My First Regular, or How A Waiter Remembers His Diners

A waiter’s memory is both odd and unique. When asked by a manager or co-worker if we need help, we can say,” Position One at Table Thirty-Three needs a refill of Diet Coke, no ice, with lime,”  without even looking at the table.

But what is most strange is that we don’t recollect people by their faces or where they sat in the restaurant. We remember them by what they ate. For example, a venerable Broadway actress sat in a booth in my area one day. Were it not for my scurrying to expedite her order when she said she was crunched for time and needed to head back to the theater for evening rehearsal, I would still know her as the woman who ordered a vodka martini with the calamari appetizer and Caesar salad. I can also recall the red wine requested with the main course. The main course has gone forgotten, because I was too vexed.

But most unforgettable is my first experience with this selective memory. His name was Stanley. He was an elderly gentleman who would walk along Stroop Road from his apartment at a nearby retirement community to the restaurant/ice cream shop where I worked. Without fail, he always sat alone in the same booth near the kitchen, ordered the same thing, and was visited by all of the waitresses who had known him over the years.

His order: Two very runny basted eggs: “Throw them in the water, then take them out.”

A coffee ice cream soda with coffee ice cream

The one variable: rye toast, dry (no butter)

Twenty years later, I still remember.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. That is so very true, and so well written! Would your story of Mr. Stanley happen to be at Friendly (‘s) restaraunt?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Michelle on December 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Stroop Road! Love the blog 🙂

    Reply

  3. Posted by Nikki on December 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I am loving your posts! Thanks so much for sharing your stories Dan

    Reply

  4. Posted by Michael on December 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    This is so true. I remember some drink orders and some general conversations I had when I was a waiter but very few faces. I think I can only recall one and that was because he walked out without paying so I had to run down Navy Pier trying to track him down.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Pat on December 22, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Not only do I think I cooked those eggs for Stanley but do you remember the same type of older gent who always ordered the fishamajig sandwich? Your observation on this oddity is spot on. It made me wistful and yet left a smile on my face as if from an inside joke.

    Reply

  6. Posted by shawn spence on November 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    🙂

    Reply

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