I've long dodged our most nefarious restaurant regulars, Mr. and Mrs. Winston. A few nights ago, however, my number was up. It was time to pay the piper and learn just why my co-workers have gone so far as to pay other servers to wait on the Winstons.
On paper and in demeanor, they seem agreeable. He's a retired Brentwood lawyer, and she's a friendly, well-mannered former actress. However, when it comes to modifying menu items and complaining and sending things back and forcing servers to go on fools errands and tattling to management and not reading body language that says "I can't really stop to chit chat right now," they are evil incarnate.
Propped up by my Xanax latte, I optimistically approached the Winstons, thinking I could manage their demands and keep them happy. I'm still new-ish at this particular restaurant, so I didn't want to end up on their infamous list of servers about whom they've complained to management.
"Hello, how are you today?" I sang with a smile.
"We're doing well, thank you!" Mr. Winston replied. "How are you, and what's your name?"
I reluctantly answered, noting that Mrs. Winston wrote down my name.
"May I bring you two anything to drink?" I asked.
Mr. Winston ordered a glass of wine. Mrs. Winston smiled and said, "You might want to write this down."
She ordered a cosmopolitan. Easy enough, right? Only with this cosmopolitan, Mrs. Winston desired the vodka, ice, cranberry juice, lime juice, and the liqueur each in their own separate glasses. That's right, five separate glasses and a martini glass just for one drink.
Next up, the couple ordered an appetizer - our chicken liver mousse pate, but with the special instruction to toast the accompanying ciabatta bread to a blackened crisp. It took not one, not two, but three trips to and from the kitchen to bring the bread to their desired degree of burnt.
By this point, I was running back and forth to the kitchen and back and forth to the bar so often that a few of my other guests were noticing my attention was disproportionately divided. I apologized profusely but ran the risk of upsetting them in lieu of incurring unfavorable marks from the Winstons.
After I dealt with the Herculean headache of perfecting their very particular entree requests, Mrs. Winston asked me to box up the remainder of their pate to-go. I obliged, grateful for a simple request, finally.
"What's that?" she asked when I returned with her packaged pate.
It's a garden snake in a brown paper bag, what the fuck do you think it is?
"That's your pate," I said.
"Oh, no no no no," she said while shaking her head. "You all have a to-go container with a foil lid that fits this perfectly. Pack it in that instead. Please!"
I set off to find this mythical foil lid, only to learn that, because of how rarely we use those lids, they're kept in storage - two floors up from the restaurant and accessible only by a terrifying cage elevator straight out of a torture porn flick.
I asked management if I had to go fetch the foil lid. I did.
This trip upstairs, which played on my every single fear, cost me a good 10 minutes. I returned to find two guests had left without leaving a tip; but there were the Winstons, smiling and thanking me profusely for properly protecting their pate.
They even summoned the manager and said I was a great new hire, a compliment that was betrayed by their 15 percent tip.
Rest assured, they'll be receiving no such special treatment again should they ever have the bad fortune of being in my section a second time. Lesson learned.