"Permission to Treat as Hostile, Your Honor?"

No full moon last night, but there might as well have been as the wierdos were coming out of the woodwork.

One deuce came in, an older couple, that seemed slightly grumpy to me as they were being seated.   They look at our menu options and are upset as they felt they were being “held hostage” and were “required” by our menu format to order a set number of courses.  We will always take the High Road with these kinds of people, and basically let them order however many courses they want, and then try to find pricing that is fair and reasonable.  But rather than take the civilized approach, and ask what other options there might be, they get up on The Cross; and with heavy sighs, they resign themselves to having “Three Courses plus Dessert” for $78, as is printed  on our menu.  The only twist, however, is that they want to start with a Cheese Course for two which they would eat first, but substitute for their dessert; then they will have the three savory dishes each.  They tell their server that maybe they will look at the menu again, later, to decide if they want to add another dessert at the end of the meal.  Ok, no problem.

As I said they were a little cranky (I am being quite generous here) and got progressively more so throughout the course of their dinner.  Often this is a low blood-sugar issue, and is easily remedied with a little bread and some wine; and by the time the first course is cleared most people have morphed back into actual human beings.  These two were taking it to another level, and were repulsing all attempts at being “niced to death”.  It was like in Cool Hand Luke:  “Some men, you just cannot reach…”  There are those on whom all efforts are wasted, and I know when to cut my losses when faced with the genre.   Even though these two were clearly twice-removed in years from the I-Phone/Facebook Generation, I was already anticipating the probable beating we would take in their Open Table Feedback and on Yelp.

“I’m tired of looking at this,” the man says as I approach to I ask if I could clear their Main Course.  Apparently they thought we had left them sitting there far too long.  Well, sorry, but having your silverware in the “resting” position of 4 o’clock/8o’clock, along with the piece of meat still impaled on your fork, might indicate to your server that you were still eating.  One of the crew had been shooed away earlier when she had gone by and asked if they were still “enjoying” their dishes.  It was painfully clear to me that these two hadn’t enjoyed anything since V-E Day.  When I asked if I could wrap the leftovers for them to take with, I was met with a very curt “No.”

So now their Main Courses are gone and I present them with a dessert menu, as they had requested earlier, and am about to offer coffee and/or after-dinner drinks when Mr. Happy snarls ” Just bring the check.  We just want to leave.”  Well that makes three of us.

So their server is getting ready to drop their check for two Four Course meals and four glasses of sparkling wine, and asks if I want to waive the $25 corkage fee for the Staglin Cab they had brought with them, because of their sparkling wine purchase.  In normal circumstances, yes, I would probably do just that;  but I felt like the peasants must have during the French Revolution, when they probably told King Louis and Marie Antoinette on their way to the Guillotine that if they had just been a “little nicer…”

Mr. Crankypants is looking over his bill, his credit card sticking out of the little thingy at the top, scowling.  I approach the table, and the whole thing has really gotten comical by this point, so I am almost chuckling in anticipation of the next bitch-out.  The exchange that ensued was like an Abbott and Costello routine:

“Is there a problem with the check?” I ask, stifling an urge to smirk.

“It says ‘Four Courses’ here, but we only had three.”

“Yes, sir, you had the ‘Three Savory Dishes, Plus Dessert’ option.”

“But we didn’t have dessert.”

“We substituted the Cheese Course as your dessert, at the beginning of the meal.”

“Well, that was our dessert…”

I wanted to look at him and turn my head slightly, like your dog does, with that “Huh?” look, “Yes that’s correct.  Three Savory Courses and Dessert is four courses.”

“But we only had three courses.”

“And the Cheese course was your dessert course, so that makes Four Courses.”

“But we didn’t have any dessert…”

Our discussion made about as much sense as this:

Okay, this is getting us nowhere and in a big hurry.  Just as I am thinking I have to pull a Perry Mason, and put a menu in front of him so the evidence is undeniably, irrefutably clear, and that I am not backing off, he thrusts the Check Presenter into my chest.   As I take it and turn towards the POS to go run the card, I can hear his wife saying, “It’s okay, honey, calm down…”  Yes, Honey, you’d better watch it, as I’m very close to having had just about enough of you for one night…

Badgering? Oh, I'm just getting started...

I go run his card and by the time I am done they have left the table, and are standing at the podium, waiting for me.  Mr. Cranky is leaning forward on his knuckles, glowering.  I approach the podium with the folder and the vouchers for him to sign, and hold it out towards him, with a pen.

As I am walking towards him, I reach for the stack of menus that are on the shelf next to the podium.  I grab one, open it with my free hand to the proper page.  I pull his check back away from his outstretched hand (“Psych!!”), thrust the open menu forward and plop it down on the podium;  I slide my finger down to where it says “Three Courses plus Dessert, $78”.   In a voice like a Retirement Home nurse cleaning dribbled soup off the chin of a catatonic patient I say,  “You see, sir, this is what you had. ‘Three Courses plus Dessert for $78’.  Three plus one equals four…”  He grumbles something like “It is what it is.  Let’s go,” and heads for the door.

The punchline:  I check Open Table after they have gone, and find that his reservation was made by a local B&B that loves us, so he will have no opportunity to submit “feedback” because they made the reservation using the email address of the Inn.  And most likely he has already pissed them off like he has me, so they will take whatever bitching he does about us with a major grain of salt.

I love it when a plan falls together.


6 Responses to "Permission to Treat as Hostile, Your Honor?"

  1. waiternotes says:

    Gigantic story! It’s nice to see that a normally cool, service-oriented person has his limits. Your style is quite a bit like mine. I give people every chance to be decent. Then when that doesn’t happen, I refuse to capitalize on the first couple of jackass moves – just out of goodwill. But eventually, the gloves have to come off, however stealthily.

  2. waiternotes says:

    Also, are you a Perry Mason fan? ‘Cause I am. I keep 10 episodes on my Tivo at all times.

  3. nativenapkin says:

    Love me some Perry. I always felt bad for Hamilton Burger. Just when he’s thinking, “I finally got this mo-fo…” Paul Drake comes in at the last minute with that manila envelope, and Burger throws down his pencil and says, “Shit…”

    He’s the Washington Generals of the courtroom!

  4. That is a great story. Love your writing.

  5. waiternotes says:

    Agreed. And even though you never see him doing it, you can tell Burger is a serious chain smoker, and probably because he can never get over on Perry.

    Della in her prime was super hot.

    And finally, you gotta love the vintage L.A. exterior shots usually in the opening segments.

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