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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

Prince Harry

Even republicans approve, surely?

Microwaving tea

Recommended by scientists, apparently. Disgusting

No televised election debates

Disappointing; we were rather looking forward to May vs The Sturge

Broadchurch

Olivia Coleman = nailed-on Future National Treasure

Spring Bank holidays

Too close together! Very bad!

Bin-mageddon

“I queued for THREE BLOODY HOURS at B&Q for a new recycling bin! The entire town’s in CHAOS”

S-Town

To be listened to whole on a long journey for maximum effect

Using a proper paper map

Strangely satisfying

The “Flash” Flash ad

It’s back! Possibly the best ever singing dog in an advert ever

Crap tacos

Reheated, with too much chilli: middle-class kebabs, basically

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Entries in Jessica M (11)

    Saturday
    Apr232011

    Pay by Cash not Card: Your waitress will be relieved

    Flickr: jon smith 'una nos lucror'
    After years of waitressing in various places I’ve identified the one thing that remains a constant; my hatred of the credit card machine. After setting a bill down, it’s always an instant relief to be presented with cash rather than card. Or, god forbid - several cards. (Take note, tables of women). For one, paying by cash is quicker for me, especially when customers don’t require change. I take the notes with a cheers/bye/see-you-again-soon; the usual script can be followed. There’s nothing worse than having to stop dead during the flow of a shift, machine in hand, and wait for the payment to connect. I hate it. More crucially, paying cash cuts out the painful chit chat I have to endure in these slow 60 seconds that I am shackled to a table. I can’t run. I’m forced to respond to jokes I’ve heard a million times. That one where they pretend in mock horror their card’s about to be declined, and can they pay by doing the washing up ‘round the back'? That’s a good one. Their friends laugh. I cringe.
     
    I’m never unfriendly per se I’d just rather not waste my fading energy on these little interactions. Customers think they’re being kind by smiling up at me sympathetically as I wipe sweat from my eyes, and state the obvious; “Really busy tonight aren’t you?” Ho hum. A customer’s need to fill silence is astounding. Employ some half decent wit and be original or just do us all a favour, pay by cash and leave with a wave instead. 
    Friday
    Apr222011

    Tipping - Do it or don’t do it – just don’t make a performance of it 

    Flickr: BBM Explorer
    Why is it that people in this country think they’re doing their waitress a favour by leaving a tip? Of course, it’s not mandatory, more a gesture of goodwill. But a waitress myself, I’d prefer you left nothing than make a song and dance about what you do leave - truly highlighting the SUB in subservient industry. Take last week for instance, Man pays bill. Man puts fiver down on little silver tray, happy customer. Before leaving, Man proceeds to make clicking motions at me from across the room whilst manically waving at the tray as if to say, “Look, LOOK, how generous I am.” Cheerio. 
     
    There are about 6 categories of tippers. 
    1. Peacocks - the ones that want to physically SHOW me their ‘generosity’ to view a response. 
    2. Ferrets - There’s the couple who start ferreting around in their pockets/jacket/bag for change while I’m still at their table. Particularly uncomfortable, especially when they become vocal about it e.g. “Have you got any change? I told you I had no cash on me - have you got anything?”
    3. Glasses - The best type of tipper are those that graciously pop a note under a glass and vacate the restaurant with a simple smile - usually older guys, genuinely lovely people. 
    4. Shakers  - Everyone knows the male ‘money handshake’ followed closely by “Thanks for looking after us.” 
    5. Wildcards - Some believe in verbal tipping. Customers that embroil me into lengthy conversation about the wonderful food and service then, pulling a wildcard, leave nothing. 
    6. Politicos - After reading articles in The Observer/Independent about “this terrible business” of big chains making up wages with tips they are pleased they’ve kept up with the big debate and press coins firmly into my palm.
    It’s possible to flit between categories depending on who you’re dining out with but I’d stick to the note under a glass technique if you want to be welcomed back.  
    Friday
    Apr152011

