Posts Tagged ‘ crab ’

To Walk A Mile In A Server’s Shoes


A Typical bill, All-You-Can-Eat Crab Legs on a Monday afternoon…

I read an article today which was more or less an open letter to someone ignorant and anonymous.  It was really well-written, and was written by somebody who witnessed somebody lose their mind and flip out on a fast food cashier over ketchup on a hamburger.  Read it here.  It’s worth the read, trust me.

I have a lot of love (or tolerance, at the very least) for those in the customer service industry because I spent a goodly portion of my non-professional career working customer service jobs.  I am not a “big government” kind of guy — in fact, the smaller, the better — but I do believe that everyone should be forced into working a customer service-based job, if only for a little while when they are in their teenage years.  It sounds hypocritical, but if this happened, I’d bet you a year’s pay that adults would be nicer to each other.

For example, I waited tables at Red Lobster and Emmitt’s Ale House (great place in Downers Grove, IL…drop by if you can) to get through college, and it taught me a lot about organizing and prioritizing your attention to juggle more than one thing at a time.  Unless you have done the job, you don’t realize how much attention it takes to make sure you approach the table in a reasonable amount of time, then take drink orders, then food orders, then put the food into the computer so it gets to the kitchen, then hand-make salads (at places which have you do that, like RL does), then deliver it, then refill any empty drinks, then drop off the check, then pick up the payment(s), then split the check five ways (because no one said to keep everything separate, which would’ve been easier), then drop off the tabs and hope for a nice tip.  You may be thinking, “Heh, big deal…I could do that for my table all by myself.”  And you’d be right.  But imagine juggling four, five, six tables — all with varying numbers of people, varying drink orders, varying food preferences (extra bleu cheese, dressing on the side, medium rare burger, etc), and varying start-to-finish timelines.  Seriously, think about it:  If five tables of four come in all at once (not typical, but possible during the lunch or dinner rush), you’re literally taking care of twenty separate people.  Twenty separate drinks, twenty separate salads, twenty separate meals…twenty separate tips that you have to work for, simultaneously.     

You don’t realize until you work in the restaurant industry that Corporate is screwing you every time they come out with a new promotion.  Exhibit A looks like a “three-course-meal-for-twenty-bucks” promotion.  At Red Lobster, we dreaded their “Endless Shrimp” and “All You Can Eat Crab Legs” promotions.  All-you-can-eat promotions do servers absolutely no good —  sure, they get business in the door, but the server takes the brunt of, “Sure, I’ll have another refill of crab legs” for an hour and a half, while the total price for the bill ensures a tip that will barely break minimum wage, if enough people don’t come through that day.  The problem is that when people see the price on the bill, they tip for that, not for the level of service they just received, whether it took twice as long as normal or not.  I literally witnessed a guy eat 220 — two hundred and twenty — butter-covered shrimp scampi during Endless Shrimp Month at Red Lobster.  (They bring you twenty to start with, for reference.)  Guess what his total bill came out to.  Not even thirty bucks.  What do you think the server made on that?  

My Dad used to be a huge proponent of abolishing the “tipping” culture that America seems to have a fetish with; he’d much rather have a set price for any given service.  He’d rather have paid more for a meal with the tip already built into the price than have to deal with the variable of charity (which is what he thought of it).  I don’t suppose I blame him, but it doesn’t change the way we do things here.  The fact is, your server is probably making north of three bucks an hour to provide you service, and 95% of their income comes from your tip.  College kids in particular:  If you have enough for the meal and not enough to tip, you don’t have enough to go to the restaurant.  

Oh yeah, one more thing: Don’t be an ignorant, self-important jerkwad to those who handle your food.  I am not lying when I say that I have witnessed an employee of an as-yet unnamed establishment literally spit into the food of someone who was a very self-entitled, holier-than-thou customer.  I don’t condone compromising anyone’s food at all under any circumstances, but you’re rolling the dice if you’re an a$$hole and think it won’t happen to you.  Frankly, I think you get what’s coming to you in that case.  Oh–you poked a sleeping bear in the face with a stick?  And then he got pissed and attacked you?  The nerve of that bear! What was he thinking?!  

Well…what the hell did you think would happen?

Just remember this:  People who send their food back because their steak was undercooked don’t get spit in their food; people who do it with a crap attitude and are obviously looking for a free meal do.  Get up in arms all you want about it, but it’s the way the world works.  

And really…if you were a server and walking in their shoes, wouldn’t even a small part of you want to do the same? 



Sometimes You’re The Windshield, Sometimes You’re The Bug.

Some times, I learn things the hard way.  Let’s just call it that right out of the gate.

I was a student pilot at Kansas State-Salina, and embarked upon my first solo cross-country trip.  Thank God for GPS, that’s all I can say.

