"It would be better," she told me. She told me several times.
She came in alone, requested a table for one and she carried a thick book. I took to her immediately. One of my own; a woman after my own preferences. I also enjoy a table for one accompanied only by a big book.
She wore a knitted cap the entire meal. It's safe to say she made it herself. It sat sloppily on pale hair cut in the style all women seem to adopt after the age of 55. The hair shook beneath the handmade hat.
I encouraged her to order the most delicious pasta and she did, especially when I told her it would be gone soon. Out of season. The time was ripe.
She said she wanted red wine. I asked her if she wanted it with a big body or a light body and she said big but not too big so I directed her to something fitting and she nodded her approval. When I went on to describe more about the wine she stopped me rudely and said, "I know the wine." She repeated, "I know the wine." Her tone was patronizing, but her voice was soft.
I asked if she'd like bread with the pasta. She asked, "Whose bread?" I told her it was our own, homemade foccacia, and she said she would. I brought it at the same time her dish arrived hot from the kitchen.
After leaving her to tuck into her meal, I came by later to inquire about the quality. A thumbs up and a smile pleased me and I left her to dine in quiet.
Later I cleared her used dishes and presented her with a dessert menu. She accepted it without a word. On my next trip near her I saw her credit card was lying flat on the edge of the table. She was holding her open book, her arm outstretched away from her body.
"I'll bring your bill right back." I said it softly and quickly, unobtrusively.
At this point the woman put her hand, her pointed finger, in my face. She was signaling for me to wait. She finished reading the page in front of her while I stood waiting.
"I was absorbed in my book. It would be better if you had just taken the card." Her voice was coated in contempt.
"I don't like to grab people's cards without a word. Most like to see a total before paying."
She then smiled at me, but her smile was matched by narrowed eyes. Her voice was ice.
"Just take the card. And bring back the receipt."
I was livid.
Rarely do I let people get to me--each of us is fighting our own battle, and people don't mean it, they're just having a bad day, et cetera--but this? This pissed me right the fuck off.
This guest had an air of eccentricity from the beginning, but it became quickly apparent that she was also quite particular. I'm fine with that. I like the challenge.
But if someone feels that they are above talking to me, I'm done with them. If someone thinks they shouldn't have to communicate with their server, especially about something as crucial as taking her money, then I don't know what to say to that. Except how dare you think you are too good or too busy or too absorbed to exchange a few words with someone whose job it is to wait on you. I mean, really. Fuck that.
This woman went so far as to complain to the hostess on her way out of the restaurant. "The meal was fine until she insisted on talking to me about my credit card."
To her credit, the hostess replied, "We are really big on communicating with our guests here," to which the woman sort of growled and walked out.
She didn't even have to talk to me. She could have nodded. But she couldn't be bothered, and instead made me feel incredibly small. Part of that is my own fault. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but goddamn. They can certainly try, and that's exactly what that woman did to me that day.
I'm over it now. Had I written this entry the afternoon it happened it would have been a fire hose of cursing so intense you'd have been in awe. I couldn't believe that someone stuck her finger in my face, had me wait nearly a minute, only to dress me down. Why would someone do that?
That's where it gets complicated.
[Photo by Robert S. Digby]