As the outdoor temperature sizzled and climbed on Friday, they came in droves through my front door.
Every local office worker baking in a suit, every out-of-town tourist sweating in sneakers, and everyone else having a bad hair day in the humidity figured my restaurant was the place to be.
I am pretty sure we broke an all-time record for lunch covers.
At 650 we willed them to come in, just so we could count them.
“No, you cannot count the off-duty waiter who’s here to pick up his paycheck as a walk-in!” I told Restaurant Gal Daughter, who was eager to see us make insane numbers.
She didn’t need to. They just kept coming in and coming in and coming in.
725 and still counting. Amazing.
That’s a lot of hungry people. That’s a lot of hungry people to talk to. That’s a lot of hungry people to placate when the tables just aren’t available.
Through it all, most were pretty tame. I guess when it is so crazy in the foyer, no one expects a table on the spot. Or maybe they were too hot and miserable to be miserable with me.
I joked with the pager people: “Don’t worry. If the table I have in mind for you is not ready in 25 minutes, we’ll go together and toss the people out.” Only a whiney lady named Mona frowned at that and hounded me every few minutes about how much longer it would be. And one group got lost in the shuffle because two groups were led by women named Doris, and I thought one was a duplicate. Doris Two understood, and we somehow seated her immediately after we realized the mistake.
I soothed the reservation people: “Yep, it’s summertime and a Friday. No one wants to eat and run today. We’re just a tad behind on reservations, hopefully not more than five minutes.” I crossed my fingers on that one being true. It was, for the most part. And no one bothered to use the excuse, “We have to be back at the office for a meeting,” to hurry us up.
Frankly, once people dragged themselves through the sweltering temps to get through our front door, they didn’t want to leave.
The nonstop customers put us all in hyper overdrive.
I tossed menus at managers: “Can you seat these folks at 118? Thanks. Wilkins party? You’re up!”
Managers shouted out table numbers to me as if we were in a Bingo hall: “124 green. 127 paying. 139 dirty.” My table check light board glowed red for hours–no room at the inn.
By 4:30, Restaurant Gal Daughter and another host and I beat it out of there. The night shift was on; they’d deal with it from then on. At some point, you actually can have too many hosts at a podium. We were them, and we were gone.
“You were awesome,” I told them both. “You worked your asses off all day. And it all worked out because you did.”
But there was a bittersweet aspect to the day as well. This was Restaurant Gal Daughter’s last Friday.
It is not an easy thing to work this kind of job with your kid. Coworker cattiness, customer craziness, manager mayhem–why would I toss her into this fray?
On the other hand, she and the other host–her friend from school–were such great temporary additions to our staff, we are now all spoiled by how smoothly our days can run. We’ve seen the other side!
Some wondered how Restaurant Gal Daughter and I could work together at all. Wouldn’t it be awkward training her? Wouldn’t it be tense every time I asked her to do something? Wouldn’t it just be too much togetherness?
No, no and no.
She and I working together was the best of all. The hard part was watching her have to get tough and make her way on her own when we weren’t together. But she hung in there. And now she’s done.
It may not be the typical “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” story, but it’s one I will cherish.