A Cup of Conversation – August 2016

I lost my patience the other evening. Patience and controlling the tongue are active, not passive. Patience is graduate level virtue not without personal cost and tamed tongues are essential to relationship, respect, and reconciliation.

Mary was out of town so I was dining alone. The restaurant was busy and my table was by the door. The server took my order, appetizer and entre order. Time began to slow down as people entered to find a seat. The minutes were adding up and people seated after me were being served. More people coming and going, each time the door opened a blast of cold air hit me in the face and chest. More people served yet no food for me. Turning to stare at the server produced nothing, not a glance. That usually works…but not on her. She had tunnel vision. I almost left, but no. Someone from the kitchen finally comes out and sets the appetizer down, turning without a word before I could ask for a condiment. That’s pretty quick. Half an hour passed since walking in the door. That’s a television sitcom with commercials but still no entre.

The appetizer was delicious and lasted about a minute…then time slows down again. Another fifteen minutes goes by and more people after me being served but still no server. Same mute kitchen staff comes out again, sets the entre down then turns before I could ask for the same condiment. I reached for her arm but caught myself. The wife is visiting her mother so there is no one to bail me out of jail. Besides, people only do that in the movies.

My second bite (sans condiment) teetered on the fork when the server appears out of nowhere. I unloaded. THE FOOD TOOK WAY, WAY TOO LONG…EVERYONE NOW SERVED WAS HERE AFTER ME…I CAN’T GET A SIMPLE CONDIMENT…I’M FREEZING…AND THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE BOTHERED TO CHECK ON ME SINCE MY ORDER FORTY-FIVE MINUTES AGO…I WON’T BE BACK! It was surprising how fast the words came out of my mouth. I felt remarkably better until the look on her face pierced my irritated heart. She was new to this work or poorly trained, neither her fault. Mary then texts me (uncanny spousal timing) and I relay what just happened. My sweet wife says, “Did they recognize you?” That hadn’t occurred to me. Oh, I really hope not…I should pay in cash.

I could have handled that better. Maybe I’m really not that far along the patience path. No, that can’t be it! Maybe gnawing hunger and near frostbite had something to do with my lapse of charity. Regret flooded in and guilt wasn’t far behind. However, waiting too long again for check and container drowned any latent remorse, begging me to not tip. Even when a dining experience is really bad I never do that but seriously considered it here. Expecting the proprietor to come out profusely apologizing was a pipe dream. That didn’t happen. In the end, I tipped the server in hopes she saw the bigger picture, although probably not.

This happened last year and I’m not going to say where I was dining (even if you pull me aside on the street and ask with a wink and promise not to say a word). The reality is every merchant has these moments. The ones who survive the test of time, however, are those whom it happens to the least.

I’m really setting myself up here but what the heck. Our patrons are the first to speak up if something is not right. It’s hard to hear but necessary because, right or wrong, the hard truth is, I’ve not been back. Repeat customers far outweigh short-lived, blissful ignorance. What a shame, the food was quite good. They’ll have another shot at my patronage, though, and I’ll have another shot at this patience thing when Mary makes me go back.