We get off to a poor start. The couple stands impatiently at the door. “I just need to check to see if there’s anyone on the wait list,” I say. The woman glares at me. I drop a pen. The hostess arrives to save me.
“These people are waiting to be seated,” I say, and rush off to busy myself making coffees or waters or picking up a napkin that has fallen on the floor. Anything to get away from the heavily mouth-breathing man and the woman with the accusatory stare.
Oh, wonderful, the hostess sat them in my section.
I rearrange my face and walk over. “How are you this eve-”
“You know, you should really look around before you tell people there are no tables available. From where we stood at the door we could see plenty of empty tables, including this one,” says the woman. She compresses her lips together in a thin line as she finishes her speech and looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to — what? Apologize? Beg forgiveness? Grovel?
Firstly, three empty tables does not equal “many.” Secondly, I hadn’t told them there were “no tables available.” What I had said was, “I don’t know if there is a table . . . I just need to check to see if there’s anyone on the wait list.”
“Well, it’s not that there were no tables available,” I tell her, “but that I had to check the wait list to see if there was anyone who we needed to seat ahead of you. They could have been waiting outside and I wouldn’t have known.”
“Ohhh,” the woman’s eyes grow large. “Well, thank you so much for telling us. I appreciate that so much. What’s your name?”
I groan internally. I hate when people ask me my name. I have such a small amount of autonomy when I’m at work as it is that it feels like an invasion of privacy when someone asks me anything personal. Like, why can’t you wait for me to give of myself freely to you? Why must you take and take and take?
“Rebecca,” I tell her.
“Well, Rebecca, we want two sparkling waters with lemon to start. Are there any specials?” I rattle them off, then escape to make their club sodas.
I put the glasses down in front of them.
“Oh no, Rebecca. We want. A. Bottle. Of. Sparkling. Water. And. Two. Glasses. With. Lemon,” says the woman. She enunciates every word, hitting the sharp “T” sound in “waTer” and “boTTle.”
I grit my teeth.
Once the proper drink has been delivered (“Thank you, Rebecca.”), I take their order.
“Medium-well steak,” the woman emphasizes. “We both want medium-well. Not pink. But not dry.”
“Wonderful!” I say, which is the exact opposite of how I feel about our interaction thus far.
They finish their salad appetizers in under 10 minutes. The woman waves me over. My heart sinks. I know what’s about to happen.
“Where’s our steak?” the woman asks.
The absent entrees are so distressing that the man is moved to speak for the first time, “Where’s dinner? We need to leave by 10:30.” This is news to me.
“Medium-well steaks take at least 15 to 20 minutes,” I tell them. “I’m sure the kitchen has started cooking your food. I’ll go back and check and let you know. It won’t be much longer.”
I glance at the clock on the way in to prostrate myself at the feet of the chef. It’s 10:10. I mentally slam my head against a wall.
Their food is delivered, but not before much eyebrow-raising and waving of hands and mouthing of “Where is it?” by my irascible couple.
I wait a few minutes. “How is everything?” I inquire.
“Delicious, Rebecca,” says the woman.
I keep an eye on their table since now I know they have to be out by a certain time. At 10:25 I go over to inquire if I can get them anything else — or maybe they would like the check since they have to . . .
“We’d like dessert,” says the woman. “Apple pie for me. A chocolate milkshake for my husband.”
I begin to calculate in my head: it will take me 30 seconds to place the order, another 30 seconds for the expeditor to read the ticket, and possibly one or two minutes before the kitchen begins preparing and plating the desserts.
If everything goes smoothly, they will be placed on the table a little after 10:30, the time by which the couple told me they needed to leave, prompting me to go to the kitchen and have an unpleasant conversation with the chef about idiot people needing their idiot medium-well steaks cooked in 10 minutes and why don’t idiot people realize that food needs time to cook and also that medium-well ruins a good steak and why do all the idiot people come to this idiot restaurant?
“Wonderful!” I say again.