Fried Chicken and Waffles on the menu, “I feel like this is only on here for a certain demographic…” And the table erupted. Some saying, “yea, seems racist,” along with others telling them to shuttup—and all at explosive noise levels. It’s usually best to smile and walk away. But as a white girl being told by a black kid that her bar’s menu is racist because we serve fried chicken and waffles… I take issue. I told them it’s a regional favorite and we serve southern cuisine—so welcome to Columbia Heights. Shut up and drink your free water.
The rest of their stay went relatively smoothly. I was repeatedly told how grateful some of them were every time I appeared, because whatever they were going to ask for was served before they even asked. One guy said he wanted to be called ‘biscuit’ every time I came over, and made me laugh. Their food was made promptly and properly, and inhaled at likely-unhealthy speeds. My section wasn’t seated much, because they were so Goddamn loud and obscene that all tables asked to move further away. Well, that’s peachy. Their bill totaled $125, though, so that should be a solid $20+ tip, and would make up for lost money. It was only 1pm, so I didn’t mind much. When the check was dropped, the Drunk One took issue with being charged for bottomless mimosas when he only had one. Two others had bottomless, and I was sure he had more than one, but didn’t care enough to argue and bumped the check down.
After they left, I assessed the damage. Between four of them, I was tipped a total of $15. One guy (pretty sure it was the kid who thought fried chicken is racist) didn’t tip anything. And finally, the Drunk One, the arsenic cherry on top of the whole fucked up shitpie. Not only did he tip me zero, but he wrote a little note on the tip line. His food cost of $21.00, plus a tip line of “dontrobme”, for a total of “kthxbye”.
That was the last straw. At least be a normal dick, like your reverse-racist friend, and don’t tip anything. But don’t come into my bar acting like a fool, degrading our atmosphere with your train-wreck attitudes and illegal intoxication levels, and ultimately go OUT OF YOUR WAY to insult the server who went above and beyond to help your disrespectful asses.
The busser saw the look on my face as I stormed away to the kitchen, and followed repeating with a calm voice, “Aw, come on now, Jules, don’t be like that…” and let me explode in the dish area. I saw several shocked faces from kitchen staff, who have never seen me more upset than disappointed over being out of my favorite dessert. After I blew off some rage, he offered a hug. It worked wonders, and kept me from crying. But I still burned with humiliation. Because that’s what it is. Imagine you worked hard all day in your cubicle, doing whatever it is you do, and your boss leaves you a post-it saying you won’t receive pay for the day’s hours. Because he’s drunk and feels like being an asshole. But at least he included a “thx” in the note. His sadistic glee definitely helped the situation.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the worst serving experience I’ve had. But I’m not going to rationalize away Asshat’s behavior; no matter how much worse other shitheads can be, he is still one of them. When I told my manager about it, he wanted to know which table, so he could have a few words with them. They were gone, but I told him how shit like this is all over the internet anymore. He responded, “You should Facebook that kid; people like that aren’t welcome here. He tries to come in again, let me know.”
So here it is. [He needs a name, so why don't we call him Scott.]
Scott, you are no longer welcome at My Bar. I will count it as my due payment if you never come again. Don’t get upset with me– it’s company policy. Asshats are not welcome at My Bar. You know where. But just to be safe, let’s make it the whole of Columbia Heights. It will be a public service to my neighborhood.
At the end of the day, I’m grateful for the stellar staff at My Bar. The rest of that day, and every day before and since, we have been a goofy, supportive team. They are my family, who I love with my whole heart– this includes our kickass regulars, who never fail to brighten my day.
And since a day isn’t complete without Aretha…
“Yea, and after brunch, we’re going to get group tattoos of our crew’s name!” Hipster Flirt responded.
“What the hell is a ‘crew’? Is that the yuppie version of a gang?” Confused Jules asks.
True story. Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend Adina and I went for brunch at The Red Derby. Hands-down one of my favorite dives in general; they also sport one of the best brunches around. We’re talking $2 Bloody Marys, mimosas, and Screw Drivers. I chose the latter; Adina had mimosas. These boys were several buckets of bubbly in, and clearly still drunk from the night before.
One of the things I love most about brunch up in our neighborhood bars is how eventful they can be. This past weekend, I either was either bartender or customer for brunch– and both days saw some crazy things.
Saturday morning, I was bartending brunch at My Bar. For those of you unaware of the epic proportions of awesomeness this entails, I highly recommend figuring out where I work and hopping over. We have bottomless mimosas and a full Bloody Mary bar. We have multiple Benedict options, and one of the best chicken and waffles around. Plus, you get to bask in my hangover-curing presence. Can’t get much better than that. It’s priceless, and served with love.
And that’s what my new favorite regulars believe, too. The Three Musketeers have been in a few times, but none more memorable than last weekend. Each a cool 20-30-something woman, the three of them together create a damn funny trio. They stumbled in around 2pm, stated they would likely be drinking their calories, and ordered bottomless mimosas in every flavor. Overhearing and joining conversations about everything from family politics and religion to sexuality and male alter-egos, they definitely made my day. [The pint-sized Birthday Girl described how she has an inner frat boy alter-ego, despite clearly not knowing what a frat boy looks and acts like. We eventually settled on a name, and Preston was born.] They stayed until 5, when Preston’s mom called asking when she would be arriving for her birthday dinner; well-intoxicated, she had to leave to sober up before facing her Mormon family. I believe I have a total girl crush on the lot of them, and look forward to our next brunch date. Also, on top of a healthy pile of bills, they tipped me with a huge heart-shaped pink cookie. It was DELICIOUS.
Sunday dawned a glorious morning in Petworth.
