Red Meat on a Friday Night in the Restaurant Business

Red Meat on a Friday Night
(blog only)
Janelle Meraz Hooper

See my books and short stories

Friday nights could be rough in the restaurant business. Working couples were overstressed, overtired, and emotionally numb from not having the energy to communicate during the week.

Oh, joy. Before Rod ever seated the couple at their table, he knew he was in for a rough night. The woman was already sniping at the man—Rod guessed it was the woman’s husband because no date would put up with her vitriol. Between the few feet from the front door to their table, she jumped on the man for not making reservations for where she really wanted to eat and told him his tie looked like hell. Without taking a breath, she then accused him of smoking behind her back. The man didn’t deny it and he didn’t look remorseful, either. Ding! Round one.

This kind rancor wasn’t unusual between couples on a Friday night, a certain amount was even expected, but this couple was the worst in a long time. Rod seated the two, handed them menus, quickly told them about the specials, and ran for the protection of the kitchen. He told them he was going after water but he lied. He was afraid if he gave them anything they could throw at each other, he’d have a big mess to clean up. Instead, he brought them the wine they’d requested. He was pretty sure they wouldn’t throw their wine. They obviously needed it.

He kept an eye on them, avoiding their table until their glasses were almost empty before he cheerfully approached and offered to take their order. Waiters knew that unhappy customers were not only bad for business, they would hurt their tip. If their bickering continued, they might even argue more than they ate, which would tie up the table longer than usual and delay him getting happier customers who would be better tippers.

By the time they’d each emptied two glasses of the house chardonnay, the two had quieted down and were eagerly watching the food come out of the kitchen, each hoping it was their order. When their plates were ready to be delivered, Rod raced to the couple’s table, threw the red meat in front of the two, and stepped back. Red meat and baked potato for the man. Red meat and salad—no dressing—for the woman.

Rod thought it was a good sign when the band came back and the dance floor started filling up. Maybe the music and the dancing would distract them. He was wrong. The man’s wife zeroed in on a couple who was happily dancing around the floor.

“Why can’t you dance like that?” she griped.
He calmly glanced at the passing couple. “Why can’t you look like that?” Ding! Round two,” Rod whispered to a passing fellow waiter.

Halfheartedly, Rod offered a dessert menu. All he got from the two was sneers. Desperately trying to save his tip, Rod brought two complementary chocolate truffles wrapped in gold foil wrappers to the table. With a smirk, the woman unwrapped both candies and stuffed both into her mouth at once. So much for the diet.

The waiter almost had to duck to avoid the man’s credit card as it flew across the table in his direction. Before it landed on the tablecloth, the woman looked at her man with a challenging expression. “I think I would like to see a dessert menu,” she smiled, never taking her eyes off her husband. The man got up from the table, threw his napkin on his plate, and said he was going outside to have a smoke, ignoring the smoke that was already coming out of his wife’s ears. Ding! Round three.

Rod knew there would be no tip tonight from the two. By this point, he was praying that their credit card went through. A credit failure was all this couple needed to complete their disastrous dinner. If only the card went through, maybe he could at least avoid Round four. Even so, it was getting late; most likely, he’d not get a chance to fill his table with another couple. The cashier sent Rod a barely concealed thumbs up. The man came back inside long enough to sign the slip and left again, leaving his wife to fumble with her coat alone.

Back in the kitchen, the other waiters laughed and each contributed to their fellow waiter’s tip jar. It had happened to all of them. The good news was the next Friday night was a week away.

The end

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