Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sizzlin' Sunday

At around noon I put down the two Sunday papers, stared at one of the four clocks I have in my living room, and decided it was time to get dressed and go to lunch.

I thought about where to go. I thought about going to Chili's; it's newly installed at Bay Fair Mall, right next to the movie theatre. But when I thought about the Sizzler in Washington Square/San Leandro, and the fact that they have great iced tea, I knew I wanted to go there. The Chili's menu is better, more inventive, but, well, sometimes routine is really nice.

So I grabbed the rest of the paper, mailed my shipment at the nearby post office, and sauntered into Sizzler. I had to wait behind people who don't go to Sizzler by routine and who had to think about what they wanted to eat. It's a slow process, but I know that and I have patience. Darlene, my favorite waitress, spots me, asks me where I'm going to sit, and I point to a booth on the left (as always) in front of the T.V. set. It has plenty of light for the newspaper, and the Raiders game is on T.V. She puts the cheesebread and extra napkins there before I can get to the front of the line.

I had my seat and was glancing at another pitiful come-from-ahead loss by the Raiders when Darlene came by to pick up my ticket and tray. I asked her how she was doing. She said fine, then hesitated and told me that a week ago, she fell down her stairs and cracked two ribs. It seems that there's nothing to be done much about cracked or broken ribs, so the ER people wrapped her and sent her on her way. She told me with a foolish smile on her face that she came to work the next day.

Aren't these the true heroes of our day? The women who live by themselves, and make their own lives and sometimes suffer for it? (She was moving boxes out of one of the upstairs room, and tripped on her pajamas.) And then go to work the very next day?

You don't make much money as a Sizzler waitress. I remember saying that once about a decade ago to my friend Rick, and he informed me that his daughter had done very well as a waitress at Sizzler. Perhaps it does depend on the waitress or waiter here, but think about it. There is a great opportunity not to tip at all at such a restaurant. You carry your own tray to your table. If you're only getting the salad bar, which these days costs a minimum of $10 a person if a drink is involved, there's a tendency to think you're doing all the work yourself. Never mind that, even in that case, the wait staff is bringing you extra napkins, cheese bread, extra plates, extra drinks, etc. I have seen many a table bare of change when the group leaves.

I don't tip according to price. I tip according to the type of service I get there. It's $1.00 for minimal service. It's $2 if they do something nice for me. And it's $3 or more if they go beyond, more around a holiday.

It was more today. Darlene is one of the best wait people I have ever seen. And she's serving me, making me feel good, while she's in pain. She's one of my heroes.

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