Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today, we take you on a marathon trip of the best BCO submissions of 2014. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I didn't realize until I started going through the backlog that the first Behind Closed Ovens was posted on March 3, 2014. March 3! I only started this job on February 26. It blew my mind to realize I'd been doing BCO since basically the beginning. An extra special thank you to Kinja users intheweeds, AcidMartini, Everything is Shiny, and Redwriter for giving me stories in those lean early days when I desperately needed submissions just to get to a full post. We've come a long way.
Originally, this was going to be a top 12 list. Hahahaha. Haha. Hah.
When I went back through BCO, there were just way too many great stories to limit it that much. Instead, we've got a top 25, preceded by Snapshot Stories (those too short to make the list on their own merits, even as they're wildly entertaining) and Honorable Mentions. If I've learned one thing from this job, it's that there seem to be an absolutely inexhaustible supply of truly wonderful restaurant-related stories. So buckle up and take a ride with me through nine months of user submissions.
Kinja user quagmire:
Customer: "What is the difference between the 6 oz. and 9 oz. Sirloin steaks?"
Server: "About 3 ounces."
Kinja user Bingo, Carlos:
A woman asked me if I would hand-remove potatoes from her soup for her and then re-heat it so it was as hot as it would be if the potatoes were in it. To this day, I have no idea what that even means.
As they're splitting their steak and can't decide on a temp: 'can you cook our steak half medium and half well done?'
I worked at a small pizzeria for almost seven years, so I have heard quite a bit of ridiculousness from customers and co-workers alike. Some of my favorites include:
- The customer that asked me if our medium sized pizza boxes were the same size as our large sized pizza boxes.
- The customer that called and asked if we had mozzarella sticks, to which I replied, "I'm sorry, no we don't." He then asked if we had onion rings, at which point I informed him that we didn't have a deep-fryer. "Oh," he said, then paused before asking, "do you have deep-fried wings?"
- My co-worker who spelled tossed (as in tossed salad) "tost" and also spelled cucumber "Qcumber" in total seriousness.
- The customer who walked in with three kids, sat at a table and asked one of my servers, "Do you guys have nachos?" (I'd like to point out that he would have walked directly by the sign on the front of the building that read "authentic Italian thin-crust pizza") The server informed him that we did not, but we did have a taco pizza (that is insanely good). The customer told him, "Oh, well we really wanted nachos," got up and left.
- The guy that called and argued with me for five minutes that we were, in fact, a doctor's office and not a pizzeria.
Overheard at an Arby's:
Customer: "The mozz... moh... those sticks, what are those?"
Cashier: "Oh, the mozzarella sticks? Those are, like, cheese... sticks?"
Customer: "What kind of cheese?"
Cashier: "Um, Swiss, I think."
Kinja user Everything is Shiny:
At my father's coffee shop, where I also worked, a customer came in, looked at our breakfast sandwich menu, and asked someone I worked with 'um...is 'bacon' chicken or beef?' I have never forgotten the look on my co-worker's face.
I worked at a movie theatre for years and I will never forget the guy who ordered a hot dog, took it over to the condiment counter and proceeded to add ketchup, mustard, relish, the usual stuff.
Now, this was an art house cinema back in the 90's so we had fancy popcorn seasonings (before Kernel Seasonings came along) such as parmesan cheese, brewer's yeast, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, he added a generous dash of each…not too weird.
Then he started in with the coffee condiments: sugar, honey, cocoa powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, he put it all on his dog! I think if he could have accessed the butter dispenser he would have had some of that too.
I worked at a catering outfit in college that did jobs for FBO's (private jets, etc), and this one client kept my boss pissed of all the time. Always complaining about the price, the quality, whatever, the guy had to complain.
So this one time, he calls up with an emergency order, pizzas for a G-5 coming in immediately. The boss tells him it's extra because of the rush, and the guy says fine. We drop everything and jam out the pizzas, but the boss is working on a separate pizza and keeping to himself.
We (me and the boss) race to the airport where the guy is waiting just as the G pulls up. The guy says he's not paying the extra, thinking he's got us over a barrel. What are we going to do, throw out the pizzas, not get paid? My boss glares at him and reaches into the van for the pies and hands them over. We get a check from the clown.
As we're pulling out the boss has a big smile on his face, and I know he did something. I ask, and he tells me he'd had enough of that guy's crap and he had switched one of the pies with his special. He'd made a pie with some five year old white chocolate that he'd shaved like mozzarella. He cashed the check on the way back.
I worked for a brewery/restaurant that had a lively summer music scene on the weekends. Our restaurant had a large outside seating area that would become extremely busy on these nights. A semi-regular group of families and older patrons would come down for the live music/food/beer. Without fail, we would have new patrons sit down at tables the moment they were vacated — people who did not have their names on the waiting list for these tables.
For the most part, we would explain the situation and they would go to the front and put their name on the list. One evening, a somewhat intoxicated younger couple pulled such a move. When our high school aged hostess came to explain the situation to them, the man quickly went about yelling at her and explained he wasn't moving. Our manager, deciding to avoid any further issues, agreed to let them sit at the table. They ordered a pitcher of beer with the same type of startlingly dickish attitude. Many of our regular patrons did not take kindly to this, and a lot of dirty stares were sent in their direction. This only added fuel to the fire and an uncomfortable calm settled over the back patio.
It was at this point that the couple in question looked inside to see me staring at them. I was waiting on tables, but had come to take a look at the morons who had brought a young girl to the verge of tears. It was at this moment that I locked eyes with the man. I can now safely say that I know how that one dude in Jurassic Park felt when he was hunting the raptors. The man stands up and looks at me through the glass mouthing something like "FUCK THIS PLACE" or "FUCK YOUR FACE." He then threw the glass pitcher of beer at the window, without breaking the glass or the pitcher. A couple of customers scream and the guy grabs his girlfriend by the arm as they try to make a quick getaway. I wasn't more than a foot out of door, yelling for them to stop, when one of our regulars took matters into his own hands. In one quick motion, this hero ran upon the fleeing couple and jump karate-kicked the man in the middle of his back before applying some sort judo hold on the ground until the police arrived to arrest him.
Kinja user GenghisKhan't:
While working at a fast food pizza joint I had this one belligerent customer coming in, the type who wants to blame everything on you. He kept ragging on about the prices and I told him if he didn't like the prices he could leave, because I don't set the prices. He finally shuts up and buys his slice, still complaining about the prices. He goes to the spice shakers and proceeds to take the only almost empty shaker of chili flakes and try to shake them onto his slice. Lo and behold, nothing really comes out. I don't bother pointing out to him that there's another clearly marked full shaker right next to them, because I am paid far too little to give a shit about people like him.
Then I watch in horror as the genius holds the shaker over his face to see if it's really empty, and the flakes go into his eyes. I ran to the bathroom to try and contain myself as he howled, and laughed so hard I cried while the chaps I worked with got him a wet towel for his eyes.
