Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
As a Columbia College student in the late 1950’s I worked in a Catskill Mountain hotel resort as a waiter during the summers to earn money for college tuition and expenses.
I had a great job in a wonderful adult only hideaway hotel at the end of a winding road. The tips were great. I was able to earn enough to pay for college tuition and some expenses each year.
The job also brought with it many interesting experiences. One that sticks in my mind is my experience with Bobby D. Bobby was at least ten year older than me. He was a local fellow who worked for the phone company during the week and moonlighted at the hotel on weekends.
Most hotels had waiters and busboys to serve the guests. This hotel had waiters only. The waiters served two tables of eight people each during the week. On the weekends the hotel had an inflow of guests so it hired part time waiters. Bobby was one of the part time waiters. Bobby and I were partners. Bobby had two tables and we shared a third table.
On weekends the lines in the kitchen for the various food courses were unbearably long and could result in disastrously slow meal service. If timing was just right you could get to the next course line first and have a smooth service meal. If you were close to last you were guaranteed to provide poor service. Poor service resulted in poor tips.
Bobby was a genius. He had the solution for getting to the line for the next course first at every meal. The funniest incident occurred during a busy Sunday breakfast meal.
Saturday night was usually a late night for most guests. They had difficulty getting up on Sunday mornings. However, the dinning room usually filled up all at once. It was important to have the right timing.
Breakfast is a difficult meal because all the various egg dishes were individually prepared with custom ingredients. Bobby’s trick was the more times you could get two or three dishes cooked at the same time the faster your service would be. It required teamwork. Sometimes I would stand on line and get three dishes for both of us and sometimes he would stand on the line. He was the quarterback and gave the orders to our two man team. .
One Sunday morning our guests started coming in late and the pace of our breakfast looked like it was going to be grim. He ordered me to get 25 orange juices, 10 tomato juices and 5 grapefruit juices. This was called speculating and it was a potential mistake. We were encouraged not to speculate by the maitre de. Bobby assured me none of the stewards in the kitchen would be watching the juice line. It would not be a problem. I asked where we would put all those juices so the maitre de would not see them. He said don’t worry he would take care of it. It would be his problem. He assured me it would save us extra trips to the kitchen and give us an advantage at the short order cooks’ line for egg orders. I obeyed. He was right.
However, we hit the wall when we ran out of tomato juice at a critical time in the meal. Bobby should have figured that a lot of people would have a hangover from Saturday night and want tomato juice. The popular folklore at the time was tomato juice with Worcestershire sauce would straighten out your hangover.
A young single woman came in an asked for tomato juice with Worcestershire sauces. I asked Bobby what to do? He said give her orange juice and tell her to make believe it was tomato juice.
I looked at him like he was crazy. He said just do it! He was right. It worked. The woman was at the table we shared. It was his turn to get the egg orders. I believe she understood our situation and was o.k. with it because she wanted to get her eggs as quickly as possible.
The next person in was a guy about 6’5” and 250 lbs. He had not been pleasant the entire weekend. He was definitely hung over. He requested tomato juice. It was my turn to get the eggs and Bobby brought over orange juice and told him to make believe it was tomato juice.
Well, you can guess what happened. I hear the yelling and cursing while I was in the kitchen. This guy was not taking his tomato juice substitute in the right spirit. I could hear Bobby trying to console him. Bobby’s strategy was the best defense was a strong offense. Bobby got angry. He suggested the guy choose another table if he couldn’t play ball in the spirit it was intended. I thought the guy was going to tear Bobby apart. The maitre de calmed the guy down and got him his tomato juice. We did not get a tip from this guy for the weekend.
Needles to say we never speculated on juice again. The life’s lesson is to be careful what you speculate on whether it is orange juice, oil prices, real estate or stocks and bonds. You never know what the price will be.