Monday, December 22, 2008
An, Um, Intimate Dinner
The three women at table 15 started off a little bit, well, challenging.
Hello, I greet them. May I bring you...
Do you have a bar here? a voice cuts in. Is there liquor here?
Yes, I answer. You have the drink menu right there in your hands. I'll give you a moment to look that over while I get you water.
I return to the table with the water, ready to take a drink order.
We know what we want to eat! seat 2 pipes up, to my surprise. I was sure the drink order would come first.
I jot down the order on my notepad.
I'll bring the octopus and the dandelion salad to start, and then I'll bring the soup as a second course with the pastas, I confirm.
But you'll bring the appetizers first, right? the woman in seat 1 asks.
Yes, I affirm, poker-faced. I will bring your appetizers first.
And now we need drinks! enthuses the woman in seat 2.
Seat 3 clutches the drink menu. Do the house cocktails have alcohol in them? she asks, looking intently at the selection of cocktails, which list their alcohol-based ingredients.
Yes, they do, I say.
I want something with a real kick to it! she says animatedly, making a fist and poking it through the air as she says "kick."
I consider what this statement could mean. Does she want something that was very high in alcohol, or is she looking for something flavorful? I can ask her, but I go with my hunch: that she's looking for the buzz.
What kind of cocktails do you like to order? I ask, trying to assess what she might enjoy.
She turns her head to look at me blankly then goes back to the menu. In the mean time, the other women at the table, trying to be helpful (I suppose), read off the names of the cocktails.
I go for another question. Is there a particular liquor you prefer?
There is absolutely no response. Suddenly, seat 2 gets very excited. Beet martini! Get a beet martini!
Okay, says seat 4, with a pronounced lack of enthusiasm.
So you like gin, I affirm, knowing that drink will be an automatic turn-off to anyone who doesn't.
As there is still no response, I mentally shrug, writing down the order as seat 2 looks at the menu. She is audibly mumbling, Hmmm... What do I want, what do I want? as she leafs through the menu. She stops at the beer page. She stops at the wine page. She stops at the non-alcoholic drinks page. She finally lands on the cocktail and aperitif page (which, ironically, is actually the first page of the menu).
The restaurant is rather quiet at the moment, but this does not mean that there aren't other things that I could be doing. Like not having to watch her read every word of the drink menu and think out loud.
Good thing you aren't busy! she observes.
Is it better or worse that she is conscious of her behavior? I don't know. But I stand there, a patient, captive audience, giving no hint that even though I am not busy, her behavior is no less annoying.
She finally settles on an aperitif, and I go to send the orders through the computer. It's late afternoon when the shifts change over, so I sit down to eat family meal while the other servers take over the tables.
When I'm done eating, I stop at table 15 who is now at the end of the meal. Seat 3 now has now turned so she's leaning her back against the wall and has both legs draped over the chair next to her, feet sticking out into the aisle.
I am so drunk! she barks good-naturedly at me as I begin to stack empty plates on my arm.
I smile a small smile of acknowledgment. Clearly in my absence, someone had had another martini.
But approval of their dining experience was not just shared with me.
We want to kiss the chef and owner on both cheeks! they gush to my co-worker Sarah.
That was amaaazing! they howl, slapping their on the table for emphasis.
Eating here is like getting fucked! they whoop at my other co-worker Morgan, who conveys this story with the assurance that this is, in fact, praise-- and with a look on her face like she's not sure she's working in a restaurant anymore.
Not to toot our own horn, but we are used to hearing the generously positive comments that comes from our diners who make happy faces and tummy-rubbing gestures to express their content.
But really? Like getting fucked? I can't quite imagine expressing my contentment in this way to anyone, really, but especially not to my server, but then again, I can't imagine a more entertaining start to a Saturday night of waiting tables.