Monday, September 03, 2007

a lot in common

"Hey you done in here? Can I ring something in?" I ask Juan, who is standing in front of the computer by the coffee station, staring off into space.

"Sure, go ahead," Juan nods, staring up at the shelf where we store the coffee cups, his jaw locked tight in frustration.

"You sure," I say, realizing that Juan actually looks pretty pissed off. "I can wait if you're still working...."

"No, no, I'm done," he says softly, steps aside, and glances down at the floor. He seems pretty rattled, so I ask him what's up.

"Table 42 is...fucking bullshit!!!" he says, gesturing with a nod towards a four top of drunk, khaki-clad guys about six feet away. Minutes before I heard the ring leader bellowing his order at Juan, "You didn't forget to put that paella in now, did you???" in the same patronizing tone a dad might use when imploring his teenage kid to put gas in the car. Juan seemed to be handling the situation just fine from a distance, but now at the computer, I can see that these guys are getting under Juanito's usually thick skin.

"Are they really bad, Juan?" I ask. "You know, if you can't deal with waiting on them, I can take that table over..."

"No, no, it's fine," he says. "They're just stupid...drunk. Fucking assholes, man."

I glance over at the ringleader, who is laughing heartily at his own joke as he reaches over to pour more wine in his already full wineglass. He is seated at an angle, elbows splayed out into the narrow aisle, knees spread way apart, making it impossible for other patrons to get by him without shimmying around his knees, his loafers, or his arms en route to the bathroom. It's as though his sense of entitlement is too big for his body, can barely be contained in his skin, let alone his khakis or the tiny tin chair where he'll spend the next 2 hours, presiding over his table and torturing poor Juan.

I look back at Juan, whose face is glowering with frustrated anger. Juan is 21, but doesn't look a day over seventeen. He's skinny, one of those people with a crazy metabolism who has to eat every three hours or they feel like they're going to pass out. And to top it off, he has braces, which could make even an 80-year-old nonna look juvenile. He just started waiting tables, and he's really very good--knows a lot about wine and food, more than I did at his age. But Juanito doesn't stand a chance in hell of getting any respect out of the "fucking bullshit assholes" at table 42.

"I'm sorry, Juan," I say, "They're treating you like you're stupid and like you don't know anything because you look young, right?"

"Yeah, it sucks," he sputters. "Fucking bullshit."

"I know, it is bullshit. It happens to me all the time, too, especially with guys like that."

"Yeah?" says Juan, surprised.

"Yeah, all the time. They think I'm dumb because I'm a girl, and I'm blonde, and I'm friendly and smiley and stuff. They think I don't know anything about wine or food, and like I'm just some little idiot waitress, even though I've been doing this for almost ten years now."

"Wow," Juan says.

"Yeah, but it's okay. He's just trying to compensate for the fact that he has a tiny little penis." This makes Juan laugh.

Who'd have thought that Juanito and I have so much in common? Or maybe it's just that those kinds of guys are all alike: drunk, rude, something to prove. All you can hope for is that they'll tip like they have manners.

Fortunately, these guys did. Juan showed me the charge slip after table 42 wobbled out of the restaurant, a big, juicy 2o% tip scrawled in the ringleader's barely legible drunk handwriting. He seemed surprised, but I wasn't. He deserved at least that, if not more.

We all do.

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