I am not lost…

April 15, 2016

Tales from the Café: Houston, We Have a Problem

Time: Thursday, 4:55 pm

I could already tell it was going to be an adventure of a day when I walked in for my dinner shift and saw Dana, one of my newer coworkers, leaning over the register with a pen and paper in one hand, and a customer’s credit card in the other. “Uh oh.”

I hung up my jacket, casting a look over to Amanda at one of the other registers. “Are the credit card machines down again?”



April 8, 2016

Tales From the Café: Familiar Faces

(Alternately titled: You Probably Think This Post Is About You)

Time: Friday, 8:55 pm

It was finally almost closing time after an incredibly hectic day. Zöe had locked the front door, and all but the last few tables had filtered out. Despite the chaotic nature of the evening, I was in a good mood. None of my tables had been nasty, a couple left very nice tips, and my leg had finally stopped hurting from where I smacked it into a corner almost a week ago now.

I must have been humming under my breath, because I looked up from my sweeping and saw Kacey grinning at me. “What?”

“Is that one of your new songs?” It was no secret that I was a musician, and I’d lately been buckling down on actually getting some original stuff written. “I like it.”


April 1, 2016

Tales from the Café: High Turnover Rate

Time: Thursday, 3:49 pm

“Yesterday was Meghan’s last day,” Autumn said, leaning back against the counters in front of our coffee pots. It’s the height of the lull between lunch and dinner, and we’re each waiting on something before we can move on to our next task.

“Yeah, I know.” I sighed. “And I guess James from back of house is gone now too. Wondered why I hadn’t seen him lately.”

“Well, and you heard about Maia too, right?” My expression must have said it all, because she continued. “She put in her two weeks the other day.”


March 25, 2016

Tales From the Café: Contents Under Pressure

Time: Tuesday, 6:46 pm

It was a quiet night. Normally we would have seen our first rush by now, but the café is only about half full, leaving most of us servers wandering around aimlessly under the guise of doing something productive. (Sometimes we actually do productive things, since pissing off the managers is usually a damper on the day.)

“Hunter?” I turned my head toward Meghan, one of the few servers who actually had a table at the moment. “Can you pour me something?”

“Sure.” A majority of my coworkers were all under twenty-one, and thus legally can’t pour their own alcohol. Most can carry it (though we do have a few under-18 kids around too) but it means that us old people get to pour all the booze. (I say that jokingly, but I’m one of the oldest people on staff, and I’m in my late twenties.) “Whatcha need?”

She looked down at the order. “A glass of the Riesling, and…an IPA.”

“Got it.” I grabbed a wine glass from the rack over my head and set it on the counter, going back to grab the beer and a pint glass from the cooler.

As I passed by the kitchen, Laura called out to me. “Can I get a runner for this?”

“Heard. Just gimme a sec and I’ll be right back.”

“Thank you.” I poured the beer, tossed out the bottle, poured a glass of the wine–since Meghan had gotten the bottle out for me while I was in the back–and grinned back at Meghan.

“Drinks up.”

She smiled back. “Thank you, Hunter.”

“Mm-hmm.” I spun on my heel to walk back to the kitchen, and saw that Autumn had already grabbed the order in the window. I headed over just in case. “You got that? Anything else?”

“Nah, just these two. I’m good.” She smiled and headed out, and I leaned in the doorway–

–just in time to see Nate and David, two of our kitchen staff, spit out obscenities and jump back as something made a loud gunshot sound and went spinning across the floor.

It took a moment before I finally registered what I was seeing: baking spray everywhere. All over David, all over the counters, all over the floor. And a single spray can, spinning gently by the door to the back entrance to the kitchen.

David cursed again, looking up at us. I, for my part, was standing there with both hands over my mouth, desperately trying not to burst out laughing. Nate was already laughing, and the few other staff members nearby were all frozen in horror. (Laura was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she’d stepped out back.)

“What the hell just happened?” I managed to croak out.

“The f–ing can…someone put it too damn close to the toaster.” David pointed to a small shelf directly above our conveyor toaster. I supposed in theory it was a safe place but…

“It’s still damn hot up there,” Nate coughed out, carefully moving toward the door. “I’ll go get a mop. Holy shit.”

I finally laughed at that. “Are you okay, dude?” I asked, looking over to David, who had grabbed a bar towel and was trying to get some of the butter spray off of his clothes.

“Yeah, I’m fine. F–ing hell.” He grumbled. “Who the hell put that there?”

“I have no idea.” Covering my mouth again, I glanced up to the order screen–blank for now. “I’m going to go warn everyone else that it’s not safe to walk in here for a bit.”

And make sure Zöe knows about this, because damn is she going to be jealous she missed that display. What an adventure.






March 18, 2016

Tales From the Café: Can’t Win ‘Em All

Time: Saturday, 12:49 pm

On weekends, during the day, we do brunch. This throws people off sometimes, since we switch up the menu a good bit for those two mornings and not everything people expect to see is on there. So despite the fact that I don’t work brunch all that often, I have seen more confused customers walk in on a Saturday mid-morning and be baffled by the full service treatment and the lack of breakfast sandwiches. This usually upsets some of them.

However, there are always a few for whom this is entirely unacceptable. And leave it to me to get one on my first brunch shift in months.


March 11, 2016

Tales from the Café: Love It or Hate It

Time: Thursday, 1:15 pm

“Hey Hunts?” Zöe walked up behind me, and I looked over my shoulder. “86 arugula.”

I blinked. “We’re seriously out of arugula? How did we run out of arugula?”

