Once upon a time in a make-believe land not far away, there was a small town known as “Sillyville.”
A quaint and cozy little community – like The Villages meets the Twilight Zone. Sillyville was noted for having the “largest transient population” in our nation. Although people from all over the globe visit this unique location by the masses year-round, only a few will actually admit that they’ve ever even visited it more or less live there.
I, however, take pride in being a full-time resident, and I aspire to someday be mayor. For now, I will just go on my merry way, working as a waitress in the only eatery in town, where I have been happily employed for what seems like a lifetime.
With that said:
During my first year in college, I started working at a Friendly’s in a mall in Rockaway, New Jersey. It was my first job serving breakfast because the opening shift was the first cut when it slowed down during lunch. This gave me plenty of time to drive across town and make it to the community college in time for my late day classes. It was a crazy schedule, going all day and all night, but I was on a mission to complete my father’s task of graduating with my associate’s degree from a local college before I could transfer to any college of my choice (my transcripts permitting). Sure, I had to wake up every morning before the rooster crowed, but if it got me my ticket out of snowy winters and temperatures under 80-degrees, I was all for it.
Fast forward to my second day without a “trainer,” and I am setting up the line with one of the prep cooks/dishwashers. Both of us were focused on our tasks, but we were friendly enough that when we did pass each other several times throughout the first hour of our shifts, we’d at least smile at one another. I would also say something each time we made eye contact because that’s just what I do.
Barbara and I had met during my week of training. To be honest, other than the manager and the morning cook who were both men, none of the other female employees had even made eye contact with me during my first five shifts.
Apparently, most of the staff were older ladies that had worked for Friendly’s restaurants for years, alternating stores to train new staff while new stores opened nationwide. Sadly, when someone stopped working for the company she was required to turn in her uniform. Yes, those glamorous, thigh-high, white, and blue checkered dresses, that zippered up the back, with the oversized white collar and the white apron that ALWAYS looked dirty had to be repurposed to the next lucky employee to be hired. Unless, of course, all of the previous employees were full-size women and I needed a “kid-size” dress.
I had to have two uniforms specially ordered and shipped from the corporate office during the week I trained. At the time I looked fresh out of middle school rather than high school. Because of this, I got away with wearing slacks and a polo shirt until it came in. Again, I’m an 18-year old college brat that these “Aunt Bees” already don’t like, but now an instant grudge has been formed against the “new girl!” You can only imagine how angry these same ladies got when they left me in charge and unsupervised, and I dropped the ball completely.
Back to that day. It was about an hour into our breakfast shift and everyone who had ordered pancakes was complaining about the batter tasting sour, and they were all asking to change their orders. Unfortunately, the kitchen all backed up trying to re-cook half the dining room’s orders while trying to figure out what was causing the pancakes to be off. The batter was fresh. When they checked it, everything seemed fine. They even made a small pancake to taste to ensure its quality. However, it wasn’t until a customer complained about her French Toast that the kitchen knew something other than batter had gone astray.
It turns out, when I set up the syrup that morning in the steam table like I had been trained to do so all the waitresses could fill their kettles as needed for their section, I unknowingly filled the tin with COFFEE flavored syrup (used to make milkshakes and floats) instead of the maple syrup. It seems the boxes were next to one another in the storage closet, and I never even noticed that there was more than one kind of syrup on the shelf that morning. I just remember the shelf that Miss May, the head waitress/trainer showed me. I grabbed the box, drained the bag into the metal soup bucket, put the lid on it, and placed it on the steam table. I remembered to make sure that there was water in the steam table like Miss May stressed every day of my training. Now, did I check the label of the syrup box before I served it? No. I did not.
Everyone was in a scramble by the time we finally realized that the odd taste customers were complaining about was not coming from anything that the kitchen had prepared, instead, it was from the condiment they were all pouring over their freshly cooked food. Luckily for me, Barbara, who had worked in that restaurant for several years, was not overly fond of the wait staff ladies. She was always being snubbed by the servers, who somehow thought they were better than her because they worked on the floor and she worked in the kitchen. Because she was fond of me though, she was kind enough to discard the box that the syrup came in when she noticed what I had done, making sure no one connected me with the costly and time-consuming error I had made. Instead, they all just thought the “maple” syrup had gone bad. Thank goodness no one was smart enough to just taste it, but who wants to put something in their mouth that a couple of dozen people already said tasted like crap!
Just goes to show, sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug!
Laugh on. Peace out!
Lisa DeMarco is a waitress at Billy’s Cafe and a columnist for Villages-News.com