“Tell her,” coached the dad. “Tell her exactly how many.”
“We want a reservation for 20 people. And we want it tonight, okay?” No smile accompanied this demand.
I eyed the scruffy-looking father and his not-too-adorable grade-school-aged daughters. Okay, I’ll grant everyone a little leeway on appearances the day after Christmas, but these three looked liked they’d lived in their stained sweats for the past week. This, and the charming demeanor of the designated family reservationist, set me on edge.
“Twenty, really?” I asked, gritting out a smile. Maybe they were playing the “kid the host” game with that large of a last-minute reservation. “Really?”
“That’s what she said,” muttered dad. I eyed his shoulder-length stringy hair and unshaven puffy cheeks.
“Well, I’m afraid I don’t have room for 20 people this evening, unless you want to come in after 10 p.m.”
Dad eyed my black suit and crisp tailored blouse. “Are you a manager?” he asked, clearly trying to be dismissive, which is hard to do when you look like you just crawled out from under a damp rock.
“I would be happy to call a manager, but I know we are extremely busy this evening.”
“Yeah, well I know–” and he rattled off numerous managers’ names, two of whom happened to be working my shift.
“Fine, I’ll get one of them right now!” I smiled. Yep, they could have this one.
As I paged both managers (figuring one would eventually answer), I watched the younger of the two daughters start to reach for my computer keyboard, her grimy hands ready to pummel the space bar. I yanked it back out of reach.
The other daughter, the reservationist, grabbed a pen from the podium and started marking the top of the desk. I looked at dad, he looked at me, I looked at the daughter.
I gently plucked the pen out of her sweaty hand and put it in a drawer.
Thankfully, one of the managers appeared at that moment.
“Hey, J.D., nice to see you! Hi girls!”
Oh, ugh. He knew them.
“She says you got no room for us tonight,” said Dad, jutting his whiskered chin in my direction. “She says no way.”
Fine, my little big man, point that chin and make believe you are somebody. To you, I am happy to be invisible.
“Oh, well, let’s see now,” said the manager, also pretending I was invisible, which was also fine with me. “How many?”
“TWENTY!” shrieked both daughters in unison.
“Yeah, 20, tonight at 7,” echoed dad, in an almost threatening manner. What a guy.
I smiled my most I-am-nothing-more-than-a-host-this-is-all-yours-to-deal-with benign smile at the manager. I was no longer invisible. He was not fine with this, but he had to to be, in front of the guests.
“Well, I don’t really have room for 20,” the manager muttered as he checked the computer.
Yeah, no shit, I knew that. But I kind of loved seeing the manager deal with these folks.
“I need 20, man, tonight. Tonight!” Dad said, with a sort of classless confidence tinged with senseless urgency.
Many computer strokes and much back-and-forth later, the manager gave the grizzled one and his daughters five booths in the bar area.
I watched them trundle out the door. Seriously, everything about them was unattractive. Maybe they’d clean up before their reservation later in the evening.
Who cares? I don’t. I will be off by then.
There is an extremely narrow window when a certain ilk of restaurant patrons backs off the self-entitlement pedestal and shows a semblance of manners and understanding to the servants. This occurs on December 24, roughly between 9:17 p.m. and 9:38 p.m. These few minutes on Christmas Eve allow everyone to relax just a little, because everyone has the next day off, the holiday rush is finally waning, and by then a glass of wine or two has been imbibed.
But they return on the 26th, ready to fight to the death for a booth near a window at 7:30 p.m. so they don’t have to be cooped up at home with their in-laws or parents or siblings, or whomever they’ve been stuck with for 48 hours straight, for one more second.
And all that stands in their way is me and my computer.
Like I said, it is a very narrow window on the 24th. And it only comes ’round once a year.
A toast to that window.