The Madding Crowd
A lot of people think waiters are poster boys for bad behavior. The archetype of the arrogant French waiter is a perfect example. We’re often characterized as mean, patronizing, vindictive, food inseminating malcontents. Well, sometimes that may be true – but it doesn’t hold a candle to the shit customers pull………
It’s a cold February night and business is slow. The other waiter has gone home to his boyfriend and his bong. I have the whole place to myself.
My only table, a three top, has paid their check and is lingering over the last of their drinks. Obviously a business dinner, the trio compulsively typed on their Blackberries, made dozens of cell phone calls, and explored the mysteries of market share throughout their meal. It think they’re in television or something.
The men are silver haired executives. The woman accompanying them is obviously their young go-getter protégé. She’s pretty, blond, and focused –that is, until she starts drinking.
The men downed a bottle of wine apiece. Blondie chugged four Ketel Ones and cranberry. After her second drink I noticed she was getting loud so I watered down the third and fourth rounds. I wondered if I’m doing this lady any favors. She might erroneously conclude she can handle her booze and really get messed up on her next drinking jag. But, since she showed no signs of impairment, I couldn’t refuse to serve her. Besides, they’re my only table and the check is $300. I need the money.
Ah, these little moral dilemmas make life interesting.
The trio wisely decides to sit around and sober up. Their conversation is lively and a bit loud – but nothing over the top.
The door chimes. Two women walk in. I look at my watch. It’s almost closing time. I realize I’m going to be here all night.
“Good evening ladies.”
The first woman, a matronly type wearing a sable coat, wants a quiet table. “Far, far from the madding crowd please,” she asks affectatiously.
I chuckle. “I seem to remember that book didn’t end well for everybody.”
Surprised I caught the literary reference matron scowls, “Quickly please, we’re hungry.”
A quiet table hmmmm… In ten minutes the back of the bistro will be filled the noise of the cleanup crew breaking down the kitchen. Assuming my executive trio will be leaving soon, I seat the women in the front, two tables away from them.
“Our nicest table ladies,” I purr.
They sit and order a spilt Caesar salad and two soups. Great, last of the big time spenders.
“Get me some lemon for my water,” the second woman, a thin shrewish brunette orders.
“Right away madam.”
I deliver the salads. The trio in the window talks animatedly. They’re having a good time.
Overhearing the other table’s chatter the shrewish woman hisses, “This is not a quiet table.”
“I’m sorry madam. I thought they were leaving.” Sensing these women are wound a little tight I whisper conspiratorially, “If you would like I’ll move you to the back,”
“We’re fine here.” Matron says curtly.
“Very well ladies. Enjoy your salads.”
I return to the back of bistro. Ernesto, the sous chef, has prepared our staff dinner. Famished, I tuck into my plate of chicken sautéed with fresh tomatoes, leeks, and white wine. For the first time all day I’m eating sitting down.
Before I finish chewing my second bite I hear a voice screech,
“You’re fucking disgusting! How dare you talk like that!”
I look up to see Matron hovering threateningly over the business people seated by the window. One of the men gently pleads, “Calm down, we’re not bothering anybody.”
I race up to the front. Matron spins toward me, voice trembling with rage, “We’re not eating here. We’re not eating in the same place as these FUCKING disgusting people.”
“Then leave,” I respond pointing towards the door. “If you’re unhappy just leave.”
“Why should we leave? Kick these assholes out,” she screams. I can feel her venomous spittle hot on my face.
The shrewish woman starts yelling at the executive blond. “You’re fucking sick! Do you know that? You’re mentally ill.”
“Madam, these people are sitting calmly and you two are shouting obscenities. You need to calm down now,” I say sternly. “If you’d like I’ll move your table.”
Pointing to Blondie, Matron cries, “She said we must be Jews! We asked them to be quiet and she said we must be Jews! I guess you want us to die in a concentration camp huh?”