So I was travelling with a couple of mates through Europe, and one night in Lisbon, we head out to a fairly standard local restaurant. As we sat down, a plate of bread, olive oil and another dish (long since forgotten) were placed on our table. Being from Australia, we think "cool — complimentary bread pre-meal." We eat the bread as we peruse the menu and order. The second we pick up the last piece of bread on the plate, another full plate is brought to our table — the speed of which raised our eyebrows slightly, mostly because everything else we ordered took a fair while to arrive. Before we started on the 2nd plate of bread, our waiter came over and we had the following exchange:
Me: "Hey, so is the extra bread free or will you charge us for it?"
Waiter: "Free? No no no no…how could it be free?"
Me: "Oh, right – well, maybe you should let people know they'll be charged before placing it on their table."
Waiter: "In your country, the bread is free?"
Me: "If it's on the table when you arrive and if it's automatically refilled, yeah."
Waiter, *angrily*: "Well, maybe I will come to your country then. And eat all of your bread!"
With that, he stormed off in a huff and we didn't see him again for the rest of the night.
I was working at a fancy steakhouse. The chef was a little crazy, but a good guy and a fantastic chef.
One busy Saturday night, I served prime rib to a woman. She sent it back, saying she wanted the bones. Chef arranged the bones on the plate artfully and sent it back out. She sent it back again, saying "No, I want it attached to the bone!" I dreaded facing the chef because I knew this was the kind of thing that would set him off, but even I was shocked by his reaction.
He grabbed a bucket of bones, kicked open the swinging doors, and started hurling bones into the crowded dining room, screaming "You want bones? Here are your fucking bones!"
People were screaming and diving under the tables. It took the bartender and the manager to wrestle him into submission and out of the dining room.
A few years ago I was in Atlantic City for an evening of fine dining and blackjack. I spent the night in a hotel, and the next morning I decided to grab some breakfast before driving back home.
As I sat in the restaurant enjoying my meal, a couple came in and were seated a few tables away. I would say they were about 25 years old, and lucky for me the guy didn't have an indoor voice. When the waitress came to take their order, he asked for eggs. She, naturally, asked him how he would like them cooked. He responded by asking what she meant.
She recovered after a few seconds and suggested some options like poached or over easy. He still didn't understand. At this point he raised his voice and seemed angry at the entire line of questioning. "I don't know!" he shouted. "Just cook 'em up!" She brought them scrambled.
A 25-year-old man who had managed to secure himself a girlfriend and possessed the means to travel to a gambling mecca for the weekend not only didn't have a preference as to how his eggs were cooked, but was somehow entirely ignorant of the fact that there's more than one way to cook them.
25. Jamie Leone:
There was a great burger place in town where I worked from the ages of 22-23. They served a lot of craft beers and had a great wine selection.
One night, a table full of guys came in for some pre-bachelor party drinking. They were being loud and rowdy when they first came in, so I sat them upstairs in a more secluded area with a couple of tv's where no children could overhear their delightful conversations.
One of said conversations involved the bachelor's buddy attempting to get him to "just throw [me] on the table and shove it into something different one last time." I was pretty pissed, but kept my cool, took their drink orders, and headed back to the bar. I told my manager what was going on and he said he would keep an eye on them, but we were short-staffed, so if I could handle it, it would help out the restaurant — but to let him know if anything else happened.
I took care of my rounds and headed back to their table to drop off another pitcher when one of them reached out and got a handful of ass. I "stumbled" and dumped the beer on the guy, making sure to spill the whole chilled pitcher on his lap. Then I told my manager, then went back to the kitchen, and the real fun began.
By this point, the whole kitchen knew what was happening, so they prepared their burgers with a few extra special features (hot peppers cooked into the middle, various condiments including cake icing instead of ketchup, tartar sauce instead of mayo, etc). Someone else delivered their food, and when they complained, the manager made a whole big show about how the food looked fine to him, if they didn't like it they could pay for their beers (including the one I dumped on them) and leave. They made a scene but headed out and into the night to harass some other unsuspecting bartender."
Narrowly, narrowly edges the egg story (and a special eyeroll to anyone who defended the guy who didn't know there were multiple ways to cook eggs), mainly because that "burger" is a beautifully creative form of revenge.
24. Kelly Ivins:
I worked at a la-di-da hotel that was definitely trying to be fancier than it was. We tended to cater to the single, traveling business man/woman who also seemed to enjoy acting fancier than they really were.
One evening, the dinner special was "Fish en Papillote" — the fancy French way of saying "fish poached in parchment paper" — which is how the menu described it.
I only had that one table that night, and the fancy business man made sure to educate my ignorant, unremarkable palette regarding our wine list. He then, of course, ordered the special with the most pretentious sounding French accent I've ever heard — and I've been to France.
The Chef had given me a pair of silver scissors, which I was supposed to use to dramatically cut open the simmering packet of goodness right in front of the customer, allowing all the aroma of fresh herbs, white wine and lemon to accost their senses. I did so, with gusto! If I was going to have one table, I'd better make it count.
I came back to quality check, but the fancy business man waved me away — his mouth full and him busily replying to very important work emails.
When I came back to clear his plate, I finally had my chance to ask him how his meal was, to which he replied:
"It was quite good...except that pastry....I found it extremely chewy!"
Shocked, I realize his plate was completely empty, with no parchment paper anywhere. I managed to blurt out "Ummm, that was the parchment paper they poach the fish in...the papillote."
He got very embarrassed and shooed me away. When I went back to the kitchen and told the Chef what had happened, we cried we were laughing so hard. God, I love karma.
Eating paper's a pretty good story, as far as these things go.
23. Sam Franco:
One time at a Japanese vegan place in the West Village, I watched a woman have a very hard time understanding what "vegan" meant. Apparently smitten by the vegan cocktail shrimp, she called over the waiter to ask if it had shrimp in it, as she was allergic to shellfish. The waiter smiled and informed her that the restaurant was entirely vegetarian, so there was no shrimp in the "shrimp."
"But it says cocktail 'shrimp.' I'm allergic to shrimp," she reiterated.
"Are you allergic to soy?" He asked, politely.
"Then you'll be fine."
"But is there shrimp in it? I'm allergic to shrimp and I don't want to have an allergic reaction."
"No ma'am, everything on the menu is vegetarian, so there's no meat or seafood served here." She was getting visibly frustrated with the server, who was maintaining his composure, and, I'm sure, resisting the urge to laugh in her face. Her date look embarrassed.
"Okay, well, I'm not going to risk eating the shrimp and getting sick. I'll take the vegan chicken skewers instead. Is there chicken in that?"
Dear everyone who defended this woman's behavior the first time and are probably about to do so again: regardless of whether it might seem initially confusing that the menu items were labeled "shrimp" and "chicken," the server repeatedly explained to her that they were entirely vegan, and she straight-up refused to believe him (despite literally nothing in the restaurant containing meat). She's an idiot, and if you think her repeated refusal to believe him is completely normal, you are likewise an idiot.
