My name is Phillip Marszalek and after work at Halston's, a pharmacy and minor grocery store, I usually stop at Sally's a bar/restaurant about a block away. Most of the waiters there know me, even by name; this type of rapport is not easily achieved I assure you. It was through a painfully deliberate series of relatively intimate conversations that I found myself enjoying such treatment.
For instance, I opted for the friendly father routine for Jessica, asking and subtly advising her about school. For Mark, somewhat more standoffish, I used work-pertinent phrases, such as: 'man what a day, huh?' (still wearing my uniform, sleeves rolled up suggestively) or 'getting off soon?'
Finally, with Anetta, a woman probably about forty to forty-five, my age, I attempted the most difficult yet, when properly applied, effective, routine—the slightly-interested-in-you-romantically routine. I began with extra nods and generous smiling. This transitioned into questions presupposing a husband. When she revealed that she wasn't married or even involved, something I certainly presumed, I used the overtly-astonished-reaction routine. This both asserts my humanity and allows a gentle proclamation of my feelings regarding her attractiveness.
Anyhow, I apologize for relating these things at such length, but I feel their disclosure necessary in order to properly convey the tale of woe that follows. Believe me, Phillip Marszalek, manager of Halston's, I have seen some horrible things. Like today, when I entered Sally's, I noticed a new waiter. Some young girl, probably about eighteen. I was taken completely off-guard about this and hadn't even contemplated the right routine (I was wavering between cooler-older-guy and deserving-veteran-customer) when she led me to my table.
It wasn't my normal table, something that I refrained from relating but felt no less disoriented about, but I adapted. Adaptability is one of the traits that my boss felt I excelled at. And, not to gloat, but obviously I excelled at something, otherwise I wouldn't have gone from simple employee, to Assistant Manager, to Ancillary Night Manager, to Adjunct Day Manager, to General Manager, in twenty years.
So, having adapted so well and looking none the worse for wear, I was ready to ask her for an additional four napkins, a glass of water with the ice on the side and a toothpick for the post meal clean-up. She of course couldn't have possibly known this preliminary order having just started there, but I tell you one thing, she definitely couldn't have know after she walked away immediately saying she would 'be right back'. Another little piece of information she probably couldn't have known though was certainly suffering from, was that I keep in mind the normally amount for tipping, fifteen per cent, then subtract one half-per-cent for every mistake. Fourteen point five per cent and counting.
When she returned, she asked me what I wanted, if I 'knew', or would perhaps require an additional few minutes. An additional few minutes? I thought. It would be hard to need more than was already imparted by her 'being right back' plus, I always order the same thing, a turkey sandwich on wheat bread toasted to the point of noticeable discoloration with only lettuce and a single swipe of mayonnaise, a quarter-slice of a pickle and a glass of pink lemonade that is filled eighty per cent with pink lemonade and the other twenty per cent with water.
Their pink lemonade is good, but far too saccharine and though I have mentioned perhaps altering the recipe, the manager has repeatedly told me, to the point that I now believe he no longer cares for my suggestion or even my business apparently, that the pink lemonade is 'purchased from a company and is already made, plus (at this point he usually rubs his brow) nobody else complains about it'. Well, nobody else might complain about it, but they will definitely complain about it when their teeth turn into sponges. Mark my word.
I told her my order, and the fact that it would be my order on all subsequent encounters, and she left. At that point, I was starting to wonder if I would be able to get past her sloppy demeanor and my building distaste in order to establish a friendship with her. One thing is for sure, for sure, for sure—she would never make it at Halston's. Not with that attitude at least.
Again denied the opportunity to ask for the additional napkins and so forth, first because of her 'being right back' then because she had me flustered, I got up to see to it that I would receive these items, when the need to urinate paused me. Strange, I thought, I had just urinated at work not two hours ago and normally, I urinate every two and a half hours.
The bathroom at Sally's is located around the corner of the bar and well out of sight from where I was sitting. After the bathroom, this was my return greeting—my seat, not my seat actually but where I had been mistakenly placed, was taken by another gentleman. The seat I was occupying not some three minutes ago, was taken by someone else. He was looking at the menu when I approached him, engulfed in thought—
Perhaps I should just take another seat, after all that wasn't my table anyhow, plus I didn't want to interrupt his reading. However, this was my seat, and his acquisition was wrong whether it was the fault of the waiter or not. I had been wronged. And what if he became irate with me? I am certainly not the fighting sort, plus what if my boss found out? I'd be back to Co-Adjunct Mid-Shift Supervisor in no time. Should I tell a waiter? Maybe, but by that time my sandwich might have arrived and they might give it to him. Then he would have my seat and my sandwich and what if he took to my order? Then it could become his regular order as well.
I could certainly try to reason with him but then he might just take the table right next to mine. I do not like sitting too close to someone else because repeated eye-contact, even if inadvertent, is unavoidable. With repeated eye contact comes repeated conversation and eventually I run out of things to say. I do not like silence when a statement is clearly necessary.
The man looked up from his menu and smiled gently, though it could have been smugly, I'm still not sure, and said, "Is there something I can do for you, sir?"
What to do, what to do. If it weren't for the fact that I saw the waiter exiting the swinging doors with my order, I might not have been so quick to act but I did see her so—
"Uh, yes, I suppose there is," I began, placing my hands in my pockets which I'm told is a stance of friendly authority, "I believe you may have taken my seat when I went to the bathroom. I come here often, my name is Phillip Mars. . . "
"Oh sorry about that. Here, let me move."
He moved to the table next to me right as the waiter approached with my meal.
"That looks good. What're ya having?" he asked, possibly cordially, possibly sneakily.
I feigned not hearing him and bit down into my sandwich. It felt like there was at least two swipes of mayonnaise.
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