Dirty feet, thieves, drinks, and a wretched hive of scum and villainy

Well it’s a new year so let’s look at some timeless stories. I’m sure you have your own (and I would love to share them here so please send them in), but first, here are a couple of tales. One of them is mine and the others were submitted anonymously. I will let you decide which is which.

That’s not what kitchen sinks are for…

I worked in this super divey bar/restaurant about 30 years ago and we had a problem with health and safety violations. I was the barback and had little to do with the kitchen and we had a kitchen manager that seemed to know what he was doing so this was surprising.

Until one day when I got to work extra early to open for the day. I went in to the kitchen for something and found the kitchen manager having a standup wash in the big commercial sink. The sink the porters washed vegetables in!

He literally was standing one foot on the floor with the other in the sink, giving himself a scrub.
I never ate my free staff meals after that.

Your money is surprisingly good here…

I worked at a little nerdy bar. It was the kind of place where we would bring a TV in once a week so customers could watch X-Files. (This was a while ago so we had to watch as the show was broadcast or bring in a VHS of the most recent episode.)

We had one regular, a new Canadian from Eastern Europe, that came in everyday after work for a drink.

He didn’t make a lot of money, but thankfully worked in restaurants so he never went hungry. Still, he was often down to his last dollars by the end of the week.

One evening he came in after a pretty long shift and was in desperate need of a few drinks. And drink he did. Not content to stick to his usually one or two beer, this night he put back a good half dozen or more. When it came time to pay, he looked at the bill and then at me a little panicky.

He was short a good $20 and wouldn’t be able to tip either. I told him that I couldn’t extend a tab and that he would have to find some way to pay.

That’s when he asked me if I would accept Imperial Credits.

I don’t know if these were from a game or something he had made, but they looked pretty cool. And this was a very nerdy bar.

I charged him one Imperial Credit for his balance.

I actually then paid his tab with my tip money, and he was able to save face with what I now believe was a Jedi Mind Trick.

The tip heard ‘round the restaurant…

While working at a fine dining restaurant can certainly improve the thickness of your wallet, it’s always nice to hear about those really special tips.

This isn’t one of those stories where a mega-rich guest leaves the table with a huge tip in the six figures, nor even four figures, but to a struggling waiter in a highly unstable industry this one still sticks in my mind.

The table was four late middle-aged men. There was nothing special about their stay, their orders, or even my interaction with them. It was just a simple table, no special requests, and minimal pleasantries between courses.

They asked for one cheque which came to $130. I dropped it and carried on with my duties. On their way out they said they had left cash in the folder and I wished them well as they left. I went and grabbed the folder and inside was $200USD. I thought that can’t be right and I ran to catch the guests at the door. I asked them if they meant to leave that amount. They assured me they did, that the meal was worth twice the price and so was the service.

With the exchange rate at the time this amounted to almost a $100 tip.

Best guests ever.

Have an interesting restaurant story either as staff or as a guest? Be a part of this series by submitting firsthand experiences of imperious bosses, difficult guests, odd service, and your own and others’ gaffes. Please send stories to or private message Salty on social media.

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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