At my last open high-top, a black guy sits himself without the help of a hostess. He's casually dressed in a white t-shirt, jeans, and loosely laced sneakers.
Busy with dirty plates under both arms, I drop a menu in front of him, and tell him I’ll be right back. He’s too busy texting to reply.
Knowing the odds, I groan. It’s been ten percent or less for most of the day, and this one isn’t looking good either. But hey, do a great job, maybe things will turn out well this time.
On many separate occasions, every manager here has taken me aside and told me I get lots of compliments from guests. That they’re proud of me, and that I do great work. It’s a shame I can’t turn compliments into money somehow.
When I return to black guy, he tells me he's waiting on 'his girl' and when she arrives, pretty and blonde, we begin.
Before I can say my name, he asks for an orange juice, and she wants water. I retrieve both and place them on the table. They chit chat to each other, ignoring me for about ten minutes.
Ten minutes is a long time when waiting tables. I’ve done everything else I can, and approach them once more.
Blondie says she hasn’t really looked at the menu yet, and doesn’t want to ‘have to read it.’
She's intimidated by the novel-sized menu, asking me to surprise her with 'something healthy with chicken.'
"Refer to chapter fourteen, verse twelve for salad options" I advise. She laughs politely.
He stares at his phone.
“How about this Skinnylicious Asian Chicken Salad,” I suggest, pointing at it with my pen.
“Okay sounds good,” she smiles a perfect smile.
“And what can I do for you, sir?”
He’s still texting, until she nudges him.
“Oh, uh. I want the French toast and uh one those okay you know them ayggs with like cheese and can you do some chicken in it but scrambled not too much but with some chicken in it. But make it spicy, you know like Mexican chicken. And cheese. Do it um, okay there’s a guy who works here that know what I mean he’s got black hair you know that guy?”
When you’re faced with something this irritating, don’t ask questions. Don’t offer options, or tell him all the kinds of cheeses we have or types of chicken we can add, just keep it simple and move on.
“How many eggs?” I ask.
“Uh, juss a couple ayggs.”
I translate his order to a quickly-jotted note.
I repeat the order back to them, to confirm.
“Okay, for you Miss, a Skinnylicious Asian Chicken Salad.”
She nods, with that smile again.
“And for you sir, two eggs scrambled with chorizo chicken and cheddar cheese mixed in. And Brulee French Toast. Does that work?”
The air hangs for a moment.
“Uh. Yeh,” he tells his phone.
“Good job,” she whispers to me, behind her hand. That was nice. Perhaps she’s a bartender somewhere, understands where I’m coming from, and will save the day with a good tip.
I leave them, and ring it all in, thinking I’ve seen this black guy before. He definitely looks familiar. And the woman he’s with is a little too pretty for him. He’s a bit over six feet tall, but doesn’t appear particularly wealthy or interesting.
Their order eventually gets run to their table. They’re both happy with things.
As they talk further, he never asks for anything else, but she asks for coffee and cream. Only one refill over the course of an hour.
The Lakers are playing overhead, and he watches the game with an odd sadness. Some gentlemen at the bar banter about how lousy the Suns are this year.
She’s attracting onlookers, but he isn’t. And yet still, I feel like I’ve seen him before. On television somewhere, possibly. The worst case would be to say he looks like the coach of the Suns, just to be mistaken, and have it sound like a ‘all you blacks look the same’ type comment.
She finishes long before he does. I’ve cleared everything except for his custom eggs- that he’s nibbling on at a snail’s pace.
A coworker, Victoria, tells me the blonde is a bartender that comes in rather often, and she tips well. I hope she’s the one that pays the bill.
“May I take care of that plate, sir?”
He nods, and I take his empty egg plate. They both decline the dessert menu, so I place the bill on the table and suggest they take their time with it. Their total is about $35.
After a few moments, I return and take the booklet.
Now alone at one of the computers, I open the booklet. There’s a very normal looking card inside.
“Lindsey Hunter Phoenix Suns”
No shit. The coach of the Phoenix Suns. It’s him.
I look across the room. He’s sitting in the middle of a crowded bar. Not a single person here knows who he is. That’s how lousy the Suns are. That’s how little this town cares about him and his team.
Receipt printed, and pen placed inside, I return the booklet to him.
He tenses up, as our eyes meet. Will I ask him for a photograph? Will I break his cover?
“I thought you looked familiar,” I keep my voice low.
He’s frozen. Will I berate him? Will I ask him for an annoying autograph?
“Better luck next season, you’re a hard working guy. See you later,” I smile a real one.
He breathes a sigh of relief, smiles back, and takes the bill.
“Thank you very much,” he says. More for keeping things discreet and friendly, rather than for the service.
From afar I watch him ponder over the tip. He begins to write something in, but she scolds him, watching the pen like a hawk. He recoils, and makes a generous correction.
Blondie came through!
Suns Coach Lindsey Hunter was going to tip like crap until his date made him give me $15 on a $35 bill. J