With great service comes great responsibility.
It comes with the territory, pal. I mean, you're dealing with one of the most hardcore life-driving forces in the fucking universe here: food. On top of that, you're tasked with delivering this most sacred of nourishment to people in their most delicate state: hunger.
Hunger makes people do fucking weird shit. Like go to bed without eating and wake up as a different person shit. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hangrey type shit. I've seen outbursts of food-related madness that had me cowering in fear, fully expecting a demon made of cockroaches and hellspawn to erupt from a human suit.
I've witnessed a man go into apoplectic rage at the discontinuation of his favorite promotion, which led him to rip the offending menu to shreds with an assassin's cold hearted efficiency. To shreds, you say? Aye, to absolute fucking confetti, which he then promptly stuffed into an innocent raspberry lemonade before bailing.
There's a certain sort of primal anger that overtakes a person when they're faced with a culinary crisis. But shit, all the world's a stage, and all the humans merely players, and I'm about to play your mad hungry ass for a fool. Butter you up like a fucking biscuit and then set the record straight. This is me and you vs. the goddamn world, sir. You're gonna have the epic experience you came here for if I have to douse hell and burn heaven to do it.
That soup is cold? Of COURSE I'll get you a freshie silly, and I'll be fucking delighted to do so again in twenty minutes when you next extricate your head from your date's ass. Your hot tea is too hot? I gotchu sir, I'm bout to beat this boiling water's ass. There's a stray piece of okra in your fries? We're writing the goddamn Governor. And then you tuck them in and give them a binky, and they are none the wiser that you've successfully tugged the invisible strings connected to both the heart and wallet. Jedi Master of Bullshit strikes again.
I can deal with any fucker in a bad mood. At some point, you will leave, and you will either be touched by my efforts or utterly unmoved, in which case you were determined to be unhappy anyway. But you will be gone, and I will either chuckle or curse you, and that will be it.
If only Cowboy had gotten angry. That, I could nagivate. This...this was a new beast entirely.
Cowboy is a middle-aged gentleman at Table 122, dressed in a sort of bullrider's chic. In the couple of minutes I spend with him at our introduction, I learn two things: he loves his horse, Whisper, and he really loves our meatloaf. He and Whisper have been driving for six hours to get home from a competition, and for six hours he has impatiently looked forward to his prize. "You don't understand, ma'am," he says in a drawl. "I. Love. This. Meatloaf."
Shit, everyone does, it's fucking delicious. It's one of the most popular menu items we have. There are days when I serve no other function than being a fucking choo-choo train for meatloaf plates. The more people love it, the more they order. The more they order, the faster we run out. The faster we run out...yeah, well, we're still cooking the goddamn things at the same pace. The thing about food, it's gotta cook.
I've already spent a fair portion of the day ruining people's lives over the lack of meatloaf, and I'm not keen to do so again. I get Cowboy's drink order, and tell him to think on his sides while I go touch base with the kitchen. I have a come-to-Jesus moment with the grill cook, making him bend down and look me in the fucking eye and tell me we have meatloaf. All's well. Nine orders left for the night. Breathe a sigh of relief, hit up a sweet tea, scream for the 84th time for someone to bloody PLEASE get the To-Go phone, and make tracks for the table.
Cowboy's tickled pink once I inform him that yes, sir, you can nom those meaty loaves until Kingdom Fucking Come. He fires off his sides and I get it on the books. Wait there, sir, we're about to make some magic happen.
I return to the kitchen to enter the order, pleased as fucking punch that one of the lazy shitfritters has finally deemed to answer the phone. They finish up and I whip Table 122 into the system.
The ticket has barely chattered out of the machine when I hear the dreaded shout: "86 Meatloaf for the night!" I fly over to the window, mouth agape in horror...and I will be DAMNED!! Absolutely damned I say! Those lazy no-good ass-sucking To-Go creeps have ordered us out of meatloaf. Nine goddamned To-Go Meatloafs, already posing prettily in a line of black plastic containers. Surely eight of the fuckers could have cut off a tiny slice to assemble a decent hunk of meatloaf!
My panic is palpable. This man has been driving the highway for six fucking hours, with nothing to staunch the loneliness except the thought of our mouth watering meatloaf. I would rather be tied to Whisper, doused in lemon juice, and dragged through a field of cacti than go break the news.