It started with me getting off on the mildly tipsy side of the bed, after a long, late Saturday night. I was awoken by a loud text noise from Adina, “BRUNCH TIME. WAKE UP, I’M HUNGRY AND THIRSTY.” Who could say no to that? Especially since I live a very few blocks from the Derby. So I pulled on some clothes and stumbled over to wait for her with a book and a quickly served, very stiff Screw Driver. [Seriously-- I'm talking yellow-colored vodka. I'm in love with the Derby bartender for oh-so-many reasons...] By the time she arrived, I was emotionally attached to the idea of Derby’s morning burger, served with all the fixin’s and a fried egg, tots on the side.
By the time we had finished most of our food and were nearing double-digit drinks, the table next to use was reseated. Four guys and a bucket of mimosas plopped down, and quickly grew rowdy. I’m talking “asking for the last of our tots and feeding them suggestively to each other” crazy. It was damn funny. One guy’s opening line was to tell me he loved my curls [we'll call him Curly], because they looked like they had a crazy night last night and were all disheveled now. [Which is exactly what they were; aptly described, sir.] Another simply exclaimed that Adina was the cutest girl he’d ever seen. He is the aforementioned Flirty Hipster. The tattoos were his idea.
Speaking of: after they’d eaten, we started to overhear talk of tattoo shops in the area. Curly leaned forward and asked if I had any. When I said no, I’ve played with ideas, but haven’t taken the plunge, Flirty Hipster had something to say. “What? No. You totally look like the kind of girl who would have tattoos.”
Okaaaay…. I don’t know what that means, but thanks? I’ll take it as a compliment. I love ink.
The interactions became more outrageous and more frequent. The Hipster decided Adina was the love [lust?] of his life, and Curly thought the same of me. We switched to beer. A round of shots were ordered. The four rearranged so the two were sitting next to their supposed soul mates. I had no problem with it; I wasn’t interested in any of them, but they were amusing as hell. Adina was laughing along and enjoying the attention, but quickly growing uneasy. Because she has a long-dedicated boyfriend. And the Hipster didn’t like the sound of that. He said it was okay, because he had a girlfriend, too. Then two seconds later, moved on to suggesting a double-date with Curly and I after they got their tattoos. Adina went to the bathroom, and the other friends had had enough of the tattoo talk. So our exponentially-drunk Hipster decided, “Either I’m going home with that girl, or we’re getting fucking tattoos.”
I think beer went up my nose then. So I smiled at the others and told them to get drunker, to help with pain tolerance; the tattoos were definitely happening. Because it wouldn’t be with my girl. Hipster didn’t like that idea either, so he bet me $50 he’d sleep with her by the end of the night, and I wasn’t allowed to cock-block. We shook on it, and she came back from the bathroom. In the long-drawn-out farewells, Hipster wanted a goodbye kiss. Adina declined. He wasn’t having it. So he climbed on to her lap, straddled her, and held her head to his chest. Repeating vows of love for her, he kept asking for one kiss to keep him going. The entire bar watched. It was surreal. Lap dances, at brunch. Who knew?
Naturally, I couldn’t stop laughing and was no help at all. He never got his kiss, though I think several were awkwardly showered on her cheeks. The boys eventually left, after insistently obtaining our phone numbers and “promises” to meet up later that night [clearly not going to happen, even if I didn't already have Downton Abbey plans]. We each received texts, ranging from persuasive to downright dirty, for the rest of the night. And when I told her about the bet, she lost it laughing. “We’re going halvsies on that, right?”
So, dear greater DC area: tell Don I’m looking for him. He owes me $50, and his friend Ken visiting from Connecticut witnessed that I have every right to mug him next time our paths cross. And maybe, next time he’s drunk at 11a.m., he won’t make outrageous brunch bets with savvy girls out to shark him.
Happy MLK-Obama Day!
Ooooh, I’m excited enough to burst. Two of my favoritest people in the world are renewing their vows this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier! Barry and Joe have been together for four years, and what a whirlwind their relationship has stirred. They’ve had their ups and downs, but in the end, the struggles made their bond stronger. And as a girl with starry eyes for Biden [literally] since birth, it makes me proud to see him with a worthy partner. In addition to Jill, of course.
Everyone knows you never forget your first time, and this is mine. Though the last time around was my first chance to vote [and what a vote!], I was still at university and couldn’t come down for the celebration. [I heard it was cold, did any of you die?] So I’m not missing my second chance!
Which means it’s going to be a long weekend. The housemates all have friends in town, so the Clubhouse will be at full capacity. Jules Junior, Fabala, and Abigail are trekking down from the Motherland for the occasion. And it’s Fabala’s birthday to boot! Friday, I will be working. But only because my friend’s band, Jonny Grave and the Tombstones, will be playing and I adore them. Saturday morning, the Brunch Bartender Extraordinaire will be serving hangover cures and love until five, and then switching over to serve a few more hours. Then I’ll be off for the event I’m excited for…
SATURDAY NIGHT: The Shitkicker’s Ball So. Stoked. I love the Looking Glass Lounge any day of the week, but this is a whole new experience. Want to join? I’m not even going to paraphrase the description.
From the big man behind it all, “Shitkicking is about starting dance parties where even the fucking dudes who wear tucked in shirts and try to hit on women using their LinkedIn accounts wind up breaking out the funky chicken; and when everybody shares not just phone numbers, but sacred family recipes from the old country for drunk food… Shitkicking is about standing up for the people that nobody gives a fuck about in this town. It’s about staying in the kitchen because you love the goddamn heat. As Omar put it in the Wire “How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sparring with the puppies?”
Now THAT is my version of an Inaugural Ball! I’d wonder what to wear, but they are pretty explicit.
