“It’s a five twelve o’clock world when the whistle blows” for Tommy Tablehop, a career waiter, with a day that starts off feeling like he never even went to sleep. He used to dream about getting out of this gig and making it as a serious musician, but he was seriously unmotivated and, quite honestly, not all that talented. So he eventually threw in the towel (when he moved up from busboy).
Tommy worked last night closing the restaurant and didn’t get home until 2am. He was so wound up that he ended up watching a couple of movies before he finally fell asleep around six o’clock in the morning. Wound up or not, after spending so many hours on his feet, he can’t conceive of engaging in any activity that doesn’t involve him parking his derriere on the couch for a few hours.
It’s now noon and the alarm clock is blaring for him to get out of bed. He hits the snooze button. Twenty minutes later, the alarm goes off again – and once more, he hits the snooze.
The alarm goes off for the third time. Tommy finally drags himself out of bed (you’ve won the battle, alarm clock, but not the war…), gets showered, and then begins to get ready for work. He heads to the kitchen where he eats a light breakfast and downs a Red Bull. He finally looks at the clock and realizes that he’s running late. He’s due in at 2pm even though his “official” shift doesn’t start until 4pm and he’s at least a half hour behind schedule.
Tommy gathers together the shirt and pants that are part of his uniform and realizes that they are way too wrinkled, so he sets up his ironing board and works on pressing them. Normally he’d just throw them into the dryer for a cycle as it would be less work, but he’s running low on quarters this month.
The heat from the iron brings out all of the food smells that have permanently imbedded themselves in the fabric. Gross. Tommy also remembers that he has to clean up his shoes, because last night a plate of pasta got spilled on them and there’s tomato sauce stuck in the seams, making them look pretty bad. His boss would be ticked if he even thought of showing up with them looking so disgusting. He washes them off as best he can, then gets out his shoeshine kit and works on getting a good shine.
He gets dressed, grabs another Red Bull for the ride and heads out to the restaurant.
Tommy makes it in on time – just barely. The staff is gathered for a pre-shift meeting where they will go over the specials for the day and talk about other issues that the boss might want to discuss. Sections are assigned and side work tasks are doled out. Tommy gets a decent one for the opening – getting the linen area well stocked and making sure that the silverware is properly sorted. Mindless, easy work that helps get the day going at a slow pace. In fact, he might even be able to get an extra snooze in while he does this stuff in his sleep.
It’s now 3pm and, since the meeting went long, Tommy still has to pick up the pace a bit to make sure his side work is completed before the restaurant opens. Not to mention that one of the other waiters still hasn’t shown up, so he has to take on the side work for that person as well.
Four o’clock and the restaurant is now open. People start trickling in and Tommy gets a couple of tables in his section filled up right off the bat. The guests are decent – they aren’t overly fussy and their orders are coming out of the kitchen on time. So far, so good.
By six o’clock, his section is in full swing. He’s got several tables to attend to, some with regular guests, some not. Most of the guests are civilized, but he has one really fussy woman who wants everything done in a certain fashion (“My soup fork is in the wrong spot”… “I asked for medium medium well, not medium well”… “You call this steamed broccoli?”). His patience is being tested in a big way with this one and his mind wanders to all of the things he could do to make her visit one she wouldn’t forget. He grits his teeth and does what he can to move that table along and get the group out the door.
Around 7:30, that group finally gets out and leaves a decent tip (surprisingly), so the pain turned out to be worth the effort. And the self-restraint. Tommy continues serving the other tables; he has a couple issues with the kitchen staff regarding mix-ups on the orders, but they are quickly resolved and the guests are none the wiser, since he was able to catch the mistake before serving the dishes.
It’s now 9 pm and nobody else is coming in. Tommy is able to start closing down his section. He has a couple of tables that still have guests – the kind that like to linger over dessert, drinks, and coffee - but he can pick up around the ones that don’t care to stick around. He cleans the tables and chairs, wipes down the table tents, and sweeps up the floor. He has closing side work to do as well – this time it’s cleaning up the beverage station (melt the ice and sanitize the bin, remove the nozzles and soak them in sanitizer, restock the glassware, clean and sanitize the catch basin). He much prefers his pre-shift side work, before everything has gotten wet, sticky and filthy.
At 10:30pm, his final table of guests clears out. He can now work on running his closing report, organizing his cash acquired from tips, and then figuring out how much he has to tip out the bar staff.
He’s gotten all of these tasks completed by 11:30pm and has presented his report to the closing manager, who looks it over and signs off just around midnight. Tommy can now officially cash out for the evening. He clocks out and leaves.
Tommy drives a few miles down the road to grab some dinner, have a couple of drinks, and unwind before heading home at around 2am. Maybe he can catch a few more “Z”s before the next morning’s ongoing confrontation with the alarm clock.