Immediately I begin to think of a way out of this shithole. Do I bat my eyes and flirt up the cook? Jack one of the meatloafs and feign ignorance when questioned? Run shrieking out the back door into the night and never look back? All useless. As useless as the sad plate of okra, mac and cheese, and green beans that sits forlornly in the window, no meatloaf to be found.
I'm on the verge of a panic attack when the grill cook calls me over. He's well aware of my everlasting battle with these pepper and onion stuffed fuckers, and in a fit of gallantry, he has found me a hunk of meatloaf. A smaller hunk than portion size calls for, true, but meatloaf nevertheless. I almost burst into tears at the news, and yes, fucking yes, I'll comp the whole fucking thing and pay for it myself, as long as this man gets a couple of mouthfuls of his ketchup-coated desire. The cook slides the too-small loaf onto the plate of sides and sells the ticket.
I'm immediately aware of why this meatloaf was not counted in the original tally. I know meatloaf, and this meatloaf is all wrong. Not just small, but shriveled. Dry, crusted along the outside. I could have offered this meatolaf to the Donner Party and they still would have eaten each other. On my honor as a server, I cannot serve this to my guest.
It's with a heavy heart I journey back to Table 122. Cowboy is smiling pleasantly at me, probably assuming I'm coming to check on his tea or assure him that yes, your meatloaf madness will soon be at an end.
There is no such happy ending.
I have the script memorized by heart. I'm insanely sorry, sir, but due to the fact that this meatloaf is, as you know, the best meatloaf fucking ever, we have unfortunately run out. Normally, there are two routes people take when I inform them that their culinary orgasm is not to be: nonchalant acceptance, or blood-vessel-popping rage.
But this...is new.
The denial sets in first. He stares at me blankly, head cocked quizzically to one side, as though unsure he has heard me correctly. "Are...you joking?"
"No sir," I reply sadly. "If only Whisper had a few teammates, we could get the Delorean up to 88 miles an hour and go back to just before the To-Go phone rang. Can you believe it? Nine meatloafs spoken for in one To-Go order."
"Yes, sir," I reply, admittedly wrong-footed by the distinct disbelief to his tone. Visions of Whisper galloping alongside a minivan race through my head, and of course in the fantasy Cowboy is victorious, lassoing the whole fucking order through the open window. Reality, it seems, is far more dire.
I gently prod Cowboy for a replacement order; in his catatonic state, he rattles off a robotic backup, and I swear to God and sonny Jesus if we don't have chicken and dumplings I'm burning this fucker to the ground. Ashes, I tell you!
It's the fastest ticket we've ever sold. I shout down the cooks the moment I step into the back, and you can fuck yourself with the ticket for all I care, B. I'll ring the bitch in when Cowboy is eating and not a goddamned moment before. Less than a minute later, I present Cowboy with his steaming hot dinner, an extra portion of mac and cheese on the side for good measure. He rouses enough to thank me politely, but shit, if I'd just been fucked by the meatloaf gods in such a cruel fashion, I wouldn't be up for thanking me. Ten minutes minutes later, he's to the point of a small smile and nod when I ask if everything tastes good. I top off his tea, leave the check, and sincerely wish him a great night.
I sadly return to the kitchen and join the team packing this thrice-damned meatloaf into the To-Go bags. A beep soon alerts us that the party is here to receive their order, and a coworker grumpily humps the three bags up to the cash stand. I trail out behind him, listlessly sorting menus, when I hear a wordless sound of despair. I glance up and freeze.
Cowboy is standing at the cash register, watching with sad eyes as Coworker pulls out and presents each meatloaf plate to the guest for his approval. Despite the fact that he has already paid, Cowboy waits and watches through the whole debacle. As do I.
As the last meatloaf is approved and paid for, Cowboy nods to the burly man now cradling the three steaming sacks. "Enjoy your dinner," he says in a pleasant voice.
A god among mortals, this man. My heart cannot take much more...but It must, and as I hesitantly check my credit tips a few moments later, I am overtaken. A $10 tip on an $8 ticket. Over 100%.
Godspeed, Cowboy. Whenever you and Whisper may travel next, I fervently hope that there is meatloaf, more meatloaf than you could have ever dreamed possible.