Monday, March 20, 2006 by Ospite.

Lunch is an interesting time for any restaurant. Every single person in a 5 block radius has the idea to go to one bistro for salads and panini. Every single one of those people expects to get in, not wait in line, and receive immediate service...each of them is, of course, more important than everyone else.

There is a pleasant little place about 5 minutes from my abode with wonderful salads. Early this week I had a hankering for that very leafy delight so I strolled in at the peak of lunch hour. Looking through the glass I guage a 15 minute wait to order and a 15 minute wait for the food itself. This is typical at this time of day. I swing the door open and the tiny bell rings out tacky as I enter. As if someone could hear it over the din.

Stretching from the door to the counter is a line composed of business professionals, art students, hip 20-somethings, remarkably nerdy engineers, a couple soccer moms, and one child circa 5 years old. 12 people in this crowd look relaxed, 5 of them are smiling. It's an endless wonder to me that 50% of these people are regulars and yet they always seem shocked and put-off by the wait.

I inch to the counter and place my order for a large salad with grilled chicken, a plethora or lettuces, generous helpings of tomato, sprouts, pine nuts, green pepper, and mushrooms. And a Snapple. It's amazing what you can find for $8 in the right location. I hear the woman next to me order the soup of the day (a rather blah chili). I then proceed to the second line to await the order.

As I lean against the wall, happy tunes pumping from my iPod, one of the aforementioned nerdish gentlemen walks by with two bowls of the chili. His left bowl slips on its plate. Trying to right it, his right arm reflexively moves to balance. Both bowls spill a quarter of their contents onto the floor, which splatters about equally in all directions. A well-dressed youngish businessman suddenly looks appalled at the spill and the fact two drops of the chili hit his apparently expensive shoes. He sighed with a passion, making a big fuss about getting a wet papertowel to wipe his shoes immediately. I've worked in one of the nation's most prestigious country clubs in my younger days, making a buck shining, dying, and polishing some of the most expensive shoes the world has to offer. Looking down at this guy's soles it was abundantly clear his cost him about $95, as opposed to the $2000 he wanted everyone to think they cost. I despise people who make a huge hubbub just so people think they have money. Buddy, think about the fact your lunch cost $12 and you waited 40 minutes for it. You're not as well-off as you're trying to appear.

It was obviously the bistro's fault the man spilled and their fault this guy's shoes were now dirty. He demanded the manager refund his meal (all $12) and apologize.

"I'm sorry sir, I cannot comp a meal because another patron accidently spilled something on the floor. As you can see, you were not the only one effected by the spill." (he motioned to my shoes) "I will however get someone to clean it up immediately."

This bistro drama turned comedy as the young employee summoned for clean-up emerged from the back...with a dustpan and broom.

"I think you're gonna need a mop." giggled one soccermom.

"Uh..." awkward pause....

He then put his head down and swept the solid bits of chili into the dustpan and walked away. This did not clean up the chili by any means. Next came a young girl with a wet rag. She threw it on the spill and pushed it around with her foot for a while. Satisfied the floor was sufficiently slimy, she placed a "wet floor" sign and walked away also.

We all stared at the sad attempt at a clean up, trying to stifle our laughter. My name was called and I retrieved the food I had almost forgotten. The red-faced manager emerged from the back with a mop... I then realized I had an 8 hour shift of my own that afternoon.


Blogger Girl at the bar. said...

a few nights ago we were buzy, a customer knocked a tray of margaritas down my shirt because while i was scream move and excuse me he thought he waw gonna infact back up into me to prove a point that they were more important then me doing my job.

the guy then tried screaming at me for the split drink down the back of his shirt.

I was sticky, wet, and cold. I looked at the guy and walked away.

4:49 PM  

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At your service, Ospite

I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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