    Men and their Mojitos - a waitress reveals a new side to modern men

    Flickr: janineomg
    When taking out drinks to a table, I remember the days I could simply assume the pint was for the man and the small glass of white was for the woman. I could set them down with a smile and not have to actually speak. The same applied to food - who the steak was for and where the plate of steamed fish was going could be guessed; nine times out of ten I’d be right. But all that is out of the window for waitresses now, gender based assumption is no longer safe. I offended some guy recently by placing his Campari and soda automatically in front of his wife. My faux pas was washed over as she made some joke. We all laughed, but when I looked closely, his eyes were shooting daggers at me, clearly appalled. Metrosexualism has very much filtered into menu and ordering patterns. Instead of sticking to the Stella, it seems men are finally comfortable with experimenting in restaurants and bars, and not just with their girlfriends. Gin and tonics, Rose spritzers, Malibu and pineapple, it seems to be about taste for them now, rather than consumption. Drinks dressed in paraphernalia aren’t a no-no for men anymore, and I’ve noticed cocktails becoming quite sought after where I work. Apparently Mojitos with the lads is an acceptable after-work activity amongst businessmen. 
     
    I’m discovering, slowly hovering with my tray at the table, I’ve got to ask what is going where. I hope this ‘fashion’ stops soon, I can’t read people anymore and it’s thrown my whole system. 
    Thursday
    Mar312011

    How ramming culture down your child’s throat equals kudos – Tales of a Child Minder in Manchester.

    Flickr: Alfonso Surroca
    I thought the transition from casual babysitter to daytime child minder would be a minor one. I’d get them from school, fix up a spag bol or something, then leave at 7 when the parents got in; simple routine, easy work. I was quite deluded; it’s a full time admin role. If I’m not dropping one child off at community choir or an oboe lesson I’m racing to collect another from swimming/football/gym club (even Folk Dance if it’s the last Wednesday of the month.) My afternoons leave me feeling more like the family PA than anything else; it’s a non-stop activity train. And the children look tired.
     
    When I was growing up we just used to watch The Simpsons after school, and eat biscuits. Is it necessary for each child’s weekly schedule to be packed to excess? On the leafy little street where I work, ramming culture down your child’s throat equals kudos. It seems a competitiveness has surfaced between parents and there’s an unspoken assumption that the more textured (i.e. manic) your child’s social life, the better parent you are. Now I’m not saying the kids don’t use this to their own advantage at times - they’ve sure picked up on the politics.
    The middle one is an outstanding tactician who generally gets what he wants by comparison (e.g. “He gets to do this, you know mum” and “she goes to that.”) But I worry that by the time the three I'm minding have reached secondary school they will have crashed and burned completely. Downtime is important too. What worries me further is that they actually have busier lives than me and I’m doing an MA and holding down three jobs. 
    Sunday
    Dec052010

    Secret middle-class perils; the weird restaurant bully

    The restaurant I work at has sublime views of the ocean, plentiful fresh fish and customers who usually leave happy. Unfortunately, there is a small number of said customers who are hell bent on getting their money’s worth out of us waiting staff. After seven years, these types are easy to spot, and usually have a glint in their eye, ready to really take advantage of their position, and mine.
     
    This is a customer only satisfied through making me sweat. It’s an undiscussed aspect of the service culture; the horrid little man who for some reason gets a power-kick out of paying for your services and knowing that he can make you do what he asks.
     
    Horrid Little Man is usually small, always in loafers and always accompanied by his adoring wife who always drinks campari and soda (yes, they’re usually old). He thinks that the waiting staff are playthings that come with the package of eating-out; slaves whose energy he can max out to his hearts content within the two hours he’s on our premises.
     
    The perpetual glint in his eye suggests his relentless complaints have no substance whatsoever, but he’s compelled to create them. “Never mind, look how much he’s spent so far” my boss always says. Great; I don’t own the restaurant and I don’t care. 
     
    When the difficult biddies bring along another biddie couple - it gets even more painful. Four of them walked in the other week. Horrid Little Man – the ringleader - set a precedent and from then on I was doomed, as competitive complaining ensued. The wives’ chairs had to be changed twice, I walked a small marathon back and forth to the bar, they accidently-on-purpose forgot what they’d ordered, and I somehow had to create a cappuccino which exactly matched the description “piping hot but not too hot”. Unaware I am to be shared with other diners, I was even asked to pop to the bar next door to get some cigarettes from the machine but I put my foot down. They were pissed by then. For the foursomes personal entertainment I was later expected to recite my life story, answering dozens of silly questions.
     
    Racking up a £200 bill at our restaurant does not warrant slave driving behaviour, nor does it give you the right to treat us waitresses like your maid, your PA or just something that’s crawled out from under a rock. Money might be power in some walks of life but we’re just paid to serve food.