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Friday, October 15, 2010

Table 12

            “Table 12.”  Stanley pointed to a table in the back corner of the restaurant.

            The young hostess in the low cut black top obviously recognized him. “Of course, sir.” She grabbed two menus and led the way. I idly wondered if she had to lie down to button her black pants as I followed her. No doubt she stuck to the lettuce with no dressing and avoided the prime rib sandwich and fries. If I did that, I might look like she did. Or not. We’re not likely to find out anytime soon.

            “Enjoy your lunch,” she said as she walked away, tottering a bit in her 4-inch-high spiked heels.

            “So what’s good here?” I asked, opening my menu.

            “I always get the chef salad,” he answered, putting his menu to the side and gesturing to the group of waiters who were standing by the kitchen door, arguing softly among themselves. After a long moment, one young man sighed heavily and broke away from the group. One of the others patted his shoulder as he walked by.

            “Hi, my name is Michael and I’ll be your server today.” His lips curled up in a slight smile. “Can I bring you something to drink while you look at the menu?”

            “Hi, Michael,” Stanley smiled. “I’d like an unsweet iced tea with 3 slices of lemon.”

            Michael nodded and looked at me. “I’ll have unsweet tea also,” I answered.

            “Do you want lemon?” Michael asked.

            “Sure.”

            Michael stood there for a moment, and when I didn’t say anything else he took off for the kitchen. I scanned the huge menu before deciding that the chef salad for which the restaurant was known would be a good choice. After all, Stanley had recommended it and he obviously ate here quite a bit.

            Michael arrived back at the table with 2 glasses of iced tea and a bowl filled to the brim with lemon wedges. “Are you ready to order?”

            Stanley gestured to me to go first. “I’ll have the chef salad.”

            “Is the house dressing OK?”

            “Sure.”

            Michael turned to Stanley, his pen poised over his order pad as if he were taking notes in a particularly difficult college physics course. OK. Something was going on here, and I wasn’t getting it.

            Stanley knew exactly what he wanted. “I’ll have the chef salad, too,” he said.

            I lifted my menu, and stuck it out for Michael to take. He ignored me.

            Stanley continued to place his order. “I’d like the dressing on the side, and please bring me a carryout box immediately when you bring the salad. I need you to put double turkey meat on it, and skip the ham. Add extra cheese.”

            Michael nodded as he scribbled down the instructions. I was glad he wasn’t one of those waiters who try to remember everything instead of writing it down. “Anything else, sir?”

            “I want the bread to come on a different plate, and not on the side of the salad plate. And please make sure that the lettuce is crispy. Last week, the lettuce on the bottom was wilted and brown. That’s unacceptable.”

            I was stunned. Part of me was embarrassed and part of me wanted desperately to laugh.

            “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen today,” Michael apologized.

            “Very good,” Stanley answered, handing Michael his menu. Michael ran off, and I propped my forgotten menu between the wall and the salt shaker.

            “So how ‘bout those Braves?” The Braves had just lost the league championship and would not be in the World Series, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

            “Yeah, it’s too bad they didn’t win,” Stanley responded. “Not that I expected anything else.”

            I nodded. That about summed up the extent of my baseball knowledge.

            Stanley added 3 packets of Splenda to his tea and eyed the bowl of lemon. “Why do they always bring wedges? Slices are so much nicer.” He sighed and squeezed three of the offending wedges into his tea.

            I really had no opinion on the slice vs. wedge controversy, so I didn’t offer one. I surreptitiously rummaged through my purse to find my little bottle of Tylenol and swallowed two with a gulp of tea.

            The food came. Poor Michael had forgotten the carryout box, and had to scurry off to find one. When he came back with it, Stanley carefully divided his salad in half and neatly placed one portion into the carryout box. Then he poured the dressing, which had indeed come on the side, onto the salad left in the bowl. I had already eaten a quarter of my salad before he took his first bite.

            “This is delicious,” I offered, wiping my lips on the white cloth napkin.
           
            He nodded. “I need another glass of tea,” he commented after a few bites. “Do you want some more tea?”

            “Sure.”

            Michael had anticipated our request and fresh glasses of tea were on the table before I swallowed my next bite. He didn’t make his escape quickly enough.

            “Would you please bring me some salad dressing to go?” Stanley said, pointing to the half of the salad safely tucked into the carryout box.

            “No problem,” Michael answered, turning away.

            “And Michael?” Stanley called to the waiter’s back.

            “Yes, sir?”

            “I’d like to take a cup of unsweet tea to go.”

            Michael looked at me, eyebrows raised in a question.

I shook my head. “Too much tea and I can’t sleep at night,” I commented.

Michael brought the dressing in a little cup, and an empty to-go cup.

“I’m going to drink this one now,” Stanley frowned, pointing at the still full glass of tea on the table in front of him. “I want a full cup to go.”

Michael, bless his heart, smiled and took the empty cup away, bringing it back full of tea seconds later. He handed each of us our checks.

I placed my cash in the black leather binder and waited.

Stanley dropped his cash on the table and smiled at me. “Ready to go?” He picked up his to-go tea and his specially-prepared salad and stood up.

“Don’t you need change?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No.” Stanley had left the waiter a 50% tip. "I'm a pain in the ass in restaurants."
            "Really? I hadn't noticed."

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