She shrugged. “I have absolutely no idea. I don’t even want to know. But just make sure that you let people know. We can sub in romaine or something.”

“Arright.” I turned back to the register and leaned on the edges, looking out the door at the parking lot. It was a quiet lunch, so with luck I’d only have a few people I’d need to explain this to.


March 4, 2016

Tales from the Café: Come Here Often?

Time: Friday, 4:32 pm

Mocha Time is a bit of a double-sided café. During the day, we’re your mild-mannered coffee-based establishment, providing tasty caffeinated beverages and modestly priced sandwiches. At night, however, we transform in a classy corner of would-be New Orleans, smooth jazz on the Pandora and candles lit at every table.

…meaning we switch from counter service to classic restaurant table service. I get to be a real server!


February 26, 2016

Tales from the Café: Item Unavailable

Time: Thursday, 3:14 pm

I stifled a yawn behind my elbow, running a hand through my hair as I blinked hard. It had been a long day, and I was ready for my shift to be over. Just a little less than an hour and I’d be home. I’d just start doing a bit of side work so that we’d be ready…


Or I was going to take care of this customer first.


February 19, 2016

Tales from the Café: Tabula Rasa

Time: Monday, 1:48 pm

I was scheduled to come in at 2, but I figured jumping in a bit early was never going to be a problem. The rush was slowing down, and I could tell it had been a doozy, just from how much still needed to be done and cleared. James, our general manager and current manager on duty, waved me in. “Hi, Hunter.”

“Hey James. Mind if I clock in early? I’ll start helping bus and stuff.”

“Sure, go ahead.” He ducked into the office, and I rolled my shoulders, tapping my number into the computer. I could see a few of my coworkers toodling around, taking out dishes and bringing empty ones back to the kitchen, so when a couple of ladies walked into the café, I ducked behind the counter.

“Hello, welcome,” I greeted them with a smile. “This going to be for here?”

“Yes please.” The two ordered their food, along with a pair of glasses of wine.

Handing them the receipt back, I slid a number next to it. “Here’s the number for your food, and I’ll bring the wine over in just a moment.” They thanked me, and I heard a call of “order up!” ring out from back in the kitchen. Man, for the rush being over, I still feel like we’re running around in circles. The women took their number and wandered off in search of a table, and I ducked into the kitchen and grabbed the plates. I could take out this order, and then pour the two glasses of wine. It wouldn’t take that long.

I delivered the food, scooped up a few dirty dishes I saw sitting on a nearby table, and headed back to drop them off and pour the wine. One glass of chardonnay, one of merlot. Easy enough. I grabbed two glasses and the bottles, measuring out the ounces before transferring them to their respective glasses. Picking them up, I went in search of a table with the number I’d given them.

I winced inwardly when I found them. They’d picked one of our tables with couches for chairs–and I couldn’t blame them, they were comfortable–but the table hadn’t been cleared off yet from the last people. Most of the dishes had been moved to one side (I had to wonder who’d done that: us, them, or the previous customers) so it’d be easy enough. I could drop off the wine, pick up the dishes, and all would be well. “Hi ladies, I’ve got you–”

They didn’t let me finish. One woman leveled her gaze at me, and I knew I was going to be having a bad time. “This table is disgusting. Why hasn’t this been cleaned off?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I know it’s inexcusable. Occasionally around now, we have a lot of staff leaving and coming, so a few things fall through the cracks–but again, I know that’s no excuse. I’ll make sure this gets cleaned up right now for you.” I moved to set the wine glasses down so I could pick up the plates.

“Ah…” She leaned forward, holding out a hand to stop me. “I’d like to have a clean table before anything of mine is on here.”

I bit my tongue hard. “Of course. I’ll be right back.” I walked away and set the glasses on the bar. James had come back out of the office, and raised an eyebrow at me. “I’ll be right back for those. Don’t let them go anywhere.”

“Okay.” I grabbed a rag and the sanitizing spray and headed back to the ladies’ table. I shifted the plates from their table to one next to me, so I could wipe down the surface.

“Thank you,” the other lady said softly. The first lady said nothing.

“Not a problem.” I was keeping my voice as even as I possibly could. I wanted none of my frustration to slip through. “I’m sorry it happened again. I’ll be right back with your wine.” Tucking the rag and bottle under one arm, I hoisted the plates up again and headed back to the kitchen.

James was watching me, bemused. “What happened?”

“Some plates hadn’t gotten cleared and they refused to take their drinks before the table was clean. Understandable, but they didn’t quite need to be as snarky as they were.” I tipped the trash into the bin and set the plates in the dish area. “Jesus was she angry.”

James shook his head. “Well, thank you for taking care of it.”

“No worries.” I picked up the wine glasses again–plastered a smile back on my face–and re-delivered the wine. All would be well.

A/N: I will note here that the real customers that inspired this story did apologize for being abrupt with me, and we all had a lovely conversation later. As usual, this story is altered enough that it’s only inspired by true events rather than mirroring them. (Also, I write these so far after the events that I forget most of the details!)

February 12, 2016

Tales from the Café: Page Cannot Load

A/N: Incredibly fitting for the moment, as the past few days before I write this have been rife with Internet problems at home…

Date: Wednesday, 12:38 pm

The lunch rush would be here any minute, and all I had to do was make sure my best smile was on my face and we’d be fine. Our morning manager, a well-meaning but very intense woman named Elaine, came over to me, eyeing the occupied tables.

“The man at 34 has been there since nine this morning,” she muttered to me, back to the counter.


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