I work at Hooters in Missoula. Missoula is located in Montana. I will now allow you a few seconds to imagine Montana and come up with every Montana cliché you can (this may or may not include horses, covered wagons, lack of televisions, Indian wars and cowboys). Now that you've thought about how back asswards my life is I'm going to tell you you're wrong. Yes I've flown on an airplane, I never rode a horse to school and I do know what cable and Nordstrom’s are. I mean there are some seriously podunk places in Montana, but Missoula is not one of them. Missoula is Montana's outlier. In fact, Missoula is a liberal hippy haven in a state known for it's conservative leanings both political and otherwise.
What do western stereotypes and politics have to do with Hooters? Long story short, yesterday I waited on a cowboy and if my above ramblings have taught you anything it's that cowboys and Missoula go together like oil and water. Yes, I have waited on the occasional cowboy before and generally it means good manners, good stories and good tips. This cowboy was nothing like that.
Mid 50's, Cowboy came into the restaurant with two women in tow. Appearing friendly enough, they sat down at a sunny table near a large bank of windows and grabbed menus from the condiment caddy with a sense of familiarity. Cowboy didn't take his hat off. If my ranching grandpa taught me anything it is that a man always takes off his hat when he sits down to eat. ALWAYS. No exceptions. This blatant disregard for cowboy manners should have been my first sign.
After bringing drinks and slinging in their order of three mushroom swiss Burgers, I returned to Cowboy's table a few minutes later with appropriate silverware for each of the diners. As I folded paper towels and placed a fork and knife on each one I noticed Cowboy's water was nearly empty; server mode kicked in.
"Looks like you could use a little more water there. Let me grab it for you!"
"Did I SAY I wanted more water?"
Huh, what?! "Oh, well I just thought you might like a little more seeing as how that's nearly empty."
"If I'd wanted more I would have grabbed you. This was just like on Friday, you kept trying to take my plate. It's annoying."
Friday, Friday. Then it all came rushing back. I had waited on Cowboy before. He'd ordered a Western Burger - of course - and when his plate was finished I'd offered to take it for him as any good server would. He declined, so I left the plate in front of him. Checking back again, I noticed his friend's plate was also empty so once again I offered to take the plates and once again Cowboy declined. I had offered to take the empty plates two times. Heaven forbid.
Recalling the memory of our Friday encounter I cheerily said, "I'm sorry, I see an empty plate and I can't help but grab it. I guess I'm just tidy!"
"Well if I want anything from you you'll know."
"Great, you just let me know." Please let this fake smile look legit.
Backing away from the table I was utterly confused. Was I being yelled at for offering good service? Yes, yes I was. Now I realize that some servers can in fact be annoying by checking on tables too often. I too have bemoaned the overzealous waitress. I however had tried twice to take empty plates and once attempted filling a low water glass. Overzealous? I don't think so.
So I did what any good server would do - I avoided Cowboy. Since I was apparently meant to be spoken to and not be in the least bit proactive, I didn't prebus or offer refills as any waitress normally would. After all, I hadn't yet been told by his highness Cowboy to take a dish or fill a glass.
"Why is my plate still here?" complained Cowboy as he stared at an empty plate a few minutes later.
"I didn't want to bother you. Did you want me to take it for you now?"
"Of course I want you to take me plate. It's empty isn't it?"
"Let me get that out of the way for you!" Fake smile.
Damned if I do, damned if I don't. He left me two dollars. *Sigh*