When I was a waitress, I despised families. Families ranked up there with the worst potential restaurant
Perverts, sleazeballs, meal splitters, meal modifiers, rude people, stalkers and even bad tippers
rank above them. Why? Because families are horrible. Messy, demanding, obnoxious and notoriously
bad tippers on top of everything else, they are the worst kind of social pariah. Every time you even
glance in their general direction, they are clamoring for extra napkins; insisting on ordering something
that isn’t even on the menu, breaking something, spilling their drinks or hanging from the light fixtures.
Whenever a family would come into the restaurant I worked at, we waitresses would do anything to
avoid putting them in our own section. No one wanted to wait on the families.
As a former waitress with small children of my own, I now feel ashamed when I dine in any restaurant
that doesn’t have a play area, an in-house balloon twister or man dressed in a fuzzy mouse suit. I know
how much the servers despise us and I understand their feelings completely.
For example, the other day my husband, kids and I went to eat lunch at Uncle Julio’s which is one of my
absolute favourite Mexican restaurants. Before we even sat down, Diego had managed to run in between
the legs of several guests, nearly toppling a 75-year-old grandma on her way to the restroom.
We had the nicest waiter who didn’t act like he detested us in the least. He brought us crayons, colouring
sheets and extra napkins without even asking. He didn’t seem disturbed when we had to return several
drinks because the kids mixed beans and salsa into them. He didn’t even roll his eyes when we dropped
an entire plate of guacamole on the floor, or when Diego nearly overturned the table next to us or when
Nino accidentally threw a tortilla and it almost landed on the hostess.
Meanwhile, I was distracted by a young couple at the table across from us. You could tell from their
body language that they were obviously in their first month or two of dating. They were flirting around
with each other and holding one another’s gaze with rapt attention. The girl was toying with her hair
and the guy was inching his chair closer to hers.
I remembered when my husband and I were dating. I remembered how it felt to stare at him across
the table, fiddling with my fork because I was too excited to eat. I looked across the table at my own
husband who was trying to keep Diego from climbing into the chip bowl. I gave him a flirty smile and
tried to pretend I didn’t have a 28-pound toddler crawling across the table on his hands and knees on his
way to my lap.
“What’s going on, baby?” he said with a funny smile.
“Nothing,” I replied, twirling a strand of my hair. “I was just remembering what it was like to go out with
you before we were married with children.”
He was still looking at me kind of funny, but didn’t say anything.
“What?” I said. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing, sweetie. It’s just that you have a little bit of sour cream in your hair,” he said quietly, as if he
regretted to have to tell me.
Embarrassed, I looked down and sure enough, I was just about to twist a meatball-size wad of sour
cream right through my fingers. Not that it would have made a big difference. My hands and shirt had
already been baptized with guacamole minutes before, when Spiderman decided to take a dip in the
Avocado Lagoon, thanks to Diego.
It took me a while to get used to being a restaurant outcast. As a former waitress, I was used to being a
desirable customer. A customer who knew how to act, how to order, how to not be a nuisance and most
especially how to tip.
When we first started taking our son Nino to restaurants when he reached the high chair age, I was
horrified by the amount of food that we would leave behind on the floor. I would even get down there
and try to clean it up somewhat so it didn’t appear that we ate our entire meal beneath the table. I
would apologise profusely to the servers when I asked for extra straws, silverware and napkins for the
fifth time and feel ashamed to admit when we needed replacements for our spilled food or drinks. I
felt especially neurotic as I did Olympic laps around the restaurant while chasing my toddler who was
determined to have nothing to do with the table we were seated at.
Over the years I’ve relaxed somewhat. I’m still not crazy about being a restaurant outcast, but I don’t get
down on my hands and knees to try and clean up. Someone else cleaning up is actually one of the main
benefits of restaurant dining, I now realise, along with free crayons and meal replacements when the
children accidentally drop their plates on the floor. I am especially fond of restaurants who seat all the
families in a specific room which is generally a lot rowdier (and filthier) than the rest of the facility, but
in a good way, because then you don’t have to worry when your two-year-old decides to eat beneath
your neighbours’ table while lying on his back, picking his nose and massaging his toe lint.
Yes, I do understand why waiters and waitresses aren’t fond of families. But, at the same time, I really
do like to eat out occasionally. So we suck it up and accept that we are about as desirable as toxic waste,
try the keep out children at least in the general vicinity of our table, apologise when we ask for extra
napkins for the twelfth time, and always, ALWAYS leave a very generous tip.