Tag Archives: restaurant

That Time a Lady Told me to Smile

7 Apr

I had a weird moment last night at work. It was this response to an interaction with this woman where I was like

Wow, Rebekah, you’ve changed!

but then at the same time

Ew, lady, aren’t we supposed to be on the same team here?

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recount the story and then I am going to go ahead and address these two simultaneous reactions that I had to it. Ready? Break!

Part One: The Story

It is French Quarter Fest here in New Orleans. Anyone who has been here for any sort of fest at all knows that shit is cray. There are people everywhere. There is confusion. Costumes. Glitter. Music. Tourists. More zombies* than normal. It’s a whole thing. Not a bad thing, but a thing. To add to the drama let me inform you that I work in the French Quarter which, if your powers of deductive reasoning are on point, means that I work in the exact area where the French Quarter Fest is occurring. That means that my bar is busy busy busy.

I walked in last night at 5pm to a busier-than-average Thursday night. And the thing about a busier-than-average night in my place is that we have “steps of service.” The steps of service at the spot I worked at in Brooklyn basically involved getting drinks out as quickly as possible while avoiding the limes and clipboards that miffed customers could potentially hurl at your head. No joke. At this place the steps are more involved and less potentially dangerous. I am telling you all this just so that you know that getting people food and drinks at the spot I work at now is something of a process.

Alright so now imagine this. There we are during dinner on a busier-than-average Thursday night and all of a sudden me and one of my coworkers realize

Hey, why hasn’t any of the food we ordered come out? It’s been a minute.

And by a minute we meant like 45. We then come to find out that the printer in the kitchen has stopped working and they didn’t get any of the tickets. So this might lead one to ask ones self

Self, there is a full restaurant out there and yet there are no tickets coming through the printer. Has this city declared a moratorium on food or is something amiss?

But I don’t think anyone asked themselves that. Or maybe they did, I don’t know. But either way they didn’t keep the bar in the loop and we had two ladies on a 45 minute wait for a salad and some shrimp. Anyway, I was in the midst of discussing this fiasco with my manager when I heard from the other side of the bar a very curt and impatient

Hell-loooooooo.

I looked over to see a blonde lady staring at me with what I can only describe as crazy eyes. You know the eyes.

Me: Hi.
Lady: Gesticulates wildly to the space in front of her.
Me: What can I do for you?
Lady: Well, we just got here and….. (gives me a meaningful look that invited me to read her mind but really just made her look even crazier.)
Me: Here’s a drink menu. Would you like food also?
The lady looks at her husband and they share a communal huff and make moves to get up. I shrug my shoulders and take the menu back and go back to the conversation about the broken ticket printer in the kitchen which I was in the middle of having when she sassed me in the first place.
Lady: Smile.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady: Smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile. You would make a lot more money if you smiled. Mo-ney. Smiiii-llleee. (All the while she is using her hands to demonstrate what a smile the size of Texas might look like and staring at me as if I had somehow committed the largest offense ever.)

They then left. But not after telling me that they live in the city and would never be back to this restaurant ever again if their life depended on it. I shed a silent tear. And then I went back to doing my job. Meanwhile, all the people around this couple were shocked and could not understand what had just happened. I told them I also couldn’t understand it. They said they thought I was nice. I agreed. One guy said he thought they came in with a bad attitude. I said he was probably right. We all laughed and laughed. And then we carried on with our evenings, largely unaffected by the bad attitude cloud that had momentarily descended on the bar.

Part Two: I’ve Changed!

Have you ever had some big experience and then afterwards noticed a large change in yourself? This is totally stupid but when I came back from my year abroad I noticed that, as a result of the countless hours spent in various modes of transportation, sometimes for hours and hours longer than expected, I was completely unfazed by being stuck in traffic or being on long car rides. This is still the case all these years later. I used to get a little impatient but now I’m like

Eh. Whatever. I’m sitting here.

In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a big thing but it certainly does make the amount of traveling I do significantly easier. AND I think it makes me a better car partner. So anyway, in the past if I had an experience like the one with the lady, I would have gone down this whole rabbit hole of emotion. I would have analyzed every single second of our interaction and tried to figure out what exactly I had done to cause her to behave like such an asshole. But sometimes, people are just assholes. Or, they behave like assholes in a specific moment for no real reason. And sometimes there is nothing you do to cause it and nothing you can do to prevent it and so your only solution is to shrug your shoulders and be like

Alright cool what’s next.

And that’s just what I did. I sort of figured if they wanted to be Bad Attitude Bears all around town that was on them and I certainly didn’t need to let it effect the rest of my night or the service I provided to other people. So, fuck ’em. I hope they went home and stewed in their own unhappiness rather than raining it down upon the rest of us people just out trying to have a good time or make a buck.

Part Three: Teammates? No?

I should have learned this already following the presidential election but a lot of white women suck. And beyond that, all us women are not on the same team. Okay, fine. But here’s the thing. Men tell me to smile a lot. A LOT. I’ll be walking down the street and hear some dude be all

C’mon, honey, it’s not that bad. Smile.

Or

You’d look a lot better if you’d smile.

I find that super offensive. It very well might be that bad. And maybe I don’t feel like smiling. But either way shut the fuck up my face is not your concern. Basically every woman I have ever spoken to about it also finds it offensive. The thing about it is I know a lot of women and none of them, not a single one, goes about life with a smile plastered on her face at all times. And I get it, work is different, especially when you work in service. You have to smile more. It makes people feel welcome and people who feel welcome have a better time and tip better. Yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing about it is that I smile at work a lot. I smile so much that some of the dudes in the kitchen call me sunshine. I smile so much that when the barback heard that some lady told me to smile he looked at me and said,

You? Jesus. I think you should smile less.

And so, yeah, I know we all don’t see life the same way but, come on lady! Get a clue! It’s like, I expect men to be condescending assholes and tell me how to live my life down to my every facial expression. I don’t like it but I expect it. I do not, however, expect it to come from a woman who has most likely had a similar experience and felt disempowered or spoken down to or whatever. It’s like, way to drink the koolaid, bitch. Way to just swallow, full stop, normalized sexism and misogyny and throw it in the face of someone 15 years younger than you because you didn’t get a menu and a glowing smile the very second your ass hit the barstool. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t willing to ignore your impatience and rudeness and discern exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I’m pretty good at my job but I am not a magician.

***

And with that, I must away. another 3 days of French Quarter Fest await and I have to do my facial exercises, you know, so I can smile more.

* Zombies, New Orleans style (n): zom-bie
(1) a. a will-less and speechless human (as in West Indian voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have drank too much on Bourbon Street and been supernaturally reanimated
b. the supernatural power of the Hurricane or Hand Grenade that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body