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  • Writer's pictureSam Salerno

Turn Annoying into Good

It's late and I've had a long day, so this one won't be too long.

It's more of a "see-I-told-you-so" to what I posted yesterday about people skills being the most important thing you can learn/master.

But this is one of the crazier situations where being a people person really paid off.

So here's the story:

At Abalonetti's (the restaurant I work at), we stop serving dinner at 9pm. Might sound early for some people, but it's kind of a mom-and-pop shop so it's just the norm.

But when a party of 18 made a reservation for 7:45pm and didn't walk in the door until 8:52pm, I knew that I was going to be tacking on an extra hour and half to my already pretty long dinner shift.


Not only that, but they were 18 Filipinos, which, if you have any previous insight into how fun, boisterous, and loud Filipinos can be, then you know that 18 is a pretty rambunctious party.

And rambunctious it was.

36 oysters, 3 fried calamari platters, 3 siciliano calamari platters, and 3 whole steamed dungenous crabs...just for the appetizers.

Soon, as I went around the table taking orders, I gained a new found appreciation for the sharing nature of Filipinos. No entree was for just one person; it was for at least three. And those three were scattered up and down the long table. At the end of the night, I don't think it would be farfetched to say that every person had a small portion of everyone else's meal.

Personally, I don't like sharing seafood.

But then I'm not Filipino.

Every shared dish called for a new plate and bowl. Every drink needed to be filled, refilled, and filled again. Ice water was too cold. Hot water was too hot. Beer was too flat. Utensils disappeared. It was nuts.

By the grace of God I pushed through with a smile on my face (and the motivating thought of the gratuity tip in the back of my mind).

The food was being cleared, and I thought we were done. It had only been an hour and I thought I was in the clear. But then the grandfather figure, an older, quiet-yet-assertive gentleman (who also played the grandpa card and wanted to take pictures with our younger female servers before the got off work) revealed a large brown paper bag and called for 10 scotch glasses.

I don't know if bringing your own liquor is in line with the restaurant policy, but out came the glasses and the bottle was pulled from the bag.

Johnnie Walker: Blue Label.

I'm not a huge whiskey drinker, but I know quality when I see one, and this...

Market price has it going for upwards of $180 a bottle.

I struggle paying the $1.99 for Pabst Blue Ribbon at the gas station. To say this whiskey is a treat is an understatement.

As it was poured and the toasts were made, I continued cleaning the table, smiling and being polite as I awkwardly squeezed my arm through an animated crowd to grab the mounds of crab shells and leftover french fries.

Then I heard it: "To Sam!"

The glasses lifted towards the ceiling as the group laughingly thanked me for serving them. I laughed with them, admiring the label, and telling them that they made a pretty good choice when it came to good ol' Johnnie.

"Here, have a glass!"

Oh, my heart.

I laughed, "Don't tempt me, don't tempt me. If my manager wasn't around I would gladly join you. Can't drink on the job."

"C'mon, just one while he's not looking. You've been a great server to us. Drink!"

"I can't! Catch me off-shift though and I'll take you up on it in a heartbeat!"

"Well, we're done...which means you're done, yes?"

The table was still littered with plates and shells. "Mmmm...almost."

"Well how about we leave you a full glass and you can have it later?"

"It won't be the same, but if you leave it, I'll gratefully drink it," I beamed.

I thought he was joking – you know, one of those tipsy promises you make but don't keep because no one remembers it? But as they left and I shook their hands, thanking them for coming and graciously accepting their tips, the grandson (I'm assuming) pulled me aside and pointed at the table.

"That glass is for you, and the rest of the bottle as well. And here," he slipped a $50 in my hand, "this is for being a great server to us tonight. We hope we see you again."

With much fanfare, the wildest party I've ever served left the restaurant.

And as we locked the doors and hit the lights, I enjoyed one of the smoothest glasses of whiskey I've ever had, and took the rest of the bottle home with me to enjoy.

Here's the Lesson:

I could have been sour at the timing of it all. Expecting to get off work at 9:30 but realizing you'd be there til at least 11 is never fun.

I could have been annoyed at the neediness of this party. Changing out silverware for the fourth time to keep from mixing the tomato coulis from the salmon filet and the alfredo from the linguine is terribly irksome.

I could have been apprehensive at them breaking the rules by bringing their own alcohol. (Fortunately my manager was cool with it, but's against the rules).

At the end of the night though, when everyone was leaving, they all had smiles on their faces and were grateful that I had been there for them (even if I kept checking my watch the entire time I was there).

Treat people well, and there's a solid chance you'll get treated well in return. Actually, I should say there's a much higher chance of being treated's not always guaranteed, unfortunately.

And even if you don't get a quarter bottle of expensive whiskey and a freaking fat tip, you'll at least know that you played a key role in someone having a great time.

And you'll sleep like a rock.

Like I'm about to do.

Right now.


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