As I've mentioned before, our main chef is inflexible when it comes to modifying his most cherished dishes. And while some of the rules on what we can modify don't always make sense, I've warmed up to chef because we share the same disdain for most of our customers. I'm therefore happy to enforce his fussiness.
I greeted two ladies in my section. One was a warm, polite older woman. The other was her daughter, Ginger, a deliberately mousey, elfin-like creature with a very affected, soft, dainty voice. She's one of those people who speaks near-whisper to highlight how delicate she is. Her shtick quickly became grating.
"What may I bring you to drink?" I asked.
Ginger smiled weakly and whispered unintelligibly.
"Sorry, didn't quite catch that..." I said.
"I want a hot water with lemon," she said with feigned embarrassment.
I returned with their beverages, and they were ready to order. Mom chose the crab cake, and Ginger had some questions about the salmon.
"Hi, yes, uhm, okay, so, gosh, sorry to ask this..." I bit my lower lip and raised my eyebrows to suggest she put on her running shoes and get to the point.
"The salmon..." she said with pause as if I would need time to understand the context. "It comes with Brussel sprouts..."
I'll take "Facts I Already Know" for 200, please!
"I don't like Brussel sprouts," she said. "I'd rather do spinach instead, thanks."
She smiled and handed me her menu.
"Unfortunately we can't substitute the vegetable on the salmon," I explained. "It's part of the set-up, and it's already mixed in with the other ingredients."
She smiled, but revealed a glimmer of agitation.
"I don't understand that at all," she said with a tilted head.
"I'll go over it again," I said. "You can't substitute the spinach for the Brussel sprouts."
"I don't like Brussel sprouts," she said, her smile of annoyance growing a bit more indignant.
"You can order the salmon a la carte and add a side spinach salad, but the set-up for that entree comes with Brussel sprouts."
"Uhm, okay, uhm, will you...will you go ask the chef if he'll do this for me? Explain that I come here all the time?"
No, Galadriel, *I* come here all the time.
"I'll go ask, but I can already tell you the answer is 'no.'"
I found the chef giving some of the non-English speaking kitchen staff his review of a 5-star restaurant in Beverly Hills, recommending they "try it out sometime." I explained Ginger's request. Chef looked at me, pursed his lips, cocked his head to the side to study me, then resumed his restaurant review (Translation: Hell no).
I returned and informed Ginger that chef's rules still apply to the salmon. She set down her hot water, rested her forehead in her hands, took a deep breath, then looked at me.
"Just order my mom's food, okay, and I'll have some of hers, wow, I mean...."
"Okay," I said.
"Would you...would you let it be known that I won't be coming back here? Would you tell everyone?" she asked.
"...Everyone?" I repeated.
"Yes, everyone," she said. "This place isn't, you know, uhm, it isn't Spago or some place five star, I want spinach, I should get spinach..." I stared at her blankly as if I were in a live art performance. "So, yes, tell everyone I am never coming back."
"I'll tell everyone," I promised.
Bored, I sashayed to the back of the kitchen where half my co-workers were on break.
"Guys, I have some bad news," I said with committed delivery.
They gave me concerned looks.
"The lady at table 64 wants me to tell everyone that she's not coming back," I told them. They mostly ignored me.
I told the kitchen staff in my passable Spanish, and I interrupted the bartenders' sports talk to let them know.
Finally, I let the chef know. He smiled at me and said, "Please tell her we'll be so sad to have 999 customers a day instead of 1,000."
I returned to the table and informed Ginger that I told everyone.
"Well isn't anyone coming over here to apologize or to, you know, offer some incentive to maybe come back someday?" she asked.
"Not really," I replied. "One last dessert?"
Ginger and her mother left shortly thereafter. I still can't believe I'll never see her again, but that's just one of the many perks pains of the job.