Tom Ross: Make mine a Caesar salad with anchovies, hold the croutons |

Tom Ross: Make mine a Caesar salad with anchovies, hold the croutons

Editor’s note: This column originally published in March 2002. Tom Ross will return with a fresh column on March 2.

You’ve probably never had the food server’s recurring nightmare. But I have.

Unless you’ve worked in the service industry in a ski resort, you don’t know what it’s like to toil in the trenches in March. But everyone who lives in Ski Town USA should experience it. You would come away with a better appreciation of what it takes to make this place tick.

Really, unless you’ve been employed as a waiter or waitress, you don’t know what it’s like to go to work at 4 p.m. each day in March, knowing with all certainty that you are about to get slammed, and you will run your tail off for the next five to six hours.

This is no joke; I used to depart for my shift each evening repeating the mantra: “I am bulletproof, I am bulletproof, I am bulletproof.”

It helped a great deal to feel invincible, because before the night was over, my faith would be tested.

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I haven’t had the bad dreams for many years. But I’ll never forget them.

In my dream, I’m waiting tables at a nice steak and prime rib restaurant.

The night starts out calmly. I’ve got only five tables in my section and everything is under control. Table A-1, a four-top, orders two bottles of wine, and I’m relaxed enough to chat with the guests while I open the wine without spilling a drop.

“Why, yes ma’am, that is a subtle hint of lingonberry you detect in that pinot noir.”

Gradually, things begin to deteriorate. The restaurant’s host decides it would be fun to give me four tables at once, and from there, things begin to fall apart.

People are asking for separate checks, and one lady has the audacity to insist that I remove her king crab meat from the claws for her. I begin to forget little things, like the salad course.

Fast forward to the good parts: The restaurant I work in has turned into a medieval castle. I’m responsible for about 190 customers in a massive dining hall with stone floors and trestle tables. The customers are banging heavy silver chalices on the wooden tables and yelling, “Waiter, more mead!”

The kitchen is down a long arched hallway that must be a quarter-mile in length. As I’m running back to the kitchen to turn in an order, I fall, and try as I might, I just can’t seem to get up again.

Then I wake up. I won’t tell you I’m in a cold sweat, but my heart is definitely beating rapidly.

I haven’t had the recurring nightmare for many years, but every year, when I flip the calendar to March, I think about the good folks who entertain our guests in Steamboat. If you want to make life a little easier for your food server this weekend, you could start with the salad dressing. I was always amazed at how fussy people were about their salad dressing.

“Could you mix a little Italian with the mustard poppy seed for me?”

Yes, I’m willing to bring you your dang salad dressing on the side in a little cup, because I know it’s a matter of life and death for you. But please, please, please don’t tell me you wish we served roquefort instead of blue cheese dressing. I’m convinced you wouldn’t know the difference between roquefort and blue cheese if I gave you six months of French lessons.

Have a nice dinner and pleasant dreams.