Among my many contenders for "least favorite customer question" is "What's your favorite thing on the menu?"
I understand this query in a fine dining establishment that features only six or seven entrees. But to pose this question about a Mexican food menu featuring eight entire pages of mediocrity?
Years ago, while I was serving in the Midwest, an obnoxious post-church group of eight hicks simultaneously bombarded me with questions. When Wanda, the matriarch of the bunch, got around to her question, she asked, "What's your favorite thang on the menu?"
I grabbed the menu from her hand, pointed at something, and handed it back to her.
"Whadda he say?" Darl, her husband, inquired.
"Huh..." she said. "He pointed to the part of the menu that says 'An 18% gratuity will be added to parties of eight or more."
"That," I replied, "is my favorite thing on the menu."
Last week I was faced with the same question. I took a different approach and tried to genuinely assist the inquirer, whom in this instance was a crazy, bitchy woman whose initial response to my greeting of "Hi how are you?" was "I'm in a hurry, let's get this going."
"Oh goody," I replied.
"What's your favorite thing on the menu?" she asked.
"The only thing I eat with any regularity [after downing my weight's worth in Don Julio tequila] are the Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos," I said.
"Don't like Tuna. What else?" she asked while snapping her fingers to indicate urgency.
"Uhmmm," I replied while clicking my pen to indicate indifference. "It's a big menu. Depends on if you like chicken, steak, vegetarian or seafood items or..."
"How are the shrimp fajitas?" she interrupted.
"I hear they're great," I said.
"Fine I'll take those."
"Which two sides would you like?" I asked. "And which tortillas, corn or..."
"Look, I don't care," she said while simultaneously text messaging and plotting the destruction of orphanages, pet stores and cancer treatment centers. "Just bring the food and the bill."
I selected the standard black beans, rice and corn tortillas. The food arrived moments later. The woman took a few bites. I performed the requisite quality check. "How is everything?" I asked.
"The bill?" she replied.
I dropped it off and headed to my new table. While taking their drink order, the uppity woman stood up from her booth, approached me in mid-sentence, interrupted and informed everyone that "This food is horrible, you need to send it back, now!"
"I'll be with you when I'm finished with these people."
And when I give a rat's ass about the quality of your low-cost quasi Mexican meal, you soulless conduit of evil.
As I took their drink order, she stood there, arms folded. I ignored her, and the urge to pull her hair.
I went from the table to the computer to ring in the drink order.
"What are you doing??????" she asked.
"I'm ringing in the drinks for those customers," I said calmly. "I apologize if I was unclear, but I remember saying, 'I'll be with you when I'm finished."
"Well," she said, "That meal was inexcusable. What kind of taste do you have to recommend something so disgusting????"
"I don't know," I replied. "*I* would never order shrimp fajitas from a Mexican restaurant."
"UUUUUUUUUUGGGGH," the bitch demon moaned before retreating to its layer. I grabbed the drinks from the bar, dropped them off at the new table, took their food order, turned in the food order, ordered a cup of soup, savored it, played with my iPhone, returned to the bar for more tequila, then returned to bitch booth of tension and misery.
She was gone. The fajitas remained untouched. No cash was left, but the manager voided the bill so I was no worse for the wear.
I was, however, once again reminded of why "What's your favorite thing on the menu?" can be such a volatile, touchy question. If you don't have five minutes to narrow it down, pick for yourself, and give your server a little insight as to what you generally prefer, you might be better off in the frozen food section of your local grocery store.
Or, in the case of this particular woman, tarred, feathered, and chained to a furnace in Hell.