in Work

Last day of waiting tables

This is my last day of waiting tables at a fancy-but-casual (you know the type) restaurant in a rich part of Los Angeles. My coworkers were actors, students, even a full-fledged lawyer. According to the lawyer, the entry-level law jobs only paid around $2,500 a month. And when waiting tables, we could easily get $2,500 in maybe two weeks.

The money was really, really good. I would have enough cash tips for my $520 monthly rent in three or four shifts. My cash piled up in a mason jar. After a week, it would get too full, so I’d go deposit thick stacks of cash and wonder if the bank tellers thought I was a stripper. I wanted them to!

And two questions I’ve often been asked:

  1. Celebrities? Yes, lots of them.
  2. Is the waitstaff attractive? Yes, everyone was hot.

Anyway! About the last day. If I’m lucky, it’ll be my last day working at a restaurant, ever. “Don’t come back,” the head waiter told me on my way back, mid-hug. “But do come back to eat.”

I should have written about the experience as I went, but I hesitated because, I don’t know, it didn’t seem like a good idea. Especially after one of my co-workers got fired for tweeting to a customer (sorry, I was trained to say guest, not ‘customer’). That said, the tweet was “hey you forgot to leave a tip” or was it something about how the tip wasn’t enough? Anyway, that’s why I decided not to write about the restaurant AT ALL. Now that I’ve quit, I guess I can’t be fired.

I don’t have anything bad to say about the well-known customers guests, though. The only negative thing I can think of is of a rapper called The Game, who was refused a seat at the restaurant because his clothes weren’t up to the dress code, and he then went on a social media rant to accuse the restaurant of being racist against black people. The manager that kicked him out was also black. Dress code is smart casual, sleeves, no hats. The Game was wearing a sleeveless top (wifebeater?), and a sports cap. Out.

Some other celebrity stories that I can think of right now:

Oscar de la Hoya coming in and being instantly recognized by the kitchen staff by the door (open kitchen). They chatted across the grill in Spanish and had a great time. On his way out, he pretended to box at them. I’m not into boxing, so I had no idea who this guy was. My co-worker Matt said, “There’s pictures of him in ladies’ underwear, online.” I had to look, of course.

Steve Carrell is so nice, and super polite to everyone. Pour him a glass of water, and he’ll look you in the eye and say a sincere thank you. That is wonderful and rare.

January Jones and her super cute kid were frequently the restaurant’s first table on Monday mornings.

Brandy has not aged. At all.

Scruffy guy in worn clothes somehow also looks well-off. His credit card says Charlie Kaufman. I remember thinking: Why does it say Charlie, and not Charles?

Rachel Bilson and one of my co-workers with an upcoming major supporting role talking about the upcoming promotion cycle for their respective movies. “So, I guess I’ll be seeing you around this summer!” the co-worker says, like a Hollywood regular. The rest of us repeat this to each other for the rest of the week – our new sport – and pretend to gag.

Danny Pudi waiting at the bar for his takeout order. I was watching his show Community at the time, and was so thrilled to hand him his order. I never said anything fangirlish to anyone at the restaurant (except for the Star Wars poster artist), because I knew they were just trying to have a regular experience.

Drew Struzan, the artist of the Star Wars, E.T., Harry Potter film posters answered the only fangirl question I ever asked to anyone in the restaurant. My question was, “Are you going to do the poster for the new Star Wars movie?” (Star Wars VII) He answered, “I’m retired, heh heh.”

Everyone went to peek at Josh Peck’s table, to see his weight loss in person.

Garret Dillahunt being super into his date. Wow, they’re really gazing at each other from across the table and sooo in love; they must have recently started dating? We Google that shit because we’re busybodies, and find out that they’ve been married for years.

Will Smith was supposed to come in on one night, but I left too early (lunch shift) to see him come in. Oh well.

Gossip about a popular actor being seen waiting tables at a cafe in Santa Monica. I forgot his name, but actually, it’s not that surprising. So many actors waiting tables in Los Angeles. The nice thing about being their co-worker and not being an actor is being asked to pick up their good shift because they really, really need to be at an audition. Or making deals to pick up their shift because of, well, it’s always an audition. I once got three bottles of barbecue spice mix in return for picking up a shift. I had only asked for one, but hey, I wasn’t about to say no.

One of my coworkers pulled an elaborate routine to get two margaritas comped to the hot guy and his mom at one of my tables. “Shh!” she told me. “It’s Michael Trevino, super hot guy from The Vampire Diaries, and I have a crush on him.” She asked if she could go over to the table and tell him the margaritas were on the house.

Kevin Spacey is into twinks.

The Game got kicked out of the restaurant.

Tim Roth and family are super nice.

As for the co-worker stories, I don’t know where to start. Lots of post-shift food and drinks, lots of free alcohol left over from our tables. We were always, always hungry and would eat the brownie edges left over from cutting the dessert brownies into uniform shape, or any untouched food that was sent back. Someone’s steak was overdone and they sent it back after only cutting into it? Hahaha, more for us! We were technically supposed to throw it away because management didn’t like us getting to eat the customers’ food, but we would sneak it because what a waste of a perfectly good, untouched steak.

And for all the crap that servers get about being stupid, they were probably the wittiest, funniest people I’ve ever met. That said, I went to college for microbiology and then went on to work in a science research lab afterwards, so I didn’t exactly have the most socially-adjusted social circle.

It was so cool to watch TV and occasionally see my co-workers appear on TV shows or in commercials (or even infomercials!). I only ever saw one in the movie theater, and that was in a movie trailer – I never actually went to see his movie because it looked like a stupid comedy.

And, ladies? Listen up. You get more tips when you wear red lipstick. Really. I rolled my eyes when I heard this. And the person telling me said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought, too! But, seriously! It works!” And you know what? Seriously. It works.

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