I left Salina, KS, and flew to Emporia airport.  My calculations seemed to be more or less correct (I was taught “Clock, Map, Ground”), and I have a relative idea of where I was.  As I arrived at the airport and prepared to do a touch-and-go (to satisfy the requirement for actually landing at the airport) I made three attempts to land on a north-facing runway, with a ten knot crosswind from the west (my left).  Each time, before I could get on the ground, I kept getting blown to right of the runway.  By the time the third attempt failed, I decided to continue on to the next airport because I was losing daylight quickly.  It was November, and I was scared enough on a clear day.  Best not to test the aviation gods by continuing into dusk.

CRAB: Facing into the wind, but tracking straight ahead

I made the next airport in relatively quick time.  On my first attempt at Harrington, KS, the same thing happened–I kept getting blown to the right of the (again) north-facing runway.  The second time, I remembered what my instructor had said once, and I performed a “crab”–a maneuver where you arefacing into the wind direction, but are still tracking straight across the ground.  (The picture shows a plane on take-off here, but it’s the same concept if you are landing.)   You can see a more clear example of this kind of landing here.

I did exactly what the video clip showed–crabbed the airplane into the wind, got her on the ground, everything was fine.  Then, this happened.  Since this was to be a touch-n-go, I pulled up the flaps, hit full throttle, and kept my takeoff roll going.  Except, unlike in the video, I did not get in the air.  Right at the point the plane lifted off the ground for a split-second (roughly 55-60 miles an hour), the plane caught a gust and I panicked, locked up the brakes, and lost control of the plane.  My wheels were skidding sideways as I stood on them, trying to bleed off the speed, and my left wing rose in the air, as if the airplane was going to flip right over on its back.   By the grace of God, my left wheel slammed back down on the the ground, I skidded off the runway, through the taxiway, and roughly two hundred yards into a wheat field.  I came to a dead stop, with the propeller spinning at idle, as if nothing had happened.

I looked at the (sole) terminal at this podunk little airport…there was absolutely no movement–no lights on, no people, no planes on the ramp, nothing.  I did what I felt anyone else would do in that situation:  I turned the plane around, and taxied back up onto the the taxiway to the head of the runway.  I was alone, and my single driving thought was, “I need to get home.”  I set the parking brake on the plane, got out and crouched down to check for brake fluid or other damage with the engine still running(as if I had a clue what to look for), then climbed back in.

I lined her up on the runway, did the Sign Of The Cross and said a short prayer, and slowly pushed the throttle fully open.  As I picked up speed, everything seemed normal.  I stayed on that runway up until the very last second, when I lifted off, and was promptly blown to the right of it.  I had survived and gotten into the air once more.

I flew the 60 or 80 miles back to my home base (thanks to the GPS), and had to ask for a more westerly-facing runway, which I got.  It really was difficult flying into the sun as well; it was nearly 5:30 when I got back, after all, and the plastic windshield was dispersing the sunlight and making it essentially opaque–very hard to see in front of me.  I parked the plane on the K-State ramp, got out, and did a post-flight inspection.  I was mainly looking for damage to the propeller, wingtips, or landing gear…I didn’t see any, but I was only 18–what the hell did I know?  I went inside and made a beeline for the “Incident Report” folder.  I filled out a report detailing what had happened.

I walked from the Aviation building to my dorm room, walking past the cafe (where dinner was still being served) at 5:45 PM.  My roommate walked in at six on the dot and said, “Are the rumors true?”

I said, “What rumors?”

He said, “Someone had an accident–was it you?”

Kind of amazing how quickly news spread, even before Facebook or Twitter.

I’ll tell you what, I learned a lot of hard lessons that day–and continue to, actually.  It’s been nearly 12 years since that accident, and I carry it with me wherever I go.  I’ve learned to be a safer pilot because of it, I’ve learned that I have the courage to pluck up a battle plan when the time comes for one (though I hadn’t realized at the time that flying the plane back demonstrated an act of courage–or stupidity–that most folks don’t have), and I’ve learned the sheer importance of preparation.  I didn’t even know I was unprepared, and it’s made me a little paranoid that sometimes I start thinking my confidence is going to get me in trouble.

The upside is that when I fail, I’m not quite as hard on myself as I used to be.  It’s the natural course of learning, after all.  Of course, when you fail, it sucks, but as far as I’m concerned, if you haven’t failed, you aren’t doing enough with your life.  In my business, at least, the adage goes, “If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t doing any actual work.”  It’s the classic hot-oven scenario at its best.

So.  Now you know one of my deepest, darkest secrets.  It isn’t something I bring up at parties, or brag about surviving.  I hope that it hasn’t scared you away from aviation–don’t forget, my mistake here could have been easily avoided.  In fact, the fact that I’ve gone through this already should make you want to ask me questions about it.  I’d fly with a pilot who has made some mistakes over one who hasn’t anyday–because until you make that mistake, you just don’t know what it’s like to be there.  When you are talking about life and death, I’ll stick with the guy (or gal) who figured it out and survived.

What kind of crazy stories do you guys have?  What mistakes did you make as students?  Or as professionals learning your craft?  What pitfalls should we all do our best to avoid?  It doesn’t even have to be aviation-related; it could be related to business, sewing, construction, excavation, anthropology–anything.  What are the pitfalls and mistakes in your industry?  The best answer gets ten bucks to Starbucks!

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