Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sexual harrassment

“I’m gonna need you to take over table 52 please.” I say to Bonnie the shift manager, feeling sick enough to vomit.

“Why, are you busy?” She looks over my shoulder at the bar.

“No, but I don’t want to wait on them. Not after what they just said.”

“Uh Bonnie can I please get a void?” a server asks.

“Give me a minute Sully. So what’s going on that you don’t want to wait on Mike and Greg?” I say a silent prayer thanking God for Bonnie managing today.

“Do you want me to get into it now? My high-tops both just got sat .”

“Yeah, I want to know. What happened?”

“They’re being ignorant and to be honest, I don’t make enough money here to put up with it.” I grip the top of a banquet to steady my shaking hands.

Bonnie looks closely at me. “Hey, you love those guys. They’ll only sit in your section. Let’s go to the back. Sully, can you watch the bar for a second?”

I look at Sully apologetically. “Everybody’s got drinks except 55 and 58. If you could just take their drink orders, I can make them.” I say.

“Okay but hurry, I just got sat too.” He shakes his head as he makes his way to the two bar tables.

“Tell me what happened.” She encourages putting a motherly arm around my shoulders as we walk.

“Basically I was just propositioned by Mike and Greg.”

Bonnie laughs. “What?”

“Yeah, they started talking about how they’re on the board to clean up the waterfront of strip bars and that they’re trying to decide whether or not it’s worth giving Cheri Champagne’s a face lift or get rid of it. Then they asked me what I thought. I said I didn’t know, and asked them for their drink order. But they insisted they wanted my opinion.”

“Yeah, then what?”

“Then the conversation got really weird. Mike goes ‘So Kim is that something you’d ever consider?’ And I was confused so I asked him what he meant. He said ‘You know, dance?’ I didn’t say anything and Greg pipes in, ‘What would you need to be paid to dance?’ I stopped smiling then and asked them what they wanted to drink. They wouldn’t let it go. Mike finally said ‘I guess we’re asking you what it would cost to see you dance naked.’ That’s when I sort of lost it. I said “You’re making me uncomfortable. If you want to eat I’ll take your order but this conversation needs to stop.’ But you know what Bonnie?” She grabs my hand pats it to calm me. “They wouldn’t let it go. Mike said”

“Which one’s Mike again?”

“The fat balding one.”


“He goes – ‘awww come on Kim, everybody has a price.’ Then Greg the skinny one – he’s the lawyer – laughs and goes ‘We’re willing to pay big bucks.’ That’s when I told them I was coming to get you.”

Bonnie was twirling the Squirrel card in her fingers, something I’d seen her do when the restaurant began filling up and we were understaffed. She was the accountant for the restaurant but recently had begun pulling a few management shifts during lunch each week. We loved having her on the floor. A welcome change from the general manager Dave who surely would have laughed this off and insisted I get back in the bar and serve the two regulars.

“Okay, okay, you shouldn’t have to serve people who are being that obnoxious to you. I’ll take them.”

Relieved I walk back to the bar. My legs feel like jelly. I don't want to face them again but need the hundred bucks I’d easily pull in on this busy Friday lunch.

I'm joining those ladies in red in their prompt to describe a fight fiction or non-fiction. This is another example of some of  the nonsense I faced in my bartending days. Although some of the names have been changed, it is an almost exact account of what happened. I refused to serve these men after that day and yet they insisted on sitting in my section at least twice a week for the next year. I would usually ask a colleague to wait on them unless Bonnie was working. It was truly a case of sexual harrassment and sadly because they were in, what I thought at the time, positions of power, I did nothing except refuse to wait on them.


  1. It's hard to stand up for what is right sometimes. Really proud of you for taking a stand and refusing to take it from those jerks!

  2. This story (and your last one about the the drunk father) make me so glad I never had to wait table or bartend. Working in a retail store was bad enough!! You're a brave lady though, so many other people would have said nothing and taken that crap from those guys!!!

  3. But you did refuse to serve them and that IS something!

  4. Oh Kim, I'm sorry that happened to you. What a couple of jerks. So many times when it happens we do feel powerless, so I admire you more than ever for standing up to them. You know, just writing this makes me feel powerless-and mad because I know it will happen to Amy some day-because it still goes on a lot.

    What those two really needed, I probably shouldn't put here-but I bet you can imagine what I have in mind!!! Total jerks.

