Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's international week at Pike's Place Market. Actually, every week is. For the past month, though, most of the tourists have been British or Canadian. Lately there have been fewer, but more Eastern Europeans, and French and Germans. Sunday morning I waited tables on a lovely French couple who spoke almost no English. So, gamely, I walked up to the table and asked "Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?" (Which, anymore, I'm not sure if it's rude, or incorrect, or just plain bad, but it got the point across at least) "Deux cafes. Noirs, et granola avec le fruit." "Oui. D'accord." "Merci." And then the woman told me (I think) that my accent was good, I just needed to practice. Which was nice of her, since in conversation I told her that "I study french in University but I don't speak well now today." This would be a passable sentence in Khmer, which only has one verb tense, but it's annoying that I can't think of how to say "I studied."

Europeans are great customers. Once they order. Taking their order is a melange of waters without ice, lattes, juice, meals, fruits, breads, and finally a double espresso to finish off the meal. Which usually lasts upwards of an hour. It takes a tremendous effort to get everything to fit on the table, but on the plus side, if you forget to put their order in for twenty minutes, they're fine. They think food comes to quickly anyway.

New Yorkers are by far the worst people to wait on here. Seattle is a pretty laid back town. Except in our coffee ordering we're generally pretty chill with whatever shows up, so long as it won't kill us. And if the wrong thing comes, we're game for the adventure. New Yorkers must exist in an entire ordering culture of exceptions. Every single woman I've waited on that MUST be from there, accent alone, much less the shoes, wants a half-caff vanilla soy latte with a dollop of foam, and can I bring one regular sugar and one splenda. Then a water with three ice cubes, a juice with no pulp and NO ice cubes, and an egg-whites only, vegetarian omelet with no onions, extra bell peppers, and do you have bacon? No? Well then add a sausage patty. Is it pork or beef sausage? Organic? And can I have a side of salsa, no potatoes, and if I don't get fruit can I add avacado to the omelet? One slice wheat toast and one slice white, extra crisp, and can I have one extra pat butter. And can you just "warm up" my latte with drip coffee?

I heard an Eastern European lady explain tipping to her friends like this: "Well you pay for the food, and then if the service is really good you leave a little extra." Hmm. Someone needs to give her a ballpark figure. She left me $6 on a $70 tab. Actually, with most Europeans, if they remember to leave anything at all, I'm impressed. If I go to Europe someday, I'll probably offend waiters in a trail all over the continent because I'll be petrified NOT to leave 20% at the table.

I have yet to meet any Cambodian tourists. As a whole, I suppose the country really isn't up to foreign vacations quite yet, but I'm aching to practice my fading Khmer on somebody.

The only downside to waiting tables - and I mostly love the industry - realizing my hair smells like breakfast.