There’s a sign posted at one of my favorite restaurants. By the register—in plain sight to all — it tells patrons what to expect in service. “Smiling” it says. “Willingness To Help” it promises. “Always Facing The Door”. Oh, yeah, and “Gracious”. I almost forgot that one.

This, however, is the story of another establishment.

The goodbye had been coming for some time now. How often had I sat there and waited patiently for service or groveled plaintively for a second cup of coffee… and been ignored? (Or even worse: had extra caffeine poured by a server giving the look teachers gave as we turned in homework late).

How often did I look across the booth at whomever had joined me and wistfully quote my father. “This would be a great place for a restaurant”, he’d remark.

— And oh so recently, on occasions occuring geometrically — how often had I looked to Jacobson or Carrie with ire in my eyes and declared “I may never come back!”?

Alas, this day’s been coming. It was destined. Once an eatery of choice, it had become, (despite some of the very nice people that work there), a marriage of convenience. Moments from home, (minutes from the office), it was still quicker to sit and there and pout, eyes begging for coffee, than to hop in the car and schlep to Corky’s.

(Where my heart lay).

The final chapter began in June. Aunt Helen, by then, was no longer cooking. As such, three — maybe four times per week — she was ordering in. In addition, since her only requirement for To Go food was that the proprietor’d descended from the Twelve Tribes, more often than not I’d be picking up THERE.

Our routine was quickly cemented:

“Should I tell them you’ll be there in fifteen minutes?”
“Yes, Aunt Helen.”
“Call me when you get there to tell me how much.”
“Yes, Aunt Helen”.

— Like clockwork this rat would navigate the maze…  Dutifully

“You have an order for Bogart?”

Meekly, at the register, it would roll from my mouth. And like clockwork … every time … her bagged food would be ready; I’d pay and I’d leave; and I’d call from my car.

“Fourteen dollars and sixty-five cents” I might say.
“Right. 1-4-6-5.”
“Bring the receipt.
“Yes, Aunt Helen.”

Like clockwork….

Until that day in June. It was a Friday, when the wheels came off.    When I hit the front desk that day, the food wasn’t ready. Alas, it wasn’t even started.

“You have to ask at the counter,” I was told.

“Was that YOUR order?” the proprietor asked.
“My aunt. Is there a problem?”
“She didn’t know how much fruit salad she wanted.”
“So?,” I mused, not quite perceiving the problem.  How many times had he seen this frail lady come in on my arm?
“She wanted an order but wouldn’t give me a size.”                                                                                                                                                       “So? Don’t you have an order of fruit salad?”

I still didn’t get it; still don’t.  Of course I know she could be difficult.  (Or worse).  But I’M not.  And NEVER, after maybe thirty years of patronage and ME always being polite, did I expect this:

“I should have hung up on her. She didn’t know what she wanted.”
“She’s 100,” I noted. (She may have been confused, I was thinking, but she was the customer — and a frequent customer — and she was f’ing 100).
“I don’t care. I don’t need it!”

I took the food, paid for the food, and left. But he’d crossed the Rubican.

“Who talks to a customer that way?”, I wondered.   “Yes, the food is good,” I thought, and “Yes” it’s convenient….but REALLY— “Who talks to a customer that way?”

— Two months passed. Almost three. In time I heard her side of the story and, truth be known,  she was more right than wrong. Not that it mattered.  I mean…really —right or wrong…who talks to a customer that way?

Last Friday I went there again. For her.

“You have an order for Bogart?”
(They didn’t have the order).
“I’m sure she called,” I said nicely, while starting to call her.

AND THEN – – –  Mitten driven — From the other register the son (I think) of one of the owners interceded half-scolding. Mildly, mind you.  Not yelling, really. More of a rebuke, I would say, although oddly, I hadn’t been talking to him.

“Listen,” he glared (like a server pouring a third cup of coffee), “Our computer’s down. You’ll have to wait. We couldn’t take the order.
I was about to tell him “Hey listen, I’ve got underwear older than you” when a lady emerged. From the kitchen. With the order.

I took the food, paid for the food, and left.


REALITY CHECK:  Forever is a long time.  Let’s just say “On my dime”.

3 Responses to “BYE FELICIA”

  1. alan wieder says:

    I have been with your wonderful father when he has proclaimed, “This would be a great place for a restaurant.” On this he was always right. Great piece

  2. alan wieder says:

    Should add that the reason I got to be with your dad was that I was rightfully demoted from salesperson (would he hate that word) to your dad’s school delivery helper or maybe just companion. Even before the sales numbers–he knew that it wasn’t my kind of thing.

  3. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Ed. Note: One of the many reasons my father loved YOU was your inordinate ability (while Stuart, Hal, Randy and I were knocking on doors all over Columbus) to be sidelined with leads in the one lone neighborhood where for some reason it was raining.

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