So while I'm waiting to start teaching in the UAE, I've been working as a server at a french cafe now for about 3 months. I work serving food, bussing tables, and at the register. I like the register the best because I'm not being run ragged on the floor cleaning up other peoples messes! The cafe is in a small retail space in a residential area. There's a high end (ie expensive) grocery story, a book store, a hardware store, a plant store, a baby gap, 2 other restaurants, and of course, a Starbuck's and a Peets coffee. We have several regular customers and they all have their little quirks. I thought eating out with my sister was a challenge (because she always wants to know what is in every dish and if she can get things “on the side!) but some of these guys take the cake!
One of our regulars, Beatrice, is straight up strange. She never has her eyes open all the way and she blinks and squints a lot. The first time I was helping her was an eye opener to say the least! So she comes in, marches up to the counter, bullies past other customers. She's standing there sort of hunched over and squinting and blinking, and she says,
“ I want a cobb salad. No dressing, no bacon, no cheese. I want the avocado on the side, on a side dish. I want some garbanzo beans on it and I want a sliced tomato on the side. I want a side of fries on the same plate. Only 5 fries, 5 fries.”
I say, “Ok, but we have a plain mesculun green salad that might be better for...”
“No, no. I want a cobb salad. A cobb! No dressing, no bacon, no cheese! Where's Cedric? He knows what I like. He always helps me! Where's Cedric?”
And Cedric floats over to the register, with a benevolent smile on his face like he's her savior, and says in his loveliest falsetto voice, “ Good morning, Beatrice! How are you today? Can I get you a cobb salad with no dressing, no bacon, no cheese, sliced tomato on the side with avocado, garbanzo beans, 5 french fries and an iced tea?”
And she looks up at him over the register, squinting and blinking, still no smile, and says, “Yes. Thank you. Cedric knows what I like!”
And Cedric says to me, “Some of our “special” customers can be a little bit tricky. But you'll learn!”
Then there's Phyllis. 82 if she's a day. Comes in and stops in front of the pastry case. All you can see is a shock of white hair and her beady little eyes starring at you. She points a shaky, wrinkled finger at a pastry and says:
“What's in this one? This one right here.”
“That's a chocolate croissant, Phyllis.” I say.
“Chocolate? Chocolate? Oh I don't like chocolate. Let's see, lets see.” She points her bony little finger at another pastry. “What about that one? What's that?”
“Cream cheese and raspberry danish.”
“Cream cheese and raspberry.”
“Cream cheese and raspberry.”
She points at another pastry. “What about that one?”
“That's a cherry, pistachio coffee cake.”
“Do I like that?”
“You've had it before.”
“Oh, I have?”
“Oh, ok.” She moves around the pastry case so she is finally in front of me. “What's good for lunch?”
“Well, Phyllis, we have salad and breakfast items and french pizza.”
“I want a sandwich. Something sandwichy, with bread.”
“What kind of meat do you feel like today? We have turkey, ham, maybe a roasted veggie sandwich?”
She looks at me, takes a wad of 1 dollar bills out of her pocket and says, “Give me a tuna melt. I'll have a tuna melt. How much is that?”
Did I mention, Phyllis comes in every other day? Every. Other. Day. The exact same scenario. But Phyllis is one of my favorites. Everyone else just groans and moves away from the register when she shows up!
There's also Doris. She's an older lady as well. Always wearing a long wool coat that has a hounds tooth pattern, her hair slicked back into a bun with a red ribbon at the back. Black clutch purse held tightly in her wrinkled hands. She comes in and gets the smoked salmon pizza and an iced tea every day. This is what happens though, when she can't get that smoked salmon pizza!
“Hi Doris. How are you?” I say.
“Smoked salmon pizza and an iced tea please.”
“We don't have pizza's yet, Doris. It's too early.”
“What?! Oh dear. I always get the pizza!”
“I know but it's too early.”
“What time is it?”
“And what time do you have pizza?”
“Lunch isn't until 10:30.”
“Oh dear. What else do you have with salmon in it?”
The menu is on the wall above the register, so I lean out and we both look up at it and I say:
“We have a salmon fume omelette or scramble. Umm, we have a salmon benedict. We have a croque salmon.”
She wrings her hands and stares at me owlishly, “Oh dear, oh dear. Well, let me get, I guess I'll have, let me get a beet salad.”
Which, in case you were wondering, is also a lunch item! But I go to the kitchen and say, “please tell me you can make a beet salad!” and Mishial the chef, says, “Para Doris? Yes, yes, I can make.”
My favorite customers though are the families. Our cafe has a kids play area in the back so we are inundated with children on a daily basis. They all come in at the same time, between 10 and 1pm, and the cafe is a mad house.
So, usually what happens is I have 1 man at the register, with a line of customers out the door behind him mind you. And he has a menu in hand.
“Hi.” he says, “I have a bunch of orders so lets get the kids food out of the way first.”
“Great!” I say.
“Ok. uh, uh, uh,” (that's the dad clearing his throat,) “Let me have kids mac-n-cheesy, kids le penne pasta blanco, and a kids 2 mini burgers.”
“Which side would you like with that?”
“Size? What size do you have? Small I guess.”
Me, “not size. SIDE.”
“oh, they get a side?” he looks at menu again.
“yup. Dipping veggies, fruit, sliced apples with yogurt, steamed veggies, fries.” I always lead with the healthy stuff, cus these kids are out of control as it is and we don't need them having a carb melt down in the cafe!
“oh, oh. Let's see, how about 1 fruit, 1 dipping veggies, and a fry. Now for the grown ups, lets see...."
I interrupt, " did you want drinks for the kids?"
"I can change the order to the kids lunch combo then. It comes with a drink and a small cookie."
"Uhhh, let me see." He leans back and yells towards the back again. "Honey, do the kids need a c.o.o.k.i.e? It comes with the combo."
"I guess we'll just do the drinks then!" He says. " What do you have?"
I say, " milk, lemonade, apple juice, orange juice, chocolate milk, hot chocolate."
"hmmm, ok. Let me get, 1 milk, 1 apple juice and a chocolate milk."
I say, "only 1 kid gets the chocolate milk?" And I give him a look.
"oh, that's not good is it?" I shake my head. "Ok, let me get 3 apple juices then."
"Better." I say.
"Ok, now for the grown ups. Can I get a spicy beof burger and a lemonade.”
“How did you want your burger cooked?”
“Oh, uh,” He leans back and yells to the back of the restaurant, “granddad, how do you want your burger cooked?”
And granddad shouts back, “what?”
“Burger. How do you want your burger?”
“oh, uh. How does it come?”
“ No, how do you want it COOKED?”
“Oh, cooked, cooked. Medium rare.”
I hit the medium rare button. The father looks back at me and says, “medium rare.” And then he just stares at me for a second as if I didn't hear granddad already shout those same words! So I look at him solemnly and say, “medium rare.” And he looks back at the menu.
“Ok” he says, “my wife will have...”
“Which side do you want with the burger?” I interrupt again.
Sigh...”no side? Mesculun greens, fries, or onion strings?”
“No, onion strings. They'er like onion rings but thinner.”
“Oh, oh.” He leans back again and yells, “granddad, which side do you want with your burger? mesculun greens, fries, or onion strings?” He looks back at me as he says the sides and I give him the slow nod of approval.
We haven't even gotten to his grandmother's or wife's order yet. Or his!
Granddad chooses onion strings. Great. Next item.
Yes people, this is my everyday life now. I live only to serve!
Until next time!