Lately it’s been grating on my nerves more than usual. I’ve gone from the sweet, unassuming “I’m grateful for whatever tip you chose to give me” server to the server who will “accidentally” spill water on you if you tip her less than 18%.
The breaking point came a few months ago.
Auditions had slowed down as it was turning into summer. This meant, instead of looking at my serving job as a ‘thing I do on the side when I’m not auditioning” it turned into a “thing I do always, all the time, always, ALWAYS.”
This particular day I decided to try and make myself feel better so I wore my contacts, earrings, and a little extra eye shadow.
Clearly God is a feminist as this later proved to be a mistake.
The night started off normally. I was working with one other server and we decided to pool the tips we made and split them down the middle. A group of forty-something men came in for a business dinner and we both agreed I should take them (being the female I would probably be able to get a higher tip.)
They instantly perked up when I walked over and I noticed one man in particular slide his eyes up and down my ever-attractive buttoned up long-sleeved black shirt, long apron, and pinned-up hair.
I know – sexy.
I smiled and launched into my speech about our menu, our drinks, and our specials. They all ordered drinks and the man with the roaming eyeballs (let’s call him Dick) ordered a shot and a beer.
A shot. At a business dinner.
That one shot turned into five more and four more beers.
At first he was harmlessly flirting. It them became a little more aggressive, a little more inappropriate until finally, as I was walking away from the table, he shouted out for the entire restaurant to hear.
You could have heard a pin drop and I felt my face flush as the whole restaurant turned to look at me and – presumably – my ass.
I was livid. I felt the feminist inside of me screaming. I am a smart girl! I’m not just dyed blonde hair, gawky limbs, and slightly squinty eyes.
I AM A PERSON!
I pulled the other (male) server aside.
I’m not doing this anymore! You take the table. I’m DONE!
He tried to calm me down and to make me think about the money. The awesome, crazy tip they were going to leave me.
I thought about how I was late on my rent and decided to give it one more go.
Finally, mercifully, they were finished. I brought them their (very large) bill and skipped away. I had done it and it was going to be so worth it.
They left and the other server grabbed the tab, opened it, and looked shocked. I jumped up and down excitedly.
Is it big?? Am I going to be able to pay my rent AND my car insurance???
He had gone a little pale and I grabbed it from him and looked down at the bill.
I froze and all the color drained out of my face.
Less than 8% of the total bill.
Less than 8% for putting up with sexual harassment for two-and-a-half hours.
Less than 8% for compromising my ideals.
LESS THAN 8%.
I felt something in me snap.
Now, I’m a pretty passive girl but this had sent me over the edge. I looked out the window and saw them standing outside, drunkenly waiting for a cab.
I slammed the ticket book closed and marched into my manager’s office. I explained to her what had happened and what I wanted to do. She stared at me for a second and then nodded her head.
I was out her door in a flash and marched past the bar where all the regulars were shouting their support and clapping me on the back.
I pushed open the door and marched outside. They were still standing on the sidewalk so I threw my shoulders back and marched up to them with the bill.
They saw me coming and stopped their conversation. I took a big breath, and…
Smiled and started talking.
Hi gentlemen. I’m so sorry to bother you but I’m just making sure everything was okay with your service. You see, I noticed you only left my 8% of the total bill which makes me think I did something to ruin your night. And here I thought we were all having such a nice time…
They stared at me, shocked.
I stared back at them, smiling.
The man who had paid for the meal handed me another $10.
Now we were up to a whopping 10%.
Suddenly, Dick reached in his pocket and slurred something about admiring my tenacity and handed me $40.
That was more like it.
I took the money, smiled, and marched back inside.
As I opened the door clutching the money the regulars cheered.
One point for Jessica’s pride.
It might have been a little desperate. It might have been a lot inappropriate but I felt great.
Finally, FINALLY I was not going to be pushed around. I was not going to give up all my power.
For the first time in a long time I felt I had control.
And that was worth at least 20%.