For the rest of the weekend, the Clubhouse will be an explosion of madness. Literally and figuratively. I’m taking advantage of all the people, and will be cooking on Sunday. So many things to celebrate! Barry and Joe’s vow renewal, my sister’s birthday, MLK’s memory, surviving the Mayan Apocalypse, being awesome people in general… You know how much I love celebrations. Specialty cocktails will be made. Food will be consumed. Bonfires, firecrackers, and sparklers will ABSOLUTELY be involved. And all done in time to wake up at the crack-of-death 5 a.m., in time to catch the metro and beat some of the crowd for space near speakers on the Mall. What are the chances Park Police would confiscate thermoses? Because I’d survive much happier with a lot more Irish than coffee in my system…
INAUGURATION: [better details]
5 a.m. Wake up, throw coffee in our faces, and race to the metro. Time subject to change.
11:30 Vow renewal, on the steps of Our Nation’s Capitol. From a view of a million feet, back in the nosebleed section. Likely will be hugging a jumbotron for warmth somewhere back near the Washington Monument. Did anyone else see that Kelly Clarkson is singing? Lame.
2:30 Ba-Rocking Parade! Unsure of my attendance. Might physically require sustenance by this point, and belligerently demand alcohol. Return to Columbia Heights imminent.
MONDAY NIGHT: TBD. So many options, so little of me to go around. Did you know that, for the mere price of a quarter of my rent, you could go to an official Inaugural Ball? Yea, that’s one of the reasons why these might be better. [For a full list of all bars open until 4am on Inauguration, check out my friend at Guest of a Guest.] Madam’s, R&R Hotel, El Centro, and more will be Ba-rocking the body republic all night, and I plan on fulfilling my civic duty.
Where will you be celebrating this grand weekend?
It has been a full year since I moved here to the day, and this is now officially the longest relationship I’ve been in– way to break my record! Honestly, if anyone could do it, it would be Washington. This city has stamina.
And it seems like, for anniversary presents, DC is sending a bunch of changes and exciting things my way. Hooray! I love surprises!
First and foremost, my sister has come to stay for the summer! The lucky little genius is interning at one of those extra-important buildings downtown, which security measures prevent me from naming at this time [though I'm told I'll be allowed to divulge this after her program is over]. So this means we’re time-travelling back to the good ol’ days when we shared a room way back in the 90′s. [She will hereafter be known as Jules Jr., Junior, JJ, or any other inanity that strikes my fancy. Especially Ducky, her character from Land Before Time when we were kids.] Yessirree, it’s going to be a summer-long slumber party, backyard potluck, and city life sisterhood– with the added big-kid-bonus of [mostly-] legally-obtained adult beverages.
Everyone’s response to the news seems to be a cautiously probing, “So… is this a good thing?” And my answer is always an ecstatic “YES!” Junior and I are perfectly alike and wonderfully different in all those fun, symbiotic ways that make sisters awesome. I’d say it’s worth giving up some privacy [and yes, certain adult uses of the bedroom] to share an epic summer with my Second in Command. Call it the honeymoon phase, but it’s been a week, and we’re having a blast. We will be hosting our first shared soiree this Saturday, and it’s sure to be full of memorable, wodkamelon-induced shenanigans.
That’s right, there have been some moves on the job-front. Last week, I found a wonderfully enthusiastic staffing agency that’s excited to help, and within 24 hours, secured me an interview. I ran over to the development firm interested in meeting me and had a fantastic interview; unfortunately, they went with someone more qualified.
In an effort for full honesty, I was a bit broken-hearted after the news yesterday. I called my mom, reached out to some friends, had a therapeutic cry, then went to the restaurant for work. At work, everyone seemed to pick up on the mood and were extra-adorable in playing around with me. It turned into a pretty zen night, despite the chaos of a surprisingly hectic turnout for a Monday night. I think I find my inner balance way easier when surrounded by chaos– my place in hospitality and politics should be no surprise.
C’est la vie, right? At least they wanted to meet me in the first place! Now waiting for the next interview to be lined up, so fingers crossed that big changes come my way.
Heatin’ Up for the Summer
And I’m not just talking about the weather… That’s right, I’m rather taken with a guy. Next post will cough up the dirt, I promise, but I’ll just say this: the Classicist is absolutely fascinating. It was out of nowhere, and is still surprising me, but I’m loving it. No, I’m still stuck in my monoga-me lifestyle, so no domestication is in sight. But now I can explore the new concept of ‘affair’ I’ve been toying with. More to come [pun intended?].
I’m recommitting to writing here. After recent advice [of both the maternal and friendly varieties], I’ve accepted that I can only keep truckin’ to fight the job market. But until then… I should try to figure out what it is I genuinely enjoy doing, and maybe find a way to make a living with it. I know I deeply love growing this site and expanding its possibilities, so that’s my mission for the summer. Take Dating the District to a new level, and see where it in turn takes me– are you ready, DC?
And the ultimate summer feel-good tunes:
I have some sassy remarks for a one Mr. Paul Simms of The New Yorker for his piece this week called “Restaurant Mental-Health-Code Violations“. It understandably caught my eye this morning, being a current and long-time member of the hospitality industry, and I looked forward to reading its quippy prose today on my bus to work [again: at a restaurant].
I was sorely disappointed.
Being the naive thing I am capable of being on occasion, I comically thought it was written for those of us in service, and as a pointed reminder to the served population that they should brush up on their manners. Clearly, I’ve put on airs and have risen far above my station with the thought of correcting my betters– so I’m going to run with it and mutiny in style. Ah, I love the fresh taste of insubordination in the morning!
The Article, with Suggested Revisions
Mr. Simms: Hostess at virtually empty restaurant asks customers if they have a reservation, then types on computer, then seats them at table right next to the only other customers in the restaurant.