  5. Waitressing is a hard job! And standing up for yourself is even harder. I'm glad you at least tried.

    Thanks for stopping by my post! Let me know if you get those white noise machines and whether they work :)

  6. That's tough to be in a position where you need the money (and tip) but are so completely put off by the customer's intentions. YUCK!

  7. This brought me back to working in restaurants all through college. I had almost forgotten all the terms...Sadly, in my experience I think there was more "harassement" between the staff thant with the customers usually.

  8. im sorry you were put in this position, and glad you bravely wrote about how that felt. you did a great job with pulling me right into the restaurant!

  9. Good for you for refusing to wait on them. They are the type of people that just like to make people uncomfortable and don't care about anyone but themselves.

  10. Good for you for refusing to put up with their behavior. I worked in a bar when I was younger, one of my three jobs at the time, and the stuff that people thought was ok to say to me was appalling. Glad you stood up for yourself!

  11. As a restaurant manager, this piece was all too familiar. It's ridiculous how people behave towards women, especially cocktail servers. You did a perfect job of capturing how moments like that start and how they can spin out of control. I'm glad that you had Bonnie at least and sad that they weren't barred from the restaurant.

  12. I am sorry that happened to you. It is infuriating how we call ourselves "advanced" and "enlightened" but really it's the same ol shit just wrapped in pretty wrapping paper. While it might seem like nothing, at least by refusing to wait on them, you in a way stood up to them. It was something so don't belittle what you did and the fact that your colleagues supported your decision also is a small victory. It took courage to refuse to wait on them especially when they continually acted like asswipes.

  13. Ugh. Men are pigs. Even worse dealing with someone like that if you are working FOR them. I wish I could say I've never experienced it myself.

  14. The underlying fight tones here were great. You expressed a lot without it being blatantly obvious.

  15. Ugh. You did stop waiting on them and that, in itself says you were not willing to be bought...even from their tips. So, good for you! I'll bet they never even 'got it'! Thanks for sharing another piece of your story. :>

  16. It is amazing how powerless we can be made to feel. And yet, you were the one with all the power. They pursued you, but you grabbed control of their power by refusing to wait on them. You are amazing.

  17. Your story really held my attention and kept me wanting to read more. Thanks -- on behalf of those of us who have waited tables -- for writing this story and for standing up for yourself. I can relate!

  18. Working retail was such a nightmare...I can't even imagine what a horrible job bartending must have been!!

  19. Although you didn't do anything more radical, you did take back power when you refused to wait on them. Men can be such pigs, and such power trippers. Good for you for refusing to put up with their unacceptable behavior. I know a lot of women who will be too scared to even do that.

  20. Hi Kim, I'm not here from the Red Dress, I just came by to read your words. I posted a couple of times on Red Dress, but I'm more of "God all the time" kind of a writer - that's my little niche - I heart it - and Red Dress was for "writing" - I felt a little out of place. Anyway this is awesome - I began reading it, not knowing it was a story - pretty soon - I had a feeling you were writing about someone else - there are touches of authenticity throughout the story - but I got suspicious and went to the bottom - and saw the red dress - then I knew it was fiction - went up and read the rest. So the point, I guess, is, that your fiction read like life - so that is a really really good thing. God Bless and keep you and all of yours Kim. ♥✞ღ

  21. I was hoping it wasn't nonfiction. Gross. Men can be such pigs. Hard to believe they were on a board to clean up the waterfront!

  22. Good for you for taking a stand and refusing to wait on them. I wonder what those men would think now, looking back on the situation. Perhaps they have wives and daughters now. It also makes me wonder what they would think if somebody treated the women in their lives the way they treated you. I'm sorry you had to be exposed to that boarish behaviour. Shame on them!!!

  23. I would be way too sensitive to be a waitress. Good for you for standing your ground against those idiots.

    Well written post Kim!

  24. I just read this amazing quote,

    "Sexiness comes down to three things: chemistry, sense of humor, and treatment of waitstaff at restaurants. If the sparks don't fly from the beginning, they never will. If he doesn't get your sense of humor from the first conversation, you'll always secretly be looking for someone who does. And if a guy can't see restaurant servers as real people with needs and dreams and crappy jobs, then I don't want to be with him, even if he just won the Pulitzer Prize."

    --Rhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.


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