22. Christa Dormer:
I once served an older lady who came in and ordered a steak with a baked potato. We always put parsley on the potatoes for a garnish. As she was finishing her steak, she called me over to tell me there was a bug on her plate. I was mortified and immediately came over to see the issue and comp her dinner.
Upon closer examination, the "bug" was in fact a dried piece of parsley. I pointed this out to her. She said "But it moved" and I responded, "Ma'am...it doesn't have legs. Or a body. It's parsley."
We went back-and-forth for a short while before I relented and said I would get a manager. The manager took one look at it, realized it was parsley, and told the lady she would not be getting her mostly-eaten meal comped because a garnish and spontaneously developed properties of locomotion.
She paid her bill, and I never saw her in there again. I call it a win.
Never quite landed with readers the way it did with me. I think "Ma'am...it doesn't have legs. Or a body. It's parsley" is way funnier to me than it would be to most people. Ah, well. C'est la vie.
21. Kinja user Delmar14:
Customer: Are the Jalapeno Poppers spicy?
Me: I mean, they are made from jalapenos, so...
Customer: Oh, I don't like spicy. Can I get them without jalapenos?
Me: Well, they essentially are just fried, stuffed jalapenos, so not really. But the Mozzarella Sticks would be similar, if you don't like spicy food.
Customer: Oh, well I have a gluten allergy, so that won't work either. I'll just try the poppers.
Me: Well, those have gluten too, and like I said, they're spicy.
Customer: What about the breadsticks? Do those have gluten? Are they spicy, too?
Me: Well, basically everything with bread has gluten unless its specially—
Customer: Excuse me, I've been eating bread my whole life, and gluten will literally kill me. I think I'd know if there was gluten in bread. *harumph!*
Me: I generally suggest the salmon as our best gluten-free option.
Customer: Are you trying to kill me?! I just told you I was gluten-free!
At this point I went and got my manager who spoke with the woman for about 15 minutes before finally getting her to order a burger with no bun. When the burger came out, the customer was irate and demanded a pretzel bun be brought out at once.
Gluten-Free Idiots really could be a category all of its own. Frankly, I'm surprised it never has been.
20. Lora Vendelson:
Last year, I finally left my God-awful management job at a Japanese restaurant and bar. It was a neighborhood spot, and as such, we had a lot of regulars. One woman in particular, Christina, was really high maintenance and bitchy.
One busy Friday night she came in with her husband, nanny, and infant daughter, whom she carried in one of those car seat-basket thingies (obviously, I don't have kids and have no idea how to speak baby). The first table I tried to seat them at was deemed unacceptable. She marched past me and pointed at a four-top in the center of the room and demanded to be seated there. It wasn't a booth, which is what we usually gave to parents with a kid-basket, so I asked her if she wanted me to invert a high chair so she could put the kid-basket on top. She refused, and instead told me to move one of the chairs so she could put the baby on the floor. I indicated my worry at putting a baby on the floor (hey, maybe I have some maternal instincts after all!), since seating was tight and servers may spill drinks, soup, etc. and could potentially hit her baby on the floor. Instead of taking one of the two other tables I offered her, she made a stink and insisted on a two-top booth. I reminded her she had three adults and the baby in her party, and the table was only made for two. She wouldn't shut up about wanting that particular table, so finally I said okay.
A few minutes later, we all smell smoke. Since they were crowded around such a tiny table, she had accidentally lit her hair on fire from the small tea light placed at each table. Like, legitimately, she lost a good three inches on one side. She called me over, screaming that it was my fault, and that I had to make things right. I pointed out that she was the one who wanted the table, and it was absolutely not my fault, though I was glad she was okay. Then she had the audacity to ask me for free dessert for the table as a result of "your mistake!" Instead of punching her in the face, like I wanted to, I said, "how 'bout I don't charge you for the haircut, and we'll call it even?"
It's really hard for me not to love a story where a customer's head catches fire.
19. Nina Myers:
This place I used to work, we had this one customer dubbed "Coleslaw Guy" (alternatively, Pain in the Ass). He came in maybe 2-3 days a week for lunch, explaining loudly that he was a personal fitness guru and lifestyle coach.
The restaurant, I should explain, was an old American restaurant situation in downtown Pittsburgh — a place where you need to explicitly ask for french fries NOT to be on your salad (Editor's Note: Goddamit, Pittsburgh, you're embarrassing yourself). We catered mostly to lawyers and judges — it was very 'boys club' and I feel most of our clientele ate there for lunch because they didn't know how to make themselves lunch. Not exactly a haven for health nuts.
So our coleslaw was made with about 5% cabbage and 95% slaw aka mayo and other junk. It was goopy, delicious mayo-y goodness, and except for this guy, it was exactly what our clientele wanted. Instead of just ordering a salad without fries and toppings, though, Coleslaw Guy would order slaw and make whatever server he had squeeze it out until it was completely dry, because he "didn't want that much fattening mayo." We tried to give him just chopped up cabbage, but he wouldn't go for it. Lightly-dressed chopped up cabbage — no dice. He specifically wanted us to hand-squeeze all the mayo out of the prepared coleslaw. He would often send it back 2-5 times until it was squeezed well enough. Sometimes we would try to plan for when he was coming, or ask if he was coming the next day, only for him to say, "no, I won't tell you, because I want my coleslaw freshly-squeezed."
He tipped well, but we all HATED him.
Coleslaw Guy is 90% of the reason most servers hate their jobs.
18. A. Davis Miller:
I worked at Subway in high-school and on a slow-day, a lady came in and asked for a 'tomato, lettuce, and cheese sub.'
Easy enough, so I set about making it for her. Mid-way through the process, she stopped me and asked, "I don't see a 'tomato, lettuce, and cheese sub' on the board. Where is it?!" I replied, "Oh, well, it's just a veggie sub…" She curtly responded, "No, I don't want a 'veggie sub', I want a sub with tomato, lettuce, and cheese. That's all. I told you!" I replied, "Yes, ma'am, that's what I'm making." Her: "But where is it on the board?" Me: "It's on the board. It's a veggie sub; that's what I have to charge you for." Her: "I'm not having a veggie sub!" Me: "Yes…you…are?" Her: "I'M NOT A VEGETARIAN!"
This went on until she became so irate that she told me to stop because she was going to a competing sub franchise "where they understood English" and didn't try to rip her off (at the time, a foot-long veggie sub was the cheapest item on the menu at $3.99). She then flipped me off and made a failed attempt at slamming the front door with a spring-loaded door closer that slowed down the process. Fun Fact: She was meaner and more disrespectful than the guy who robbed the place with a machete two weeks later.
I think the last sentence put this into the top 25 by itself.
17. Edgar Thames:
I had a table of very friendly, very outgoing people come in one time. Everything was going well, their orders were all very straightforward, until the last person, who ordered a steak. She couldn't remember how she liked it done, but definitely wanted it tender. After much debate, she remembered "well" is how she liked it. I tried explaining that well-done is the least-tender way of cooking a steak, but she was insistent, so I put in the order.
Food comes out, everybody's happy, then she pokes at her steak and says it's not tender enough and to throw it back on the grill. I again tried explaining that cooking the steak more would make it less tender, but the customer is always right, so I took it back.