“Listen she said you were jealous,” one of the silver haired execs says humorously trying to smooth over the situation. “When you asked us to quiet down she said you must be jealous a woman was sitting with two handsome men like us,”
“No she didn’t! She said we were Jews!”
“We’ve had a little too much too drink, we’re sorry. People say things when they drink. We all say stupid things.” Silver Hair pleads.
“Being drunk is no excuse for anti Semitism.” Matron bellows.
The Shrew now starts yelling at me. “Do I have to sit here and listen to this bitch talk about her parents fucking? Do I have to listen to this shit?”
Please tell me I didn’t just hear that.
“Now wait a minute,” Silver Hair yelps, rising quickly from his chair.
I place a hand gently on his shoulder. “No need to make a bad situation worse sir.” Silver Hair slowly sits back down.
“Fucking sick bitch,” Shrew hisses.
Blondie’s face flushes a deep red. Staring with unfocused eyes at the table she whispers sadly,
“My parents can’t be fucking. They’re dead.”
Oh boy. Jew-baiting and necrophilia all in one night
“Did you hear that? She’s sick. Sick!” Matron screeches. Shrew moves menacingly close to the blond woman. This is getting worse by the second.
“Wait a minute,” I think to myself, “this isn’t my restaurant.” I go over and punch intercom.
“Whuh?” Fluvio, the owner, sleepily answers.
“Fluvio get up here NOW!”
Hearing the tension in my voice he’s upstairs in like half a second.
Now, Fluvio’s has been in the business for years. Working in far flung locales like Pakistan, Egypt, Rome, and New Jersey, he’s seen everything.
Quickly identifying Shrew as the crazier of the two women, Fluvio pulls her to his side in a controlling hug while steering her back to her table.
“Calm down everything is going to be fine,” he says soothingly.
Silver Hair stands up and offers his hand to Fluvio, “We are very sorry for any misunderstanding. Please accept my apologies.”
“Ah, things happen.” Fluvio grins.
The other male exec is escorting Blondie out the door. She walks unsteadily.
“Bye” she titters.
Once she’s outside Silver Hair goes to Matron & Shrew’s table. “I apologize for my colleague. She’s had too much to drink.”
Now that the owner, the man who can toss their asses into the street has arrived, the women calm down.
“Just go away,” Matron says flatly.
Sliver Hair turns to leave. He shakes my hand. “Thanks for your help. I’m really sorry.”
“Have a good night sir.” I reply relieved.
Fluvio, meanwhile, is busy mollifying the ladies.
“I’m a very important person,” Matron whines, “I don’t stand for that kind of talk.”
Matron is a secretary for a city councilman.
Fluvio comes over to me. I debrief him on what happened.
“Give them dinner on the house,” he says.
“Good thing their bill is thirty bucks,” I reply.
Smiling Fluvio says, “Even better.”
When Matron and Shrew finish their soup they ask for the bill.
“We apologize for the unpleasantness. Dinner is on the house.” I say.
“We insist on paying.” Matron says sharply.
I know her angle. If she pays she can tell all her friends how shabbily we treated her. By picking up the tab we take the wind out of her story’s sails.
“Absolutely not.” I reply firmly.
Matron and Shrew look at each other. Shrew says, “None of this would have happened if you’d moved our table.”
I seem to recall making that offer. Never mind. I say nothing.
Uncomfortable with my silence they shift nervously in their chairs.
“Well?” Shrew says petulantly.
“Good night ladies,” I say dismissing them. They leave.
The night ends and I count my money. It wasn’t a good night. I don’t get paid enough to deal with idiots like Matron & Shrew. I depart the bistro and go home.
The moral of this story? Stop worrying about what your waiter is doing. Spitting in your food? Overcharging you? Arrogant?
Forget about it.
The customers are crazier than the wait staff will ever be. Worry about the person sitting next to you.
The “Madding Crowd” might be you.