Jules: Party of fifteen walks into a hectic restaurant on a Friday night, asks for a “quiet table” “away from children”. When hostess asks if they have a table reserved for them, party responds over the loud din of a crowded restaurant “oh, did we need one?” Five minutes later, they begin to teach the hostess how to do her own job by pointing at an empty table, asking if they can sit there, and making a fuss when they’re told it’s reserved. We don’t bust into your office and show you how to make a tax spreadsheet just because our refunds aren’t arriving quickly enough; I know it takes time and I haven’t a clue on the details of the system. Try that concept on for size.
Customer over the age of thirty-five is told by server that chocolate dessert is “tight,” “off the hook,” and also “the bomb.”
Customer requests a “regular” sized drink, at the “normally hot” temperature, with the “usual amount of cream/sugar/etc”, despite the fact that they used entirely subjective terms. Customer returns five minutes later with the drink upset that it is too small, too hot, and not sweet enough. [Also: haven't heard "the bomb" since middle school.]
Open kitchen layout allows customers a clear view of line cook wearing regulation hairnet but no covering on his gigantic, filthy lumberjack beard.
Customer harasses hostess into rapidly cleaning and re-seating them at a table, then complains about the surface being wet. Yes… that’s because it was cleaned literally five seconds ago, and someone was impatient. They later go into the bathroom and leave piles of used paper towels, puddles of water, and soap dripping everywhere. It’s ok, the staff will clean it.
Server repeatedly and aggressively uses the words “mootz-arell ” and “pruh-zhoot ” with a straight face, almost as if taunting.
Customer repeatedly and aggressively uses the words “mootz-arell” and “pruh-zhoot” with a straight face, almost as if taunting. Scratch that, exactly as if taunting– especially since customer not minutes before informed other guests they studied for a week in Italy one summer, and immediately asked the server [in broken Italian] where their family is from.
Party of seven all wearing flip-flops in plain sight.
Agreed. But I will add, to counter against the entitled rich, with a bejeweled woman protesting that her lapdog must be allowed in to dine as her emotional companion, pointing to another service dog already in the restaurant. That dog helps a man live without sight; yappy chihuahuas seem hellbent on me living without hearing.
Server lies in wait to ask for orders until customer is at the climax of a long anecdote. Once orders are taken and customer has recapped anecdote up to the interruption point and is about to deliver the punch line, server returns to double-check on orders.
Customer never shuts up long enough for server to politely take orders, thus necessitating interruption. Later, the comment card reads both “overly attentive server” and “took awhile to take our order”, as if customer has absolutely no sense of irony. Even worse: cell phones. I refuse to acknowledge a person in front of me until they decide to acknowledge that I am a person.
Chocolate mousse with a single candle in it is served to easily embarrassed customer who agreed to have dinner with friends only on the condition that they not make a big deal out of his birthday. Birthday boy’s friends are the type who get the whole restaurant to join in singing “Happy Birthday” and convince themselves that this is actually what he wants, even though he wants to crawl under table and die.
Try being the idiot delivering that candled mousse when all the other servers pulled a duck-and-cover and you had to go it alone, hoping the birthday kid’s friends aren’t too cheap to tip for your humiliation.
While dining at Chinese restaurant whose tables are full of Asian families, non-Asian customer refuses to admit to companion that the food was not good; claims companion must have “ordered wrong.”
Working in an ethnic restaurant with tables full of enlightened diners, while new customers send back clearly described dishes for being “too flavorful” after eating majority of the plate, and insisting on a comp’ed meal or reimbursement of some kind.
Solo diner blows out table candle to avoid accidentally setting his newspaper on fire, only to have it relit repeatedly by busboy.
Solo diner refused ample space to eat at the bar, orders from anyone that walks by, even if clearly a hostess and not server, and then reads the same newspaper article over and over. For three hours. On a Saturday night. Leaves a five dollar tip, half in change.
Earnest foodie is despondent owing to an inability to conceal his revulsion at much ballyhooed stew of braised organ meats and raw root vegetables.
Earnest foodie should revel in the fact they found a place that served something as distinctive as a stew of braised organ meats and raw root vegetables, and go home to ballyhoo some more about it on his blog. They later tell server, after the order is sent, that two of them need everything gluten-free and a third is deathly allergic to table salt.
Server takes drink, appetizer, salad, and entrée orders from party of seven but writes nothing on order pad, despite complexity of order and multiple substitutions. Customer is forced to make halfhearted joke about server’s apparently prodigious memory. Server takes joke as a compliment rather than a caution. Server gets all orders wrong.
Customers order variety of ethnic dishes at authentic restaurant, then send half of them back for “not being what they ordered” and “not like they had when they visited the country”, when in fact customers don’t have as firm a grasp of Italian/ Thai/ Arabic/ Chinese/ etc language and culture as they thought and simply ordered the wrong thing without reading the description.
Counter personnel at fast-food establishment being just ridiculous about one-napkin-per-order policy.
Customers clearly trying to restock their car’s stash of napkins and making a fuss when told that no, they’re not allowed an unlimited supply just because it’s a fast-food establishment.
Irate customer at nearby table repeatedly uses phrase “dry-cleaning bill” when arguing with server over accidental spill, even though it was a glass of water and customer is wearing tank top and cargo shorts.
No argument; succinctly put, my friend.
Server rapidly rattles off long list of beers on tap. One member of dining party asks server to repeat list. Server repeats list just as rapidly. Same member of dining party asks server to repeat list one more time. Everyone else in party wants to murder both server and customer, who ends up ordering a bottle of Stella.
Customer repeatedly asks server to recite long list of beers on tap, despite the fact that it is in print both on the table and the menus. Everyone else in the party should speak up and tell their friend to stop being a douche and just order Miller like he always does, since the server would like to but would get fired.
Member of all-white waitstaff barks at member of all-Hispanic busboy staff in way that makes customers feel like those who just stood by and watched in Vichy France.
Member of all-it-doesn’t-matter-what-ethnicity party barks at all-ANYONE in the service industry in way that makes any humane person feel like those who just stood by and watched in Syria…. well, today.
