Saturday, August 16, 2008

"There is a pleasure, sure, in being mad which none but madmen know"--John Dryden

"The alleged power to charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts, is a power behind the eye"--Ralph Waldo Emerson




"ARE YOU THE MANAGER??!", blares a strident, aged female voice from the phone before I am more than halfway through our standard phone greeting.

"As...luck would have it I am ma'am, how may I help you?"

"Well, we were there last night, and we had dinner there last night, and you, you weren't there last night, right? RIGHT?! You weren't there last night, RIGHT??!!"

"Actually, ma'am I was in my office for about two hours last evening, but it is true I was not on the restaurant floor last evening, that is correct. May I ask why?"

The voice. Again. "Well, we were there last night, and we had a horrible dinner--A HORRIBLE DINNER is what we had last night at YOUR restaurant!!"

At this point I scan the phone board, positive that one of the kitchen lines will be lit--because this absolutely has to be a practical joke--but no such luck.

"May I ask what went wro--", I start, only to be countered with, "What went wrong? WHAT WENT RIGHT??! First I ordered that wedge salad...you know, that wedge salad you all are so proud of for some reason, whatever for I don't know because the salad is well, the salad is well, THE LETTUCE WAS YELLOW. So this lettuce on this so-called fabulous salad of yours in this Big Time Big City Steakhouse is yellow--horrible putrid yellow--not a beautiful lettuce green, but YELLOW!! And then the dinners--well, my granddaughter's caesar salad was wonderful and the server was just so charming, such a charming young girl and of course the wine was fabulous but the lettuce on my salad was YELLOW--I mean just come out and say that your not serving that salad tonight, that the lettuce is not right, that you don't have it. Don't just serve it and have me horrified, HORRIFIED--so we get our meals and my son has the tuna and right there I knew there was trouble because I mean really tuna, tuna here--I mean tuna in the middle of the country--well I guess we should have known what to expect there and my granddaughter had the chicken which was wonderful again and my steak was so overdone I couldn't even eat it so the meal was just a total disaster and we've been there so many times and we'll be coming back and we had to get my granddaughter to the airport and we couldn't have dessert and how come you don't have any live music on Mondays [her dinner was on a Sunday]?

Now, this wasn't actually the end of the story as this woman, obviously channeling Jack Kerouac, continued her stream of consciousness complaining, but I was busy and had to cut things a bit short.

"Ma'am...ma'am...MA'AM MA'AM MA'AM! I'm terribly sorry things with your meal went so awry. May I ask what happened when you brought these issues to your server's attention?"

"Oh, I didn't complain to the server, she was such a lovely young lady she wants to be a singer did you know that I'll bet she has a lovely voice, so it would have definitely been rude to complain to her about all the horrible things going on so I didn't say anything."

"Did the server ask why you were sending back your entire lettuce wedge salad untouched?"

Silence [finally] greeted this question, then, "Oh, I ate that terrible salad. Waste not want not that's what my parents taught me and if someone went to the trouble to grow it, it would be a sin not to eat it and my granddaughter was just enjoying everything so much I didn't want to upset her by not finishing that horrible salad"

"And I believe you were saying there was a problem with the gentleman's tuna [sushi-quality Ahi flown to the city daily--I have had some of the best sushi ever in this little corner of nowhere, hours and hours away from the nearest ocean]--".

"That tuna!! Gory, that was the devil's fish if ever there was one--red, blood red in the center its a wonder he's still alive. I warned him off it but he just laughed and said he had eaten worse he's so brave my granddaughter just has the best daddy ever and he's a good son also but I'm surprised it didn't kill him"

"I...see...and your steak ma'am...it was overdone?"

"Like it had been cooked in a kiln. The next day I could barely manage to cut it into sandwich meat it was so overdone for me...

"You took it home. Of course you did. And I'm guessing you didn't say anything to the server about your steak either?"

"I'm not a rude woman, young man!"

"Of course not, ma'am, I didn't mean to imply you were. Ma'am, how may I help you?"

"Help me? Oh no, young man, I want to help you. I just wanted to tell you what happened so you could address that awful, unbelievable lettuce and the blood tuna and our server was such a lovely girl..." CLICK.

Now, this was the middle of a fairly busy Monday, and on this evening I happened to be at the front door of the restaurant. The call actually didn't take terribly long, and I had been able to get a couple small groups of guests seated using hand signals to my hostesses [I knew there would be no putting this woman on hold]. One couple who were regular guests were transfixed by the call, as the woman's voice was clearly audible well beyond the phone, and actually stayed at the podium listening until I put the phone down. When I hung up the handset the man, who always seems to be in the restaurant when something odd is happening, handed me $100 [twice the normal $50 I usually get from him] and said, "I think you have one of the hardest jobs in the world".

I'm starting to agree.

Now, I do have a charming young female server with a beautiful voice--good enough to go pro, and good enough that when she asks for time off I'm always afraid its for an American Idol audition. She was indeed working last Sunday night [the call came last Monday], and looking up her tables in the computer she did indeed wait on an early party of three and the reservation had a woman's name.

When I spoke to the server, I received the answers I expected [though I forgot to ask how our guest knew about her vocal skills]. She didn't ask about the first course because everything was eaten. She checked on the dinners twice and got positive answers both times--the man ate all his tuna, and the woman took her steak home after eating a little more than half of it. Never a negative word or a negative vibe, though she did notice that the woman spoke "kind of loudly" and "took a ton of pills right after dinner".

Loud talking--that's my girl. Taking a ton of pills--I'm thinking I got her on one of the days when she decided to skip her dose.

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