Sunday morning we went to have breakfast at our favorite diner. For sake of anonymity, I’ll just say it’s a place here in Philly where we usually eat once a week, sometimes more if I’m too sick to cook. Anyway, over the past year we have become well-known fixtures at this diner and are greeted like family whenever we walk though the door. We’ve gotten to know many of the wait staff personally, and whenever we’re there, many of them come by our table to say hi, check in on us and chat. One waitress has even so befriended us that she often buys presents for our daughters.
So, Sunday morning, we go to the diner. It was super crowded (usual for the weekend) and we were seated at a table with a waitress we didn’t know (a rarity). Since I’ve been having vertigo, I made a point of asking for a vegetable omelette (low in sodium = GOOD!) and she said sure, whatever veggies you’d like. So I said okay – I’ll have tomatoes, onions, green pepper. Cheese? NO CHEEESE. And please, I can’t have any salt on the omelette or the side of potatoes. Check. They never add salt, but just to be sure – no salt. Okay, so we wait patiently – a little longer than usual, no big deal, it’s crowded bigtime.
Soooo.. finally our food arrives, we’re all hungry!! and she puts the omelette in front of me. Only, it’s not what I ordered. It’s an omelette all right, but oozing (with cheese?) and filled to the frickin brim with chopped shrimp. Now, I am normally a very docile person and would probably have eaten this without another word, but at this point the room is spinning and all I want is a meal I can eat without fear of reprisal. I have forgone even swiss cheese in an effort to keep this as low in sodium as possible, and a whole bucketful of shrimp ain’t gonna help. So I very politely tell her this is not what I ordered, and by the way I think it has cheese on it.
No big deal, right? Well, I certainly thought so. She took the plate away, presumably to set the order straight. The rest of my family begin eating, I sit there watching. My stomach’s growling, the room is spinning mildly. Not sure if I feel sicker from the dizziness or hunger. 5 minutes pass, uneventfully, I figure the food’s almost on its way, when the waitress and manager(??) appear at my side and thrust the plate in front of me. The manager (a Greek man, I’ve always found very pleasant) says to me in a deeply accented voice – What’s zee probleem??! The shremp, we must chop zem to cook zem. [Accusing stares from said waitress and manager – along with accusing/curious stares from all and sundry nearby.] AND CHEEZZE? Zere is NO CHEEZE on zis omelletteee!! [Waitress nods and “hmphs” at me accusingly].
I cannot believe 1) this is happening – I’m actually being interrogated over an omelette (and on a day when I already feel like c-r-a-p), 2) this is happening at a restaurant we’ve come to think of so highly and 3) this waitress instead of simply redoing the order that either she or the cook messed up – which just unfortunately happens to be some crazy ass (and probably expensive) omelette stuffed with shrimp that someone’s gonna have to pay for (BUT NOT ME! cuz I didn’t order no crazy ass shrimp omelette) – instead went to the manager to complain – about ME! WTF???!!! Trying to pass the buck onto the poor slob of a customer – who happens to be ME!!!??!! Let me tell ya – I may be dizzy, and at this point I might just be drooling, but I ain’t no dummy.
I probably turned 2 shades of crimson – blasted fair skin! – but I knew I had ordered clearly. I stood firm. I didn’t order shrimp. I did not order shrimp. I ordered a VEGETABLE omelette. VEGETABLES – tomatoes, onions, green pepper, no cheese.
The manager looked at me – looked at the waitress – and then, finally, he understood. This waitress had made him a patsy for her own foible and he’d just humiliated a regular over some godforsaken shrimp-filled mistake.
At this point, my husband is throwing visible daggers at the manager, I can practically see the steam shooting out his ears and he’s stopped eating in solidarity. I tell the manager to forget it – I’ll just eat the toast. He says NO! No, It’ll just be a minute. I spend the next five staring blankly out the window, around the room at no one in particular, hungry, dizzy as ever and wishing the seat would swallow me whole.
The waitress arrives again, places the plate in front of me and then adds, “they seem to have forgotten your tomatoes…” I look down, and sure enough… DAMN!! am I gettin the royal kick in the pants or what?! At that moment though, I could not have cared less. All I was thinking was screw the tomatoes, please God let no one have spit in it. I barely glanced at her, said it was just fine, and and ate the whole damn thing in 2 minutes. She seemed surprised, as though I – this perceived obstructionist, this unreasonably finicky and demanding customer – should have flung the thing back in her face with flourish.
The manager and waitress both came over to apologize before we left. I tried to be gracious. But the whole thing – well, it bothers me. WHY?? It’s all so stupid, this shrimp omelette saga I’ve been describing. I know, I know. I am being petty even thinking about it a week later. Right? RIGHT> But here’s why it’s stuck. What bothers me isn’t the event itself – but the fact that it was so completely unnecessary. The waitress could have – and should have – just redone the order. I know it was busy and accidents happen. No big deal, who cares! 5 minutes later I would have been eating. But rather than chalk the error up to experience, the waitress made it into a totally ridiculous (and completely avoidable) confrontation. And WHY? Because she was unwilling to own the mistake. Somehow, here in Philly, it just fits. I don’t know about where you live, but this city is chock full o’ people unwilling to admit anything – mistakes, weaknesses, violent propensities. We are a town mired in a state of denial.
I miss our diner friends and having a “safe” place to eat on a low-sodium diet (which trust me, isn’t easy). So should I be a donkey and not go back on principle? Of course not. But when I shrug it off and fall cozily back into my booth, am I becoming part of it all?