Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: If You See Something, Say Something!

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Last night I overheard a customer who was sitting at the bar ask my bar partner what my name was. I had no idea why this guy wanted this information; I had had absolutely no interaction with this customer at all. “Great!”, I thought to myself, “What the hell did I do NOW?” Because, yeah, I always think the worst. I’m Irish: it is, alas, in my nature to be a pessimist. Also, it has been my experience that the sole reason someone wants to know your name is so that they can complain about you.

I went over to him and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Jackie. How are you tonight?” This was a tactical move on my part. I figured that maybe I could “make my case”, nip the whole complaining about me thing in the bud by being straightforward with, by ingratiating myself to, “the guy”. I was wracking my brain, trying to think what the hell I could have done wrong.

I quickly scrolled through the possibilities. Did “the guy” witness me committing some heinous error related to personal hygiene? Did I touch my hair? My mouth? Did I pick up a glass by the rim? I didn’t think so. I am careful about those things. Still, anyone can make a mistake.

Did we ignore him in favor of someone who walked in .05 seconds after him? That happens sometimes. It is not intentional. It is, more often than not, a result of someone standing in a more convenient spot than another person. Eventually we get to everyone. We try to be fair. People don’t always see it that way. I have been at this long enough to know that.

“The guy” had nearly finished his meal. From what I could tell my bar partner had adequately attended to this man’s needs. Or had he? Did this gentleman think me “in charge” because I was the elder stateswoman behind the bar? Was he going to lodge a complaint about my young co-worker? That happens sometimes, too. Actually, that happens a lot.

I am, by the way, not “in charge” of anything or anybody. People don’t know that, though. They often grab me, thinking that I, by virtue, I suppose, of my gray hair and conscientious manner, also possess the magical ability to solve their problems, which, of course, I do not.

Did I bash into his barstool, causing his knife to slip? Did a morsel of food go sailing off of his plate as a result of my clumsiness? Perhaps. I am not known far and wide for my gracefulness.

I do not see well in the dark, either. The manager on duty last night likes to keep the lights low. I can barely see a thing. I have no time to fool with lighting. Sure, I’ve bitched about it. The manager’s answer? He likes it that way. Okay. I am a woman who has learned to pick her battles. I am not going to engage in lighting warfare with a manager who, outside of his penchant for striking a romantic atmosphere, does his job well. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense.

He, the manager, finds it hysterical when I bring up the flashlight on my phone to find things in the dark — and by “things” I mean the cash register. Yeah. I would love to get one of those miner’s helmets and strap it on the next time we work together. That, too, would amuse him. He and I have a few laughs, mostly at my expense. Because he is a good egg, I am willing to move past our lighting issues. In the spirit of congeniality, he is willing to overlook some of my more idiosyncratic behaviors. (Like my trademark eye-rolling, for example.) It is what it is.

Did “the guy” think he knew me from somewhere? That happens. I know a lot of people. I have worked locally in bars and restaurants for the past thirty years. A lot of people know me. It is slightly embarrassing when I don’t remember them, but what are you going to do? I can’t be expected to remember every person I have ever come into contact with in my life, can I?

I was hoping our conversation was not going to be a trip down Memory Lane. I was busy. Far too busy to take a jaunt back in time with a guy that I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had never seen before.

All of this was rolling around my head as I was standing in front of “the guy”. He politely explained that he wanted to know my name because he wanted to commend me. When he wants to compliment a person, he said, he likes to know their name. What?!?!?!

This hardly ever happens. This was not a scenario that had played out in my head as I approached “the guy”, particularly because, like I said, I had had no interaction with him whatsoever.

I did not see this coming. I did not even know he was aware of my existence before he asked my bar partner for my name. He told me that I was the hardest worker he had ever seen, compared me to the “Energizer Bunny”, and told me that he was exhausted just watching me. I apologized for tuckering him out, explained that my bar partner made my success possible (“couldn’t do it without him!” “we make a great team!”), and thanked the customer for noticing.

As I was speaking with him, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that I was being summoned by a woman who was seated at one of the bar top tables. I excused myself, but was planning to make my way back to “the guy”, to get HIS name, to thank him again. (To beg him to return!) Once I had attended to the woman’s demand for, I kid you not, “a dozen” lemons, (yes, that’s what she wanted, a “dozen” lemons — for her steak!) I looked for him, but he was gone.

I wanted him to know that he made my week! It had been a bit of a rough week, to tell you the truth. Many of us worker bees had wondered, aloud and with head-shaking seriousness, what had gotten into people this week? Seriously. Every shift was chock full of the nasty and the weird. We all felt slightly outnumbered.

This guy, “the guy”, softened the edges of what had been an angst-filled week. The lesson here, my friends, is this: if you see something, say something, especially if that something is nice. It may just mean the world to someone. I am lucky that last night that “someone” was me.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: Finding a Therapist

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I went to a chain burger joint last night where I witnessed another bartender living MY nightmare. He, too, had to contend with the takeout bullshit at the bar.

I watched and listened as a woman held him hostage for ten minutes while she ordered her food to go. Several times throughout the proceedings he attempted to give her the menu that she insisted that she did not need. Trust me, she needed it.

