The sight of Esther, a gangly, unpleasant Jewish teenager, is one that triggers years' worth of bad memories within the restaurant. Every time I wait on her, my inner monologue tempts me to slap the snarl off her face as she whines, glares and "uhmmms" her way through the dining process.
Clearly inconvenienced by the world itself, and alarmingly content stewing in her own mediocrity and monosyllabic speech, she's always slouched in the booth, her horrible posture providing some sort of Jew cocoon over the chips she picks at with both hands. Our relationship is one of mutual disdain. It's an unspoken rule that our game is to see who can be the coldest with the other.
Normally she dines with one of her equally aggravating Hebrew school sisters. They'll split a small quesadilla and sit for hours in my section, lacking the physical prowess to appropriately assert the inexplicable superiority they feel over others.
I hate Esther, and I want to make spelunking caverns out of her flared nostrils.
Recently Esther came in alone. She was sat with three menus on the table, which meant she was waiting for two others.
Part of my "game" with Esther involves using as few words as possible while looking up at the TV and feigning an interest in whatever sports are being televised at the bar.
"Drink while waiting?" I asked.
She picked a chip out of the basket, broke it into two pieces, sucked the salt off one half, rolled her stupid bitch eyes, sighed, snarled, slouched, and said:
"Uhmmmmmm," she began while pointing to the other menus. "I'm uhhh waiting for two more people?"
"Yeah," I said. "I got that impression from the two menus and two place settings in front of you. Do you...want...a drink...while you wait?"
She looked at me as if I'd just asked where she purchased her A-cup.
"Uhhhhhhhmmm..." she said. Instead of providing a coherent answer, she ate the other half of her chip. And instead of retreating, I stood there intent on making her uncomfortable.
"You can, like, go away...and then come back when they're....uhm, here," she said.
Minutes later, the two responsible for Esther's presence arrived. Mom was even more sour than Esther and sported an amusing amount of chin hair. Dad was bald, clueless, and prone to bellowing.
Taking their dinner orders was a real treat. Each time I'd ask which sides they'd prefer with their entrees or if they'd like refills, the family performed a collective "Why is this complete stranger asking us questions about our food preferences?" look.
The meals arrived. Each of them looked miserably at their plates and ate in the same slouchy manner, using a mixture of utensils and grubby hands to feed their stomachs and their social awkwardness.
As I was about to refill Esther's Diet Coke for the umpteenth time, Mom informed Esther that perhaps she should switch to water.
"Uhmmmmm, ha," Esther replied. I paused the refilling, waiting for someone to make a definitive call on whether or not I should keep pumping the little misanthrope full of caffeine.
Mom cleared some tortilla chip fragments from her Hasidic chin patch and shook her head disapprovingly as Esther got her way.
As I cleared the plates, Mom folded her arms, slouched, and said:
"You know, I think it's really inappropriate that all the servers here have beards," she said.
Yeah and I'm sure your husband feels the same way about you, what with your striking resemblance to Gargamel, you suffocating old bag of wretchedness.
"I'll be sure to let the owners know," I said as I forced the bill into Dad's hands.
As fate would have it, our credit card processor shut down just as I was about to rid myself of this horrible lot. I explained to them that I'd have to take a carbon print of the credit card, and I might as well have sung "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" for as little attention as they gave this statement.
After 10 minutes of searching the restaurant for the carbon paper and the 1982-era machine used to take the imprint, I returned to the table.
"WHAT TOOK SO LONG?" Dad hollered. "AND WHAT'S THIS CARBON PAPER? I CAN'T READ THIS! I CAN'T SIGN THIS! WHERE DO I SIGN? WHAT ARE ALL THESE NUMBERS? WHY IS MY CREDIT CARD NUMBER IMPRINTED ON THIS? WHY DOESN'T THE COMPUTER WORK? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU AND DID YOU TRY TO STEAL SOMETHING FROM ME WHILE WAITING ON ME?"
I explained, again, the computer problem and the necessity of his credit card imprint as the sole means of charging them for their meals.
I could see Esther smiling at my annoyance. I wanted to strangle her with her own poorly conditioned follicles.
As they left, I was sat with three different parties at once. By the time Esther and company were safe and sound at home, I discovered that Dad had in deed signed the carbon receipt properly, along with a $3 (8 percent) tip.
Dad had also scratched out the credit card numbers on the imprint. Because this was the ONLY means of charging them, I either had to decipher the numerical markings underneath or pay the bill myself. Once the computers came back online, I frantically entered a variety of potential number combinations but each time I'd receive the error message of "Invalid card number."
Finally, after an extra hour, and with the help of four other servers and a manager, we figured out the correct credit card number.
All this for three dollars.
All this because of Esther.