This happened four times.
After the fourth, my manager came out and explained that the longer you cook a steak, the less juices are left in the meat, the tougher it becomes. He then asked if she'd like us to cook a new steak for her, if this one wasn't the way she liked it. She got very angry, said no and that she'd eat it even though we were wrong...and then told us that if a customer wants you to grill a steak until it gets tender, you grill it until it gets tender.
I appreciate this story for the fact that we finally found the point where a customer can do or say something so stupid that not even contrary commenters will try to defend them. There's just no justifying "cook it more and make it tender." You just can't.
16. Jane Clark:
I worked in a restaurant buffet inside a mall, and it was family night. To give you some back story, I lived in a very small town that had one mall and one buffet restaurant and it was a new concept.
On family night, not only did we have family deals, the corporate office thought it would be great if we had a 7-foot-tall mascot dressed as a bee with a massive bulbous head that would frighten even the most horny furry convention attendee. They thought this would be fantastic for children, rather than nightmare fuel. We also had two managers who dressed in full blown clown attire, making balloon animals and giving out helium balloons (I assume they'd never seen Stephen King's It). Problem is, the place is packed on family night, so the whole thing was a shitshow.
As I am waiting on my section at the far end of the restaurant, I hear a large commotion. At first I don't think anything about it — it's loud and busy, these things happen in restaurants. I carry on taking plates away from a rather large table, when suddenly the weirdest dog I have ever seen in my life runs under my feet. It was small, really fat, and weird looking.
As it ran past I almost collide with my floor manager, chasing the thing. Almost dropping everything out of my hands, I stepped back to try to grasp what the hell was happening. I put the plates down in a tub near our waitress station and the little weird, fat dog came back through for lap two. This time hot on his tail were the manager, a cashier, and a waitress. At this point, I'm confused as hell, but the place is so chaotic that I kept working.
By the time we were on the third or fourth lap, we had two managers, a cashier, a clown, a line cook, and the Bee Mascot (who was bumbling around running into tables) chasing this thing. If this had been on TV, Yakety Sax would've been playing. By this time the restaurant was more hushed and watching what can only be described as a TLC show before reality TV.
The fifth lap, the clowns were in the lead, followed by the managers, and half the staff was running what seemed like single file after this weird little dog. Suddenly the thing stopped in my section and ran under a four-top, knocking the table toward the customers and spilling their food on them. Luckily, they were too stunned to care that they were just attacked by a rabid chinchilla dog and covered in macaroni and cheese. One of the clown managers was able to reach under the table and grab the dog.
At that moment the dog made a noise that sounded like the squeal of a thousand suns. As the manager gripped this alien baby tight, it bared its teeth and bit her. Reflexively, she threw the beast across the room, as it made god awful noises and ran in a zig zag formation for another lap. The way this little creature ran around and evaded capture would make you think Dr Moreau was doing weird cloning genetic experiments on Fraggles and Chris Bosh.
After witnessing the bizarre noise it made and when it opened it's mouth we realized it was, in fact, no dog. Turns out, someone had bought a pot-bellied pig, then decided they didn't want it and had just let it loose in the mall. As it ran squealing through the restaurant, the circus procession managed to chase it out and back into the mall. The amazing thing is, the other diners seemed completely unmoved and forgot about the whole thing ten minutes later.
I might be underrating this story. Let's just move on.
15. Kinja user OmahaJezzie:
Throughout college and law school, I worked for one of the four country clubs in my hometown, which happened to be the most expensive and exclusive. Unsurprisingly, the median age when I was there was approximately 84.
So it's New Year's Eve and all servers, banquet and a la carte, are required to work. There are buffets and events set up in various rooms, and a dance later in the evening for all four members under 45. I was assigned to the ballroom.
It was 5:30 PM, the DJ had already started playing some tunes, and the first wave of reservations walks in. Specifically, a group of about twelve octogenarians shuffles into the ballroom with their walkers as "Slow Ride" by Foghat plays. Just picture it. I had to leave the room. My manager saw me and asked what the hell was so funny. I told him just to walk in the ballroom and see what's going on. He came back in five seconds later in tears. Such a beautiful moment.
Definitely the most underrated story of the year. I may not have laughed at any story as hard as I did when I received this one.
14. Kinja user Everything is Shiny:
We get lots of tourists in my family's coffee shop (read: people who have never been in there or probably any other independent coffee shop before and are utterly thrown off when you tell them you can't make a frappuccino). One day, this guy comes in and asks for a coffee, "regular." In Massachusetts, that tends to mean cream and sugar. I get him his coffee and tell him that the cream and sugar is behind him at the creamer station.
He stops and stares at me. "But how am I supposed to know how much to put in?"
"Put in some, and when it looks like what you like, or tastes like what you like, stop," I responded.
"No, but you don't understand, I don't know how much to put in. You're supposed to do that for me. It's what you're paid for."
I calmly explain to him that no, we do not put the cream and sugar in for him, there is a line behind him of people (who all know how much fucking cream to put in their own coffee) and he can go over to the creamer station and make up his coffee. If he puts too much cream or sugar in and can't drink it, I'll get him another coffee. "Well, come over and do it for me."
I tried to explain to him that I will have no idea how much he wants me to put in, because I don't know how he takes his coffee. He gets quite exasperated at this point. "JUST PUT IN AS MUCH AS THE OTHER COFFEE SHOPS!"
I tell him that I don't train at "other coffee shops" just so I can know how much cream and sugar people like him (by which I secretly mean dumbasses) like in their coffee, I just work at this one, and he needs to leave the counter now.
I should point out, this man was about 50. He has lasted 50 years on this planet with no idea how much cream and sugar he should put in his coffee.
A common thread through a lot of these stories is that there is no such thing as ordering a food the "normal" way. In this case (and in a few others) "the normal way" is not an acceptable coffee request, no matter how much a customer stamps their feet and insists it is. Believe me, it is the greatest of pleasures for a food service employee to tell a customer "no" in that situation (especially when tips don't hang in the balance), and we will take every opportunity to do so.
13. Megan Blair:
After college, I moved to NYC, and got a job waiting tables at a mid-level, super corporate restaurant named after a city in Texas (Editor's Note: We have these in DC, and my mother always loved them for some reason I still can't fucking fathom). This restaurant attracted all kinds of clientele because it was inexpensive enough for NYC's wealthy to eat there regularly, but just fancy enough to qualify for a nice meal out for less-experienced diners.
One night I was waiting on a couple who were on a date. The husband was asking me about a few of the dishes when he came to our pork chops, which were served with polenta. He nicely asked what polenta is and I quickly explained it's a starch made from cornmeal.
He looked at me and said, "I thought polenta is that thing that comes out after a baby is born."
I was speechless and stared at him for any hint of a smile or indication he was joking. None. I turned to his wife, who had her head in her hands. She told me I could just walk away. So I did.
He did not order the pork chops.