If she asked one question, she asked a hundred. The answers to her questions could very easily have been found in the menu. Rather than doing anything as pesky as reading, though, she insisted on getting her information by auditory means.

As he was attending to our non-reader, his bar began to fill up. I also noticed that the service bar was getting a little busy, too. He was also aware of these things.

Still, he could not, no matter how hard he tried (and he was giving it his all), get this woman to complete her takeout order. I could, quite literally, feel his pain.

When she finally arrived at what I can only guess were life-changing decisions regarding onion rings vs. fries (the choices between these two foodstuffs seemed most troublesome to her) and had finished with the beleaguered bartender, she decided to move on to the host stand; to chat up the busy staff over there. Where, I wondered, did she think she was? Her own kitchen? She seemed to have zero understanding of how things work in a restaurant.

Many, many people behave this way on a daily basis in restaurants across America. They wander around, sit wherever they please, suck the life out of the staff, and then go on their merry way — leaving a slew of people “in the weeds” in the wake of tending to some egotistical twit with a $15 check who thinks that he or she is the center of everyone’s universe.

This woman, in fact, reminded me of one of my regular takeout customers, one who is also a regular pain in the ass. Among the various and sundry things that make him a pain in the ass, his largest defect by far, is that he is cheap. How cheap is he? Let’s just say that I would not be surprised to see moths flying out of his coupon-filled wallet.

He is not poor, by the way. He is just cheap. He purchases large quantities of gift cards — at a significant cost AND a significant discount — so that he can save a few bucks every time he comes in to torture us. This savings, though, is not enough for him.

He has been told time and time again that he cannot use multiple coupons and yet he produces multiple coupons each and every time he comes in to pick up his order. By “multiple”, I mean at least three, sometimes four. He orders two entrees and wants to use three coupons, coupons that clearly state they are meant to be used for two adult meals. He then drags out, and insists upon using, a years old and long expired free dessert or appetizer coupon that he somehow found on the internet.

And, he always finds something to complain about. Always. The other night it was the bags that I used to pack up his order. For a time we had better bags, but the company went back to the old ones. He told me that I needed to go in the back and make sure there were none left — because he wanted those bags, the “good” bags. Instead of assuring him that there were no “good” bags left, I wandered in the back, took a little breather, and returned to report to him the bad news about the bags. They were gone.

Prior to the appearance of “cheap ass coupon guy”, a nice couple had sat at one of my bar tables. I had taken and delivered their drink order. They were, at that time, not ready to order their dinner.

I got rid of “cheap ass coupon guy”, or so I thought, and made my way over to the bar table to take the couple’s order. I thanked them for their patience. The woman looked at me and said, “Our patience? I was just saying to my husband that you are the one with the patience. I could never do what you do, not in a million years! What was he going on about? Bags? That’s just craziness.” Yes, I agreed, it was.

As I looked heavenward, placed my hand over my heart, and told her — in a very dramatic way — that at least it was all behind me now, who do you think appeared out of the corner of my eye? “Cheap ass coupon guy”, that’s who. He was baaaaack!

Before he could tap me on the shoulder or otherwise make his presence known, I turned to him and said, “Yes, sir, is there something else that I can do for you tonight?” (Like wipe your ass, for example?) He told me that he was going to need his order double-bagged.

As I was about to ask the nice couple if they could indulge me the thirty seconds that I would need to double bag his damn order, which did NOT, let me assure you, need to be double-bagged, the woman whose order I was taking turned to him and said, very politely and in an even tone, “Okay. Enough is enough with you. You need another bag, my ass. We sat here and watched your act, suffered through your request for a different sort of bag, watched as this woman laboriously and, probably not for the first time, explained the coupon policy to you. We then listened to you as you sent her back to the kitchen for more free bread. Your turn is over. It’s our turn now.”

She then produced a business card from her wallet, her business card, handed it to him and said, “If it spills in your car, I’ll take care of it.” She then took a beat and said, “You may want to hold on to that card, I help people like you all the time.”

He made for the door. I burst out laughing, thanked her, and then asked her what exactly it was that she did for a living. Was she a car detailer?

It turns out that she is a therapist. I laughed even harder. I asked her if she subscribed to the “tough love” theory of behavior modification.

She looked at me, arched her eyebrows, and said, “You may think that I was harsh with him, but the reality is that people who behave like that, people like him, need to have boundaries set for them. You may have noticed that I did not raise my voice or speak to him in an angry tone. That’s the important piece. Still, I let him know that his behavior was unacceptable.”

I then asked her about the “my ass” comment. She kind of chuckled while she admitted that she has her own style — a style that works for her. I could certainly appreciate her flair. I told her that and added that she was a rock star. At the end of the meal I asked her for her card. I let her know that if I ever decided to seek the therapy that some people are convinced that I desperately need, I would be giving her a call.

This method for finding a therapist may not be for everyone, but I like to think that I, too, bring my own personal flair to certain situations. And, you have to love a therapist who peppers her conversations with “my ass”. Yeah. She’s my kind of therapist.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: Peace Out!

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Tick… Tick… Tick… (Fifteen more seconds to freedom!)

Keys in hand, the manager approaches the door. Tick… Tick… Tick… (Ten more seconds to freedom!)

