Eat & Drink

Do Servers Really Spit in the Food?

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Did this check guy just spit in your food? (photo by Petr Sevcovic)

One of the darkest fears in the heart of every restaurant customer is that if they send their food back to the kitchen for any reason at all, that same plate of food will eventually return to the table with a loogie that came from deep within the tortured soul of their server or a disgruntled kitchen employee. This scenario was perfectly enacted in the 2005 film Waiting when a customer had a little something extra added to her gravy after she demeaned the service staff about her wrongly cooked steak. But does this really happen or is it a myth akin to that of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and an on time departure at JFK airport? In reality, yes it’s possible. If a surgeon can leave a sponge inside a human body, then a waiter can certainly spit into a pile of mashed potatoes. It’s just assumed that the forgotten sponge would be an accident while the spittle would probably be a very spiteful decision.

The bigger question would be, “How often does it happen and why?”  Since most servers who would stoop to such atrocious behavior would probably only share this insightful information with other servers while in the cold comfort of the walk-in cooler – where food, dreams, and secrets go to die – you should know it doesn’t happen very often. Most servers will freely admit to thinking about it, but few have gone all the way with it. In order for spit to intentionally wind up in food, there has to be a perfect storm of circumstances all converging at the most precise of moments that lead to a hocked up phlegm wad being deposited on a plate.

First of all, the server has to be a really awful human being to spit in food, like, kicking a puppy kind of awful. Most servers, despite their crusty demeanor and even crustier apron, are good people who would never even consider something like this because they want to help others. The second attribute that has to coincide with the awful server is an equally awful customer, perhaps one who intentionally insults the server or belittles the staff with a mean streak that’s deeper than a Sylvia Plath poem.

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Now, just because both of these individuals have crossed paths doesn’t mean spit is going to happen. There are still more pieces to the puzzle for things to go the way of spittle in the spaghetti. Both of these awful individuals have to be having extremely bad days. The customer must say or do something that is so far beyond human kindness and the server also has to be in the rottenest of moods that would let them think that today is the day to release the sputum. Let’s say that the server has already been insulted by three other tables, been stiffed twice, had a boss who berated them, and they had two flat tires on the way to work. The customer had had three flat tires that day, just broke up with their spouse, has a cold sore, and had a bird shit on them in the parking lot. Both of these already awful people are having really bad days and when the server accidentally spills a drink into the lap of the customer and the customer yells out, “My god, you’re even more stupid than you look! Get a real job, you bumbling idiot!”

The perfect storm is converging, but this still does not necessarily merit spit in the food, for in order for it to happen, the server now has to find a place in the kitchen where the deed can be done without being seen by anyone else. Restaurant kitchens are notoriously crowded, busy and small so this can be a very challenging task. If there is a brief moment when there is no server, cook, dishwasher, busser, hostess, manager or closed circuit camera nearby, the server can now freely spit in the food of the awful customer. That is, if the server still feels it’s alright to do. However, chances are, just knowing that they could have done it might be enough and they will realize it will do nothing for them. It won’t make them feel better and the customer won’t even know, so what’s the point. That server can take the spit-free food to the table and slyly say, “enjoy” in such a way that might make the customer think their server spit in the food.

Do servers really spit in the food? Sure, it could happen if all the planets perfectly aligned, but 99.9% of servers would never do it. They get enough satisfaction just knowing that they could.

Full disclosure: This writer spit in a man’s lemonade in 1991 after a customer called him a faggot. He felt horrible about it and has never done it again.

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Bitchy Waiter

Bitchy Waiter

Darron Cardosa is a writer, actor, singer, and waiter. He lives and and works in New York City and enjoys "The Brady Bunch," "The Facts of Life" and cocktails almost as much as he hates your baby.