Do not call me Toots.
My name is Barbara. If you forget it and need my attention, you can call me "ma'am", or say "excuse me" or "pardon me".
But Toots? Per Wikipedia, Toots is a slang term for "babe" or "sweetie" or "honey," or, more-negatively, "tart" or "prostitute."
Who, or what, do you think I am - or perhaps I should ask, who do you think you are - that you can be so disrespectful to a stranger?
I am a part-time waiter right now, because I need the extra money to help pay for my kids' college tuitions so I can afford my own...to support my writing and photography passions...to get me up and away from the computer I'm glued to the rest of the time, to be active and talk to people, which I love.
But waiting tables in a winery restaurant isn't my dream job, and I'm looking for something else, but what if it was? What if this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life? Serving people, helping them relax and enjoy themselves...there are worse jobs out there, far less enjoyable and rewarding. And if I make it look easy...well, believe me, it takes a set of skills that a lot of people do not have.
Oh, and if you arrive before the restaurant opens, please be patient. It will be a few minutes before your order can be taken because there are just some things that I need to take care of first...
The three women arrived early, before the restaurant opened for business. They were already seated at a table with water and menus, courtesy of our office manager who works a normal 9 to 5 job, when I walked in and jumped right to work, bringing up the computer so I could enter orders, pulling the reds out of the chiller so they will be room temperature, tucking an order pad and pen into my apron. They were younger than me. Early to mid-thirties, I guessed.
I was behind the counter preparing the register when one waved a menu at me and said "We're ready, Toots."
Toots? my ears repeated, asking themselves if they heard what they thought they heard.
"Okay, just a second," I somehow managed to say with a smile and not one ounce of saccharin sweetness.
I made sure to state my name, loud and clear, when I took their order. I treated them with respect, and they left large donations to the World of Children Fund, the nonprofit group we support in lieu of tips. And they didn't call me Toots again.
But speaking of children...
I'm all for taking your children out to eat with you. I know how confining life with small ones can be. Besides, what better way to teach them how to behave in a restaurant?
But if your children are still too young to learn, get a babysitter. Stay home. Or at the very least, accept your waiter's offer of a high chair so your little one doesn't wander around bothering other guests and touching breakable glassware and expensive vases...
This young couple had two precious little girls, one about 7 months old, the other about 2 years old. Despite several offers, they refused a high chair for the 2-year-old, instead allowing her to stand in the chairs or wander about the restaurant, unconcerned about the other patrons or the fragile wine glasses or silverware she was touching...until I uttered a warning out of fear she would hurt herself, which scared the little girl into staying close to her parents.
Still, they were a cute couple and I didn't have many other customers. There were no broken glasses, no falls from the chair, no complaints. And after they left with lots of tips from me about places to visit in Austin, and I was sweeping up all of the cracker and bread crumbs littering the floor under and around their table, I remembered another floor covered in crackers...
One evening when our oldest was in the high chair and saltine cracker stage, Tom and I had a serious craving for seafood, so we took a drive out to our favorite restaurant. By the time we left, a three foot radius around our son's high chair was covered in cracker crumbs.
I was mortified, but wasn't sure what to do, other than leave a large tip and not return until our kids were old enough to know that saltines were not edible playthings.
Which I guess means they'll get theirs some day, too, both the young couple and the woman who called me Toots. Just another circle of Life.
And that makes me smile, because I'm human, after all.
(Hey, wait a minute! I never called a waiter Toots. Just proof that Life is also unfair and has a warped sense of humor, I suppose.)