I hear voices. Is that a customer? Oh, no!

Oh, yes!

Oh, my God, is he is going to sit at the bar? The dark bar? The very obviously closed bar? The bar where the bartender has her pocketbook on her shoulder and her drawer in her hand? You bet he is. Why? Why? Why? Because that’s just the way it goes, that’s why.

He apologizes. He will be quick. Oh, my God! I just want to go home. I am cleaned up and finished. I have not had a customer in an HOUR. An HOUR! Kill me now! I put the drawer back and my pocketbook down. Whomp-whomp-wah.

The servers still have tables. Why didn’t he sit over there? Why? Why? Why? Because I must have been a very bad person in a past life, that’s why.

He orders. He did know what he wanted, I’ll give him that. Guys like him, the “ten seconds to close guys” (and, yes, it is ALWAYS a man), normally only SAY that they know what they want and then force me to read them the menu, make recommendations, blah, blah, blah. This guy was actually true to his word. Still.

In what may just be record time — and I have been doing this for a long time, don’t forget — I bring him a drink, some bread, and his salad. Ready. Set. Eat!

He wants to talk. He begins to throw names around, manager’s names, people he knows in corporate. That’s nice. I don’t care. Is he doing this to let me know that I should continue to be nice to him? I’ve been nice. Very nice. He is very nice, too. Still, we are closed. Please just eat your salad, Mother Teresa. I am going to go and check on your steak. I will cook it if I have to.

Just another minute. Tick… Tick… Tick…

Yes, The Mets lost. Again. No, I do not think it’s tragic. Let’s give them a few more games before we use the word “collapse”. Let’s not be dramatic.

Here you go! I hope it’s cooked just the way you ordered it!

Oh, you like horseradish with your steak. No problem. Let me just go ahead and climb over everything in the back and fetch that for ya! Yay!

More iced tea? Sure. Luckily, I had the forethought to fill another glass before the container was tossed for the night. Here you go! Oh, you want more lemons? Of course you do! Sure. Could you have told me that when I went to forage for the horseradish? Yes, you could have, but you did not. I will be back in a jiffy. Don’t let my absence stop you from eating!

Please stop apologizing for keeping me here and just eat. Please. It is going on thirty minutes now, our relationship. That is thirty minutes too long, just so you know.

You had a long day and that big old steak is the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. I understand. Let’s just make this a short rainbow, though, okay? If you must continue to converse with me can you please do so WHILE you chew. I will not judge you for speaking with your mouth full. Not tonight. I just want to get home. I have been here for twelve hours.

Yes, it is possible that The Yankees will get the wild card. No, I am not a fan of the one-game wild card playoff, but, as you can see, I do not work for Major League Baseball. If only. Perhaps I will get on that tomorrow.

I am telepathically letting you know that if you order dessert I will have to reassess how nice you are. Can you sense the murderous thoughts that are creeping into my head? I have no shoelaces with which to fashion a garrote, but there is plenty of cutlery with which to do the job. (Wow, I really may have been a bad person in a past life!)

Luckily all of the dessert menus have been put to bed for the night. Stop looking around for them. It is not happening. You are going to ask me about dessert, aren’t you? You are.

We no longer have the brownie. (Thank God!) It was the only thing you liked? I’m sorry. Let me give you directions to Dairy Queen. They have a delicious brownie sundae. Yes, they’re still open for a few more minutes. If you hurry, you can make it. They are likely cleaned up, too, but I am sure that they will be just as excited to see you as I was. Please do not tell them I sent you. They like me up there. Let’s keep it that way.

Peace Out!

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: There Are Rules, People! Rules!

TheABGtherearerules


It is shocking to me how many customers get it into their pea brains that the best way to get an employee’s attention is to wander into the kitchen, throw up their hands, and ask “Is anyone working here?” I am uncertain as to what it is they expect to find us doing in the kitchen. Do they think we are getting up a game of gin rummy? Practicing our dance moves? Napping?

This behavior should not shock me — nothing should, given my thirty-plus years of experience dealing with the dining public. Still, it almost always renders me semi-speechless. The only answer I can usually muster, following playing my meld, taking off my tap shoes, or rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, to the very insulting question, “Is anyone working here?” is “Yes. Someone will be right with you.”

What I would like to say, but don’t — because I need my job — is “Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you? Get out of the goddamn kitchen and take a seat. Wait your turn.”

A disproportionate number of these types of humans — and I use the term “human” loosely here, as it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that they were raised by wolves — are bar guests. And, they’re in a hurry. Or in need of a fix. Or both.

I had two guests do this to me yesterday. Two. Let me just say this: their behavior during our initial encounter did nothing to endear them to me. If they had been diabetics in need of some juice, I may have been more understanding of their predicament. Neither of these “gentlemen”, as it would turn out, were suffering from low blood sugar. What they both needed were alcoholic beverages at noontime. This cemented my opinion that they were jackasses of the highest order.

One required a couple of straight vodkas to deal with the ex-wife and her attorney; the other had decided that he would need more than half a bottle of wine to fortify himself for his upcoming trip across the George Washington Bridge. Yeah. There’s nothing like a couple of boozy blowhards on a Wednesday afternoon. Nothing like it.