Maybe the best example of a sneaky-great story on here. I didn't even remember this one until I went back through the list of BCO entries, but once I read it, there was absolutely no way it wasn't making the list. Gets funnier every time I read it.
12. Andy Nathanson:
When I served in the Navy, actually on a ship, I witnessed the unspeakable.
In the Navy if you were not a direct "watch stander," meaning part of your job was to stand watch, you had to do what was called "cranking" in the galley. You were basically the servant of the cooks. You washed dishes until your hands hurt, swept, mopped, cleaned up after those lazy f-ing cooks, and anything else they did not want to do.
My job in the Navy was record-keeping so I was stuck cranking for several stints of 90 days, sometimes more than that. Get up early to get ready for breakfast, stay late for mid-rats (midnight rations). There are small gaps in which no one is actually eating and the galley and kitchen were closed. That's when you slept.
One night after mid-rats, the cook on duty decided to wrap up shop and told me to get some sleep. We closed the serving windows, locked the doors and called it a night. Being on the ship and having free time you usually find something to do. So I decided to join a game of spades in the galley.
After an hour or so I realized that I forgot my jacket in the kitchen, so I headed back there to get it. As I approached, I heard music playing around one of the corners where they had these huge mixing machines and vats and figured we just left it on.
As I approach this smaller area, I see the cook who'd let me out of there with his pants around his ankles going to town on a vat of bread dough plopped on one of the counters. As quickly as I witnessed what was going on, and as quickly as my brain could process it, I turned around without being seen.
My heart and stomach just hit the floor in fear of not only being caught, but what I just witnessed. I slowly and quietly walked back towards the door and with as much commotion I could make, pretended to enter the room again, by slamming the door open and yelling "hey, who is in here..." To which he says "OHH Hey.. back here...be out in a sec...forgot I left the radio on..."
I respond with cracked 19yr old voice "Cool, just forgot my jacket. See ya!"
Never ate bread on the ship again.
Believe it or not, bread-fucking was not the grossest story I've received. Not even close, actually. It might be the grossest one I've printed, though.
11. Crystal Norton:
At one point, I was managing a restaurant in National Harbor, outside of DC. The restaurant had a lovely private dining room for exclusive events. One night, we provided this space to a party of approximately thirty-five guests. Everything went extremely well over the course of the night and as the party finished up we presented them with the bill.
Naturally, we added on 20% gratuity for the waitstaff. The person in charge of the group looks over the bill and tries to figure out who owes what and when she gets to the bottom she says, "Who ate the gratuity? It's the most expensive thing on here."
"Who ate the gratuity" will never not be funny to me. Not ever.
10. Alice Harper:
I spent a miserable year, post-college, waitressing at a hokey chain restaurant most known for its gravy, mass-produced "vintage" decor, and "quaint" gift shop (licorice, pancake mix, plushy farm-animal toys: that sort of thing). Sundays were our busiest days, but very hit-and-miss with tips. This restaurant attracted the kind of people who think it's okay to forego leaving an actual tip in favor of leaving a pamphlet explaining all of the ways that you, the server, are going to BURN IN HELL unless you REPENT!
So this restaurant was geographically situated in an area that is about 99% Caucasian, population-wise (this becomes relevant). One Sunday, my section is three tables: two 2-tops and one 4-top. Not ideal, but oh well. About an hour into my shift, a co-worker comes up and asks, "D'you want my 8-top?" Obviously, I'm suspicious: no one just gives away an 8-top. I poke my head around the server exit to eye the 8-top, and I see it is a couple with six children. So I ask my co-worker, "What, have you had them before? Are they shitty tippers?" She looks at me like I'm an idiot and says, "I'm not helping those people — do you want the table?" Coworker doesn't even want to swap tables — she just gives me the table.
It's when I'm out there taking the family's (gloriously straightforward) drink order that I realize what just happened: my coworker meant "THOSE people" as in "I'm a racist a-hole 'THOSE people.'" As I'm putting the six milks and two sodas on my tray, a different waitress nudges me in the ribs and says, "Gotta LOOK at them first next time, honey," cackling, as if I've fallen for some kind of "trick" in taking a table of customers who aren't white.
What simultaneously happens over the course of the next 45 or so minutes is this: my co-workers prove themselves to be the most horrible people in existence, and the 8-top family prove themselves to be among the best customers I ever waited on.
Co-workers in back of house: throwing around racist pejoratives for Arabs (the family was Indian). (Editor's Note: Come on! You can't expect racist dicks to be able to tell the difference! That would require way too many functioning brain cells)
Family in front of house: children sit quietly as mother reads off their food orders, father asks if he can make substitutions in one of the breakfasts and seems genuinely thrilled when I say, "Sure!"
Co-workers: "joking" that I should spill coffee on all of them.
Family: by time food is delivered, all six kids have finished their milk cartons; mother orders more milks, I make sure she knows it's not a refillable drink so she'll be charged for six more cartons, and she says it's no problem (unlike most parents, who act as if the world owe their children endless free milk).
Co-workers: tell me I should warn management that the family is going to walk out on their bill.
Family: parents order coffees for themselves and desserts for all 8 people at the table.
Co-workers: are jerks.
Family: stacks up dirty plates, puts all used silverware in a single cup, gathers trash in one spot, and so forth, making busing the table pre-dessert a BREEZE.
Family: asks for boxes to bring home unfinished desserts; ends up with check of about $90.
Co-workers: continue to suck.
So the family pays up at the front and gets up to leave. When I head out to the 8-top to help the busboy, the father is standing by the table with a bill in his hand. He asks if I can make change, which of course I can. He hands me the bill and asks for ten back. Because I'm a painfully honest person, when he hands me a $50 bill, I say, "Oh, sir, you accidentally gave me a fifty," and go to hand it back to him, assuming he meant to give me a twenty. He laughs, says, "not accidentally," and thanks me for the "wonderful meal experience."
Me? I make a $40 tip on a $90 check. Coworkers? Rake in lots of lovely YOU SHALL BURN IN HELL pamphlets. Lesson? If you're a racist A-hole, not only will you fail to make money...you'll burn in hell.
This is one of the few stories that singlehandedly made a subject matter possible (in this case, great customers). It's not hard to figure out why this one made such an impact with readers: racism is endemic to the service industry, and the vast majority of POC customers have had to deal with servers as awful as Alice's co-workers. It's really nice to see people like that get hoisted by their own pitard.
9. Sandra Worthington:
I waited tables at a few different restaurants over a period of four years. I was never the biggest fan of ranch dressing, but waiting tables completely ruined that for me. People get disgusting with ranch. It's never that way with any other dressing. I have so many stories about what I call Ranch Abuse, but there was one family that really takes the ranch-smothered cake.
I was working at a chain steakhouse in a large city in the midwest. There was a family of five that came in every Sunday for lunch. Each one of them needed two salad bowls full of ranch. They put it on everything: the bread, the salad, the entree, the sides. They would even mix it in with their sweet tea.
Sandra submitted a bunch of excellent stories this year (the others probably deserved to at least be in the Honorable Mentions category), but none were better than Ranch Abuse. I still bring this story up whenever I want to freak Isha out.
