Money has a way of bending time

‘TIME IS MONEY,” the venerable Benjamin Franklin said. But money does strange things to time. In and of itself time is a constant, but our perception of time is the variable. And that variable tends to vary considerably when money is involved.

“We’ve been waiting for our table for over 30 minutes!” bellowed the man standing menacingly at the hostess podium.

Trust me — there is no seemingly tougher man on this earth than one who berates a 20-something hostess. And this one was a real tough guy. Well, more like a little tough guy.

Never mind that his actual reservation was still 15 minutes in the future. He was attempting the old end around his actual reservation time: Arrive ridiculously early and then claim that time as your wait time. Just a quick fact check; your reservation can’t be late if it isn’t time for it yet.

Time is always the enemy of the restaurant employee, whether it’s the wait for reservations or the wait for drinks.

A woman waved me over frantically. Apparently, it can be life and death when cocktails are involved. Miss Wavy was clearly oblivious that she was interrupting the order of the person with whom I was speaking. I finished the three cocktails I was making and looked at the to-go order in my hand and decided to see if Miss Wavy really had a life-and-death situation.

“May I get you something?”

“Hi,” she said coyly. It’s odd how some people can exhibit extremely rude and aggressive behavior one moment, and then attempt to disguise it with feigned politeness after the fact.

“Hello, may I get you something?”

“Oh, uh, um, hi.”

“May I get you something?”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine. What would you like?”

“I don’t know; what should I have?”

“What do you like?”

“I like everything.”

That should make things easier, I thought.

“How about the cabernet?”

“I don’t like red wine.”

“How about the chardonnay?”

“I don’t like chardonnay.”

So much for easy. In real time this was costing me valuable seconds, adding up to valuable minutes, not minutes for me, but minutes for everyone else in the bar. Perceptions aside there is only so much actual time in an hour, time that was now being wasted with silliness.

“Here’s a beverage list,” I said, perhaps a touch too abruptly.

I proceeded to ring in that now well-worn to-go order and make 10 to 15 more cocktails for those who had to wait the extra few minutes for Miss Wavy not to make up her mind. As these things often do, those people stiffed me, taking me to task for Miss Wavy’s indecisiveness.

I then returned to Miss Wavy.

“I’m waiting,” she said, folding her arms.

“OK, what would you like?”

“You know,” she said with more of her previous demeanor, before the feigned politeness. “My time is really valuable. I bill over $360 an hour.”

“OK, what would you like?”

“You just wasted three minutes of my time, so I figure you owe me about $20.”

Actually it was my time that was the most valuable at that point, not because of any narcissistic tendency, but quite literally because almost every other person in that room was waiting for me — waiting for me to wait on them. My time was valuable only because it was everybody’s time.

But try explaining that to someone who “bills over $360 an hour.”

Luckily, I didn’t have to because Mr. Little Tough Guy came over and tugged on her arm.

“Our table is finally ready,” he said snipingly, while steering clear of the two rocker types in leather jackets.

This exchange proved three things to me:

• Birds of a feather often do flock together.

• People who are much preoccupied with their own time are often completely inconsiderate of anybody else’s.

• Ben Franklin was right.