By Marie Beachdale
Sunday, August 26, 2012, Surfside Beach - Restaurants are full of rules for their employees, some of which are put into place to protect wait staff and customers, but others just sound downright silly… or so it seems.
My restaurant is full of rules that caused raised eyebrows during orientation.
No dangly earrings? Shit.
Only one ring per hand? Why?
But the one rule that I was determined to rebel against turned out to be the one that caused a majorly embarrassing server moment: no nail polish.
When I read this rule in the handbook, I was confused. We are nowhere near a fine dining restaurant. I can understand not being allowed to wear acrylic nails, or those God-awful press-on things, but why no nail polish? There was no explanation.
I love nail polish to an almost unhealthy extent. My cosmetic cabinet is full of so many different shades; it looks like Rainbow Brite threw up in it.
Who wants to see a server with boring, unkempt fingernails? I’m a firm believer that a fresh manicure can do wonders for a person. For this reason, I decided to risk being written up so I could keep my fingers colorful and cute.
For the first few weeks of my rebellion, I chose subtle hues. Nudes, pastels and soft glitters adorned my fingers. To ensure the polish wouldn’t chip, I wore gloves all the time. Cutting lemons, doing dishes, prepping plates, portioning sauces-- all were activities for which I would religiously put on gloves.
There were no issues. The manager didn’t say a word, and none of my tables walked out because of my sparkly digits. I decided to become bolder with my polish choice. Besides, it was summer, and neon shades were making a comeback.
I picked the most obnoxious shade of Barbie Pink I could find, but I loved it. It was impossible not to notice my hands, as my nails were basically a day-glow shade of vibrant pink. All of my customers, (especially females) seemed to love it… Until the day it became a major problem.
I delivered food to a table of two good-looking guys. I laid on the charm quite heavily, because for one they looked like they would probably be generous tippers, and also because I wouldn’t have minded scoring one of their numbers.
Anyway, they both ordered baskets that came with fries and slaw. Only a few minutes after I gave them their food, I noticed the guy I had my eye on pick up his cup of cole slaw and show it to his friend. They both scrunched up their faces in a somewhat disgusted way, and laughed awkwardly.
For a moment, I worried that there might have been a hair in the slaw, but when I approached them to see what was going on, I instantly knew what the problem was.
On top of the slaw was a chunk of Barbie Pink nail polish, in the perfect shape of my thumbnail. Somehow when I was portioning slaw that morning, the whole piece of polish chipped off perfectly in one piece.
“How did it happen?” I thought. I had been so careful! And worse, what was I going to say to them? I could already feel my face burning, and knew I was clearly red with embarrassment.
“Umm, hey, this is awkward,” the guy at my table said, not making eye contact with me at all, “but your nail fell off in my food.”
Oh. My. God. He actually thought it was my whole nail. Without thinking, I started to explain,
“Oh no, it’s not my whole nail, it’s just the polish!” Yeah… like that makes it any better. And I was so embarrassed about it I just couldn’t shut up…
“The topcoat I use makes the polish really thick and heavy so sometimes it just chips off like that,” I continued.
UGH. Like this guy even knew what a topcoat was! I was digging the hole deeper, and knew I would have to fix the situation myself. If I told the manager what happened, I would obviously get written up.
I decided to give him an entirely new meal. I flew to the kitchen, found my favorite cook, and asked him to make it for me on the fly. I also asked him to deliver it, since I was too embarrassed to face the guys again.
Luckily, they were totally cool afterwards, and finished their meals without saying anything else. But so much for getting his number.
That’s just another example of a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way while being a server. From now on, I think it’s safe to assume that no matter how stupid a rule sounds, it’s been put into place because at sometime, somewhere, a server had a major issue.
And for the record, since that day, there has been no more Barbie Pink nail polish in my life… Even outside of work.
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