“I need a seat at the bar,” said the older man, while standing in the aisle to the kitchen, blocking not only access to the bar, but to the kitchen as well.
Funny how suddenly “need” has taken the place of “like” or “want.”
“We’re pretty full,” I said. “It might be 20 minutes.”
His eyes looked at me unblinking from above his mask. I guessed he was OK with that because he didn’t respond in any fashion. He did, however, cross his arms, and then glare at me.
He was still glaring at me ten minutes later. He had finally moved, but only after being asked to do so by the server three times.
When the lady who had been sitting got up to leave, he barely gave her enough room to get her coat on before he slid into her now vacant seat.
“Happy Holidays,” she said before having to turn sideways to get out, bumping the now seated man twice with her purse. The first time accidently, the second time not so much.
“Pork chop,” he said, not even looking in my direction, going from one extreme to the other.
“But I don’t want any black specks on it,” he said.
“Black specks?” I asked. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“You know,” he said.
I didn’t. And neither did the chef.
“I just put down what he told me,” I had told him.
That chop came and went. The man pushed his plate forward when he was done, having wiped it clean (with the two plates of bread he had requested) except for about two scant teaspoons worth of chewed up fat.
“That was very disappointing,” he said.
“What was?” I asked looking at the wiped clean plate.
“Look at all that fat,” he said.
Pork chops, like brisket, or ribeye steaks have some fat. That is why they taste so good. Fat is the name of the flavor game. Less than a half ounce of fat on a 10-ounce pork chop was more than reasonable. Which is what I explained to him, immediately after the chef explained it to me.
He just glared at me.
This last year (after the year of closure) has been a revelation for many of us in the restaurant business. For the most part it has been nothing but regulars and people who really value their local eateries and drinkeries. All the reasons I got into the restaurant business in the first place have been on full display: employers valuing their employees, businesses valuing their purveyors, customers valuing their restaurants, and of course everything in reverse, too.
But these holidays already feel different. Entitlement is in the air.
“It’s getting back to normal,” someone told me the other day. And after two years of something else, I say, that’s too bad. Because the old normal, maybe shouldn’t have been normal.
Every week for the last month, someone I have never seen before, has asked me how it feels to be back. Just a little heads up, I have been back to work for over a year. The people who ask this clearly haven’t been around, yet strangely, somehow, someway, we’ve managed to survive without them.
The irony is, that they want to act now, as if we can’t survive without them.
Already I have had to intervene in a domestic dispute, argue with a drunk about what closing time is, trip over someone’s barking service dog, explain that we can’t do anything about Uber, and remake one woman’s dirty martini three times.
“It’s still not right,” she had said.
“You’re the one who is not right,” I could have said, but didn’t. Being a professional often means staying professional no matter what. Notice that you never read or hear about a service person punching someone back, or, retaliating by throwing hot soup back in their face, or screaming back at them. It just doesn’t happen. And maybe it should. Good for the goose, good for the gander, I always say.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-I said “Happy Holidays” to that pork chop guy even before I knew for sure that he had stiffed me, because that is what professionals do.
-If you complain later, after the opportunity to fix something has passed, don’t expect it to be free.
-Good for the goose/gander is a saying regarding a question as to which sauce is better for which sex. Which certainly brings clarity to the saying “Your goose is cooked.”
-If you haven’t been to that restaurant in two years, you aren’t the one that is going to make or break them.
-A pandemic is a learning experience. So, we now know that some have learned a lot, many have learned a little and a few have not learned anything at all.