So here’s the deal, people. We understand that it is our job to cater to paying customers– a lot of us are even good at dealing with your sometimes-inane requests. Like walking into a Middle Eastern restaurant and asking for a quiet table [wrong culture, buddy] or requesting your Thai to only be a little spicy [you need to learn how peppers are made]. Some requests are even along the lines of “I want a martini, but tell the bartender to not make this one so strong.”
Are you kidding me, ma’am? You do understand that a martini is straight liquor– how can we make it weaker? Would you rather have a gin’n'tonic? Or Screwdriver? No? You just want it in the fancy glass, don’t you. We might as well put juice in a martini glass, charge you $10, and pocket the change.
So here’s the deal, Mr. Simms. I understand that it can sometimes be hard to find a restaurant with a staff competent enough to make your lactose-intolerant Cobb salad, hold-the-avocado, bacon-offends-you, chives-give-bad-breath, eggs-are-bad-for-cholesterol, but extra-grill the chicken with dressing-on-the-side [which, for you non-Cobb eaters, is just burnt chicken on a bed of lettuce]. Sincerely, New York must truly be the edge of civilization if it’s difficult to eat without flip-flops and birthday candles flying all over the place.
Simple guidelines: ALWAYS make a reservation for a party of five or more on a weekend night, and at any time for one larger than six. Think about logistics, people. Hexagonal pegs cannot fit into square holes. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how important or educated you think you are– servers are people just trying to earn their pay. They are NOT servants there to be abused at your beck-and-call, and their profession does not give you leave to be condescending shits. So be nice.
They might be your leader one day. I know I will.
One of the greatest adjustments one has to make once you move to DC is a fantastic one: your geekiness no long marks you as an outsider.
Whether it’s on a date or simply getting to know new people in general, we of the dweeby variety are pretty used to self-categorizing ourselves with a sense of apology if timid, and defiance if extroverted.
“Ha, sorry, I’m kind of nerdy like that…”
OR: “Hey, I geek out all the time– GET USED TO IT.”
Back in high school/ most of college, the only time you would see the mainstream ‘cool kids’ wearing what society has dubbed ‘geek-wear’ would be on their way to a theme party. They were only costumes, and barely recognizable ones at that– you just know those girls were wearing sexed-up uniforms to look more Brittany Spears-esque than bookish. But here? It’s legitimate, worn with pride, and [hopefully] representing actual intelligence.
In Washington, the identity is echoed everywhere you turn. Even in the most surprising places, you see yourself mirrored back from every corner, under each rock, and the eyes of nearly all the people about you. Half of the cab drivers I talk to were political science students in their home countries (though the job market forces them to seek the independence of the yellow chauffer in the Land of the Free). What I would dismissively refer to in college as ‘that geeky shit I did in high school’ are no longer educational programs that need explanation– everyone in DC did stuff like Model UN and Mock Trial. We’ve all been there, and now we’re all trying to live those actual lives as young professionals. It’s pretty cool.
It’s smart, it’s sexy– it’s geek chic. The guys dress like Don Draper, and the ladies are redesigning the Marilyn-Jackie duo for a new generation (and yes, I’m evidently still coming down off the recent season’s Mad Men high). I wanted to talk to a cute guy on the bus one time simply because he was reading Game of Thrones. Nerd-dom has finally earned its just rewards, and is definitely a turn-on. I’m not sure what’s hotter than a geek-turned-man with a nice suit, skinny tie, and progressive sense of purpose…. but if there’s something out there that trumps it, my heart might not be prepared to handle the sight.
So geek chic is the thing to be. Unlike the older Urkle variety, we don’t lack social graces or fashion. We have keen intelligence, fierce ambition, and the passion to prove it. Whether we’re determined to make it as the next mind-blowing DJ or are expanding our Hill resumes to eventually run for office, there’s something we all share: that certain je ne sais quoi of sophistication that marks us without a doubt. We have class, and Washington is the place to shine.
Afterword: I’ve been toying with this idea for awhile– coming across a similar concept inspired me to finally post it. While kicking around the blogosphere, I tripped over someone worth mentioning (and possibly idolizing; I might have a bit of an intellectual crush here). Eric Schultz coined noveaux nerd for the new-and-improved Geek 2.0 version that I talk about. He describes us (yes, I say ‘us’) as:
“When I came up with the term, I meant it to mean a young-ish urbanite that embraces how truly nerdy, geeky, and unabashedly stylish they are. In other words, the nouveau nerd has swagger. It doesn’t have to be about science. It just means you have a passion for learning new ideas, enjoy thinking critically, are socially deft, and you look good doing it. Nothing irks me worse than the idea that nerds are social awkward and ambivalent about the culture that surrounds them. Often, nouveau nerds drive the culture and shift perceptions about science, technology, and the arts. And I love that about our attendees.” [Interview found on Famous DC here.]
So he created an opportunity [movement? repeated display of sheer awesomeness?] for DCists to get together, learn, party, and generally love on eachother’s nerdiness called thirst DC. They all get together and turn a mix of laid-back lecturing, happy hour networking, and late-night flirting into what he calls a “sexy nerd house party”. I do believe I might have a raging crush on his– and everyone involved in Thirst DC– brain. Next event is April 26th; who’s in?
I profoundly love my neighborhood, and here’s why:
I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been in line to hop on the bus, and a guy’s held out his arm to let me go first. And it’s not only guys my age trying to be flirty– I’m talking ages eight all the way up to eighty. The next person to tell me chivalry’s dead gets a smack to the head, because they’re clearly just not paying attention.
