Ordering À la Carte

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.  Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

  • Ephesians 6:5-9

Before I get around to ordering à la carte, I need to quickly discuss a couple of issues with dining out.

  • My son was a shift manager at a fast-food restaurant, one that has served trillions of hamburgers.  When he orders a hamburger at a fast-food place these days, he orders his hamburger with no ketchup and extra onions.  Why?  Because the usual combination is cooked when they are not busy, wrapped, and put in a heater to keep it safe to eat.  But if you order no onions or extra onions, depending on your preference toward onions, they must make it fresh.  Making a slight change at a fast-food restaurant can usually ensure you of getting freshly made food.
  • When we moved to the Pittsburgh area, my wife became friends with a couple of restaurant owners.  They were ready to sell out 25 years ago, long before COVID.  The reason?  Every weekend, when the restaurant was busy, they were guaranteed, or so they said, of getting an unruly customer who demanded that the food was not prepared properly, the service was lousy, etc.  They would make such a stink in front of all the other customers, loud enough to disrupt everyone’s meal, that the manager would whisk them out the door and not charge them for the meal.  The manager and the owner knew they were running a scam, obvious when they ate every bite of the food, but losing one customer who was never going to pay for the meal was better than losing an entire room full of customers that would tell their friends.  I would be interested to know if this happens everywhere.

Okay, now for a short true story.

My wife and I had a church meeting about a week and a half ago and then she had a doctor visit a couple of hours after the meeting was over.  Rather than returning home between the two appointments, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant near where the doctor’s office was.  We were in no hurry at all, relaxing after we ate, since the other available tables were empty.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

After we ordered two number 10 lunch specials, another couple came into the dining area, sitting at the booth closest to the exit.  After they got their drinks and we got our meals, I could not help but notice the man’s order.  The woman was soft spoken.  She made her order, having looked over her menu, probably getting a numbered lunch special or the “Speedy Gonzalez” special that every local Mexican restaurant chain seems to have a version of – something quick, small portion, and usually the least expensive meal on the lunch menu.

I could not help overhearing the man’s order, because he was talking loud enough for the cook, behind the closed door to the kitchen to hear his order, and he was facing away from me.  I would have hated to be the waiter in front of him getting full volume.  The man had never lifted the menu.  He said, “I want a tostado.  Do you know what that is?” (first insult.)

Waiter: Yes, Sir, we have that on our menu.  I could show…
Customer: I’m talking here!  I will tell you what I want.  Can the cook make me a tostado? (second insult.)
Waiter: Yes, Sir.
Customer:  I want this tostado made with a corn tortilla… (He gave detailed instruction on what to put on the tostado shell, how the vegetables were to be cut, in what order things were to be placed on the tostado.  My mind had grown numb, but the waiter was halfway taking notes.)
Waiter:  Sir, what meat?  Beef?  Chicken? …
Customer:  I thought you knew how to make a tostado!  (third insult, followed by…)  BEEF!!!!  And no guacamole.  Did you hear that?!?!  NO!!!  GUA!!!  CA!!! MO!!! LE!!!
Waiter: Si, Senor.  (We have often gone to that restaurant.  The staff all speak English without an accent.  I admire someone who can so easily shift into passive resistance by pretending to not speak the language.)

The customer continued with a couple of other items.  He had ordered a number 6 lunch special by the time he was done.  And the number 6 lunch special does not come with guacamole unless you pay extra.

As I said at the beginning, we were not in a hurry.  We ate slowly, for us.  We were both ex-military.  Veterans eat in a hurry, taught that way when in the service, and it remains a bad habit afterwards with far too many veterans.  But after the meal, I asked for another refill on my soft drink.  My wife, with her kidney failure, was nursing her water, and we sat and talked for a while.  When other customers started coming in for lunch, we got up to leave to free another table – even though the restaurant had several tables remaining.  As we passed the table with the demanding customer, I noticed that they was still waiting for his food.  From my experience, in that length of time, they should be finishing their meals by then, but he was still waiting for its arrival.

This was not an isolated case.  Family restaurants in the Pittsburgh area have 24-hour breakfast on the menu.  This phenomenon of ordering à la carte seems to only be a big thing during the morning hours and only with men.  Let’s say that the restaurant’s breakfast special is the “morning sunrise.”  The restaurant may have several cute names, but we will use that one.  Now, remember that over 24 years in the area, what I am about to relate happens at least at one table every other time in the restaurant.  Thus we have experienced this hundreds of times.

The guy will order his eggs cooked a special way, bacon cooked a special way, hash browns, and pancakes.  The waiter will say something along the lines of “Sir, you just ordered the morning sunrise and with that you get your choice of biscuits or toast.”  Usually that suggestion is cut off with the man standing up, using his bulk to intimidate, and yelling at the waiter, “I am ordering!  And You, are writing this down!!”

Only once in 24 years, after the customer screams, “Did you get that?!?!” did I ever hear the waiter reply, “Yes, Sir, you want the morning sunrise without your choice of bread and you are glad to pay more than a dollar extra for having ordered everything à la carte.”  Have you ever heard a busy restaurant when it suddenly goes deathly silent?  About 30 seconds later, a utensil in the kitchen fell on the floor, breaking the silence, and everyone was talking, probably laughing at the blowhard for being such a jerk and having to pay more.

So, here is my questions to choose from.  Are these people ordering à la carte:

  1. Just being jerks?
  2. Afraid of getting old food from a warmer instead of freshly cooked food? – Come on!  This is not fast-food.
  3. Scamming their way toward a free meal?
  4. Afraid of getting sick due to an allergy or IBS issue? – Note: The Number 10 lunch special that my wife and I ordered had refried beans on the tostado and the enchilada and quesadilla both used wheat tortillas.  I was hurting for hours after the meal.  Next time, it will be the fajita lunch special with corn tortillas – more control over what I am eating.
  5. Since these people never look at the menu, are they illiterate? – Note: There is illiteracy, and there is functional illiteracy, an unwillingness to read, and there is leaving your eyeglasses in the office because you are too vain to wear them in public.
  6. Or a combination of the above?

In considering the customer’s frame of mind and possible intent, can I muster some sympathy within myself for pompous jerks who almost ask for poor service, poor quality (maybe even food that is “tampered with”), and dirty stares from the other customers?  Or do they get what they deserve?  Not that any of us are without sin, but some us of are courteous.  As I heard a pastor on a panel discussion recently say, “We are better at hiding our sins than some people are.”

As for my wife and I that day, even with our fixed income, we tipped more than usual since our waiter served both tables, and it seemed he was not getting a tip from the other table.

As the customer who is being served, we should be civil as a minimum and considerate.  During this period of reduced capacity at restaurants, these people are getting abused more, worked harder (only one waiter for the ‘lunch lack-of-rush’), and paid less (less customers, less tips).  We should do what we can to be polite and show God’s love.

And I must commend the servers for being polite and acting in accordance with the Scripture above, although the food was slow – “hard to not be slow to follow exacting instructions.”

If you do not realize that we live in a fallen world, you do not get out much, but God is still in control.  And He wants us to show His Love, even to loud, cranky customers.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

10 Comments

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  1. the dude is a jerk—plain and simple—gives us decent folks who eat out and feel happy to have the opportunity of doing so, a bad name….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s a prime example of what happens to kids that are over-spoiled that grow up. Waited on hand and foot by the parent, especially with food, will create an adult to be very picky and demanding. I had a friend like this…so embarrassing every time we went out to eat.

    Liked by 2 people

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