The very rich can afford to give offense wherever they go.
– Elizabeth Bennett, BBC’s Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series.
It’s always the men.
The women might bitch about the food or the service. But it’s always the men who throw the curveballs.
The eve of Thanksgiving is the biggest drinking night in the United States. I greet my corner booth and ask them what they’d like to start off with. When the youngest woman orders a Blue Moon, I card her. She’s thirty, but we’re supposed to card anyone who looks under thirty. The rest of the table is obviously older, but when another woman orders an IPA, her white-haired husband tells me, “You should card her.” And, what can I say? If I don’t card her, it’s an insult. If I do card her, it’s embarrassing because everyone knows that I know she doesn’t need to be carded.
Flustered, I card her. She protests to her husband, who is grinning. I let it drop. I tell her she’s beautiful (because she is) and hope she doesn’t think I’m making fun of her.
Bill: $ 63.36
Tip: $ 12.00
Total: $ 75.36
Tables 8 & 9
It’s a Friday night, and I have a party of eight. They order a second round of drinks, and just when I’ve turned to head to the bar, one of the men grabs my arm and says, “Hey, you know who you look like? Like the girl from the Addams’ family!” I laugh and escape, but when I come back, he won’t let it go. “You know, you really look like that girl from the Addams family. Do you know the show? She’s pretty. What’s her name…Tuesday…Wednesday…”
Awkwardly, I thank him for a compliment I didn’t want and hurry to my other, neglected tables.
(Later, I googled Wednesday Addams. Had I really emulated her, my customer wouldn’t have dared compliment me.)
Tip: $ 30.00
Total: $ 179.52
“How are you?” I cheerfully ask a table of two. “Fine,” the man says. And, then, as an after thought, “I’m OLD and FAT.”
He is. But what can I say? I kind of laugh and move on to why I’m really there. “What can I get you to start off with, sir?” He wants water and a gallon of iced tea. “Sir, we don’t have a cup that big, but we do have free refills,” I try to be polite, unsure if he wants to win the award for “Most Obnoxious Customer” or if he’s just trying to be funny.
The only word the woman speaks during the whole exchange is “water” when I ask her what she wants to drink.
Bill: $ 47.78, w/ Groupon: $7.78
Tip: $ 9.50
Total: $ 17.28
Tables 15, 16, & 17
It’s the middle of the week, but for some reason, ten or fifteen guys—they always keep coming and going—decide they want to sit and drink and drink and drink. One of them is ordering maybe his fourth pint of beer, and I’m looking into his watery blue eyes to see how much he can handle. “I really like your glasses,” he tells me. “Thank you!” I say, hoping he doesn’t notice this intense staring contest. “Can you take them off?” he asks, leaning forward. I freeze, still trying to decide if he’s drunk.
“I’m sorry sir,” I begin with an apology because I can’t tell a customer to back off, “if I take them off, I won’t be able to see anything.” He doesn’t believe me or understand why I won’t take my glasses off for him. I move on to the next guy.
Bill: $ 336.89
Tip: $ 75.00
Total: $ 401.89
The more they drink, the more they call me “sweetie” or “hun.” I grit my teeth into a smile, reminding myself that this must be absolutely nothing compared to Hooters.
Still, I find myself in a man’s world where my customers tip generously and say whatever they want.
 Because English majors cheat too, sometimes.
Sabrina Lee majored in English and French and graduated from Calvin College in 2013. After a couple of gap years, she’s back in school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pursuing a MA/PhD in English.You can usually find her reading and drinking tea—and, once in a while, ballroom dancing.