One recent, busy, short-staffed lunch, the place was popping and we were on a wait. Two people called out sick, and our fearless manager was hostessing, managing, and taking the ire of our impatient guests.
Bob, an especially cranky elderly gentleman, was yelling at our manager when I passed the hostess stand. Of course I stood dead in my tracks to listen, as I simply adore confrontation on any level.
"That table! Over there! Is empty! I need to sit AT THAT TABLE AND NO ONE IS CLEANING IT!" he bellowed.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we're short-staffed," she tried patiently. "Give me two minutes, and we'll have that table ready for you."
"NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING!" he yelled. Now everyone was watching along with me (also note that my co-workers and I were scrambling and busting our asses).
Need I tell you in whose section sat the aforementioned dirty table? Right. So I greeted Bob several minutes after he was sat, establishing before I even arrived that I couldn't give a fuck about appeasing him. Also, I'm not particularly fond of any man who yells at women, so he could wait til the cleaning crew came in at night for all I cared.
"Hello sir," I said. "Anything to drink?"
I was expecting fireworks, a tirade for having kept him waiting, a shade of red only seen in gardens.
"Hello," he said calmly. "I'd like to try a taste of [points to house cab sauv] please."
I put the breaks on my bitchiness and returned shortly with the taster.
"This is great," he said after a sip. "I'll take a glass, and the cornbread, and a bowl of the tomato basil soup. Please."
I was confused. Thus far I could only chalk up his previous petulance to being hangry. He was perfectly polite. Until.
My co-worker approached me with a full glass of red. "Hey buddy, [Bob] said he ordered a glass of white wine," he told me. I seized the glass from his hand and did my signature saunter up to Bob.
"Hi, Sir, I hear we have a miscommunication with the wine?" I said in the same tone of voice as that bitch Elizabeth Banks.
"I thought I ordered a white wine?" he said.
"No sir," I said, "remember that red wine you tasted and liked? And remember it was red?"
"Look I'm sure I ordered incorrectly," he said defensively. "I just want a glass of white wine, okay?"
As someone who can toe the line between bad moods of "I feel bitchy, engage me" and "I'm really in pig shit, fuck off," I knew he was coming from the latter. So I let about a centimeter down from my guard, and we figured out which white wine he wanted.
After his meal, he thanked me, then leaned in for a question.
"Did I...order anything besides the soup and the cornbread?" he asked me, genuinely uncertain.
I felt that unwanted twinge in my throat, that thing that lets you know...ick...tears might be coming. I immediately flashed to a few minutes prior, when I was such a bitch about the wine. I didn't know if this man was perfectly fine, or dealing with some cruel struggle with his memory, but I felt...God I am not writing this because I want to come across positively........compassion.
I'll spare you the details, but for the rest of our time together, I treated him as I treat my generous and lovely regulars (you never hear about them, because BITTER waiter). He ordered an entree, read his newspaper, passed on dessert, and remained without incident.
He left me a four dollar tip on a $30 tab. And lest you think I am some softy, or that the next post on this blog is going to be "15 Reasons I Love My Customers - Number 9 Will Have You Adopting A Zimbabwean," I was just as annoyed and just as fuming as if this tip had come from anyone else.
But yeah, if he does return to my section, it's not like he'll remember leaving a bad tip, so it would be pointless to be short with him, so I'll probably just assume the disgusting display of (barf) kindness I mentioned earlier.