8. Selma Kane:
I was eighteen or nineteen, working the graveyard shift at a Denny's. Weird shit happened constantly, but this was unique even for Denny's.
One evening, a strange man came in. He was dressed like...well, I can only describe it as looking like a Space Wizard. A hat, dozens of trinkets hanging from various pieces of clothing, glassy-eyed stare, etc. He also had a backpack with a small squeegee sticking out of it. As he approached the counter, I could tell something was up. Suddenly he struck a match and threw something at me. I immediately ducked under the counter, simultaneously realizing he had just thrown a smoke bomb.
He fled the building, and I immediately called the cops. Later, I was told that someone else had seen him trying to put lit firecrackers in people's gas tanks. This happened at around 8 PM — the beginning of my shift.
Space Wizard wasn't done, as it turned out. He came back into the restaurant a couple hours later and headed straight to the restroom, where he remained while I called the police and tried to get a male regular to enter the restroom and ask him to leave the premises.
The police arrived soon after. One entered the men's room while the other guarded the door. Immediately, the first officer exited the bathroom, laughing and saying, "I'm going to give him a minute." Eventually, they took him away and let me know that it had been explained to him that he wasn't allowed in the restaurant again.
Apparently, though, that message was a hard sell. Around midnight, I was doing coffee rounds, and I noticed one of the visible bushes against the window is sort of shaking and rustling. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME. I approached and realized this Moon Wizard was crouching in the bush, looking me square in the eye, and jerking off.
I call the cops AGAIN. They dispatched and surrounded the bush, retrieving the dude. I later found out that the cops that had been there earlier had peeked under the stall when they heard grunting, and had seen only a squeegee and a bottle of baby oil on the ground.
We've referred to him as "Edward Squeegeehands" ever since.
You know you've got some good stories to choose from when an epic saga featuring a main character known as both "Space Wizard" and "Edward Squeegeehands" can only make it to #8.
7. Walter Simmons:
I worked in an upscale Mediterranean place in Baltimore. One night I got a two-top with a woman in her 40's and her younger son. I started talking her through the menu and describing options (standard server script) and finally started talking about our artisan pizzas. She immediately interjected with "NO I can't do pizza! I have an allergy." I obviously inquired as to the type of allergy and how serious it was, to which she responded, "I have a crunchy allergy."
Now, I don't usually lose face, but I'm almost certain I looked, at the very least, deeply perplexed, so she tried to clarify: "Anything crunchy I am allergic to." I assumed she meant she has sensitive teeth or something, but this was a nice place, so I was required to make allergies known on every ticket, which resulted in our executive chef screaming to see me every time I rang some plate of crunchless whatever.
At the end of the meal they order dessert which was a custard, but it had a crispy "tuille" or cracker in it so I warned her, to which she responded, "Crispy is fine, it's crunchy I'm allergic to."
The interesting thing about this story is that it seemed to resonate much more with readers than it did with me. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy the hell out of it, but I never would've put it in the top 10 (and it might not have made the list at all) if not for the fact that when regular commenters talk about their favorite BCO submissions, the "crunchy allergy" is inevitably one of the first stories mentioned. I think it's because every server has a story at least this bizarre, although this is definitely a great example of a customer request so dumb that even Kitchenette commenters with a desperate, all-consuming need to disagree couldn't find a way to defend this woman.
6. Linda Gerhardt:
I worked for a while at a cheese shop in the mail order department. I dealt with a lot of upset people, because that's what tends to happen when you take something that stinks by definition and wrap it in airtight plastic, then put it on the back of a truck for 24 hours, and then somebody opens it. So I was used to talking to people about smells (not something I miss), but one day a woman called and was complaining to me about the cheese "in the white plastic wrapper." I asked her some questions about what the cheese looked like and what the problem was. She described it as a "dark jelly" sort of cheese and her issue was that the flavor was very bland. I asked her to describe the wrapping again (I was looking at her order and had NO idea what she was talking about), and she said it was a white wrapper with our company logo on it in black.
In a horrifying epiphany, I realized she was talking about the ice pack. She cut open the ice pack with scissors, spread the gel from the inside on a cracker, and then called me to complain that it was bland. I quickly put her on hold to determine from our supplier if she needed to call poison control. When I picked back up and explained to her that she had eaten the ice pack but good news, it's non-toxic, she yelled at me for putting her on hold, because she is very busy and doesn't have time to wait on hold. Busy eating ice packs, I guess.
I'll tip my hand here: this is my personal favorite submission of the entire year. Maybe it's not better than any of the five standing above it, but goddamnit I love this submission so fucking much. I love every single line of this story. You may not have won the best story of the year, Linda, but you definitely won my heart.
5. Juliet Robertson:
When I was in my early 20's I worked at a restaurant chain attached to a huge mall which closed at 1 AM. One night about fifteen minutes before closing time a man came into the empty restaurant by himself. It was just our manager, me, and one other guy working on the floor. We had to serve him because we weren't technically closed yet.
I should mention at this point that he was wearing an all-white matching track suit which he had taken a black Sharpie marker to the back of and written "WHITE TIGER" across his shoulders.
Anyway, I played a quick game of Rock Paper Scissors with the other server and, luckily, won, so I didn't have to serve him. I sat back on the bar side, watched my co-worker take his order. My co-worker then came back to the kitchen and, laughing, said that White Tiger had ordered for himself, then pointed across the table and ordered a "pizza for Bob, Mike was going to get the wings, Larry was having a Caesar salad." I want to stress again: there was ONE PERSON at this table. Despite that, White Tiger was in full conversation with people who weren't there the entire time he was in the restaurant. When the food came out he continued talking animatedly while reaching across the table and eating all the food himself.
We all watched him from the bar side. As we shut the music off and turned the lights all the way on, we hoped he would get the hint and wrap it up so we could go home. As soon as the food was almost gone, he started getting quiet and shifty. My manager called it: this guy was going to try a Dine and Dash in an empty restaurant. He got up and tried exiting the building around the bar but our manager cut him off. He simply said he was looking for the bathroom, which he was then directed to. When my manager turned around, White Tiger made a mad dash for the courtyard and took off into the front entrance. This is where my co-worker cut him off. White Tiger then pulled a black sock filled with pennies out of his pocket and swung it around his head like a cowboy with a lasso, then took a swing at the co-worker who'd been his server. When my co-worker easily backed away and dodged it, White Tiger threw the sack at the manager and took off running across the parking lot.
My manager tripped and fell during the chase, but my co-worker managed to catch up and tackle White Tiger to the ground. That's when mall security conveniently showed up. They called the police, who were there almost immediately, and arrested White Tiger for assaulting my manager with a sock filled with pennies. While the cop car was driving away from us he stuck his head out the window and was spelling out websites, yelling it out all the way down the street: "W-W-W-dot-W-A-N-T-T-O-K-N-O-W..."
