"Hellooo," I begin, attempting to exude warmth, friendliness. "How are you this evening?"
The seated couple stares back blankly.
"May I start you with a beverage?"
Their eyes blink.
"A glass of wine or a cocktail?" I try to define what "beverage" is, since these people clearly have never heard the term.
"No we'll have water." Of course, how dare I assume that you have come to spend your hard earned money to relax and have a good time?
The stoics, the wraiths of the service industry: They come early, eat quickly, don't spend money and basically do their damndest to look like eating is a miserable slog of an event. Their facial expressions say: "I haven't pooped in days," or: "I'd rather be at a time share sales pitch."
And despite my familiarity with the unsmiling and aloof, the faulty wiring in my brain tells me one thing: Somehow their misery is my responsibility. I smiled wrong, or maybe my latest snippy conversation with the Sprite is showing on my face; or that they just think I'm ugly. Sigh. Even in my thirties such depressing interactions bring out my inner insecure mope. Since early weekdays are a veritable minefield of these joyless soul suckers, I find myself feeling defeated, to wander to the back computer and slowly bang my head against the swinging doors, murmuring "whyyyy?"
Some servers are burlier and can ride out these bumps with ease. Servers with real social skills, unlike mine which are sort of a collection of miscellaneous phrases and exclamations that I have learned to parrot from more competent comrades. My bartender has this skill (hence the reason he is a bartender). He can not only sail right into the depths of the silence, he hauls the weirdoes out of it, and befriends them in the process. I've watched him sit down and have long conversations with some of the most stubborn and seemingly hopeless of the miserables, and give hugs to regulars who have perpetually mortified me with awkwardness.
Considering I used to be a server who would get nervous and panicky before greeting each new table, being able to have smooth interactions with guests constitutes success in my book. But I'll never make the kinds of tips that hardier souls are able to extract from the dark corners of the customer base.
Thankfully the weekend comes, along with the 7 o'clock seating. People look excited to see me, have good questions that allow me to geek out and give in-depth answers. Not only does this crowd like me, they love me- I sell specials, find people their food soul mates on our large menu, and introduce people to new, exciting wines. My sexy is back. Maybe I'm not terrible at this social thing after all, I start to think, as the tips roll in.
But there's always a 4 o'clock stoic waiting for me the next day.