When our portal to Hell swings open for lunch at 11 a.m., the usual gaggle of cranky elderly people and socially awkward cinephiles (dining before a matinee) file in, and for what ever reason, people who dine right at 11 am are rarely pleasant and always particular.
Arlene and Ruth, two bland, cold, scowling middle-aged women, cruised past the host stand one morning and sat themselves in one of my booths meant for six people.
"Hello, how are you?" I began.
"I don't like anything on the menu," Arlene told me.
"I'm doing well, thank you for asking!" I said.
"And we have a movie to get to," Ruth added. "I want the sirloin steak, cooked medium rare, and with none of the weird stuff you serve with it, just spinach and steak, spinach and steak only, understand?" Ruth scowled.
"Maybe I should find an adult to supervise so I don't forget?" I said.
"Don't you have anything else?" Arlene whined.
"You mean, additional menu items?"
"...........Yes," she said, exasperated.
"No, surprisingly, what's on our menu is what we have," I replied.
"I guess I'll have the chicken caesar," she said.
"Great, and anything to drink?" I asked.
"Water. Ice. No lemon. A straw," Ruth said.
"Water. No ice. Lemon. Two straws," Arelene said.
Soon after, the food arrived. Ruth waived me down as if I were a first responder at a crash site.
"I like the color of this steak," she told me.
"I'm so happy," I said.
"But I want it hotter," she said. "I don't want it cooked any more; I just want it heated."
"Weeeeeell, science," I replied. "That's not quite how heat and cooking work. If I have the chef heat up your steak, that will cook it through more, losing the color you love so much."
"Not if he just microwaves it," she said condescendingly.
"First," I smiled, "we don't have a microwave. I've never worked at a restaurant that uses a microwave. Second, even if we did have a microwave, heating up your steak and cooking it more are the same thing. Medium rare is a warm red center. Medium is a hot pink center. That's that."
"So you're telling me no?" she asked.
"I am," I replied.
"Can you send over a manager?"
My manager also explained that we couldn't heat up something without cooking it more. Ruth sent back her sirloin and ordered a chicken caesar.
Ten minutes later or so, the ladies asked for their bill. They calculated their respective amounts to the penny and gave me their credit cards. When I returned, Ruth told me she wanted to take home the "failed" sirloin so her dog could eat it.
"You mean the steak you sent back that I threw away about 10 minutes ago?" I asked.
"Why did you throw it away??" she asked incredulously.
"Why on Earth would I keep it, in case of a food fight??" I asked.
She shook her head, and I walked off. Minutes later they asked me to validate their parking and handed me their signed credit card copy slips, as well. Ten percent tips from both of them.
I returned to the table, smiled, and set down the parking slips that I most certainly did not validate. I pictured them exiting the building, being charged $15 for parking, and I smiled some more.