If there's one thing I know at the restaurant, it's the menu. Not because I care or because I find the food the least bit appetizing, but because the more I know about the menu, the more attitude I can give customers when they question me.
"I thought these enchy-ladas came with sour cream..."
"Doesn't say that in the menu."
"Where's my side salad? This sandwich is supposed to come with a side salad?"
"Doesn't say that in the menu."
"Why don't you ever smile?"
"Doesn't say that in the menu."
A few nights ago I waited on a loud, middle-aged Jewish woman and her timid husband. I anticipated trouble when, after I said, "Hello, how are you this evening?" she replied with a peremptory "Carne asada."
"Don't you even want to look at the menu?" her husband asked.
"How would you like that cooked," I asked.
"Medium well? Well done?"
I took her diminutive hubby's order and turned the requests into the kitchen.
When the food arrived, the beef-eating bitch flagged me down with the utmost urgency, casting her hands in the air as if disspelling a demon in a tabernacle.
"This.............isn't carne asada. I ordered CARNE ASADA!"
I stared blankly at her plate, which included a 14 oz ribeye, cooked well done, covered with a red chile sauce. It was textbook carne asada in all its greasy glory.
"What did you have in mind for 'carne asada?'" I asked.
"Helpful. Care to elaborate?"
"CARNE ASADA! Strips of steak! It says that in your menu!"
Considering that Bubeleh didn't even open her menu, I said:
"That's odd, because I could have sworn the menu says that our carne asada is prepared as a traditional ribeye, not served in strips. Would you like the fajitas instead?"
I took her declaration as a yes and returned minutes later with the very traditional steak fajitas.
"THIS ISN'T CARNE ASADA EITHER!"
"Correct! I thought we agreed on the fajitas."
"Listen, honey, I don't want to make your job anymore DIFFICULT than it apparently is, but when I say carne asada...I mean....strips of ribeye....topped with a red sauce...and served on a plate with beans and rice. Do you understand what I mean by CARNE ASADA?"
"Ohhh, yes! Now I see the problem. You're used to the TACO BELL version of carne asada. We don't really have any drive-thru friendly food here."
The poor husband stifled a chuckle, much to the chagrin of his Hassidic honey.
Naturally, a manager was involved, both to school her in the ways of our kitchen and to reprimand me for insulting the clientele. I offered my most sincere apologies.
The husband paid and left a generous tip. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes people in the restaurant enjoy a little bitter waiter in person. Especially when fighting the lethal triumvirate of rudeness, stupidity and obesity.
If you really want to let my demon out of his cage, speak to me with the slightest bit of condescension. I assure you that nothing you are presenting to me necessitates that grating tone, which I myself save for small children or fat people.
The other night I waited on a group of three church lady chubs, each one sold separately with a large wooden stick up her ass. Nothing was satisfactory for these ladies, save the passion fruit iced tea, which they sucked down like a Van Nuys porn star working for food stamps. I always knew when to refill the drinks thanks the theatrical hand gestures that not even the laziest mime would use to indicate thirst.
After what seemed like hours of swapping stories of yard sales, great-great-grandchildren and Oprah highlights, the ladies were finally ready to order.
"I'd like the fajita salad. NO walk-a-mol-ay."
I normally don't need to write down such remedial modifications. Nevertheless...
"You should probably write that down so you don't forget."
"What a stupid bitch," I wrote on my pad.
"It's recorded," I said.
I took the other two orders. Before I could run for my life, lady number one bellowed:
"Remember! No walk-a-mol-ay!"
I pointed to my pad of paper to assure her that I remembered the important details.
Ten minutes later, the food came out exactly as ordered.
Lady # 3, whom I'd affectionately nicknamed "Hagatha," decided the three cheese enchy-ladas she'd ordered weren't enough to satisfy the hunger goblins that dwelled inside her belly.
"That walk-a-mol-ay she didn't want."
"Yes?" I inquired, as if her sentence fragment made a lick of sense.
"I'd like that on the side for my enchy-ladas."
"Of course you would."
I returned to the kitchen, where my request for a side of guacamole was met with death stares from the near-revolution Mexican staff. I thanked them for their smiles and expediency and returned to the witches den.
"THAT'S ALL THE WALK-A-MOL-AY YOU'VE GOT?" shrieked Hagatha.
"No. We have a restaurant full of guacamole. But that's the standard size for a side of it."
"Well, I need a lot more than that. I have three enchy-ladas!!!"
I charged her for an appetizer portion of guacamole. When it finally came time for the check, the ladies whipped out their penny jars and eye-glasses, ready to quibble with me over the slightest discrepancy.
And like a giant red flag on an obstacle course at fat camp, the walk-a-mol-ay appetizer stood out and signaled the coven to prepare for attack. Lady #1 straightened out her mumu and summoned me.
"She. DID NOT. order. a walk-a-mol-ay APPETIZER!
"I brought out a typical side of guacamole and she said that wasn't enough," I replied calmly. "The appetizer portion is double the standard size, and she said she needed 'a lot.'"
"We're not paying for this."
"But she ate the entire appetizer portion of guacamole. It seems like it was an appropriate size."
"Bring over your manager."
Once my manager finished his bong hits in the back walk-in freezer, he greeted the witches with an appropriate lack of clarity and a sufficient amount of indifference.
Bored, I stood next to him to hear what they would say.
"Our waiter charged us for something we didn't order."
The manager took a few minutes to process this and replied:
"But....you ate...........all of it."
"But we didn't order it."
My manager acquiesced to their demands and took the $4 appetizer off their check. As I dropped off the modified check, the ladies beamed with a kind of pride people usually reserve for winning a tennis match or curing cancer. I let them have this simple victory. They paid in cash and I didn't even bother to count the tip.
Every now and then, I must remember that I can't win every battle as a server. I must remember that...and the fact that some lonely, overweight people will never know the thrill of being found physically attractive or claiming victories more significant than not paying for a side of walk-a-mol-ay.