Jon Dawson: 22 years of marriage celebrated with Busboy of the Year
A few weeks back, The Wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.
We're both homebodies, but against our better judgment decided to go out. In an attempt to do something special, I suggested a restaurant in another county we'd never visited. The menu featured plenty of exotic fare, but also plenty of normal dishes I could actually pronounce. Yes, my palette operates at a third-grade level.
When we arrived at the restaurant, everything looked on the up and up — there was furniture, a roof — the whole 9 yards.
Then the waitperson came over.
I don't know if we slipped over into another dimension when we crossed the county line, or maybe some Robitussin I took as a small child was on a multi-decade time delay, but the waitperson seemed to be speaking a language made up on the way to the table. The situation seemed so dire I asked if everything was alright.
Through a series of clicks, skits and hastily drawn illustrations on a napkin, The Wife and I were able to convey our order to the waitperson who would be Gort (see video below).
After confusing The Wife and I to the edge of terror, our waitperson walked to another table and lit up like a Christmas tree. Apparently, this was a table of regular customers, as they greeted each other like long-lost friends. As it turned out, the waitperson could actually speak, and proceeded to do so for the next seven minutes, all the while holding our order at bay.
While we were waiting for the food, a woman we'd never met walked over and asked a question about a column I wrote close to 10 years ago. The woman was very nice and she helped me look like a big shot in front of The Wife.
"How does it feel to be married to such a revered writer?" I asked.
"Did I turn the dryer off before we left the house?" she replied.
Eventually, the food made it's way to the table — possibly carried by the swarm of flies that had intermittently been dive-bombing our booth for the previous 10 minutes.
My rations were OK as I ordered a simple club sandwich with club soda. The wife ordered some sort of Mongolian beef dish with rice and noodles, but she substituted green beans for the noodles. Thinking the beans would be seasoned in some manner, she said it tasted as if the beans had been microwaved for a few minutes and dumped on the plate.
I worked as a table maintenance coordinator (busboy) for years at the legendary Beef Barn in Kinston. During my time there, I saw how badly some customers would treat the waitstaff. I was in charge of the salad bar, and there was one guy who came in every week with his three sons.
Their mission? Decimate the salad bar.
The salad bar could be stocked to the gills with everything, which meant there was enough food contained therein to satisfy 20 or so customers. The exception to this rule was this guy and his two sons, who not only emptied the entire salad bar, but made it look like Atlanta after Sherman passed through. What these three people could do to a pan of lettuce would make a PETA member switch over to barbecue.
Then there was the guy who loved to send his steak back. It wouldn't have mattered if Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray cooked his steak as a team, he'd find some reason to take it back. One night I bet the waitress $5 she could take his steak back after having nothing done to it and he'd never know the difference.
"Here's your steak sir. Is this more to your liking?" she asked.
"Yes, that looks much better," he said.
While counting my winnings, I made a vow to never be that kind of customer. Going to a restaurant doesn't give anyone the right to berate the waitstaff.
With this in mind, I can — with a clear conscience — say I'm the easiest customer you'll ever have in a restaurant. My kids have even been trained to tidy up the table and stack their plates to make them easier to pick up. I remember having to clean up tables that resembled crime scenes, so I know what I'm talking about.
All that being said, I draw the line when I give the waitperson the money to pay for the meal but they don't bring all of the change back.
"You handed me a $5 bill, but the change was $5.40," I said.
"Oh, yeah, well, most people don't want their change back," the waitperson said.
"So you kept some of my money without asking — is that right?" I asked.
"Well, most people don't want the change back," said the waitperson. (with eyes rolling). "Do you want your change back?"
"Every penny," I said.
Did I mention the waitperson never came back to our table during the meal? The only person that checked on us during the meal was the busboy.
"Here you go sir," I said while handing the busboy the tip. "You did a great job and I appreciate the pride you take in your work."
After leaving the restaurant, I thought it would be nice to bring something to Tax Deductions 1 and 2, so we stopped at a national doughnut chain to pick up a little treat. To my astonishment, the drive-thru menu featured 89 types of coffee, but only seven doughnuts. I chose two of the doughnuts listed on their menu.
"We're out of both of those right now," the voice from the box said.
"Well there are only seven doughnuts listed on your drive-thru menu," I said.
"Uh, we have more than seven doughnuts," said the voice from the box, I assume while rolling its eyes.
"Then why are there only seven on the menu?" I asked. "Do I have to download an app to find out which doughnuts are on your menu?"
For the next minute, I rattled off every type of doughnut I could think of, finally hitting pay dirt with a cruller (looks like a tractor tire) and chocolate with sprinkles.
When we got home and told TD#1 about our experience at the restaurant, she looked up its online reviews. About 40 percent of them mirrored our experience, with one person even going so far as to say, "the service was awful, but the busboy did a great job.”
From one busboy to another, I salute you.
Jon Dawson's columns are published weekly by NeuseNews.com. Contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jondawson.com