What was it about Monday night?
Bad customer service was all the rage in two places--at a bar / restaurant in Santa Monica and miles away on a bus that happened to be making its way to Santa Monica.
Was it the moon?
Was it bad Santa Monica karma?
None of the above.
But it could have been the food. . . .
The only thing worse than one is two. Two women dining, that is. Or so I’ve been told by my friend Laura, who’s paid her dues with, “Hi, I’m Laura and I’ll be your server this evening.”
Maybe that’s why, let’s call him, Jack the Bartender got sorta bent out of shape Monday night when he saw me threading my way painfully through the throng waiting at the bar for a chance at a table at a busy Santa Monica restaurant.
Maybe ol’ Jack subscribes to the old adage that all women, across the board, are notoriously horrendous tippers and that’s why he chose to ignore me as he high-fived a couple of bar backs and chatted and snickered on the phone with Buddy.
He was on the phone long enough for me to make the acquaintance of two guys who I’m sure were the models for Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd’s two wild and crazy guys.
“Hey, are you alone? You’re not waiting for five friends, are ya?”
I looked at them as blankly as Naomi Campbell in those Ralph Lauren ads. Not only am I pre-verbal, the look says, but I don’t quite know how to feed myself either.
But I digress.
Finally, I flag Jack down. Whew, he’s busy doing something with his back to Steve, Dan and me. His head is down. Maybe he’s napping?
I order a simple drink. He looks like I’ve asked for some antique libation out of Hemingway, a Jack Rose or some ‘60s retro highball like a Harvey Wallbanger. He shuffles off to figure out how to pour the pre-mixed margarita into the glass over some ice, while I motion to Dan and Steve over there to pass some cocktail napkins so I can do Jack’s job and wipe up appetizer crud and drink rings.
When my friend finally arrives, I tell her we’re sunk. It doesn’t take long before she’s bellowing for Jack’s attention.
Ah, but, y’know, you gotta understand--he’s busy snapping his bar towel at one of his fellow bartenders, chatting with the pretty hostess, who vaguely looks like someone I’ve seen on TV but then again, I’m west of La Brea and everything looks different here.
My stomach is growling so loudly at this point that Steve and Dan decide: If this is the best we can do, let’s high-tail it. Better action has to be awaiting somewhere. My friend points these swingers in the direction of Marina del Rey.
Since she’s the only one among us who still has energy, I let her have at it. She asks for the menu. I’m feeling a little woozy, what with the 20 chips Jack so kindly parceled out for us.
Once again my friend lets loose with her foghorn voice, but Jack is fixing his hair in the reflection of the cappuccino maker now. He is pretty engrossed, granted, but he does nod and repeat the word menu--ever so carefully, so we figure it’s registered.
Another 20 minutes go by.
My friend climbs off the stool and swipes two menus from the host stand. She screams our order over the shouts of another customer--the guy with the dreadlocks--who’s figured out how things work around here. A quick study. I like him.
My friend and I order a salad to start. Then a big piece of meat.
We don’t get any water. I guess we’re still in a drought.
A fortnight later, a busboy, with the first smile we’ve seen all evening, brings the salad and the main course at the same time.
His advice, in Portuguese-tinged English: “Don’t fight over it.”
I’m thinking, he’s a tad too late with that tip.
And so are we with ours.
Upon hearing the tale, restaurant management apologized profusely. “We definitely make mistakes, and no one, no matter how busy we get, should sit languishing. Our policy is to apologize and send gift certificates for dinner for two.”