They may not mean to be a pain, but…

She sat down at the bar just like 10,000 customers before her. After looking around for a few moments, she spoke.

“Do you think I could get something to drink?” she said heavy with implication.

“Sure,” I said, finishing up with what I was doing. “What would you like?”

“I don’t know what I want yet.”

Funny, because she seemed quite intent on getting waited on. I handed her a drink list in order to help.

“I don’t mean to be a pain, but ”

There is no bigger pain than the person who starts off with a condition.

“I don’t want to upset you, but ”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but ”

There are some people who want to say offensive or disruptive things, but they don’t want any backlash from doing so. Sort of like having their cake and eating it, too.

I took a long calculated look at her and I braced for the inevitable, because I knew exactly how this was going to play out.

Ms. But was going to ask me to read the wine menu to her because she forgot her reading glasses. I was going to have to repeat several of the wines, twice, because she wasn’t going to be sure that heard me correctly. She will then ask me what I think of two wines. Then she will select the one I didn’t recommend, but not before tasting both of them as well as two others. She will then change her mind after I have already poured the glass and request her first choice.

Ms. But will ask me to recommend several items off the menu. I will try to hand her the menu, but she will refuse it.

After I’ve recited several items, she will stop me with questions easily answered in the description of said items.

“How is the fried chicken cooked?”

“Does the walnut balsamic salad come with a dressing?”

“Is the fresh fish fresh?”

She will order an item. I will ask her twice to be sure. She will be. The second that I finish sending the order to the kitchen, she will change her mind.

“I don’t mean to be a pain, but I would rather have the other item,” she will say.

I will run back into the kitchen and tell the cooks not to make the item. Then I will have to get a manager to void the item off the check, as well as order the new item. No small feat since there will have been several modifications to both items. Mind you, she will not be my only customer, because all this will happen in the midst of the dinner rush.

When I finish with her food order, she will decide that she doesn’t like her wine after all and would rather have her first choice. By then my barback will have discarded the wine, because nobody wants a wine that has been sitting around for 10 minutes. I know I wouldn’t.

When her food comes she will look at it confused.

“I don’t mean to be a pain, but didn’t I order the steak?”

“You changed it,” I will say. “Remember?”

She won’t.

“I guess I will just eat this, then,” she will say, as if she is doing me a favor.

She won’t finish the meal, saying: “I really wish that I had the steak.”

If you really don’t want to be a pain, the solution is simple. Don’t be.

Even though there was no mistake, she will insist there was one. And then expect to be treated accordingly.

How do I know this, some of you may ask.

You’re just behind cynical, others will say. They don’t understand. The reason I know this will happen is because that it always does. Ms. But has come in to the restaurant four or five times, and every time it is the same thing.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• Apologies are not apologies if you either keep doing the same thing, or add the word “but.”

• If you really don’t want to be a pain, the solution is simple. Don’t be.

• Sometimes customer service is like watching two trains heading towards each other. You can’t stop the crash; all you can do is clean up the mess afterward.

• Good servers remember great customers. We also remember the not so great, too.

-The word “butt” can sometimes be used in place of the word “ass,” just like the word “but.”