Family therapists take note: If you really want to understand the dynamics of your client’s relationship with his/her family, hang out by my podium. Doesn’t have to be a busy day or night, the behavior will be the same.
Patron One: Older, attractive woman arrives with adult daughter and several grandchildren. I smile and say hello as I am returning to the podium after seating other patrons. She thrusts her hand at me, four fingers in the air. I wait for her to say something. She doesn’t. “Oh, four for lunch?” I ask. She still says nothing, but waves her four fingers at me again, a gesture that now looks as close to obscene as anyone can muster using four fingers instead of one. “Okay,” I say with a big smile, “Four!” I ask if they want smoking or nonsmoking, and Mom finally speaks, er barks, “Nonsmoking! Non! Where is it?” She is positively glaring at me. I direct them upstairs. The adult daughter gives me an “I am so sorry” look that I am confident she does often when she’s out with Mommy Dearest.
Patron Two: Mom: “What do you have here?” I smile and give her the menu to look at. We serve a decent variety of food, so most people find something they want to eat. “No turkey club?” she asks. The oldest teenage boy rolls his eyes and steps toward the door. The middle two shuffle their feet and walk around the foyer. The youngest one–age 10ish–stares up at mom. “Well, we have a turkey sandwich with tomato, cheese, and bacon on it. I am sure the chef will adapt that to a club-style.” Mom stares at me for a moment. “But it’s not a club.” She looks at her youngest. “Will you eat something that’s not a club sweetie?” “Nooooo,” whines junior. Mom again: “You have to have chicken parm!” “Uh no, not on the menu today, but would you like to see a kids’ menu?” She looks at junior, “He doesn’t eat off a kids’ menu. What kind of restaurant doesn’t have chicken parm!” Junior whines for a kids’ menu. I give it to him; Mom snatches it out of his hands and reads it. “Chicken fingers. He’ll eat that.” And then they all stand there, looking at me, saying nothing. I give it a ten-second pause, doing a kind of stare down with Mom. No response. “So,” I smile cheerfully, “Does that mean you want a table?” Mom looks ready to explode. “I said we’d eat here!” Ooooooooookay.
And to Patron Three, the dad who is either 1) divorced and was clearly irritated that he was stuck bringing the kids in over a holiday weekend; or 2) married, but whose wife said, “You take the kids to the princess show downtown and out for lunch; or 3) just an angry kind of guy who has no clue how adorable his little girls are–shut up and appreciate your life and kids and quit yelling about the cost of validated parking as though it’s more than your monthly mortgage payment.
Hey kids, Aunite Maitre’d here. Don’t worry about how often your loathsome parents embarrass the heck out of you with their very public, over-the-top angry outbursts. Eventually, you’ll only have to see them infrequently at holiday meals when you move to another part of the country, far, far away.