In my recent "Oh Snap" entry, I alluded to a party of Armenians who asked if my Mexican restaurant offered pizza. After sending back three different entrees (one of which because it didn't taste "Mexican" enough), and asking to sample cocktails before deciding, they tipped me $3 on $50.
Naturally, because all my timidity has gone out the window in an almost-Kevorkian effort to escape the restaurant by any means, I asked them why they left such meager compensation for my disdainful but nonetheless efficient service.
"Well," replied KhaKhaKha, the female in charge, "because the rule is one dollar per person for tip. Everyone knows that."
Perhaps in countries where everyone in the village takes a bath in the same bucket of water, yes, that's the rule of thumb.
A few nights ago the same three Armenians sat in my section in the midst of a busy shift. This time around, Nazar the token male took the helm of interacting with me.
"Uggghhh," I began while I set down the chips and salsa. "Drinks?"
"Noooo no no BRO," he said while wagging his hairy little finger in my face. "That is not how you grrreeet customer. Go back and start over."
"Ok," I said. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
Ten minutes later, as I was in front of the bar mirror running my fingers through my hair to see if my new shampoo did in fact enhance the sheen of my follicles, the host informed me that my presence was requested.
I returned to the Armenians.
"Uggghhh," I said. "Drinks?"
"Is there problem?" asked KhaKhaKha.
"Then vie did it take you so long to come back?" Nazar inquired.
"Because I couldn't think of any other way to approach your table," I said. "I was looking in the mirror, practicing."
"Hey BRO," he said. "I vas just joking earlier. We're in hurry, so let's order now and get out of your...hair. You know, becoss you spend much time looking at hair in meer-or. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA..."
His reference to my vanity made the she-males cackle and cough up mounds of nasty Armenian phlegm.
"You're a riot," I replied. "So let's order."
"Ve'll have chicken quesadillas," he said.
"You mean one chicken quesadilla?" I replied. "Or multiple chicken quesadillas?"
"Vat is difference?"
"Quesadillas is plural. If you want one chicken quesadillas, that would be, 'Ve'll have one chicken quesadilla.'"
"Ve'll have chicken quesadillas," KhaKhaKha repeated verbatim, yet in a more upbeat tone of voice that did nothing to clarify.
"Ohhh, ok," I replied. "Anything to drink?"
"Ve got up and ordered drinks from bar," Nazar said in a tone that implied I'd be threatened.
"Whew, good," I replied.
Minutes later, I returned with three chicken quesadillas.
"No no no, BRO," Nazar said. "We only wanted one chicken quesadillas."
I didn't even argue. I grabbed the two extraneous orders and began my best bitchy walk-away, but not before KhaKhaKha could squeal like the ugliest of the Kardashian sisters.
"Waaaaaaaaaaait," she whined. "I don't like theese drink. It's weak."
"Sorry," I said. "But you got up and ordered it from the bar, right? So it's not on the bill you have with me. Soooooo, sadly, you'll have to see the bartender because he's the one you ordered it from."
"Couldn't you just take this back to bar for me and tell him to fix it?" she asked while batting her lashes at me, lashes that did nothing to set themselves apart from the rest of her facial hair.
I could do a lot of things. I could volunteer to read to the blind or make good on my promise to curtail my road rage. But I'm afraid taking your drink to the bar for repair is just below "Take the screaming baby at the neighboring table to see the CGI Yogi Bear movie" on my list of things I could do.
"Sorry," I said with gleeful insincerity. "You have to see the bartender."
"You know vat?" Nazar said. "Ve'll just take check and to-go box."
Faster than you can say "Ed Hardy," I returned to the table with bill and box. I set down the box and began to walk away.
"Hey BRO," Nazar yelled. "Aren't you going to put food in box for me?"
"No, sorry, can't," I replied. "We're not allowed to. Health code regulations. Wish I could. Hands are tied."
As expected, Nazar left another $3 tip on a $50-something bill. But I didn't care. Like Lester Burnham before me, in the last act of my favorite movie American Beauty, I might not like my current lot in life, but I'm becoming more and more comfortable acting without concern for consequence.