I wish they had been there at the same time. Perhaps they would have found in each other something they did not get from me. That something? A sympathetic ear.

Instead they got me — a woman not known to possess a high threshold for bullshit, a soft  heart, or the wherewithal to suffer fools.

After listening to vodka guy for all of thirty seconds I said, “I’m sure there’s nothing a divorce attorney likes to see more than someone who comes in half in the bag to sign important documents — particularly when it’s the party he or she is NOT representing. You’re every lawyer’s dream! Good luck to you!”

To our wine aficionado I said, “Well, if you have any more wine, it’s likely you’ll get a quick trip over the bridge — either via the railing or in a police car. I cannot imagine that either of those scenarios would be preferable to a little traffic.”

They both took in my retorts, eyed me suspiciously, and paid their checks. I was not sad to see either of them go. I hope they enjoyed a lovely day busting someone else’s chops.

Every situation has rules, written and unwritten. DO NOT ENTER A RESTAURANT KITCHEN UNLESS YOUR ASS IS ON FIRE is rule number one while dining out. DO NOT INSULT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN A RESTAURANT AND THEN EXPECT EXEMPLARY SERVICE (OR THAT SYMPATHETIC EAR) is rule number two.

I hold out very little hope that my “liquid lunchers” were catching what I was throwing to them — so absorbed were they in their own little dramas. Still, I had to try. After all, I had a hot game of gin rummy to return to. If only.

And “The Idiot of the Night” Award goes to…

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It was busy last night down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” — and about to become even busier — Friday night busy for a Wednesday night staff; that kind of busy. I was keeping pace, though, and taking no small amount of pride in myself for doing so. I knew it wouldn’t last long, my ability to keep up with all of my duties.

I had just about reached the physical and mental limits of what one bartender can handle — a nearly full bar, high-top tables clamoring for my attention, and service bar tickets spewing out of the printer more rapidly than one woman could possibly clear them, filled as they were with orders for umpteen frozen drinks and specialty margaritas (and don’t even get me started on the number of foolish mojitos that were in the mix) when “The Idiot of the Night” plopped his ass at the far end of the bar.

“The Idiot of the Night”, the guest who requires the most maintenance, ALWAYS, geographically-speaking, chooses to “live” in the worst possible location — the most difficult seat for me to attend to. It’s just what they do. Sitting there is how they meet the first requirement for “The Idiot of the Night” award.

Seat choice is merely Level One. It takes a few more annoying behaviors over the course of his or her visit for a person to reach the point where the confetti falls and the music plays, signaling that we have a winner in “The Idiot of the Night” contest. Some nights the competition is fierce. Not last night, though. Even the judges — my embattled co-workers, who all had idiots of their own to contend with — had to agree that although we were in the early stages of the balloting, my guy was going to emerge victorious.

Barring a naked meltdown later in the evening over a tartar sauce shortage — or some other such nonsense — it was clear to everyone involved that the clear winner last night would be, “Storytime Guy”, a name I had assigned to him for very good reason. I think that, like my co-workers, you’ll agree.

Me: Hi! Can I get you something to drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

Me: Anything? Water, soda, iced tea?

Him: Yeah. I drink those.

Me: Would you like to choose one of those?

Him: Yeah. Sure.

Precious time elapsing as I spy a table squatting at one of the high-tops

Me: Shall I bring you a menu while you think about that drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

… Back to square one…

Me: Okay. [… Really, what do I care? …]

Him (holding menu as if he has never seen one before): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir? Have you made a drink selection?

Him: Yeah. Bring me a diet something or other. With cherries!

Me (making moves toward the beverage area to fetch his “diet something or other… with cherries (!)”): Okey-Dokey!

Him (loud enough to wake the dead): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir?

Him (motioning toward the menu): I can’t read this!

Me (stunned that a grown man would admit to this in a stage whisper at a crowded bar): [ …speechless …]

Him: I forgot my glasses. Can I borrow yours?

Me (dumbfounded): I suppose so, but they’re progressives. I don’t know if they’ll work for you. (I hand him my $500 prescription glasses, which he proceeds to bend to fit his big, fat head.)

Him: Miss?!?

Me (depositing his “diet something or other” with cherries (!) in front of him): Yes, sir?

Him (as he is removing — and throwing — the cherries (!) that he had so desperately wanted, on the bar in front of him): These aren’t working.

Me: The cherries?

Him: No. The glasses.

Me: Ah, yes. They do take some getting used to, sir.

Him (pulling my expensive glasses off of his massive head and depositing them, lenses down (!), on the cherry juice-laden bar top): You’re just going to have to read the menu to me.

Me (wondering how such a large head could hold such a small brain): Let me just clean up my lenses first, okay? They’re a little sticky, you know, from all that cherry juice. In the meantime, why don’t you decide on which portion of the menu you would like me to read to you this evening. Because I don’t have time to read the entire thing to you. Perhaps we can just hit the highlights, okay? Like I used to tell my kid, “Mommy only has time for the one story tonight, dear.”

I left him, alone with his thoughts, as I scurried to attend to the various other guests who, presumably, could read and were now ready to order. And, yeah, there were also plenty of servers, awaiting their drinks, who were bordering on becoming an unruly mob.

