“I’m vegan,” said one of the two women sitting directly in front of me.
I didn’t think she was speaking to me, because at no point did she look in my direction, change her inflection, or gesture.
I looked around. Was I missing something?
“Well what?” I asked.
“What do you have for vegans?” she asked again, before offering her friend a conspiratorial shake of her head.
There are some people in this universe who are painfully aware of their own existence. They believe everyone is looking at them, talking about them or thinking about them. These people are so self-conscious that they think other people will know what they are talking about when they haven’t even said anything. As if in a room full of people their experience is so singular as to stand out amongst it all. Which is fine for them. But when it comes to “us,” the service staff, we need more than one word sentences, incomplete clauses, or non-sequiturs.
“Do you mean in addition to all the ‘vegan’ items listed on the menu?” I asked looking, and then pointing, at the unopened menu still sitting on the bar.
She gave her friend that glance again. If you think Melania’s recent World Series eyeroll was subtle, you should have seen this one. For people who believe their every muttered utterance is manna for the masses, they often forget that the more obvious ones are the ones that have the most impact.
“Do you have any vegan pastas?”
“I’m sorry, no.”
“Do you have any vegan bread?”
“We do have the three vegan items listed, and of course we can put together several sides of vegetables, if you like.”
“With no butter?”
Ten more minutes of discussion and their steamed side of spinach arrived. The food runner stood behind them holding it. They pretended not to notice.
“Ladies,” I said gesturing behind them.
They completely ignored me.
“Ladies,” I said leaning in closer and gesturing more emphatically as the food runner tried to dodge the bustling crowd all around him as he stood there holding that plate.
They ignored me again. This time it was obviously deliberate, because they both glanced at me, stopped talking, looked at each other, and then resumed talking as if I hadn’t said anything.
“Ladies!” I said finally. “He needs to set your food down.”
We in the restaurant business get this all the time. We ask the person standing by the bar staring at us if they “need anything” and instead of answering the person turns and walks away without a word. Or he/she just continues to stare at you. But we are obligated to ask, because heaven help the soul who doesn’t. If divine intervention doesn’t happen in the moment, it certainly isn’t going to happen later, on that online review site.
The ladies begrudgingly moved their arms, but not their phones, sunglasses, keys, or purses, leaving the food runner and me to juggle that plate around the tiny obstacle course.
You can tell people who are used to fine dining. They know food will always be delivered from their right side (or between two people), that glasses will be set down and not handed to them, as well as a whole host of other little things, up to an including not splaying personal items – like keys – throughout a dining area. We get it, you have a Tesla. But guess what? So does everyone else, including, probably, your waiter.
“The oysters are vegan, right,” said one of the ladies as I passed by. It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. I stopped and came back.
“Were you speaking to me?” I asked.
“Obviously,” she said looking at her friend again with that knowing look.
“Oysters are animals, ma’am,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“No, they aren’t.”
Now I really didn’t know what to say. She looked at me with her head cocked to one side.
“Oysters are indeed animals. In fact, they are often still alive on your plate,” I said. “They are most certainly not vegan.”
She looked at her friend who looked back at her.
“We’ll have the oysters,” she said.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-People who have real obstacles in their life will often try and remove them, whereas people without real obstacles will often try and introduce them.
-“Why, then the world’s mine oyster. Which I with sword will open,” says the character Ancient Pistol, Act 2 Scene 2, Merry Wives of Windsor, by William Shakespeare. Meaning that if the world will not give you something, you force it.
-Oyster: Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Mollusca, Class: Bivalvia. Just saying.