The funniest part is, we got to watch the surveillance video of the "assault" up in the mall security's office afterwards. When they played it back, they were so fired up, giving us the blow by blow: "He's about to throw the sack. Here it comes, here it comes! Aaawww! There it is."
No one pressed charges.
I remember staring at White Tiger when it came into my inbox, lost in awed wonder. It was definitely the earliest of any top ten submission. There are so many funny aspects to White Tiger that I'm not even sure which is the best part.
4. Alton Stauffer:
When I was 15, I had my first job, bussing tables at a classy little BYOB cafe in South Jersey. This was around 1996, so "classy" meant decent food, white tablecloths and folded napkins, and nice music. My duties as a busboy were to clear tables, fill water, and try not to annoy the waiters and waitresses who were several years older than me.
So we had this rehearsal dinner on a Saturday night that took up a whole room, and they were Russians. While most people brought wine, these guys started tearing into the Smirnoff like it was going out of style. And everyone — Mom, Dad, Grandma, the kids — all proceeded to get belligerently drunk.
Now, just keep in mind that it was 1996, not long after the fall of Iron Curtain, so some of these guys still remembered waiting in line all day for bread. Someone managed to nudge the bread basket into one of the fancy-schmancy tea lights, and — poof — the polyester napkin catches on fire. This is what I imagine happened, but really, I just turned around to see a flaming bread basket. Everyone — the wait staff and the whole drunken party — stops and watches in awe as Dad grabbed the basket, threw it on the floor, and stomped out the flame. He then reached down, picked up the loaf, held it high like it was the sword in the stone, and with everyone's eyes glued to him, he told them, "I save bread!"
Well, they lost their shit harder than anyone I've ever seen. Howls of laughter. The rest of the night, they can't get over it. "He save bread," they keep telling each other.
Such is the great Melting Pot of the USA.
Only one phrase from any BCO submissions became more of a running Kitchenette inside joke than "he save bread" (and don't worry, we'll get there).
3. Kinja user Llamanun:
I worked at a children-themed restaurant as a teenager — I got the job the day I turned sixteen. I had a friend who worked at this particular children-themed restaurant, hosting birthday parties — which, from my friend's description, mostly involved handing the kids tokens and letting them into the ball crawl while the parents drowned their sorrows in pitcher after pitcher of shit beer and then gave you big tips for taking the kids off their hands for two hours. I show up for the interview, thinking that I'll be put on birthday party duty also, so I'm surprised to have the manager ask me how tall I am as her very first question. I was only about 5'1" at the time (I had a two-inch growth spurt later in my teens, thank goodness), and I was ... well, let's say "busty", since that's polite. This point becomes important later.
I got hired as the mascot. Yes, I was Chuck E. Cheese. I had NO training, NO preparation, NOTHING. Just, "Here's your giant smelly suit, your comically oversized feet and hands, and a costume head that you can't see shit out of. Go."
It was horrible. To a two year old kid, even a five-foot-tall Chuck E. is still a giant rat, so half the time kids just started screaming at the top of their lungs when they saw you. Everyone else, for some reason, wanted to TALK to you, and Chuck E. isn't allowed to talk. You can nod your giant costume head yes or no, but that's it. Chuck E. is supposed to have a handler that stays with them at all times to assist in these situations, and also for when small children come up too close to you and you can't see them out of the shitty holes in the costume and you trip over them. But seriously, the most common question Chuck E. Cheese gets asked is, "Are you a boy or a girl?"
So for two or three months, I put up with screaming kids, drunk parents, sweaty costumes, shuffling around and tripping over my own feet. I did away events where I had to be outside in summer heat for three hours in costume, without a break. Then came the troop of Boy Scouts.
I'm not entirely sure how old they were, but I would classify them as pre-pubescent. They were obnoxious from the very beginning, jumping into the ball crawl with a ferocity that made the toddlers wet themselves (and cleaning a pee-soaked ball crawl after closing was everyone's least favorite job, except for mine, because at least I didn't have to wear the costume while doing it). So at one point a cabal of the Boy Scouts approached me and my handler, and started harassing both of us. The question they most wanted to know, of course, was, "Chuck E., are you a boy or a girl?" My handler tried all the normal deflections for that question, but they weren't having it — they wanted to know, even if they had to resort to experimental science to figure it out. So one enterprising young deviant ran up to me, hugged me VERY tightly — and simultaneously groped my chest through the costume.
He proudly returned to his fellow Lords of the Flies and proclaimed, "Chuck E.'s a girl! And she's got tits like THIS!" making the (in)appropriate gesture most commonly associated with such a statement.
I was immediately inundated with over-hormonal Boy Scouts, all trying to "hug me" — by which they meant, cop a feel through the sweaty, unwashed costume fur.
If it ended there that might have been bad enough, but it got worse. Later that evening, as the troop leaders no doubt were at the bottom of their pitchers, I was back out on the floor, but my handler had disappeared. This particular handler had a habit of doing that — it turned out that he was fooling around with the manager, so they were probably screwing in her office when this happened. Anyway, I was in a far room of the restaurant when the Boy Scouts returned. If it had been possible for them to have ominous music following them around, this would have been a situation where it would have been appropriate — they were standing between me and the only door to the room.
They cornered me, and then they did something I did not expect: they lifted the head off the costume. They weren't actually interested in what I looked like, though — their goal was the act of rat decapitation. They took the head, and they started running around the room, and then the entire restaurant, with the giant costume head, yelling, "We beheaded Chuck E. Cheese! We beheaded Chuck E. Cheese!"
I didn't know what to do, and I didn't want to walk through the restaurant with my head sticking out of the top of the costume, so I panicked and did what I thought was the right thing: I pulled the costume torso up as high as I could and ran back to the "backstage" area. I didn't stop to think that to small children, it would look like the Boy Scouts had just killed Chuck E., and that Chuck E. was now running around with his head literally cut off. I also didn't stop to think that without eye holes to see through, I wouldn't be able to avoid the small children who were so adept at being obstacles even when I COULD see them. So the restaurant was filled with the screams and wails of small children who were either traumatized by a headless Chuck E flinging himself through the restaurant OR by being kicked by Chuck E. Cheese inadvertently.
The denouement of the evening came when the manager called me into her office ... and fired me. Yes, I was the one that got fired — even though I was the one who was groped and beheaded, I got fired because, as the manager said, I "let them."
Taken out of context, the image of a headless Chuck E. Cheese barreling through a roomful of small children, knocking them aside like ninepins has to be the single funniest mental snapshot BCO gave us this year. For this story to rank third, it had to be a hell of a strong field, and man, it was — as the next story proves.
2. Dustin Hucks:
I worked in food service for three long, awful months in my mid-teens, and I would happily cabbage patch into traffic with a sparkler hanging out of my ass if that were the only other option outside of serving other human beings a meal for money.
I was kitchen staff at an Italian fast food chain in West Texas, which is exactly as shitty and depressing as that sounds. Horrible, greasy pizzas that tasted like they were sauced with Pixy Stix, baked ziti that came out of the tray in one rubbery piece if you forked it, super jizzy-looking Fettucine Alfredo. Everything, so gross, except for the breadsticks. They were pretty alright, because how hard is it to not fuck up breadsticks?