It had now become rather busy down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Still, I needed to deal with “Storytime Guy”. With a heavy heart and all the patience I could muster, I made the long journey to the far end of the bar. It felt a little like the last walk of the doomed death row inmate. I knew I was headed for disaster.

Me: How ya doin’, sir? Have you nailed down a category of food that you’d like me to help you with yet?

Him: How am I doing? I’m hungry, that’s how I’m doing. What the hell took you so long?

Me: Oh, I don’t know, just the usual stuff. Coffee with a few of the gals, the tossing of several double entendres with some of the waiters, and, of course, I had to wait for my nail polish to dry.

Him: Very funny. You’re a very funny person, aren’t you?

Me: I suppose that all depends upon how you define “funny”.

Him: Do you have onion soup?

Me: We do, indeed.

Him: Does it have cheese melted on the top?

Me: It does.

Him: Well, I want one of those, but I want the cheese burned. Like black. Really burnt. You know what I mean?

Me: I do.

Him: Can they do that?

Me: I can say with some fair amount of certainty that I have borne witness to burnt cheese atop of our onion soup, so the answer to your question would, in short, be “Yes. Yes, they can do it.”

Him: I want it really burned, charred, black.

Me: Yes, sir. I think we all know the definition of burnt.

Him: Well, we’ll just see about that.

It is in this moment that I know, for an absolute fact, that no matter how black, how charred, how burnt his cheese is, it will not be burnt enough for him. He will be returning the soup.

Him: I want a steak. What kind of steak do you have?

Me: We have all sorts of varieties of steaks at different price points and degrees of tenderness. Were you looking for something very tender, very juicy, very flavorful? Something on the bone, off the bone?

Him: I want a steak that’s good.

Me: Well, don’t we all?

Him: Do you have a porterhouse?

Me: We do.

Him: How much is it?

Me (consulting the menu, as I don’t have the prices memorized): It’s…..dollars.

Him: Is it tender?

Me: The filet portion is tender, the strip side not as much. It’s kind of one of those combination steaks, know what I mean?

Him: Well, I want something really juicy.

Me: I would recommend the bone-in ribeye. I think that steak will meet all of your criteria.

Him: How much is that one?

Me: It’s … dollars.

Him: What does it come with?

Me: All of our steaks come with a side dish and a salad, or you can substitute the French onion soup — with the burnt cheese — for a couple of dollars more if you don’t want the salad.

Him: Fine. Give me that.

After what felt like an eternity, we came to an agreement on a side dish and a degree of doneness for his steak. At long last, the ordering portion of the festivities had, gratefully, come to an end. I would estimate that “Storytime Guy” had now been in the building for about twenty-five minutes. I fetch him — and a few of my other more self-sufficient guests — some bread. While in the kitchen I speak to the psycho cook working the salad window and explain to him about “Storytime Guy” and his need for very, very, very well done cheese on his French onion soup. I look this cook — our resident psychopath — right in his Manson lamps, an act that requires no small amount of chutzpah, and iterate that there is very little chance that the soup won’t come back one way or another, but request that we do our darndest to please “Storytime Guy”. I practically beg. I get the distinct impression that Norman Bates does not give a rat’s ass about my needs or the needs of “Storytime Guy”, but am satisfied that I have done my due diligence. The chips will fall where they may.

I then return to “Storytime Guy” with bread and assurances that I have communicated his cheese needs to the kitchen. I don’t mention how little faith I have that the lunatic in charge of soup was even listening to me, so preoccupied had I become with the attitude “Storytime Guy” exhibited toward the bread that I had placed in front of him — bread that took me time and energy to procure — time that I did not have, energy that could have been better spent doing more important things for other guests. “Storytime Guy”, upon receiving his bread, shoved it back at me, declaring that “I don’t eat bread”. This revelation concerned me and forced me to remind him that French onion soup, by definition, contains bread. My fear was that I was going to have to head back to the kitchen and tell Boy Wonder that the croutons would have to be removed from the soup that was currently being charred beneath the broiler. Luckily, “Storytime Guy” said that the bread in his soup would be “fine”. Okay.

A few minutes elapse, as it takes time to char cheese, and he asks me where his soup is. I explain that it is being burnt, as he requested. He asks me for a loaf of bread. And this, my friends, is how one becomes “The Idiot of the Day”.

I go into the kitchen to get the damn bread. While there, I ask Looney Tunes if my burnt soup is ready. He moves his eyes and points, very dramatically — his gesture would put one in mind of “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” in the beloved Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” — at a bowl of soup that is now occupying the service window — a bowl of soup that in no way, shape, or form is topped with cheese that even a rookie restaurant worker would consider to be “well done”. I am not a rookie restaurant worker. It was at this point that I toyed with the idea of breaking into tears.

I put the idea of hysterics on the back burner, as it was still early yet and, judging by the way the night was going, I might have to save such an unprecedented lack of character for later. Who knew what might happen later? I may have been faced with something that would require actual hysteria. I hoped not, but I wasn’t going to bank on it.

My manager, having been clued in to the goings-on with “Storytime Guy”, delivered the charred soup. Guess what? It wasn’t charred enough! Who saw that one coming?

