At the time, I was 25, and working full time as a waitress at what shall remain an unnamed chain restaurant.
This man came in to celebrate his girlfriends birthday. She was lovely, smiled a lot didn’t say much, but had noticeably astounding fake breasts. He had nasty smelling aftershave, grumpy, angry. He had this whole persona of being as grumpy as possible, no matter what.
I took down elaborate instructions to enable the bartender to prepare his favorite drink, which ended up being some horrific concoction of cranberry juice, melon liquor and something blue.
He made me take a couple of these back because the bartender failed to make it correctly. Honest to God it looked horrid and smelled worse. The bartender, the wait staff and I tasted the blue stuff and it was nasty enough to make us each want to puke. Finally he accepted the drinks with much criticism of our bartenders ability to prepare said horrid blue drink.
Criticism continued throughout the meal. The menu was crap, he didn’t like anything on it. The room was too cold so I turned up the heat. The room was too hot so I turned down the heat. He didn’t like where I seated them. I moved him three times. It was 8pm on a Saturday night with a college basketball game that ended at 7:30, opening night of the latest blockbuster at the mall’s movie theater and a night time downtown art walk that began at 8:30. We were packed. He didn’t have that many choices to begin with.
He wanted me to recommend a wine. I did. Several options, several price points. He chose one, he hated it. He said our wine was gross.
I took the wine back. I sent our night wine director over. He suggested a wine. This wine was also “Gross. Are you trying to rip us off?” He decided to stick with his horrid blue cocktails.
He ordered a tenderloin for his main course. His girlfriend ordered a shrimp salad.
The beef arrived. He asked for horseradish. I asked the chef because I thought we had ran out. Chef said no, we didn’t have any horseradish. We were out until our Sunday afternoon delivery. So I told the customer this information. The customer stared at me in what I hoped was disappointment, but what I now believe was complete insanity.
He freaked out. His meal was ruined, his day was ruined, his girlfriend’s birthday was ruined, his blue drink was ruined. His entire life was possibly ruined. The restaurant was gross, it was screwed, I was a moron. I took the biggest deep breath I ever took. I wanted to smack him at that point, but I didn’t.
Could we bring him another condiment? Mustard? Hot pepper oil? Deep fried dishwasher? Could we prepare something else for him? Anything? Anything at all?
As he went on with his rant, I got a stroke of inspiration. While my other perfectly lovely tables languished under the watchful eye of my non-English speaking Hispanic busboy, whom I tried to send for the horseradish but was afraid he’d come back with a jumbo box of cornflakes, I fled next door to the tiny little drugstore and its sad little grocery aisle.
Which consisted of three small, wobbly shelves dangerously over packed with over priced travel sized toothpaste, trial size deodorant peanut butter and bread. Wedged somewhere in between the plastic sporks and a box of Dixie cups was a four ounce bottle of horseradish. I plunked down $4.19 of my hard earned tip money.
Fifteen minutes later, sweating, out of breath, triumphant. I held the small, sad little bottle in all its splendid glory up to the man. “I found some Horseradish sir.”
But it was too late. His meal was ruined. I was a moron. This place was a dump. He went on and on. At that point I lost it. I really truly lost it. And I went nuts.
I apologized for ten full minutes. I apologized for myself, for the restaurant, for the chef, and for the owners. I apologized for the tables and the table makers and the tile makers who make wobbly tables possible. I apologized for the heating systems and the fans and the lights and the napkins and the glass makers and the linen makers and the silverware designers and my hairdresser who colored my hair. I apologized for the length of time it took me to run to the store, and for my parents who didn’t spawn a faster runner. I apologized for the farmers who grew the vegetables and the geneticists who created the cow that gave birth to the calf that became his overcooked steak. I apologized for western civilization and for bread and for chairs and for the class structure and for the demand for service jobs, the current economy and apologized until I couldn’t any more. Until I couldn’t think of anything else.
Then I left. I left my other tables, I left my Hispanic busboy, I took off my apron, took off my trendy red tie and left. Then I went home, turned off my phone and drank on some vodka from my freezer (nothing blue).
The owners said they refused to pay the bill and left about 20 minutes after I did. They were glad to see them go. I didn’t get into trouble or anything since they were understanding if I stayed any longer, some serious crap was going to go down with him and me.