the guy at table 51 ruined my day

This is about more than just the guy himself but my Tuesday afternoon and evening were seriously hampered at the restaurant by having served a man who’s enough of a regular at this point to know the menu by heart but who still, with a troubled impatient brow, sighs after giving the menu a furtive glance and asking things like, “You guys got specialty pizzas. What kind ya got?”

Hasty and dismissive in tone, like he’s annoyed at having having options.

“You got Item X too, right?”

He knows we have Item X.

I’ve served him Item X.

But it would put some kind of dent in his self-esteem to acknowledge that he’s ever paid attention to something.

Apart from serving the bar, which is always full at lunchtime, I’m responsible for a handful of tables just outside the bar, and one of those tables is a six-top, which is a valuable thing to have in your section because, at least in Coral Gables, offices often turn out from surrounding buildings for big lunches together, running up a hundred-dollar bill during their forty-minute visit.

But this guy, a man of no great girth, insists on sitting at the six-top even when he’s alone. At most, he’s there with one other guest.

He demands the biggest table and, once seated, refuses to look at the menu; demands, instead, that it be explained to him, item by item, while he affects a look of great inconvenience…

It’s a frustrating theater.

So he was curt with me when he arrived and asked, without eye contact, for a certain non-alcoholic cocktail. So I went back behind the bar and assembled the cocktail and brought it out to him. 

Set it down saying, “Here you go, sir.”

No answer. No eye contact. 

He puts his hand around the highball and brings the straw to his mouth and chugs it in a couple pulls. 

Few seconds later (literally, seconds) he waves me over.

“How can I help you?”

He’s got his phone in one hand, he’s looking at it, but he points a limp knuckle at the empty glass.“I can get free refills on these?”


Then he pushes the cup across the table in my direction.

Still: no eye contact.

His companionjoins him after about twenty minutes, a young woman, and I should’ve known he was involved with her because she too is a regular. And also a notorious headache. Especially with me because, though seven years younger than I am, she used to work here, long before I did, and so she likes to critique my understanding of the menu, ask why things are being served a certain way, tell me how I oughta do some task or other. If I pour a cocktail for someone across the bar, she’s watching, elbows on the counter, fists at her mouth, nostrils flared. If, in the course of her questioning, I tell her that things’ve changed since she left, that we do stuff differently, she purses her lips and cocks a brow and diverts her attention from my uninteresting face to her cell phone, as though this adjustment I’ve told her about is stupid, and she’d’ve kept it from happening if she were still on staff–but, alas, her intellectual endowments have driven her toward better things.

She is needed.

So she and this other guy, by whom the six-top table has already been commandeered for twenty minutes, they get to talking, a conversation full of huffs and clicks about the stupidity of others, and at one point, when the dude wants a refill, he raises his ice-packed highball over his head and shakes it. 

Not while looking at me, mind you. 

He shakes it as one might shake a bell to summon their servant.

And dutifully, dressed in my face and clothes, Jeeves responds to the call.

I’ve gotta get a spine about this shit and learn when to just ignore people, or refuse service. 

Whatever the case: this dude’s dickishness, plus an excoriating two-page text from my roommate a few minutes earlier, along with curt, dismissive, pointedly demeaning remarks from three other guests over the course of two rainy hours during the lunch rush left me feeling like shit, kind of humiliated, and when my manager noticed afterward that I was brooding in my corner, and asked me what was wrong, I told him about the situation with the guests, frustration gushing like a cyst, and his response, I’m grateful to say, was simply to lend a patient ear.

Cuz he’s been there before.

In fact, my manager’s got a strong accent, and he told me recently about a day when angry customers had piled up on him with complaints about service, one after another, and then one guy, calling at the end of the night to complain about a salad that’d been delivered without dressing, heard my manager’s accent, called him a “fucking Mexican,” and hung up–whereupon my manager slowly set the restaurant phone back in its cradle, and wept.

That being said, his advice at the end of my spiel was basically, “Don’t let other people get to you.” And then he does the shrug that everyone does when talking about these things.

And the shrug makes sense.

“He’s probably having a bad day,” my manager said, talking specifically about the dude who shook his cup at me after I’d recited the menu to him, asked me the price of everything, and then tipped $4 on a $50 tab. “You should pity him for taking it out on strangers.”

But I’ve really come to hate this idea that you are in complete control of what upsets you, this idea that, if you’re upset by how somebody has treated you, it’s because you have ceded control of your mind to this person.

It compounds the indignity of the bad treatment by saying that you’re at fault for feeling humiliated. 

It’s true, however, that I take these things too personally. I could never be a manager, a politician–anything that requires a serious ability to let public opinion slide off your back. 

Posting personal content on a public platform probably isn’t what I was built for, in that case, but here I am, inviting the torment.

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