Server Disasters #1:
“Be right back. Going to get a broom”
Nevermind that I, at the first table I ever served (a mother, father and their infant in a tall wooden high chair) dropped the first drink I ever ordered — a bottle of Corona at a Long Island steakhouse — onto the baby. Luckily it crashed directly and quite loudly on the wooden arm of the highchair and missed the young, impressionable noggin by just a few inches. I should have taken this as a sign.
After quitting the steakhouse, which was the location for quite a few hilarious moments, I, Justin, an 18 year old high school senior, got a job at a Long Island catering hall. It was a typical suburban place, above average of the high end variety. Lots of statues (faux), lush carpeting (of unappealing color) surrounding a large square shiny (typical) wood dance floor. I’m sure many dj’s have had nightmares about such places.
A large variety of events were held at the venue. Weddings, sweet 16’s, bar/batmitzvahs etc. This particular story was at a wedding. Just a few shy of 400 guests.
Each server had a section. A section, if you don’t know, is what determines how many and which tables you have to take care of. In catering, at leastat this particular place, every server took sole ownership of their section. If you needed help, you had to ask another server to help you. Things were done in a very large, assembly like manner. Food all comes out of the kitchen at once, or generally if it’s a very large event in halves. One side of the room first, then the other quickly follows.
My section was 2 tables. Each table had 15 guests. Two tables, of 15 people. Thirty people. I’m stressing this number because it directly correlates to the amount of champagne glasses that would be sitting on my large, black plastic tray for me to bring to the guests as the best man began his toast.
The room was quiet and Brian (or whatever his name was) began his speech. Everyone was attentive and focused on this very special, once in a lifetime moment.
Each server, with their glasses filled and balanced delicately on their trays, began to put the glasses down in front of each guest, so they would be able to toast and cheer all of the glorious and hilarious anecdotes and stories that Brian had to offer about his absolute best friend Dave.
I had made a connection with a mid 30’s bald gentleman at the pseudo head of the first table of 15 and we had exchanged some witty banter, so I decided to place his glass down first. Also, to clarify, I’m quite tall. 6’7’’. I tell you this, dear reader, because as I placed the first glass down with my right hand and tilted my left hand forward (the hand holding the tray with 29 glasses of champagne still on it), the glasses began to slide. Starting slowly but with increasing speed and from such a great height, they all fell off the tray. As all 29 glasses cascaded down onto his shiny bald head, 3 breaking, the liquid bursting out of broken glasses in addition to those still intact the entire room of hundreds turned to see what this disastrous sound could possibly be.
When I told you the room was quiet during the speech, I was telling the truth. But after the dust settled, after each crystal of broken glass and shimmery bulb of champagne set into the carpet and clothes of said bald gentleman and his surroundings, the only way to describe that kind of silence was deafening. Heads turned, mouths gaped, eyes wide. The entire room was staring directly at me.
The first thing to break the silence, was my colleague Robbie, an inappropriately tan Long Island boy with a barbed wire tattoo (probably) around his arm, loudly whispering, “Holy sh**”!
Frantic, I immediately began apologizing. Head shaking in all directions, body squirming, looking for something to help, or validate that in fact, it was all a dream. It wasn’t. I surveyed my situation, quickly and made a decision.
“Sir, I am so, so, so sorry. I’ll be right back. I’m going to get a broom.”
I did not return.
I quickly left the dining room and went to my locker. I stuffed my plain clothes in a gym bag, made a quick scout of my surroundings, walked swiftly to my car, a Mitsubishi Galant. Gold with a blue pinstripe. I started the car and drove away.
Third-eye Blinds “Semi Charmed Life,” blared on the speakers. I still know all the words.