There has been a serious increase in the show of gallantry around here lately, and it deserves some legitimate praise. I’ve always been the type to hold doors for people, unfailingly let the elderly go first anywhere, and give up my seat often… but I do that for everyone. It’s what I was raised to maintain as common courtesy [though evidently isn't so common anymore]. But these encounters lately go above and beyond simple civility– they are straight up gentlemen!
Last week, I was waiting for the Circulator on 14th to go to work, and a kid was waiting towards the front of the line. He couldn’t have been older than eleven, scrawny, mildly scruffy, and clearly just got out of school. He let every single woman go ahead of him. When I smiled and told him to go ahead and get on, he shook his head and said, “No no, ladies first!” I laughed and thanked him. He found an empty seat before me, since I fumbled with my wallet, and even hopped up to offer me his seat when I passed him. I wished his mama had been around so that I could thank her, too, because she’s clearly doing something right while raising him.
So this brings me to an interesting power struggle here in DC (no, I’m not talking about Obama/Romney, or the fact that CVS petitioning for a liquor license will put all our favorite bodegas out of business). No, the issue is…..
“The Battle of Feminism vs. Chivalry”
Every time a girl complains about the lack of gentlemen around, she blames guys for being lazy or having no manners. I don’t know how many times a girlfriend’s told me that a guy accepted some variety of favor from her, and then didn’t even offer to walk her to the metro/bus/just his front stoop. Whether it was sexual or simply cooking dinner, a girl definitely deserves more than a “goodbye– the metro’s a ten minute walk that-a-way”.
On the flipside, I hear men protest about women wanting to ‘further their feminist agendas’ AND have dinner bought for them (as if we can only have it one way or the other?). A few friends have even told me that when, being the sweethearts they are, they’ve opened doors for their dates or tried to pay the check, all it got them was an earful. That women have gone off on them about how chivalry offends them in various ways for ‘violating their independence by paying’, or ‘condescending their intelligence, as if they can’t open the car door themselves’.
Here are my two cents on chivalry vs. feminism: a man letting me on the bus first has nothing to do with the strength of my independence or value as a woman–so keep it up, boys! Seriously, all of those issues are complete bunk. Girls: if you’re seeing a man who won’t at least offer to walk you to the metro or kiss you the next morning, it isn’t because they don’t exist– you simply aren’t WITH one, so dump his ass. Guys: gender equality and common courtesy are NOT mutually exclusive, they’re actually the same thing. So stop complaining that we want you to both cut back on the office harassment and pull out our chairs. Everyone needs to just grow up and be thoughtful.
Special note to the more aggressive feminists giving the few gentlemanly guys a hard time: KNOCK IT OFF. You’re being overly sensitive. The only reason his offer to buy you dinner offended you is because you have unresolved confidence issues, not because he thinks women are incapable of counting out correct change. If you think gallantry is contrived solely to lord his manliness over you, then what is your condescending feminist refusal trying to prove? Two-way streets can be a bitch if you don’t look both ways, so stop trying to jaywalk and just let him do something nice once in awhile. If you can’t manage that, then at least don’t scare him into never doing it again for a girl who will appreciate it, please.
And it isn’t just the young ones being all courtly around here lately– a seventy year old man adamantly insisted I get on the bus before him today, and he was using a cane to walk. In the past month, I have also had a man chase after me a block because I dropped my scarf, another give me his seat on the metro, and countless others insist I go first, whether at the bus, grocery store, bank, or various other social situations. I’ve been called miss, lady, ma’am– and once, even, ‘snowflake’ [I was wearing a dark dress and have very pale skin].
What is going on here?? The second you get downtown or even just to Dupont, people are rushing around all over each other to get to the ever-important place they’re going to first, and rarely look up from their Blackberries long enough to realize they’ve tripped someone. But up here in Columbia Heights? Oh no, the only dirty looks you’ll be getting these days are when you don’t offer a lady your seat or give her a hand with the door. Did Prince of Petworth send out some secret PSA this week to his male readers about minding their manners or something? And what does it say about me that my response to this chivalry has been baffled amazement? I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth. I’m just going to keep riding this gallant wave, be grateful, and spread the word.
So here’s my advice:
“DC is like dating in Grand Central Station– everyone is coming and going and moving too fast to really see,” he tells us between sips of beer and over the music and noise of Marvin’s.
How to get guys to talk about their feelings: get them very drunk.
The other night at the bar, with most of the group respectably intoxicated, conversation swung over to our District dating world. I only knew the romantic backgrounds of two of the guys [one at the 'interested but decidedly not committed' level, and the other mixed-signals-confused], but then another of them [let's call him Peter] pipes up with that line and floored me. Brilliantly put, my friend.
He threw his hands in the air dismissively and asked, “What’s the point?” With everyone coming and going so often, the city’s in a constant upheaval and no one stays put. Everything is always changing, which means when you do fall into a relationship– more by chance than anything else– it has to continually adapt to new surroundings. New friends, new places, new activities. We’re a city forever in transition, and our relationships follow suit.
He says we’re a city full of very attractive, very intelligent people– and I had to interject my addition of ‘very ambitious’– so it gets overwhelming. Maybe it’s just our personality differences, but those are the exact reasons why I do love dating in DC. The endless new people and captivating conversations have utterly fascinated me. I fully admit that it might be my newness playing a part in that– Peter and the guys have been here for years, whereas I’m still coming up on my first anniversary [I expect a big celebration, Washington!]. And yes, for once I’ll grant that my age might also have a hand in it– though I prefer to refuse the entire age premise.
One of the concerns for singles today is how long to hold out for 3rd base, and what that wait implies. Protest too much, and you’re a prude; immediate gratification makes you easy. A recent relationship developed swiftly [let's call him the Genuine Article, more details to come], and he told me our intimacy didn’t take away from his interest or opinion of me– he won’t become bored. My gut response was to think to myself, “Who said it was YOUR attention I was worried about losing?”