I did a few things at the restaurant, including pizza-making, dishwashing and general prep if I did mornings, but my main thing was making the breadsticks, which consisted of drowning a tray of two dozen frozen sticks in a mixture of melted butter, garlic powder, and salt with a paint brush, and shoving them in an oven. I did this for eight to ten hours.
We had the same policy of unlimited breadsticks with your meal as Olive Garden, with the wonky twist that these came no matter what you ordered. Come in for a piece of our freezer-burned cheesecake? Have all of the breadsticks. Order a side salad and nothing else? Breadsticks! Maybe a slice of cheese pizza from the kid's menu because that's a thing management allowed dickhead adults to do? Put these breadsticks inside of you until you can't do that thing anymore. Just wanna fountain drink? Sit down! Breadsticks. For the mouth part of your face. As long as you were dining in, there would be some poor, hollow-eyed teenager hovering nearby with a giant basket full of breadsticks and a pair of tongs silently wishing you death as soon as it was evident the breadstick rule was going to be abused. And man, did customers ever, and gleefully.
I'd always simply been a supplier for those poor kids, and after a few weeks of absorbing garlic butter in my shirt, apron, pants, shoes and invariably my skin, I could hardly stomach the thought of eating one, much less walking around with a basket of piping hot ones wafting in my face. So, I was legit horrified when one of our approximately three hundred and forty one associate managers walked into the kitchen fifteen minutes to closing and was all, "Hey D, we need you on breadstick duty. We've got a church crowd just walked in."
Our other policy, no matter how slow the night, was if a customer walked in the door even thirty seconds before someone had the presence of mind to lock it, we're not shutting down shop until they're satisfied and out the door. People also took advantage of this. Associate manager bro-guy gave me a spare shirt (seriously, you get so gross in the kitchen) and told me to snag a new apron so I'd look semi-presentable, and stuck a visor in my hand, because handing people food in restaurants often means outdoor headwear indoors for no reason ever logically explained in the history of ever.
I peek out of the kitchen through the little window we stick finished pizzas through to the cashier folk and saw three dozen people, all of which I knew. See, in West Texas, at least where I grew up, if you want to interact with your peer group in any significant way, you go to church. For me, church was youth group every Wednesday night (I picked up work shifts every other Wednesday), which was basically church with minor supervision in the form of a cooOoOOoooky youth pastor that was totally down and hip to our jive and cooly fresh yo, and understood our young feels, and, "...word, dog. I get you. I GET you, and Jesus gets you. Isn't that so dope and slammin'? Let's pray."
Even though many of the guys my age that went were legitimately way stoked about god and stuff, even the most devout couldn't pretend the fact that we were all teenagers, our world was boners, and the healthy ratio of girls to dudes there was rather high wasn't a major factor in going. I was pretty much out the door on believing already, so I was attending on the futile hope that maybe someone cute wouldn't notice how debilitatingly awkward I was and would maybe let me touch their butt in the hall or something.
So, Super-Relatable Friend-Guy Youth Pastor™ and a couple of adults had packed up the church vans and taken everyone out for horrible Italian at my poopy chain restaurant, and I was about to serve breadsticks to everyone I knew for however long thirty people can handle consuming sticks of bread. I looked like a barely presentable grease monster after nine hours in a dirty kitchen, which coupled with the fact that I was über-greasy by design because sixteen, and suddenly stink-sweating because of anxiety, and just...fuck, man. I was pretty close to peak gross.
I spent the next two hours not only serving breadsticks while they ate their meals, but due to our associate manager being a leaking canoe full of emulsified dick-meats and refusing to actually do any work, pulling double-duty prepping frozen trays in the back (my colleagues helped, but they still had end-of-night prep to deal with so they could go home) and putting them in the oven.
The youth pastor wanted to chat me up every time I approached his table, my friends were jackasses because that's what teenage boys are, as I'm almost positive some of them absolutely made themselves sick eating breadsticks simply to experience the power of making another human being do their bidding. Every single girl I thought was cute was there, and thus I remained perpetually mortified every second I was in their sight, and thus increasingly stinky and nervous.
And again, two hours. Two. Exactly one hour and fifteen minutes longer than people that aren't evil would have stayed, as anyone that truly believed in our Lord and Savior Jesus Heffernan Christ and his teachings would have looked at our hours on the door, and been all, "Let's order to go," or, "Let's go bother the nice people at Olive Garden." Instead, because they were all collectively the devil, they pretty much killed their meals in thirty minutes and spent the rest of the time casually chatting, pushing me closer to my inevitable atheism, and eating almost forty trays of breadsticks before they called it a night.
And there was nothing to show for the trouble either. Being breadstick guy isn't being a server, and even then most meals are picked up at the counter. Fast food, remember? Youth pastor gave me an awkward side-hug (it was awkward because he hugged me at all, but also because it was clear he didn't want to get any of my labors on their behalf on him), said something something Jesus something something god bless something something bad old white guy joke, and left.
I quit that night. Both youth group, and my job.
No surprise here. Dustin's story is the ultimate example of a decent story made infinitely more entertaining by an engaging writer. I still occasionally refer to things as being "for the mouth part of your face."
But as good as Dustin's story was (and it was wonderful), there is one story that could not be topped. This is the story that forced me to break my "no including stories in the comments from the week prior" rule, because I could not possibly pass this up. Long-time readers already know which story they're about to read, so without further ado, here is the story that gave Kitchenette its tagline.
1. Kinja user NerdyBirdy:
In 1989, assassins attempted to kill Nicky Scarfo Jr., a member of the Lucchese crime family, while he was eating dinner at Dante & Luigi's in Philadelphia. It's an authentic Italian restaurant that has been around since 1900. There are still bullet holes in the walls, which was apparently a big draw for people.
So when my sister worked there a few years back, telling the story of how the bullet holes got there was part of the job. She gave her little spiel about the mobsters and the assassins, but couldn't finish because the customer literally started having a panic attack. He was terrified that he was basically sitting in a shooting gallery and that mobsters with tommy guns were going to come pouring out of the shadows to murder them all before their entrees arrived. He was ranting and raving about how they were all just fish in a barrel and it was only a matter of time before the shooting started.
The manager came out and tried to calm him down, apparently asked him if he really thought anyone had any reason to kill him. His response: "Well, you never know. I'm a very important person. I sell monogrammed coffee thermoses."
My sister comped him a free drink and called him a cab. Better safe than sorry.
Congratulations, NerdyBerdy. You gave us the best BCO submission of 2014. A special heartfelt thank you to everyone who submitted any story this year, whether or not I got around to using it (and believe me, I have a ton that definitely will make an appearance in the coming months). You guys not only make this job a joy to do, you make it possible to do at all.
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Behind Closed Ovens" in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
Image via Brent Hofacker (aka the Michael Jordan of stock food photography)/Shutterstock, and also via my desire to see how many of you I can get to eat Chicken Parmesan for lunch today.