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.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.