I’m not saying that it’s ever good to spit in someone’s food when you work in food service, I’m saying that sometimes, it’s pretty much to be expected. And while I’ve never quite had the wherewithal to engage in the act myself (notably for fear of getting caught and, subsequently, fired), I have seen many a colleague take out their rightful rage on a pile of mashed potatoes and did not begrudge them a moment in their choice. If you open up your sandwich to find a pleasant, phlegmy surprise, there are certain courses of action leading up to your meal which erase your ability to be indignant about it. While the ideal would be having management throw your ass out, it is often not a choice — if you can’t avoid these things and not worry about spitty food, eat at home.
1. Demeaning your female server. If you’re one of those absurdly misogynist patrons who feels that, along with his purchase of a bowl of soup, he is entitled to inappropriately touch all over his waitress and ask her embarrassing questions, you don’t deserve to be eating in polite society with regular humans. Aside from the distasteful choice to put any woman in such an uncomfortable position, there is also the unfortunate power dynamic of her not really being able to tell you off as she is completely entitled to. She is bound to laugh off your indiscretions and put it all under the umbrella of “the customer is always right,” or risk her job. If you make her suffer sexual harassment to earn her tip, enjoy eating spit.
2. Treating your server like a medieval serf. No, you are not allowed to harass your server. You are not allowed to call them names, or curse at them, or snap to get their attention, or talk to them like they’re children who don’t understand basic human interaction. Why anyone would come to a dining establishment to release all their frustrations about society onto some poor human being who is only trying to do their job and make things as pleasant as possible is beyond me, but it’s a surprisingly common course of action. If you’re the kind of person who calls across a room to your server with an irritated “Hey” while they have two hands full of trays and are talking to someone else, then hurls abuse at them when they fail to attend to you immediately, expect bad things.
3. Sending things back multiple times that were exactly to your specifications, while taking it out on your server. There are people who do this for no other reason than to be terrible and exert a pathetic little moment of power over someone, I’m sure of it. There are only so many things you can be anal retentive about before you’re getting off on it in some way. You send back the same dish three times because there was a problem with it that cannot reasonably be corrected, and continue to make complaints that cannot be identified or remedied. You belittle your server and act as though it is his or her personal fault that you are not enjoying your coq au vin. You take out whatever day’s frustrations you may have on the server who has to continually apologize, and the chef who is already being slammed during a rush. You have made your choice.
4. Making bigoted comments. If you are making racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, or otherwise bigoted statements to your server whose manager is obligating them to continue serving you with a smile and pretend not to mind it, I hope your food gets spit in. I really do.
5. Being belligerently drunk to the staff. If your ass manages not to be thrown out (sometimes managerial staff is desperate for the check on a slow night), expect to see the worst. There is a difference between being charmingly rowdy after a few celebratory glasses and hurling just-contained abuse at everyone who is serving you because they have no choice but to take it. Your drunkenness is not cute, your disrespect is not appreciated, and your pungent odor of Jack Daniels and cigarettes is offensive to everyone who is forced to come within 10 feet of you.
6. Allowing your children to be absolutely horrifying. While there is a certain level of understanding that comes along with family dining, as with everything else in our rule-laden world, there are limits. If your children are screaming, making absurd messes, being rude to the waitstaff, throwing food around, dumping out salt packets, throwing straws, and generally recreating the Trashin’ the Camp scene from Tarzan except without music and while not being remotely cute, you should not be in a restaurant. If you do come to one, expect your food to suffer in between your servers bouts in the kitchen to weep silently into his or her apron.
7. Being a known stiffer. It’s not a difficult concept. If you leave terrible/non-existent tips on a regular basis and continue to come into a restaurant where your reputation has been more than established, you know exactly what is bound to befall you. You know what you’re getting into. And just because everyone is forced to continue to treat you with respect and deference to your face does not mean your dish is getting the same treatment backstage. But, of course, you knew this. It’s your call to be an asshole, and you must have your reasons.