Finally, a soup that met with his approval was placed in front of “Storytime Guy”. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was, as it turned out, a short-lived sigh of relief.

Him (loudly and in an exasperated tone): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir. Oh, I see you got your soup. How is it?

Him: The cheese is fine now, but you know I had to send it back the first time, right?

Me: Yes, sir. I got that memo.

Him: Well, now the cheese is fine, but there’s no broth left in my soup. It’s not like soup at all now, is it? It’s just basically cheese and bread. I wanted soup.

Me: Well, that’s just kind of how science works, isn’t it?

Him: What?

Me: I’m not sure if it would be considered chemistry or thermodynamics, I’ll have to think on that. Is thermodynamics part of chemistry? I can’t recall. The way I remember it is that when you heat up a liquid, as it reaches a certain temperature and given enough time, said liquid evaporates or, to use the vernacular, “disappears”. (I helpfully make ‘air quotes’ with my fingers here!) Maybe “dissipates” (again with the ‘air quotes’ — I just love a good ‘air quote’, don’t you?) would be the more correct term. Well, whatever you call it, the science behind it is the same.

Him: What?

Me (speaking very slowly now): When you heat up a liquid….

Him (understandably interrupting me): I understood you. I just want to know what you’re going to do about it?

Me: What would you like me to do?

Him: Bring me some broth.

Me: Okay

Another trip to the kitchen is required. Another conversation with Psycho Killer ensues. It turns out we have run out of onion soup. Oh, happy day!

Me: Sir, I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first: we’ve run out of onion soup.

Him: Well, what’s the good news?

Me: The soup is free.

Him: Fine.

It is at this point in our journey that “Storytime Guy” receives his bone-in ribeye.

Me: Would you like some steak sauce?

Him: I thought you said the steak was good?

Me: It is good.

Him: Then it shouldn’t need steak sauce.

Me: Agreed. Still, some folks like steak sauce.

Him: I hope I don’t need it.

Me: Me, too. Enjoy!

… An unsuspecting patron takes the seat next to “Storytime Guy”. He orders a Heineken, thus he will be referred to, where necessary, as “Heineken Guy”…

Him (about thirty seconds after digging into his steak): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir, I was just about to check on you. I just wanted to get this gentleman his Heineken. How is your steak?

Him: It’s fine, but I’m full. Can you wrap it up for me?

Me (handing him a box and a bag, as is our policy): Here you go. Will the one box be enough or would you like another?

Him: I’d like for you to wrap it up for me. If I wanted to wrap up food I’d do your job.

Me: Oh, sir, I don’t think you could do my job. Ha-ha-ha!

Him: I don’t want to wrap my own food.

Me: I don’t particularly want to engage in this conversation and, yet, here we are. Our policy and the Board of Health rules in this city require us to give customers what they need to take their food home with them.

Him: That’s stupid.

Me: There seems to be a great deal of that going around tonight. I hope it’s not catchy. (I give “Heineken Guy” the eye, just in case he’s considering getting up to any shenanigans.)

Him: You’re very funny, you know that?

Me: I’ve been told that on more than one occasion.

Him: What kind of dessert do I get with my meal?

Me (taking his steak off the plate and wrapping it for him because, really, I want him out of my life already): Excuse me?

Him: You said I got dessert with my meal.

Me: No, sir, I never mentioned dessert. Dessert is not included in your meal.

Him: I’m sure that you said that it was.

Me: Well, we could roll back the videotape, but I assure you that of the several categories covered in our many verbal exchanges this evening, the subject of dessert never came up. It’s not included. Do you want to see a dessert menu?

Him: No. I don’t have my glasses, remember? You’ll just have to tell me what’s on it.

Me: Guess what?

Him: What?

Me: It’s a picture menu!

Him: Are the pictures big enough?

Me (handing him the dessert menu): I don’t know. Here. Take a look.

Him: You know what would be a good thing here?

Me: What?

Him: An audio menu.

Me: Yeah. I wonder if we could get Sam Jackson to narrate it.

Him (eyeing me suspiciously): Umm, I guess. Why him?

Me: Because I think it would be amusing if it started out like this: “Listen up, motherfucker, cuz I’m only gonna say this once….” BA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Him: You’re a funny woman.

Me: I know.

Heineken Guy: She sure is. I think I chose the right restaurant tonight.

Me (turning to “Heineken Guy”): Thank you, sir. Would you like to see a menu?

… And the cycle begins again …

Thankfully, “Heineken Guy” turned out to be a lovely man. He was literate, too. He was playing expert-level Scrabble on his iPad against the computer and, get this, he was winning! “Heineken Guy” can come back any time. As for “The Idiot of the Night”, I hope to never see him again. Given my luck, though, he’ll probably be back tomorrow.

Stay Home — Make Some Memories!

It never fails. It’s as sure as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. When it snows like a son-of-a-bitch, restaurants located along highways will be filled with families with young children.

At some point the other night, during the first snowfall of the season, I looked up at the “holding area” and thought, “Yup. Here we go. It’s gonna be ‘Romper Room’ in here in a minute!” And, I wasn’t wrong. The idiotic parents of several toddlers, a few infants, and two (!) newborns had chosen to bundle up the kids and make their way along the snowy highway in CARS. And, for what? A plate of chicken fingers? A change of scenery?

Frankly, I just don’t get it. What makes parents decide to brave the icy roadways, take to the snowy highways, and careen along the slippery byways, to dine out? I don’t believe for a minute that their household cupboards are bare. Nope. What I think is that THEY, the parents, want to do something that THEY consider “F-U-N!” — never mind what the kids want. Or what’s safe.

What happened to making snowmen or snow angels with your children? How about constructing an igloo or throwing a few snowballs? Aren’t those the fun, family-oriented snowy day activities people should be enjoying with their progeny? Did I miss the memo?

When I was a kid, my sisters and I — often joined by our father, my mother’s other child — used to play outside in the snow for hours. Hours! When it was time to come inside, usually owing to the loss of feeling in our extremities and our noses, we would, reluctantly, trudge inside, place our woolens on and our boots under the radiator (so that they’d be dry for when we wanted to go outside AGAIN!). Traditionally, we’d enjoy a nice grilled cheese sandwich, a warm bowl of Campbell’s Tomato soup, and a piping hot cup of cocoa. If we were very, very lucky AND if my mother (or my grandmother) had felt industrious — if either of them had had the wherewithal to drag out the deep fryer AND peeled some potatoes — homemade french fries may have made it to the menu! Yum!

It wouldn’t have occurred to either of my parents, the child-like one or the more responsible one, to bundle us up, pack us into the station wagon, and head on over to the nearest dining establishment. Once the roads were clear and provided my father hadn’t expended all of his energy pelting us with snowballs, we could usually look forward to him taking us across town to do some sledding — but he would never have put us in the car in the middle of a snowstorm and hauled us to a restaurant. Only some of his screws were loose — he was still in possession of most of them.

Of course, back then, families didn’t dine out much — at least my family didn’t. Going out to a restaurant was an EVENT!

If you were lucky enough to be out with my father alone he could sometimes be convinced to buy you a McDonald’s burger or, depending on the hour, an Egg McMuffin sandwich. Like solar eclipses, these opportunities did not present themselves on a regular basis. And, like viewing the solar eclipse through that little pinhole on a piece of cardboard, an indirect approach worked best.

In other words, you had to play your cards right — looking longingly as you passed the golden arches without directly asking for anything was my tried and true method. My father was not one to spend good money on restaurant food. Nor was he the type of guy who gave in to demands for food. You could not, for example, just blurt out “I’m hungry” nor — and here’s something that one of my sisters NEVER learned — which cost the both of us a few fast food meals back in the day — could you WHINE about it, for heaven’s sakes! If you did either of these things, it was highly likely that he’d just tell you that there was cereal at home. And that, my friend, was that. Game over. (WAHT-WA-WAH!)

What worked in our favor was that my father actually LIKED fast food. So, IF you had done a good job helping him out at the hardware store or had hauled quadruple your weight in newspapers down at the recycling center, IF he had enough money, and IF you were actually going to pass the fast food joint on the way home — you might just be in luck. Crossing your fingers sometimes helped, too.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — this was a clandestine affair. If you managed to wrangle a cheeseburger and some of those gloriously salty fries out of my father, you had to be very careful to cover your tracks. The others, the ones who had been left behind, having been in your position in the past, were often waiting on the driveway for your return. They’d be lined up, looking for the telltale signs that you had gotten something that they hadn’t. Being found out would, inevitably, result in crying. To avoid the aggravation associated with three crying daughters, my father would do a face and finger check — for remnants of salt, ketchup, and errant pickle juice. On at least one occasion I can remember being sprayed with car freshener. My father was not one to allow a “T” to go uncrossed or an “I” to remain undotted.

In my family, eating out in a restaurant staffed by waitresses was, as you can imagine, a rare treat and one that occurred only on special occasions. A snowstorm or even some mild rain could halt the entire proceedings! Maybe I’m just old and curmudgeonly, but I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around bundling up the kids and playing fast and loose with their safety in wintry driving conditions to fill my face with food.

I’d like to suggest to these folks that they warm up a can of soup, grill up a sandwich, and make some real hot cocoa — with whole milk, none of that 2% bullshit, and real chocolate melted in a pan, on the stove, as God intended cocoa to be made! If dangerous living is what you’re after, add some extra sugar to it!

Or, how about just heading out to the backyard — on foot — make some angels, some snowmen, some memories. Seriously, though, STOP risking their lives for a plate of onion rings. I guarantee you that they won’t remember the stupid onion rings, but the snow fort? They’ll never forget a lovingly crafted snow fort, especially if they can hide behind it and gleefully nail a sister (or a parent who foolishly lets his guard down!) with a snowball or two. Never.




photo credits:
snow angel
kid eating in restaurant

“French Onion Soup” Guy

bowl_of_steaming_soup_01In my line of work I run into any number of people who, on a good day, I like to call “garden-variety” idiots; on a bad day, I call them other things. Luckily, yesterday was a good day.

To distinguish the particular idiot that I’d like to discuss today from some of the other idiots I encountered yesterday, I’ll call him “French Onion Soup Guy”. While some of you would undoubtedly get a kick out of the antics of “Hamburger Bun Boy” or “Rare Steak Lady”, their stories will have to wait for another day — today we’ll be talking about soup — both in its larger context and as it pertains to “French Onion Soup Guy”.

