At the moment, two of my coworkers have no filters when it comes to what they say. photoOne of them, let’s call her the Braless Wonder, (she laughs at this nickname), is fond of saying that she and I have opposite personalities. I admit I’m more of a quiet observer to the things going on around me and that I usually hold my tongue—usually. But the reality is, I’m usually also thinking exactly what Braless is saying out loud.

Braless is a former policewoman. She and her longtime mate share responsibility of five children, all of whom are happy and polite when they’ve come to the restaurant. Braless is blonde, tough, edgy, and has had more near-death experiences and surgeries than anyone else I’ve ever met. So much so, that Braless has a devil-may-care attitude, and a rapturous gusto for life. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She plows in and fixes the problem. While she says “opposite” with some audible disdain, I never protest, even though I see things differently.

There are many types of servers in this world. Everyone has a slightly different personality, and those traits come out when you’re serving. My style of serving is a bit ninja-like: I’m quiet, I listen to their likes and dislikes and allergies and doctor photo (3) recommendations. I dart in and out replacing silver, rearranging the items on the table, and refreshing drinks so that guests rarely even know I’ve been there. When they look down, all they know is that they have all they could need or want, and it’s all been done exactly as they would have done themselves. Guests return wanting to be taken care of, without having to make decisions or think about the service, so they can concentrate on their dinner guests, and the restaurant owner makes sure they get me.

Braless, also, gets to know her guests’ likes and dislikes, and recommends the right dishes and the right wine and beer for them.  But she does this by talking to them. By the time they leave, she knows their names and their pasts and their future plans, and they know her. She’s spent enough time as a patient in the hospital that she relates well to other patients, and is able to cheer them up with her sharp humor. She wishes them well or on their next series of tests, or safe travels home, or to enjoy the movie they’re going to see. Guests return asking for her by name.

Both of us have served long enough that though the above descriptions tell of our particular niches, we both adapt to one another’s styles if the table warrants it. We’re practiced, and can naturally slide out of our comfort zones to adjust to guest needs. This in no way stops us from envying the one another’s personal serving style, or from asking one another’s advice on tables.  Because of who we are individually and where we’ve been, hardly a night goes by that we don’t ask a fellow server or the restaurant owner to stop at a particular table and relate personally to a guest.

Similarly, there are many types of guests in this world, and each one needs a specific server at a specific moment.  There are days when I go out to eat that I want to be fawned over, and days when I just want to be left alone. Our restaurant sits in the heart of the Mayo Clinic, which gives us a very different clientele.Mayo Clinic Yes, there are the usual guests, young and old, who are on dates or just stopping in for lunch before heading back to work again. There are also brilliant doctors who travel the world because of their specialty, board members who decide the fate and direction of medicine as a whole, and celebrities and rulers of countries who have stopped in for routine or non-routine checkups. And, there are those who
have just spent an entire day at the Clinic, being poked, prodded, asked a million questions, and are slated to return the next day for more. Sometimes they are celebrating good news. Sometimes they’re reeling from bad. Most of the time, they’re just waiting.

As servers, we get it. It’s our job to get it. We reach out to our guests and assess their needs—not just for food, drink, and ambiance, but for comfort. A person can get sustenance just about anywhere. Why did they come here? What do they need?

Despite our style differences, Braless and I strive, ultimately, to solve the puzzle of what’s needed, and raise the guest’s expectations when we make it happen. We’re always looking for ways to improve. And we always hope to feel it was a job well done when we clock out.

Every time Braless says we’re opposites, I get the feeling that she’s really trying to say we’d never find ourselves friends in normal life. Restaurant life, of course, is not normal life. Restaurant life is full of changes, quick adaptations, and just plain winging it. It makes you try a different approach. This is precisely why our friendship works.

(posdrinksted with the permission of my hilarious friend Braless)

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon: