Thursday, December 01, 2005

About the Coachloads of Mad, Old German Women and Omelettes.

Before I regale you with this tale, I would like to make it clear that I have no objections to tourists in general, I do not make fun of the 'mentally challenged', neither am I in anyway ageist, sexist or racist - I am half German myself* - and I have no quarrel with omelettes of any description. It was just these particular old biddies and those bloody omelettes I had a problem with.

Once upon a time, I lived and worked in a hotel in Switzerland. It was a very nice hotel on top of a small mountain, which was steeped in history and also afforded wonderful views of the valley below, and some other mountains. Many people liked to visit this hotel and some liked it so very much that they would hold their wedding receptions and various other parties there. It also attracted tourists from far and wide, and amongst these tourist groups were the mad, old German women.
The hotel was in the top, right hand corner of the country near St. Gallen, which if you look at a map, you will see is next to part of Southern Germany. I swear that this part of Germany is where they send their 'disturbed' or possibly 'mentally unsure' and keep them in a special, large, secret compound**, only to release them on the public once every few weeks to give the staff there a rest.
Anyway, at this point in the story I must say that I had got the job out there because I was well trained in Silver Service waitressing and bar work, but although I could understand German well enough, I had yet to learn to speak it fluently, and one of my objectives whilst out there was to practice and learn German. But the problem was, that all the locals and the rest of the staff there wanted to learn English, and they don't speak 'German' there, but 'Schweizer-Deutsche' which is an almost entirely different language altogether. So, after two months, although I had learnt a fair bit of the local lingo, and how to say 'Go f**k yourself' in Albanian, my German was still limited.
But getting back to the story; The arrival of these coachloads were rather random. We would not be given warning of their arrival, but warm weather and being short-staffed was normally what would bring them in. The boss (being fairly used to these attacks visits) had sorted a special 'Tourist Coach Menu' which was limited as to choice, so that in the event of being short-staffed and busy, we would have a bit of a fighting chance in feeding them. It comprised of four choices of soup and sandwiches, and omelettes. Mushroom, cheese, ham, or plain omelettes.
The method we used for taking orders, was that we had an order book with tear-off-tickets over a carbon copy page, so that we'd write the orders and table number on the ticket, tear off the ticket to pass onto the kitchen, and have a copy in our books for when it was time for them to pay. Simple. Most of the time, the method worked just fine. Most of the time...
One fine, sunny day, it was just the Boss and myself on duty on the front line, and two staff working the kitchen. It was fairly busy - about a dozen or so customers enjoying a quiet lunch - nothing we couldn't cope with, until we saw one of the bloody coaches coming up the road. We both watched out of the window willing it to go past and leave us in peace, but the Gods were against us that day and it stopped in the car park to release about a hundred of the mad old bats women, all 'oohing and aahing' about the view and the flowers and the prettiness of the hotel.
The boss decided to assign them to the big dining room, and we formed a battle plan which meant that I would go and take the orders and serve the food, while she got the drinks ready, and acted as go-between with the kitchen staff.
The person who seemed to be in charge of the group and the coach driver, herded them upstairs and they settled down in little groups of four per table. We handed out the mini-menus, and I went to take the drinks orders while they chose their meals.
Now, most large touristy groups are good about this sort of thing. They realize that the waitress is busy, and they just place the orders with a smile and generally try to make life easier for the staff. But not this lot. Oh no.
They were all clucking amongst themselves, and when I eventually did get their attention long enough to ask what they wanted to drink, they instead asked me questions about where was I from?, how old was the hotel?, and (horror of horrors) even grabbed my apron and asked me where it was made as it was so very pretty with all the embroidery and so on it.
After about half an hour, I finally got the drinks orders in and the boss helped serve them while I attempted to get the food orders in.
Most of them went for omelettes. Good. Simple choice, easy to cook and so. Hurrah.
Now, remember what I said about the table numbers, and the orders being placed as to each table, and that method working most of the time? Good.
I gathered all the orders and passed the tickets onto the kitchen staff. After about ten minutes, the first four omelettes were ready. Two cheese, one mushroom, and one ham. I took them to the table where the order had been placed, only to find four different biddies sitting at the table.
"Excuse me" I said "But where are the ladies who placed these orders?"
This led to me being informed that they had decided to go and sit by the window to look at the flowers, but they had ordered omelettes as well so they grabbed them off my tray. Then they noticed that one of them was mushroom, which they hadn't ordered, and passed the plate over to a biddy on the next table, who had ordered mushroom.
I thought about trying to explain the table system, but decided it would take too long, and reckoned that as long as the other old bats didn't do the same thing, I'd be able to sort it.
Big mistake. The next lot did the same thing. The room was swarming with hungry bradies, all clamouring for omelettes, grabbing the bloody things off my tray and then complaining that it wasn't what they'd ordered.
The boss was busy with some customers in the smaller dining room, and as soon as she got back to the bar, I said that I really could do with some help out there, as I had no idea which omelette or mad old coot, was supposed to be where!
She replied that she was rather busy as well and that I knew enough to be able to sort it myself, and went back to her guests.
I took a deep breath, grabbed another tray of omelettes, and went back to the madhouse.
Again, the omelettes were snatched away from me, and again came the complaints that they weren't the right ones. Some of the women had finished their meals and were starting to stray from the pack to look at the flowers, and some were going through their purses and collecting coins to pay their bills. One of them grabbed my arm and tried to pay her bill with a collection of German, Swiss, and French coinage. Another grabbed my apron and said "Are you from Sweden?" to which I replied "No, I'm from London". "Oh" she said, "Where in Sweden is London?" I think I started to whimper at that point.
At the back of the room, a fight had started out as to which bat was going to pay for what, as the last time they'd been on a trip, bat A) had paid, and bats B) C) and D), where almost coming to blows as to who's turn it was this time.
Four of them were shouting at me that they still hadn't had their bloody omelettes, and I found out when one of the bats at another table said that they had all enjoyed BOTH their omelettes, that they had grabbed and eaten the order for the lot that hadn't had any omelettes.
It was then that the boss came up to me asking why there were customers coming up to her saying that the omelettes they were holding, were not what they'd ordered. My reply was something along the lines of "You speak German, I asked you to help, you f**king sort it out or I swear I will walk out, right now!"
Then the sous chef came up to us brandishing yet another tray of omelettes. Unkown to me, a tableful had taken matters into their own hands, and gone to the kitchen themselves to order yet more of the bloody things, and the sous chef, being flustered and scared, had cooked them in the hope of appeasing them. The old bints gathered round him and each grabbed for a plate. The poor sous chef panicked and dropped the tray. The next we knew, there were omelettes flying through the air as the over eager and as yet un-fed grannies, went for the plates with an exuberance equal to hyenas at a hunting frenzy.
Somehow, the boss, kitchen staff and I managed to sort it all out. I must have gone onto auto-pilot, or blanked out the horror, but we made it through although we kept finding bits of omelette and foreign coinage in the corners of the dining room for the next couple of weeks.
I still shudder whenever I see a large coach, but therapy is helping.

*Everytime I go on holiday I get up early to throw my towel in the pool, then get drunk and complain loudly about my behaviour.
**Rather like Eastbourne, but secret.