Ahh, old people: you can’t live with ’em, you can’t hold a pillow over their face until they silently drift off to a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I love senior citizens although I can’t help but wonder what happens to tastes buds after the age of 70 that makes every cup of coffee or hot tea seem cold. A four-top has arrived at Table 11 and two of them are people I have waited on many times before. Adding up the ages of all four people, I realize I am dealing with about three centuries worth of crotchetiness. The one couple I am familiar with are not my favorite people. The last time they were in the restaurant, the woman disappeared for about twenty minutes only to finally emerge from the restroom. She came right up to me and said, “In case you were wondering, I just dropped some paper towels into the toilet bowl.”
No, I was not wondering.
I approach the table with trepidation because I know from past experience that the old woman always need substitutions and is never happy with what she ends up getting. I don’t know why she insists on coming back time after time if she is never satisfied. (“Tell me about it,” says her fossil husband.)
“Hello, everyone, how are you tonight? Can I get you anything to drink right now or tell you the specials?” I ask.
Old Lady Toilet Bowl Offender pipes in. “I already spoke with the chef. My husband needs very bland food so whatever we order just tell them it’s for me so they’ll know to make it bland.”
“Bland it is, yes ma’am.”
“But we need some time. Want to bring us some bread?”
Ordinarily, customers say “can we get bread?” or “will you bring us some bread?” but she specifically asks me if I want to bring her bread. I lie to her face and tell her that I do want to bring bread. I return two minutes later with a basket of bread and four plates and begin to set them down.
“I don’t need a plate,” she tells me.
I recall from her last visit that she most certainly does need a plate. Her and her husband are the biggest pigs I have ever seen and when they leave there is always a pile of crumbs and food remnants scattered about the floor and table, but I remove her plate as she grabs for a piece of bread.
“And we’re ready to order. I’ll start with the asparagus and prosciutto appetizer and then I want the cod but I don’t want roasted potatoes, I want mashed. And put the sauce on the side and tell them to use as little oil as possible. It doesn’t need to be bland because this is for me and not my husband.”
The other woman orders a salmon and the other man orders a Caesar salad to start and a soup to follow.
“What can I get for you, Mr. Bland?”
“I’m afraid I will just be an observer this evening as I am recovering from a digestive issue'” he tells me as he rubs his stomach.
I repeat the order and remind the man who ordered the soup that it is a chilled soup and not a warm one.
“Oh, well that changes everything,” he says. “I didn’t know that.”
The truth is he did know that, he just didn’t pay attention to me when I described the soup as a chilled corn soup with a green onion garnish.
“I’ll have the roasted chicken instead.”
“Okay, so I’ll bring out the Caesar salad and then the chicken, is that right?”
I take his silence as a yes and go off to ring their order in. As I am standing at the computer, I watch Old Bland Ass reach for a piece of bread. He doesn’t break a small piece of it off and then eat it, as that would indicate manners and class. Instead, he grasps it with both hands and heads in like he is eating a slice of watermelon or ribs. When he gets to the crust, he discards it onto his plate and grabs another piece. I watch as the Salmon Lady’s jaw drops in disbelief and then as she brings her hand up to cover her open mouth. The man eats bread like a cartoon beaver cutting down a tree; crumbs flying in every direction. It is mesmerizing. I imagine if I gave him a whole fish to eat, he would put the entire thing into his mouth and then pull it back out as a skeleton. I tear my eyes away from the freak show and continue to ring in their food.
A few minutes later, I take the two appetizers to the table. When I place the Caesar salad down, the man looks at me with surprise.
“I don’t want this. You misunderstood when I placed my order. I told you I didn’t want the salad anymore when I found out the soup was cold. Take this away.”
I remove the salad knowing full well that for the second time that night he did not listen to me. I specifically asked him if I should bring the salad out before the chicken and he chose not to answer.
The rest of their meal goes without incident, but I can tell that the one couple is ready to get the hell out of dodge by how quickly they eat their food. As I clear their plates, Mr. No Caesar Salad asks for the check but Old Lady Toilet Bowl has other ideas.
“Oh, but I think I want some coffee.”
I can see Salmon Lady’s face fall with disappointment knowing she has to sit with them for at least ten more minutes.
“Anyone else want coffee?” I ask.
No one else does and Madame Commode decides she wants decaf. “Hot decaf.” I let her know that I don’t have any ready right now so it will take a few extra minutes but I will bring it out as soon as I make it. I offer a look of apology over to Salmon Lady for adding another few minutes to her night of hell.
“Make sure it’s decaf,” she says as I walk towards the coffee maker.
Five minutes later, I am filling her coffee cup.
“Are you sure?”
‘Yes, ma’am. We didn’t have any decaf so I made decaf just for you. This is decaf.”
“Because I can’t drink regular coffee this late, it has to be decaf.”
“It’s. Decaf,” I say through gritted teeth.
Finally, I give them the check and they pay leaving me a 10% tip which is customary for old people who have lots of special needs and then leave gigantic messes on the floor.
“We’ll see you soon,” she says to me as they head out the door.
“Not if I see you first,” I think.