Despite my normally nasty tone, I'm a softy for friendly people from the Midwest. But even that levity has a limit, as I learned one recent busy Friday night.
Around 6:30 p.m., Trish and Tom, a cheery, middle-aged Minnesotan couple, asked if they could sit at one of my bigger booths, promising they were only stopping by for a quick bite. The restaurant was empty, I was fueled by three shots of mescal, they seemed nice. Sure.
I soon learned that Tom and especially Trish had the gift of gab.
"We just landed at LAX," she said in a tone usually reserved for congratulating someone on the birth of a child. "Our hotel is nearby. We could almost walk here! But we decided not to. We didn't know it would be so dang hot in L.A. in September!!! We looked up the Yelp reviews for this place. We're not all that hungry, but just so you know, we're definitely saving room for that sticky toffee cake!!! We're in town because my husband is visiting cousins he hasn't seen in nearly 30 years! We flew on Delta!!!!"
"Oh how nice," I tried. "Would you like anything to drink?"
"Yes," Tom said. I waited for him to complete that thought. But no.
"...and what would that be?" I asked.
"Water of course!!!!" he said.
When I returned with the waters, Trish and Tom were still perusing the menus.
"What's GOOD?" Trish asked me. Before I could answer, she continued, "I see you have lobster. Do you know if it's as good as the lobster at [restaurant I've never heard of] on the Cape? We had fresh lobster there last summer. Oh boy, it was..." [Trish pantomimes dying and going to Heaven] "....Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, you have to try it sometime if you're ever out there. We'd never been to the Cape before, but let me tell ya, we're big fans now. Some of my family recently moved out there and it was our first time visiting them and..."
I started to tune out Trish, losing a little of the good will I initially felt. Unless you are Henry Cavill on bended knee about to put a ring on it, I can't fathom listening to more than 10 syllables from you at a time.
Eventually they ordered, opting to split a sirloin steak. Their tab wasn't going to break the bank, but I was counting on her promise to be gone soon. After they ordered, Trish kept babbling on about Cape Cod, or warm weather, or quilts or some shit I couldn't have given two wet fucks about. The table next to them was seated, and I was eager to leave this chat to greet my new guests. I tried stepping away, using all manner of body language to imply that I needed to trot off, but she and Tom both kept yapping. I all but waived my arms in the air as if on a sinking ship, and they still didn't pick up on the cues.
"Excuse me..." I interrupted, "but I have to greet this table, I'll be right back." Trish kept talking as I walked off.
After their lone steak arrived, the food runner told me Trish requested me.
"Is everything great over here?" I asked.
Mouth full of meat, Trish replied, "Oh yes...this steak is great! I had the bus boy send you over because I forgot to tell you, our son is a server!!!!"
"Oh how nice..." I started.
"Yeah he's in college," she continued, "and he works three shifts a week at an Italian restaurant. Wait. Was it three shifts, Tom? Or four shifts? Anyway, he loves it, yeah. He really likes those tips!!!!"
"So glad," I said. "If you'll excuse me," I said as I sprinted away, desperately in search of more mescal.
Cut to long after the steak was devoured (around 8 p.m.), and the restaurant was on a wait. Six-top after six-top and five-top after five-top went to someone else's section. Tom and Trish sat like bumps on a log, not ordering anything else - except more water.
Finally, about an hour after that, our wait died down and the manager cut down to closing servers. I was done for the night. I told Trish and Tom I'd need to transfer them, as I was ready to leave, but they insisted on paying me.
"No one else is getting this tip for such great service!!!!!" Tom said. "We'll settle up with you."
They paid in cash. I had to recount it four times to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me - they left me a 10 percent tip. If I could have found a way to tell on them to their son, believe, I would.