It has been my experience that soup, unlike revenge, and unless it’s vichyssoise or gazpacho, is a dish best served hot. Generally, this is how we serve it — especially soup of the French onion sort. That being said, once in a while, folks will ask me to heat up their soup, as the temperature is not to their satisfaction. That’s fine. I have NO problem with making someone’s soup hotter. There is, however, a way to ask for such a thing to be done. Really, most requests for ANYTHING — in any aspect of our lives — are more likely to result in the desired outcome if we ask nicely — if we employ something as simple as manners.

You’d be amazed at the number of people who DO NOT know this — or, perhaps, they have abandoned the concept altogether — you know, for expediency or because they’re idiots. Whether their decision regarding the employment of polite behavior is a conscious one or one borne of having been raised by wolves, I’ll never know. It’s appalling, though, I’ll tell you that. I don’t know why this is, but I am especially irked when grown men behave this way — worse is when they do it in front of their children. I often wonder, if they feel comfortable with boorishness in public, what must they be like at home? Luckily, I’ll never have to find out.

For the record, I was the one who brought “French Onion Soup Guy” his soup. It was hot. So hot, in fact, that I was concerned that his young child — the one who was practically crawling on the table — was going to touch it and hurt herself. So, I said, “This is very hot, Sweetie. Please don’t touch it!” (I was, honestly, concerned for the kid. Because in a world where no one — except for me — seemed to notice that she was licking the salt shaker, I wasn’t convinced that her safety was of any real concern to the many wolves disguised as adults that were seated around her.)

About ten minutes after I delivered the soup, “French Onion Soup Guy” called me over to the table — and by “called me over to the table” I mean that he snapped his fingers as I was walking by — I was amazed that he had hands, rather than the paws one normally associates with animals of the Canis lupus species — he then shoved his soup at me, and said, “Hey! This is cold! I thought you said it was HOT! It’s supposed to be hot, right?”

As my hands were full of food that was making its way to another table, I shook my head in a positive manner. I was planning to say something along the lines of, “Yes, Sir. I’ll be back in a second when I can take the soup from you.” “French Onion Soup Guy”, perhaps thinking that I had another arm that sprouted, when necessary, from somewhere else on my body — wouldn’t THAT be handy? — continued to rattle his soup bowl at me while he said, “Hey! I’m talking to you. About my soup! About it being COLD!” At that point I just looked pointedly at my full hands, hoping he would get the message.

I should have known better — nuance, as it would turn out, was as lost on “French Onion Soup Guy” as it would be on a wolf. After depositing what was in my hands at the table behind him, I turned around to take his soup. He asked me why he was “still holding his soup?” Why I hadn’t “paid him any attention?” I explained, as briefly as possible — because I really wanted to limit my dealings with this idiot — that I had, indeed, “acknowledged” both him and his request, but was unable, owing to my lack of another hand, to remove his soup on his timetable. I assured him that I would rectify the problem. I promised him that he would have a hot soup as soon as possible.

What I wanted to say, but did not — as I have bills to pay and, thus, a job to keep — is that the very first rule of soup eating is that it should be consumed immediately upon presentation. If it is not, one of those laws of thermonuclear dynamics, put forth by a guy named Charles or Boyle — do I strike you as a woman who even vaguely remembers Chemistry 101? — acts upon the soup in such a way that causes it to LOSE heat. It’s shocking, I know, that people fail to grasp this very basic concept when it applies to something as simple as soup, isn’t it?

As a result of “French Onion Soup Guy’s” failure to consume his soup in a timely fashion, I had to endure his lack of manners, return the soup to the kitchen, have a conversation with people who have a limited grasp of the English language — our cooks — and who also get a little “tetchy” when they have to remake things, seek out and alert “French Onion Guy’s” server — no easy task, as this particular server has the uncanny ability to “disappear” whenever anyone is looking for him, particularly his customers — so that, together, we could try to get the soup back out to “French Onion Soup Guy” PRIOR to the arrival of his meal.

Unfortunately for ALL involved, I failed. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because I tasked the server — the one who had a real vested interest in getting the soup out — with making sure “French Onion Soup Guy” received his soup BEFORE the main course was ready to be served. Still in all, I consider it MY failure that I brought the entrees to the table without insuring that he had, indeed, consumed his replacement soup.

Well, I’m sure you can imagine the greeting I was met with when I brought the entrees to his table AND he still had not had his soup. I apologized. I took all of the blame. I assured him that some type of monetary compensation would be forthcoming when he received his bill. I asked him if he still wanted the soup. (When things like this happen, some people do still want the soup or whatever “starter” was forgotten — mainly, I think, because they know it will be free!)

“French Onion Soup Guy” did NOT want the soup. Was I “some kind of an idiot?” “Who would want to eat soup WITH their steak?”

It was really all I could do at this juncture in our relationship NOT to ask him if maybe he didn’t want it for his daughter, who I’d come to think of as “Little Wolf” — the one who was now, as far as I could tell, nibbling on the table leg. She appeared — even after having polished off an order of chicken fingers — to still be slightly peckish.

photo credit: bowl of steaming soup