Angry August and the Power of NO

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A friend coined the phrase Angry August earlier this summer. And as much as my staff wanted to doubt her suspicions, the overwhelming feeling of pure hatred waiting hand and foot for some folks almost reached a threshold for a few colleagues recently.

Day after day of order modifications, screaming kids, Diet Coke refills and shitty tips can take a toll on the most level-headed servers; even the part-timers. Last week, one of my favorite staff members came back to the server station in bad shape. Resembling someone who just got worked mentally by a Louisville Slugger, I asked, “Are you okay? And what just happened?”  Fumbling her words she replied, “ I just got asked and demanded 20 things in 30 seconds.”  The scene consisted of an overweight diabetic mother with one glycemic kid, who only eats chicken breast (which we don’t offer) and another who is a vegan (which our menu definitely doesn’t cater to). This was only the beginning of the almost ransom-like list of things this mother demanded. Throw in the fact that it was late and her kids were cranky and that all orders were modified and with “SOS” (sauce on side) demands. My colleague didn’t even have time to take her pen out of her marsupial pouch. It was ugly.

To give you a quick sports analogy, imagine playing quarterback, and the entire defense decides to blitz and your offensive line forgot to block. Stress level SKYROCKETS.

I gave her an espresso and said, “ Just say ‘no’. It feels so good.” Startled and shocked, she took my advice, said “no” with a smile and homeostasis was achieved.

In a culture where the word no doesn’t exist, it is sometimes tempting to eat the forbidden fruit just in spite.  And I must say it sounds evil, but saying no to someone who has never heard it before might feel better than certain things you can do with your clothes off.  Quick. Instant. Gratifying.

The other day, I was playing host, and with the power of no I saved my summer, my job, mental stability, and possibly the lives of some patrons. Recently, after a local concert ended way to early and the patrons’ reservations were way to late, there was a bull rush to grab any remaining table at my restaurant. Our dining establishment turned into the hot dog line at Turner Field.

Demanding we honor their reservations 1 hour and 15 minutes early, our FOH (front of house) staff was put on check. At that instant, I wasn’t sure if I blacked out, or had a revelation, but I felt I went back in time — the date: April 14 1912, the sinking of the Titanic. With the crowds forcing their way into a crammed little restaurant, I felt as if I was aboard the deck of that doomed ship. For me, I accepted death, but felt my morals wouldn’t face the same fate as these first class passengers (stereotyped attendees) demanded lifeboats to themselves (open tables for earlier reservations).

It felt SOOOO good to say no, as I made these folks force their way out of their comfort zone. I did receive some dirty looks, snickers, and possibly a death threat, but I was ready. Now, will I be a spiteful little brat the rest of the summer? No, but that word, that nasty little two-letter word, was needed. It is my secret weapon, and I don’t whip it out to often.

– Your Friend. Fox Hole Buddy.

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