After a week of seeing this truly great guy nearly every day [and loving every minute of it], I was a bit burned out this week and needed Me Time. The result was this romantic malaise whenever I thought of him– am I bored already? Do I only want something that I can’t have [or just don't have yet]? Our quick level of comfortable intimacy is just a little too committed-feeling. Is there something wrong with me? It reminds me of my ex, and how everything felt more like a habit than a desire– that is no good. The start of connection should be all fire and longing. I’m an intensely passionate person; casual affection will not keep me interested.
So there it is. Hi, I’m Jules, and I have Relationship-Attention Deficit Disorder. [It's RADD!] Maybe even R-ADHD, because my high-energy lifestyle is definitely hyperactive. It’s not stress-related, stemming from some PTSD break-up baggage. I don’t have commitment phobia. It’s not environmental, because I’m up to my ears in commited couple friends. Everyone has a significant other this spring.
But I honestly have no problem whatsoever that I am not one of them– I rather enjoy this RADD lifestyle of meeting multiple new people in a short amount of time. The city’s always full of them coming and going, with wild stories to tell about their travels and experiences. Each new acquaintance for me is like giving sugar to a five year old [okay, maybe it's just like giving sugar to me; the effect is the same].
Isn’t that the charm of Washington? Peter’s right about the Grand Central chaos– going out in DC has you on perpetual social sensory overload. There are too many trains pulling in and out of the station going to wild, new places, and I can’t bring myself to narrow my possibilities by going in just one direction. I enjoy who I am, I enjoy meeting new people, and I really do enjoy dating. Maybe that’s why this is the perfect city for me. Only Washington is ever-shifting enough to keep me captivated with its constant influx of fascinating new people to meet and play with.
I’m not writing off this Genuine Article; we’ll see how this unfolds. But if it does turn out that I just get bored and disinterested, I don’t think it means there’s something wrong with me. I just don’t think it’ll turn out that he’s what I’m looking for, or that the lifestyle his relationship offers is right for me.
NYC restaurants are staffed by budding actors and LA is crawling with wannabe models, all starving for both carbs and attention. It’s a classic story: a waitress carries headshots in her apron, just waiting for her chance to lay it on a producer’s table, right next to his filet mignon. She’ll say “I’m not a waitress, I’m actually an actress—this is just my day job until I get my big break.”
[I wrote this a week ago, and haven’t had the heart to post something that’s so down. But, in an effort for full disclosure and to accurately represent what a 20-something’s life deals with in DC, I’ve decided it’s something that needs covering. Read through to the epilogue: there is a light at the end of the tunnel.]
It might surprise you, but DC is much the same way. I don’t think it’s possible to throw a rock without hitting some aspiring politico or journalist barely eking out an existence on an internship stipend or restaurant tips. We have countless accounts on Idealist, Devex, Indeed, Monster, and, of course, LinkedIn. Our MacBooks are filled with multiple resumes catered to different job descriptions, which we incessantly update and occasionally completely trash to start from the beginning. Maybe it just needs a new look? I bet that’s why I haven’t gotten any calls—I should have put my personal information in the top right-hand corner instead of centered in the middle! DUH.
We all talk the big talk about our areas of expertise and future professional brilliance, but each day laughs at us as we tie on our Starbucks apron strings or hostess nametags.
It wasn’t so bad, right at the beginning. When I moved here nearly a year ago (my god… a year??), I had just graduated and had no problem hosting while I job hunted and acclimated to my new city. It gave me the time to decompress and evaluate this new post-college world. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted a job in non-profits, or did I want to pursue my West Wing dream and break into political life? When the eventual “so, what do you do?” question arose, I’d laugh and say “I eat free hummus and boss my servers around in Arabic”. The world was my oyster, and all that. I’d graduated high school early at sixteen and was already ahead of schedule, no need to rush! Then I would talk on about one unpaid internship after another, increasingly clinging to the shred of intellectual legitimacy my free labor offered me among actual young professionals.
Because that’s all I am: an aspiring young professional. As if the term isn’t condescending enough, I have to add that I’m not even at the bottom of Washington’s food chain yet. I’m lower than that—my existence is subterranean.
I feel like a cliché—I am that actress/waitress. [Or is it waitress/actress?] I could have volunteered abroad. I could have pushed myself to find a job somewhere else, like Lebanon or Jordan. I should have taken the Foreign Service Exam last year, so that I could re-take it and actually pass this year. I could have been studying for the GRE’s this whole time, or knuckling down and focusing on working towards Arabic fluency. It’s stupid to say ‘I should have done this’ or ‘why didn’t I do that?’ It’s a waste of times and I don’t like regrets. But I can’t help it. When I talk about my job difficulty, people always have something to say.
“Have you tried USAJOBS.com?”
“The Senate and House post openings on their websites!”
“You’ve graduated into the worst job climate since the Great Depression, you know.”
Gee thanks, asshat. I have a degree from a well-respected university, but needed your condescension to clear that up for me! I hadn’t the foggiest before now.
So I bite my tongue. I know everyone’s simply trying to help; they feel like they have to say something. And just as there is no good way to break up, there’s also no good way to respond to someone’s job woes unless you can offer them one. Going off the handle on well-meaning people is no way to behave; it’s ungrateful. So I swallow my frustration and grind my teeth into a smile.
“Yes, thank you—I’m well aware of all that. It just isn’t that simple. In DC, you have to know people. You need to be practically related to half of the staff to even receive a phone call, let alone gain an interview. And before you suggest it, no, you cannot walk into an office on the Hill and hand-deliver a resume or inquire for a job. That severely pisses them off. Yes, same goes for phone calls. No, I haven’t been interviewed anywhere yet. Yes, I mean anywhere. I haven’t had a single interview since moving to this seemingly godforsaken city. No, I have no idea why—I’m obviously awesome.”
