I was in a rare good mood during a lunch shift this week. A table of businessmen had given me an exceptionally generous tip, I had a fun evening planned, and my 11 a.m. gin and tonic was showing no signs of diminishing its buzz.
And then Susie came in. At first glimpse she seemed like she'd add to my unusually sunny disposition. She was pretty-ish, well dressed, and dining alone.
"Hi how are you today?" I asked with a smile on my face, spring in my step, and sauce in my cup.
"Ugh, miserable," she replied in a hoity toity nasally tone.
"Well yeah," she said. "Our economy sucks, my car's in the shop, my daughter's not coming home from college for my birthday, and there are no men to date in this city!"
Gee, and from our 19 seconds together I'm amazed you don't have to fight men off with a stick.
"Well, uhm, anything to drink?" I asked.
"Noooo," she said. "I've had the margaritas here before, they're not very good. How's your Diet Coke?"
Oh it's sublime, we're known the world over for it! Instead of ordering it from a company like so many other restaurants, we actually create our own chemicals in a lab off-site. Our experts use only the finest, home-grown substances to offer our patrons the best in diet refreshment. Like I always say, if you only order one thing here, treat yourself to our Diet Coke!
"It's Diet Coke," I replied.
"I'll bet it's really syrup heavy," she frowned. "Do people complain and send it back because there's too much syrup?"
"No," I replied. "Most people set the bar pretty low when ordering a soda."
She exhaled with great annoyance. "Fine," she said. "I guess I'll try the Diet Coke."
I returned with the drink. Naturally she hated it.
"I really should stick to my rule about eating only at certain restaurants within higher price ranges," she deigned to tell me. "Every time I come here I'm so disappointed."
And then she prattled on about having real Mexican food when she and her rich ex-husband rented a yacht in Cabo San Lucas. They had a personal chef prepare their meals.
"You really haven't traveled until you've spent a week on a yacht," she informed me.
"Neat, are you ready to order?" I asked.
She once again exhaled. "Well everything here is usually so greasy or inedible. I honestly don't know why I came back."
"An excellent question," I added.
"I guess you guys can't mess up a simple caesar salad with chicken," she said. "I'll try that."
I returned with the salad. Naturally she hated it..
"Where are the cornbread croutons??" she asked.
"Oh you mean that ones that aren't listed on the menu that we've never served with the salad?" I replied.
"You're mistaken," she told me. "I know there are cornbread croutons that normally come with this."
I made the buzzer sound used on game shows when a contestant has guessed the wrong answer. "EHHHHH," I exclaimed. "I've worked here longer than I care to admit, and I'd bet that yacht in Cabo that we've never, ever used cornbread croutons."
"Fine," she said. "Just add some then."
"That'd be possible if we served cornbread," I replied. She conceded and started forking at her salad.
"When my ex-husband and I ate at Tavern on the Green before it closed," she started, "we had the most exquisite caesar salad I've ever seen. The display was just gorgeous. I doubt you ever ate there. You should have, because then you'd know what a caesar salad should look like."
"I actually did," I lied. "My friend's father rented out the entire restaurant and she had her wedding reception there. So I was actually a V.I.P., and not a regular customer."
She shrugged her shoulders in a momentary sign of defeat. Then...
"Too bad you don't wait tables at a place like that," she said. "I'll bet you'd make much better money."
"Fortunately my fiancee just made partner at [one of L.A.'s top entertainment law firms]," I lied again. "Better to have a temporary day job as a server than be single, right?"
She caught on to my not-so-subtle game.
"So what'd you move out here for?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. "Actor?"
"No," I lied. "I moved out there to look after a house in Larchmont that I inherited from a great aunt who passed away. My fiancee and I were going to move in, but it's far too big so we're just selling it for a hefty profit. I just work here because I needed something with minimal hours for extra cash."
"Which realtor is listing it?"
"Baz Jackson," I lied.
"Never heard of him," she said. "And I know everyone in real estate."
"So, anything else I can bring you?" I asked before she unspooled my flimsy lies. "My shift ends soon, and I have a sailing lesson, so I'll need to head out."
"Just the check," she replied with a dismissive hand waive.
When I returned, she had a crisp $50 bill on the table, as well as her business card.
"In case Baz doesn't work out," she said, "I dabble in real estate. I'd love to take a look at your aunt's property."
I took the business card, as well as her generous tip, and smiled with smug satisfaction. I was not raised to lie, but in light of how much leverage it gave me over an otherwise miserable customer? Well. Let's just say I'll be adding "law firm," "Tavern on the Green," and "Baz Jackson" to my repertoire.