Aloha! Reader Veronica’s suggestion of the word “pineapple” makes me think of my summer waiting tables at a Surfer Themed Bikini Sports Bar when I was 19.
I was one of those lucky kids that didn’t have to work in high school. My dad told me on the morning of his 16th birthday his dad woke him and his twin brother up and said “Happy Birthday; go get a job.” And he’s been working every day of his life since.
I coasted all the way till the summer after freshman year of college before my dad finally said I gotta start makin’ paper. My friend was waiting tables at this little gimmicky sports bar and having a decent time doing it so I decided to go in and apply. The woman running the joint was named Cinnamon. For real, that was her God-given name. This was Texas we’re talking about. I’m sure whatever you’re picturing her looking like is accurate. She told me my personality makes up for my empty resume but that I needed to wear more makeup. “We have more of a ‘beauty queen’ look here,” she told me. I took no offense, layered up my makeup a bit and started working there.
It was easy enough. I’m disgustingly eager to please so I was a natural at waitressing. The menu only had like 6 things on it and I’d get their food, smile, and get paid. It was fun!
The only time things would get intense was on Tuesdays when the place became “Bikini Top Tuesday”. Yes, I waited tables in a bikini top. And I had no problem with it and neither did my dad, who is in the restaurant business and agreed that it was just “part of the gimmick”.
So, during lunch on the bikini top day, it was a madhouse. It was like every man in a 20 mile radius would go stuff down a mediocre hamburger just to enjoy this “authentic beach atmosphere” for 45 minutes. This joint would have a line out the door. Now, I’m a competent person but at this point in my life, I still hadn’t quite managed to be cool under pressure and my mind was blown by this. I felt pressure and anxiety from the crowd and it started to get to me.
Every table was packed and people were hooting and hollering everywhere you turned. There were iced teas that needed refilling, ketchup bottles that needed refreshing, food that needed to be ran to tables, etc. Now, after a few shifts during normal clothing days without screwing anything up, Cinnamon trusted me on the floor on Bikini Top day, so I didn’t want to blow this. I wanted to get that paper.
Well, I did blow it. For some reason my whole mind forgot what numbers and words meant. I just started totally screwing up my orders. I have big hands so maybe my giant lanky fingers reached too far and missed the correct buttons, but I put in every order wrong and under the wrong table.
But here’s the crazy part. NO ONE NOTICED. I brought a BBQ chili burger with onion rings to the guy who ordered a chicken sandwich with fries and HE ATE IT. With no comment. I brought a check for 4 meals over to a guy and his friend and THEY PAID IT. It was like no one noticed my blatant mistakes!!
Due to the fact that no one was saying anything, this went on for most of my shift. In fact I started thinking things were going swell for lil ol’ Jackie. I was a waitressing pro! I got over confident and decided I could handle carrying a big tray full of beers over my head like how the more experienced girls do it. Me with my chicken arms and goofy hand-eye coordination.
I almost made it. I can still see the slow motion in my head. This girl no one liked (I nicknamed her Loretta Lue Sue cause she had the thickest Southern accent and dressed like a skanky grandma) was talking to her table and started walking away backwards, did an unpredicted spin trying to be charming and I plowed right into her. My whole tray came pouring down all over a table full of car Salesmen.
I died. I DIED. My biggest fear of waitressing came true. I poured an ice-cold beer waterfall onto innocent people. Loretta Lue Sue’s big country jaw dropped. The soaked car salesmen’s jaws dropped. The record of LIFE skipped.
In addition to being obscenely eager to please, I’m also intensely afraid of confrontation, so it was with great shame I had to go tell Cinnamon what had happened. To my relief, she didn’t even seem to care. Apparently a lot of the girls that worked there were ding bats and messed stuff up all the time so I breathed easy at my first big mistake. And the car salesmen were also, thank the good Lord, being cool about it.
Cinnamon came over to the ordering station to erase the spilled beers from their tab and that’s when she noticed a few weird things on my screen, like table numbers that didn’t exist and large bills for tables with only 2 people. One table had 3 plates of cheesy tots come their way. I hit the button 3 times without realizing it, and they PAID IT! She was like, “You got some guy to pay for a whole other table’s entire ticket!” I told her no one said anything to me and she said she didn’t get any complaints, either. She made the executive decision to just leave things be and if someone complains then she’ll deal with it.
She was actually impressed at my skills to get people to pay for things they didn’t order!
She couldn’t go back in the system and reopen credit cards, but she said if anyone called in or came in she could fix their tickets. But no one ever did. And to this day I still don’t know how or why no one said anything to me. I know what you’re thinking, and no it’s not cause I was in a bikini top. I look like a Ken doll in a bikini. Maybe they just could see how panicked I was, lil’ ol’ Jackie never worked a day in her life, all wide-eyed, carrying trays of food in a state of manic panic. Ol’ Cinny didn’t even fire me, and that day I learned to chill out and not get overwhelmed. And not bite off more than I can chew. Don’t listen to Alanis Morissette- turns out that’s not good advice!
I waited tables for years following and never spilled a tray of beers again. I eventually got really good and even tended bar for a couple years after (with a shirt on). Then I waited at the Cheesecake Factory in LA – the ultimate challenging place for a server. With a 16 page menu, I had to be on top of my game – plus I was in head-to-toe white unflattering clothing, a far cry from my bikini days. I had to get by using my mind and wit and not my bikini top. I’ve grown up so much!