It was 3:30 on New Year's Eve. The front of house staff were hunkered down at the bar for family meal, taking a few moments to breathe before the longest night of the year commenced. It was rarity for us, a chance to eat together and get a detailed explanation of the evening's special menu.
But not a few minutes into our meal we heard a clanging at the locked front door. Was it a lost, reservationless soul trying to sneak in, despite the clearly unlit "open" sign? Or possibly an employee?
The noise continued. Against my better judgment I turned, and caught the confused gaze of a grey-haired woman. I quickly glanced away, and to the boss. He'd seen it too; being an extremely accommodating host, I expected him to jump up, to explain we were closed. I even thought he might let the woman in, and start service early. We'd sigh, put our food away and get dressed while people were waiting expectantly at tables. But I saw a lack of reaction in his face; maybe just the slightest twinge of "Aww fuck" before he went back to explaining his menu.
Meanwhile the phone is ringing. Continuously ringing. Fortunately we had a manger with the phone at hand, next to her plate. "No we are booked, I'm sorry," she said over and over again. "People are so lame," she complained. "Who expects a reservation at the last minute?"
Something wasn't "right" with people this time of the year. The awkward holiday parties, traffic, busy malls, time with relatives, and over-indulgence of food and alcohol had made all sense and reason disappear.
I was surprisingly guiltless about not budging from my seat. Typically once I step foot in the restaurant, I feel a relentless sense of obligation to cater to people's needs, as being selfish is not a profitable option in customer service. But the last nerve had been fried. I was beat down after the non-stop onslaught of the last couple weeks.
Opening dinner shifts had come to feel like a war zone. First off, it was like someone had set bombs off in all the breadbaskets by the amount of crumbs strewn all over the floor. In the midst of bread-crumb remediation duties, I'd be running to finish regular opening tasks, answer phones and direct the stream of unusually early diners. The impatient stares, strange requests, out-of-town weirdos, and general bad manners made this thankless work.
The clanging at the door started again. "Feeed ussss," I pictured them saying, mindlessly scraping at the windows. I looked at the boss again, would he finally cave?
Nope, just a blank look.
Nope, just a blank look.