A bottle of red, a bottle of white. Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight. I’ll meet you anytime you want, In our Italian restaurant.
— Billy Joel
Seeing as Albany diners-outers are currently (a) standing in long lines waiting to get into the new Buffalo Wild Wings or (b) starving themselves in anticipation of Olive Garden opening near the mall, I went to one of the Good Life City’s most well-known and colorful waitresses — and one of my personal favorites — Shirley “Myrtle” Carter for some help in compiling this list of tips that should help local restaurant patrons and employees alike.
(In a fit of full disclosure, I must admit now that I didn’t actually talk to Myrtle for this article because her shift at Picnic Pizza hadn’t started yet, plus I kinda wanted this to be a surprise tribute to her unique waitressing techniques. I do, however, think she would agree with most of these tips, and I feel certain she’ll offer more of her own the next time we talk.)
— If you’re not very good with names, pick a funny-sounding one and call everybody that. Your customers will think they’re special because you came up with a cute name that’s theirs all alone, and you won’t have to try and remember all your regulars. Bigger tips will ensue. (Note: If you’re going to use this idea, do not — repeat, do not — use the name “Myrtle.” That one’s taken.)
— Do not try to correct parents’ failure to teach manners by telling youngsters (or oldsters) not to eat with their elbows on the table. It is, however, perfectly OK to tell patrons of any age to take their feet off the table, especially if there is visible evidence of toe-jam or odoriferous evidence of foot funk.
— Waiters/waitresses: Put on your beer goggles when you’re waiting on extremely offensive-looking people, especially men sitting alone for obvious reasons. Stay just out of touching distance, but it’s OK to offer “compliments.” Be creative — “I saw a shirt just like that on a TV Land show last week” sounds like flattery, but most shows on TV Land are several decades old and their clothes are way out of style; or “Your hairstylist does such a great job” implies a nicety, even if you’re actually wondering how a comb-over that long stays in place without dropping down into the soup. Rememeber, you’re working for tips.
— Unless your food is severely under- or overcooked, do not send it back to the kitchen for a second or third time because you don’t like the meat’s color. If you do, it’s guaranteed the cook is going to (a) spit in your alfredo sauce, (b) put laxative in your Worcestershire or (c) make a copy of your credit card number and sell it to an identity theft con artist.
— It is not OK to tell parents they should do a better job of managing their unruly children. You can, however, wait for said little darlings to wonder off to the restroom alone and then flip off the lights, use your most frightening evil voice to tell them you’re the devil and ensure them if they continue to make noise — or tell mom and dad — there will be visitors at their house later when all the lights go out.
— Unless the customer is an extremely hot dude or chick, it is not OK to slip them your telephone number. If they are any combination of insulting, annoying, homely, loud, impatient or cheap, though, it is OK to pass along the number of that weirdo with the hair-trigger temper who was a busboy at the restaurant until he assaulted four customers for not showing him “proper respect” two weeks ago.
— When a bartender tells you you’ve had enough alcohol for the night, listen. You’ve obviously become too annoying to be out in public, and she quit putting alcohol in your drinks four screwdrivers ago anyway.
— Last, and perhaps most important: Always tip your waiter or waitress well if you plan on ever eating at that restaurant again. These folks may not be great with names, but they remember faces. And they are the last people with access to your food before you start eating.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.