An Open Letter to the Man at Table 23
Dear Man at Table 23 who was wearing that hat,
Your table was the largest of my Saturday night shift. You had had a reservation so we were already expecting you. I was assigned to your table in the middle of the Saturday Night Rush. I took a quick look to evaluate the seven (which would would later become nine) people who sat at table 23. Your group consisted of an older couple, your parents I’m guessing. A couple slightly younger (an aunt and uncle perhaps?). Then two younger ladies and three younger men, including yourself. From the way the men interacted, I’m guessing you were all brothers and the women were all significant others as they were more withheld and just a cinch uncomfortable. I categorized your table. A family outing. More likely to be all on one check. That was a good sign. And so it began...
Despite from my guess of the table not asking to split the check, I knew it was going to be rough from the very beginning because when I asked if your group needed a few minutes to look at the menu, your (brother I’m guessing?) who sat at the end of the table, just to the right of where I stood blurted out, “I’m ready. I don’t know if these guys are, but I’ll start,” which inevitably led to him to ordering first and having me go around the table one by one and wait for everyone to figure out what they wanted...one by one.
Although it was a busy Saturday night, I decided against asking to come back when everyone was ready. I would let my other tables wait in hopes that everyone would somehow understand. I don’t know how I could have worked in the food industry and expected everyone on a Saturday night to all understand. Your brother informed me from across the table that two more people were coming. However, it wasn’t until your brother was on the phone with the future addition of the table, talking into his cell phone with his right hand and holding his left hand up in the air to keep me waiting in all of the suspense while blurting out parts of orders when I decided I would need to break the order up into two takes.
I said quietly to the what part of the table was listening, “I’m going to wait for you to get off the phone, and then I’ll be back to finish taking your order.” And after that I swiftly hustled to my other tables. Coke refills and check requests were all flung my direction, confirming my decision to leave the big community table where your brother was still on the phone talking about, “How did he know if the burger was better than the pizza?” I was assigned a couple at the bar, so I dropped some waters off and asked how they were doing and if they wanted anything else to drink. The man didn’t look up from the counter, and the woman looked at me with shaking lips.
“The Front of House really, really, really, seems to be struggling today,” she said through her quivering lips.
“Will it take a long time to get our food?” She asked. She was clearly irritated, and I could only take guesses as to why.
“Well, we only have one pizza oven and it is rush hour on a Saturday night. We do our best to get our food out to you as soon as possible.”
“What if we just order a pizza? Can that come out faster?”
“There are still orders ahead of you, and we’re a bit backed up, but we will get it out to you as fast as we can.” I say this hoping she will order right then and there so I can slip her order in before the big order of Table 23.
“Unbelievable. This is unbelievable.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way…”
“We’re going to need a minute.”
“Okay. I’ll be back in a couple then.”
I head back to your table. Your brother is finally off his goddamn phone. I lift my pen and book up and proceed to take orders from your brother. I take a quick look to my left and see the couple at the bar get up and promptly leave. I had guessed as much. Your brother then asks for soda water with a lime. You do too with a, “I’ll have the same, please.” This is a key part in this letter, as it comes back later...and at this point, I had thought nothing of it...or of you.
I put in your big-ass order all while wondering how many margarita pizzas our tiny pizza oven could possibly make at one time. I came back out and refilled your waters and club sodas. Then I grazed over my other tables, dropping checks, filling waters, refilling sodas, bringing second glasses of wine, getting sides of ketchup and mayo to satisfy the Utahns’ fry sauce craze.
While on this run through the other tables, your brother finished his soda water and lime. I suppose he couldn’t wait for me to swing back around, so he must have figured that walking back into the server room was the way to do it. He walked through our swinging doors. There he brought his glass and shook it in front of my coworkers asking, “Can I get some more soda water?”
The. Fucking. Nerve.
When I came into the back, my coworkers told me about your quest for soda water. My head became warm and my face reddened. I could feel my pulse in my neck, and hear my heartbeat shake behind my eyeballs. It was one thing if we were all sitting around in the back room doing nothing, it was another if I was breaking a sweat covering the floor with all the service power I could muster. In either case, your brother was completely rude, tacky, and out of line.
I walked by your table, asking if you all were doing alright. I filled waters. Filled your brother’s soda water though it wasn’t near being empty. And the biggest act of customer service of the day: I didn’t give in to telling your brother off or physically slapping his face off of his face. When I asked if I could clear his salad/appetizer from the table, he asked if I was pressuring him to hurry and eat. I only replied with the bestest fake smile I could muster *My bestest fake smile looks like this -> :-( * and said, “Nope. Just trying to clear the table for your pizza that will be ready in a few moments.” That was all.
In the back, your brother was the topic of discussion. Your brother’s eyes lingered on the female servers. A server had admitted that he was good looking, but was grossed out by his gazing. It wasn’t until the server pointed out that your brother was good looking that I realized he certainly didn’t suffer from ugliness (on the outside, at least). However, he looked just as he was to me: a jackass.
Returning to the table, you must have realized that I was angry, because you were extra nice. You were what made the moments I had to stand near your brother bearable. You said thank you for him and for everyone else that didn’t when I refilled glasses, brought extra sides, and attended to other needs. You even gave me a few encouraging smiles and head nods when I dropped off another diet coke for your father (I think?). I think you’re most like him, because he also looked up at me when he said thank you. Most importantly, your eyes were apologetic about your brother. I wanted to somehow tell you thank you, tell you that I knew you weren’t like him but I didn’t have a way to tell you. So I didn’t.
When your table was finished eating, you all stood up and like water flowing down a creek, I saw who belonged to who by who walked together. Your parents. Another older couple. Maybe an aunt and uncle. Then one of your brothers and his lady. Then your asshole brother and his lady. And then you. After you all stepped out of the restaurant, I watched you part ways with your family and walk off on your own.
I ran my hand through my new haircut and took a breath. How were you the only one who didn’t have a hand to hold? I refilled some more water glasses and stared out the window watching you get into your car. I smiled.
Dear man with a hat and an asshole for a brother who sat at table 23 during rush hour on my Saturday Night shift, Thank you for your thank yous, your nods, your smiles, your embarrassment on behalf of your brother, and have a wonderful Saturday night. I hope you have a lovely woman (who probably made up some lame excuse to get out of dinner so she didn’t have to be around that idiot brother of yours) waiting for you at home.