“Good evening and welcome to The Bistro,” I cheerfully greet my new arrivals, a middle aged couple ensconced in the best table in the house. “Can I get you something from the bar?”
“We’ll have wine,” the husband says.
“We have an excellent selection,” I reply. “Would you like something by the glass or a bottle?”
“A bottle,” the husband says impatiently.
“Do you have any Tuscan wines?” the wife asks, opening the wine list.
“Of course Madam,” I reply, pointing to our extensive Tuscan collection, priced mainly in the $30-$40 range.
“What’s on the other page?” the wife asks.
I flip over to the “Private Collection” section of our wine list. The prices there range from $70 to $700 a bottle.
“Oh goodness!” the wife exclaims, “These are a lot of money!”
“They are madam,” I say, moving her attention back to the less expensive wines. “But you can find some excellent values in this section.”
The husband grabs the wine list out of his wife’s hand. “I’m very knowledgeable about Italian wine waiter,” he snorts, “We don’t need your help.”
“Very well sir,” I reply, struggling to keep my voice even, “I’ll come back when you’ve made a decision.”
The man studies the wine list for five minutes. He finally orders a bottle of our cheapest white, a Vernaccia, which retails for $10. We charge $24.
“An excellent choice sir,” I lie.
“I want it now,” the man snaps.
“Okey dokey asshole,” I think to myself.
After I take orders from two other tables, field several phone calls, and void an item for another server, I bring the man his wine. Nothing like anticipation to keep your customers riveted.
“Your Vernaccia sir,” I say, presenting the bottle.
The man’s too busy blabbing on his cell phone to look up. Oh well.
Twisting the neck of the bottle against the blade of my wine opener, I remove the foil in a single fluid motion. Opening up the corkscrew one handed, I insert it into the plastic cork and effortlessly open the bottle.
Normally I don’t let the customer examine a plastic cork. It’s rather pointless. But I want to see what this guy’ll do with it so I lay the plastic stopper on the table.
The man snaps it up and waves it under his nose.
“You’re an authority on Italian wines my ass,” I think to myself, biting my tongue to keep from grinning.
In lieu of saying “that’s fine,” the man impatiently gestures for me to fill his glass. But, there’s a lady at the table, and etiquette demands I pour her glass first.
“Just give her a little,” the man snaps, “She’s on a diet.”
I dribble half of what I’d normally pour into the woman’s glass. I can’t help but notice her face is flushed. Her husband’s embarrassed her.
“Thank you,” his wife says softly.
“You’re very welcome madam,” I reply.
I pour some wine for the man. Usually I fill the glass less than halfway.
“Fill her up,” the husband says. Ah, a class act if ever I saw one.
“Would you like to order?” I ask.
The man orders an appetizer, soup, and the rack of lamb. When I turn to the wife she’s holding the menu in one hand and a Weight Watcher’s point book in the other.
“Oh, I don’t know what I can have,” the woman pouts.
“Oh for Chrissake’s pick something,” the husband says. What a nice supportive spouse.
“Madam, might I recommend the house salad and a half order of the risotto?” I offer.
“That might work,” the wife replies.
“The risotto is excellent,” I say, truthfully.
The wife smiles at me, “I’ll have that. Thank you.”
I place the order and deliver the food to the table. The man spends most of the meal ignoring his wife and talking on his cell phone He drinks most of the wine. Maybe that’s the real reason he doesn’t want his wife to have any. The woman polishes off her small helping of Arborio rice and salivates as her husband gnaws on his lamb. Being on a diet is no fun.
Plates cleared, it’s time for dessert. The man takes a break from his cell phone and orders cappuccino, tiramisu and a Frangelico. The wife orders a simple cup of tea.
“Waiter,” the wife says softly, pulling a Weight Watcher’s confection out of her purse, “I can’t eat any of your desserts, I’m sure they’re really good, but can I eat this here?”
I feel for this woman. Suddenly she looks very small and alone.
“Of course madam,” I reply. Normally this is a big no no.
“May I have that?” I ask, reaching for her treat.
“What? My dessert?”
“What are you going to do with it?” the wife asks nervously.
“Don’t worry,” I reply, “I’ll take good care of it.”
I go to the back and get the man’s dessert and the woman’s tea. I pop the Weight Watcher’s dessert out of its foil packet, plate it, and garnish the dish with some mango sauce. When I return I present her little cake with a flourish.
“Your dessert madam.”
“Oh thank you so much!” the woman gushes.
“My pleasure,” I reply.
I can tell, in violation of house policy, that I’ve made this woman very happy. Hey, I’m in the hospitality business after all.
The couple finishes dessert. The man’s drunk and shouting into his cell phone about who’s fucking him out of what and how he’s going to fuck so and so for screwing with him. It’s all about money. The wife looks on in silence.
“Check,” the husband grunts.
I present the man the bill. He pays with a Platinum card. After he signs the receipt he walks outside, ear still glued to his cell phone, leaving his wife in the dust.
“May I get your coat madam?” I ask.
“Thank you waiter.”
The busgirl retrieves the woman’s coat. The wife fumbles in her purse and hands the girl a dollar. I gallantly hold the coat open and help the woman put it on. Someone’s going to treat this woman like a lady at least once tonight.
“Thanks for helping me with dessert,” the wife says.
“Not a problem,” I say, dropping my voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “I have those desserts at home.” (I do – the fudge pops.)
The woman smiles. She’s actually quite lovely. What a shame her husband’s a prick.
“Good night,” the wife says sweetly.
“A pleasure madam,” I reply, “Please come again soon.” And leave that asshole you married at home.
Now you might think I’m being a little hard on this woman’s hubby. Maybe the guy’s closing the biggest business deal of his life and he’s a bundle of nerves. Maybe he’s madly in love with his wife and I just caught him on a bad day – we all have ‘em. I only get to see a small slice of a person’s life when they’re in The Bistro. I’m well aware there are other slices that I don’t see. But what I do see is often very revealing.
I walk over to the table and pick up the check. The husband left me 8%. My suspicions about his prickhood are confirmed.
I look out the window. The husband’s walking down the street blabbing on his cell phone. His wife follows ten paces behind. I suddenly remember a line from the Gospel, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
This guy’s heart was sitting two feet across from him and he ignored her. No surprise though – his treasure was on the other end of that phone call.
Maybe the guy should’ve married his cell phone.