Save Your Breath
I’m drinking coffee in the kitchen watching Louis hyperventilate. It’s a pastime of mine.
“Can I get my halibut for table three?” Louis yells. “Like today?”
“Relax Louis,” I say. “The food’ll be out in a minute.”
“You don’t understand,” Louis replies tersely, “The guy on three’s an asshole.”
“What’s going on?”
“Well,” Louis says, taking a deep breath, “The guy comes in without a reservation and demands a table in the back.”
“And he’s one person,” I say.
“But he wants a four top. Then he’s so busy on his cell phone and computer he ignores me when I ask him if wants a cocktail.”
“Maybe I should turn off the wireless internet at dinner,” I say, mostly to myself.
“So when he’s finally off the phone,” Louis continues, “He waves me over and complains I didn’t ask if he wanted a drink.”
“Then he gives me a customer service lecture,” Louis fumes. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I don’t need this guy’s tip or his shit.”
Suddenly the customer in question walks into the kitchen like he owns the place.
“Hellooooo?” the man says, “Where’s my dinner? What’s going on?”
I can almost hear the stomach acid churning in Louis’ stomach. “It will be ready in a minute sir,” Louis says through clenched teeth.
“If you guy’s were on the ball I’d be eating by now,” the man says angrily.
I look at the customer – another Yuppie male who confuses anger with power, bluster for strength, and annoyance for persuasion. I want to ask how his personality’s been working for him. I happen to know it isn’t. His cute wife dumped his ass last year.
“Good evening sir,” I say coolly, “How can I help you?”
“I’ve been waiting half an hour for my food,” the man says.
“Did you order an appetizer sir?” I ask.
“Did you order an appetizer sir?”
“No,” the man says, “Why?”
“It takes at least twenty minutes to prepare your entrée,” I answer. “Sometimes, when you don’t have a starter, it seems like a long wait until your dinner comes out.”
“But I’ve been here half an hour.”
I want to say, “Save your breath sir. You’ll need it for your blowup doll” but “Sorry for the inconvenience” comes out instead.
The man walks out. Thirty seconds later his food comes up. Now, if Louis and I were anything less than professional we’d probably screw with it. We could and maybe we should – but we don’t. The man gets his food, eats, and leaves.
“Hey,” Louis says, waving the man’s check. “He left me 20%.”
“So what?” I say shrugging. “Another guy who thinks money excuses bad behavior.”
“Yeah, fuck him,” Louis says, “I’ll spend his tip on toilet paper.”
“That’s one way to deal with it.”
“Wipe my ass with his money,” Louis says bitterly. “That jerk. Coming into the kitchen like that.” It’s a cardinal rule that customers should never, ever, walk into a restaurant kitchen uninvited.
“Guys like that have no boundaries,” I say. “They think ‘the world is mine.’ Could be why his wife left him.”
“Oh yeah,” Louis says, “He was married to that blonde.”
“‘Was’ being the operative word. Maybe he deserved to lose her.”
Suddenly I have a vision of our frazzled customer yelling at his Pornomatic Blow Up Doll. “If you were on the ball you’d inflate yourself,” he gasps, wheezing and out of breath.
The Pornomatic Doll just stares open mouthed at him.
I shake the image out of my head.
Sometimes I disturb myself.