Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No!! But I do it anyway--because its sterile, and because I like the taste!"--Patches O' Houlihan, seven-time ADAA all-star

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to interact with a guest rationally and cordially, you have to eventually come to the conclusion that they are bat-shit crazy and react accordingly.

Last evening a guest demanded the contact information for my employer, which I was happy to supply. She wanted this information, she announced, so that she could use it to "hurt me". She and her party of equally insane diners were at least lucid enough to realize that their first plan, stiffing their server, wouldn't actually hurt me, but would only hurt said server. My transgression, you wonder? I refused to agree with them that a cocktail server had lost their credit card, when in actuality she had given the card back to its owner in front of witnesses.

A few days previous to last Father's Day a lovely family of six came to dinner to celebrate the holiday early. Two fine, strapping grown sons and their wives along with the charming father and mom. Dinner was great, everyone was beaming, and at the conclusion of the dinner, as often happens, the detritus of the celebration was left for us to contend with--in this case three "World's Best Dad" balloons and three Father's Day cards left in their brightly colored, opened envelopes. Many years ago I attempted to return birthday cards and part of a cake that had been left in the restaurant after a celebration--my attempted good will caused a huge family fight when the card-givers realized their dime store sentimentality had been left behind, discarded by the guest of honor. That was the last time I attempted to return anything other than obvious gifts and/or belongings.

In this case, we were left with three Father's Day cards and three cheesy balloons and we acted accordingly--after waiting twenty or thirty minutes they went into a garbage can. By the time Dad called the restaurant three hours later looking for the two $100 Menard gift cards that he had left in the envelopes, the garbage can had long been emptied into a dumpster and the dumpster compacted. His tone with me on the phone went from embarrassed to alarmed to angry to profane to hung up on. The next day my employer recieved the requisite e-mail full of falsehoods and I received a fed-exed letter basically accusing me of being the mastermind of a huge home improvement store gift card theft ring [notable here is the fact that the letter had to have been at a fedex drop before 5am for me to have received it when I did]. The saga didn't culminate till nearly a week later when Crazy Dad called the police, and the police told him, after a few minutes, that he was at fault for abandoning innocuous property and that furthermore his conduct toward me as he had described it to the officer appeared to border on harrassment. The officer told me this during a courtesy call, as I had been the brief subject of a complaint--he ended his conciliatory closing by telling me that, "shit like this is why I took a desk job--people are just freaking nuts".

We, like many restaurants in this anachronistic part of the world, have a dress policy--not "jackets required" or anything so severe, but more restrictive than the average eatery. One evening an extremely dressed-down party of four entered the restaurant literally demanding to be seated and brought, "the nice champagne". When informed of our dress policy and told we would be unable to seat them, the ringleader of this traveling band of drunken douchebags proudly announced himself as Larry Ellison and, "now get me my fucking table I'm a billionaire".

Larry Ellison? That's who you pick? I understand that you don't want to try your bullshit using a front-page regular like Bill Gates, George Lucas, or Warren Buffet--but Larry Ellison? Not only did the moron in question pick one of the most obscure [outside of tech circles] rich guys in the world, but a prick at that--someone who I am sure has trouble getting tables even though he IS Larry Ellison. The guy was probably just a deranged [and drunk] computer repair man.

The Imperial Wizard of Crazy, the absolute Grand Master of Insanity however will always be for me a fellow I clashed with about fifteen years ago. Known to me and two of my friends who I worked with at the time simply as "Fight Me Guy", this was a 50-something gentleman who came to dinner with his significant other and proceeded to get not drunk, but something close to it--though whether facilitated by pills or simple insanity I will never know.

"Fight Me Guy" came to dinner for his anniversary on a very busy night in a very busy restaurant. I was a waiter at the time, but not his waiter. When the thin guise of FMG's sanity began to slip, he commenced calling the anniversary girl by many colorful and strikingly profane terms, all at the top of his lungs. Included in the nicknames were both a brutal noun and compound word, each starting with the letter "c". After about five minutes of this spectacle, which brought the dining room to a screeching halt, anniversary girl left the table and the restaurant--I barely noticed at the time that she was not crying or even visibly upset, which in retrospect was the first indication that this was more than just a boorish drunken husband, and more than just an isolated, unfortunate event.

After a few more minutes I was struck by the fact that neither the manager nor FMG's server were making any move to stop the show, while this guy was still spouting off like a champion hog caller with Turret's Syndrome. I walked over to the two and they were frozen like a pair of deer caught in the headlights--as I asked about the plan, they just mentioned something about not knowing how to handle it, and the manager said something about, "maybe if we get a chair..."

Not knowing what good a chair would do for Mr. Screaming Profanity, I decided to use my considerable size to force the issue and get the guy out in the street, by means of a headlock if necessary. I approached his booth from behind, and as I turned to come face to face with the offender I noticed a number of things in quick, terrible succession. First, I noticed that McCrazy was literally foaming at the mouth. Secondly, as I quickly cleared the remaining pieces of silverware from the table [ though I was much younger at this point in my life I had already seen a fork stuck through someone's cheek and a butter knife thrust to the handle through the back of someone's hand], I noticed that FMG was wearing gloves of the type favored by bicycle enthusiasts. Thirdly and most arrestingly I then realized that this gentleman's legs ended about eight inches below his waist in neatly cuffed trousers--just as I made this observation, he hit me with a water glass. As I stumbled back from this surprise attack [the glass had been on the booth bench next to him], General Thumb came flying out of the booth toward me moving mostly on his gloved hands, propelled forward by a well-developed upper body, and screaming, you guessed it, "FIGHT ME!!!", over and over again at the top of his lungs. As I continued to back up down the aisle looking about in vain for both Alan Funt and Rod Serling, my two fantastic Salvadoran busboys, who undoubtedly had seen scores of things stranger than this little altercation, snuck up behind FMG and grabbed him on either side by the upper arms. Our food runner grabbed the wheel chair out of the coat room, took it outside, and the busboys deposited FMG there. When the police arrived a few minutes later FMG was still trying to get back into the restaurant through the locked front door.

To this day, I can't watch the scene from "Trading Places" where Eddie Murphy pretends to be a legless veteran without breaking out in a cold sweat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa!! That is a crazy post. Glad to see you back though. Keep up the good work. Bob

8:08 PM  

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