“Restaurant Gal, call 9-1-1!” This from one of the sous chefs in charge of the carryout area.
“What?” It’s true, my first reaction to someone telling me to call 9-1-1 was, “Huh?”
“Call the police, now!” Chef shouted across the dining and bar area as he headed back out to the carryout floor.
Which was when the adrenaline kicked in, making my fingers shake as I prepared to dial 9-1-1. It was 11:30 a.m. and a crowd of non-threatening customers was gathering in my foyer.
“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” I whispered, gesturing to all of them with what has to be one of the most annoying hand signals hosts show to restaurant customers–the single finger “hold-on-a-sec” gesture.
Sorry, folks. Gotta call the cops.
Now, we have a hidden button that I can press and police will come directly. However, I have been told to press that button only in the most profound of emergencies. Thus, I suspect if I ever press that button, police will be followed by a SWAT team, the FBI, and agents from just about every other arm of law enforcement.
I wondered, did Chef mean “Call 9-1-1,” or “PRESS THE BUTTON!” I had no clue. Nor could I see or hear what was happening in the carryout area. And my foyer was continuing to fill.
I erred on the side of simply dialing 9-1-1 on my podium phone, all the while mouthing the words, “I’ll be right with you,” to newcomers.
“Police, fire, ambulance. What is the nature of your emergency?”
“Hi. I’m calling from [our restaurant]. The chef asked me to call the police. He’s in our carryout area.” I gave her the address.
She asked me to hold. Fine. No one is pointing a gun at ME, and now I can start directing customers to tables.
“Reservations, sir? No, it’s fine. I’m on hold.” I told one couple. They didn’t give me a second glance as they headed off to their table.
“Yes? Police…Yes…The chef said to call….I don’t know….Could be a robbery….No, he hasn’t come out again.”
I smiled at the next group at my podium, and gestured, “One minute, please.” They smiled back.
“Police. Yes! We need the police here at my restaurant. The address is…Yes, I can hold.”
As I said this, I continued to smile like crazy at everyone. One group pointed toward a table and shrugged in a way that asked, “Okay if we sit there?”
I handed them menus and pointed them toward the table.
We NEVER hand menus to customers at the podium. We NEVER let customers seat themselves. But I figured, just this once, it was okay, because I was on hold with the police.
“Right. The chef said to call right away. Yes, it’s a police emergency.”
You know, in one’s dreams, in the movies, on TV, the 9-1-1 operators get it the first time you say, “Please send the police right away!” I guess in real life, you have to repeat yourself.
“Yes. I can hold again.”
Seriously, what if someone was pointing a gun at me? I get put on hold again? Wait, I wouldn’t have called 9-1-1. I would have pushed the button, instead.
By now, our general manager had gotten into the mix.
“I wish he had told me you were calling the police!” he barked over his shoulder as he walked toward the carryout area.
“Well, it seemed like an emergency so I just dialed.” I marveled at how I was on hold with 9-1-1 and apologizing to the GM for calling 9-1-1. Again, in the movies…
“Okay, okay. That’s fine,” he said, and quickly walked away from the podium and toward the unfolding, yet still unseen, emergency.
I turned to the next group standing at my podium. “Table for three? I’ll have one of our hosts help you in just a moment.”
I called from a second podium phone to our other host desk to have a seater come help. I felt like a trader on the exchange floor–phones in both ears–doing a frantic deal.
The 9-1-1 operator came back on the line. The police were on their way.
“Great. We’ll see the police in a few minutes, then. Thanks!” I hung up.
And stared at some 20 people staring back at me.
Were they concerned? Were they curious? Were they worried?
About getting their lunch on time. Not one person asked what all the fuss was about.
Just another busy lunch hour in a busy city.
End of story: Crazy guy had been hanging around for several days. I had thrown him out once the day before for panhandling in our entrance. He ended up in our carryout area and threatened the employees if they didn’t just hand over food. They called for the chef. The crazy guy then threatened the chef. The chef asked me to call the police. The police came. The crazy guy went off in a paddy wagon.
And we never got behind on reservations.