Without college to guide me or an internship to structure my life, it feels like I’m left with nothing. Some weeks, I’m borderline nocturnal. I fight it to retain some sense of normalcy, but my late restaurant hours mix with sleepless predispositions, and next thing I know it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m just getting ready for bed. I’ve always been a night owl, and definitely struggled with insomnia in college, but this is ridiculous. Sometimes I swear those red numbers glare at me tauntingly in the dark, ticking my life by painfully. I try to get my ass back on a normal, healthy schedule, but it’s a daily struggle. I’m going through the motions, but not getting to live the actual life. And all those bottled-up retorts to job advice have been building my internal pressure for months. I’ve officially reached my breaking point.
I think today is the first day I have actually hated it here. It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose, but I didn’t expect it to hit me quite like this. Suddenly, I feel like the city around me is cold and patronizing. I hate being sad. I hate worrying about making rent. Most of all, though, I hate hating DC….because I love DC. This is where I’m meant to be, I know it. I belong here, even if Washington disdains to recognize it yet. I think one of the best things about dating so much here is the distraction of it all. Romantic rejection is so superficial that sure, it stings, but deep down I don’t really give a shit. There are always other guys, and they’re likely cuter, smarter, and funnier. But my employment abandonment hurts far deeper. This radio silence on the job front is just breaking my heart.
Some days, all a girl can do is sit on a park bench, call her mom, and cry. So I did.
Epilogue: Like I said, that was a week ago. I actually did cry to my mom over the phone, and definitely got some glances from the few people walking their dogs in the mostly-abandoned park near my restaurant. I didn’t really care—it felt good to finally let it out. I’m not the kind of girl that cries, well… ever, really [except when I watch the movie Up; you don’t have a soul if you manage that opening montage dry-eyed]. But I also have no shame in admitting the times I do cry, and it’s definitely a part of coping with the job-hunt struggle.
Since then, my mom came for a day visit. She brought my family’s new puppy and ordered in from my favorite pho restaurant. We spent the entire rainy afternoon reworking my resume and cover letter, and I began to feel much more confident. [Cuddle time with a three-month old puppy definitely helps.] As I explained the confusing way the House and Senate job bulletins are constructed [most of the time, you don’t even know which state you’re applying for—only their partisan orientation], she asked me to pull an example up.
I brought up the Senate Employment Bulletin, and right at the top were two openings for one of my own Senators. I’ve wanted to work for my home state here in DC since I was in middle school, and email their offices every few months. They ‘have my resume on file’, but I don’t trust that. Needless to say, we both freaked out for a hot minute at the kismet of it all before knuckling down to write a stellar cover letter. Then I pulled up the emails with one of his staff from the fall, and replied to her again in addition to the general Senate email listed. Both shot back the generic ‘only applicants selected for interview will be contacted’ automated response.
The next day, I also received an email from a girl I went to grade school with and ran into months ago– she works for his office, too, and asked for my resume if interested. The fact that she remembered me and put in the effort to reach out genuinely made my week infinitely brighter. Now I have hope that I might at least be called, if not become an actual candidate for the job. Now all I can do it wait and pray with all my fingers and toes crossed.
Yes, DC and I have been hitting it off swell lately. It’s been night after night of wining-and-dining-and-dancing. Minus the wine and food most of the time. In a city of high-energy overachievers, the work hard/party hard mentality is practically a required lifestyle for residency.
Unfortunately, I’ve always had trouble choosing from which awesome thing to do with my life, and that includes my social life… including how to structure this whole writing idea. So I’m going to go with my usual plan, and say whatever comes to mind, even if there isn’t an obvious continuity to it.
Deal with it.
So one of the first things I was told upon arrival in DC was that there is a huge gender disparity. Being accustomed to being one of the few females in a circle of ambitious, political guy types, I assumed it was the same here.
Apparently that is not so anymore, for the 20-something crowd. Some single girlfriends told me there is a huge lack of eligible, intelligent, SINGLE guys here. There is a huge influx of women, and most of the guys already have girlfriends. Bad news bears to a single girl, right?
I don’t know where they were getting their intel, but that’s not the truth. At least, not how I’ve experienced it. I’m thinking they’ve a much more selective taste, whereas I’ve a broader interest.
I’m an equal-opportunity dater. And that isn’t just race, but religion, background, profession [or lackthereof], partisanship…. pretty much anything. Except those of the Westboro/Tea Party persuasion. *Imbeciles need not apply.*
Beyond that, most people find the nook they fit into and feel comfortable, and coast along happily. I tend to bounce around from group to group– depending on my schedule, the weather, or whatever strikes my fancy– so it broadens the possibilities.
The key: you have to take risks. Whether it’s going to a house party/bar you’re unsure of, meeting up with people you met only once weeks ago but have invited you out, or walking up to that cute guy across the bar that hits some secret nerve electrifying your spine– just do it. Don’t say no, don’t think, don’t rationalize… just do it. After a few too many life-altering “learning moments” over the past few years, I’ve come to embrace ‘carpe diem’ not only as a motivator, but as a true lifestyle.
Because of that, I’ve made friends with everyone from the Mexican guys living in the group house on the corner of my block to White House staffers and diplomats on Embassy Row. I’ve asked a cute street musician for a drink because I liked his bluegrass, and been on ritzier dates in Dupont with guys well above my pay grade. I don’t let things limit me.
And you know, I’m happier for it. DC and I are getting to know each other much faster and more profoundly than we would have otherwise. Even if it’s something simple like stopping to take photos of a half-renovated church, or giving my lunch to someone hungrier than me in a park, it’s worth your while to stop rushing around the city inside your own head and actually take a LOOK at the real one around you.
It might not smell like roses, but DC is beautiful, and this butterfly likes the perks of being more than just a wallflower.