Aug 28, 2016

Don't Shit Where You Eat

     This week I had a deadline to meet and since I'd been glued to my computer for hours and days on end almost without any break for a couple of weeks approaching the deadline, it was only fitting I took my boyfriend and my exhausted, depleted ass out for lunch when it was all done and over with. So on Monday, I pealed myself out of my pajamas which I'd been living in for the past fourteen days more or less and put on the girliest, frilliest dress to counteract my actual mood. When we got to the restaurant, I also decided to counteract my mood with one giant plate of čevapčiči and one equally giant glass of beer. We also ordered grilled vegetables. I didn't touch them. I had that giant plate of čevapčiči in front of me, remember? So. As I was stuffing myself with čevapčiči, onion and kaymak and mindlessly munching away with my brain idling, I at some point noticed my boyfriend making faces.
     "What?" I asked.
     "This pepper is disgusting."
     "It's a grilled red pepper, you eat peppers, how disgusting can it be?"
     "Very. Try it."
     "That's love right there: 'Here, try this, honey, it's positively disgusting.' No, thanks, babe, I think I'll pass." But then a certain inkling penetrated my sluggish, groggy mind. "On second thought, give me a bite." If a grilled pepper's so disgusting than it has to be ... "Babe, this is rotten."
     I turned the piece of pepper we'd been eating around and the bottom side was slimy and putrid, i.e. rotten. "See? Rotten. Just don't eat it anymore," I said, nudged the spoiled vegetable to the side of the plate and continued eating. My boyfriend didn't.
     "I am going to say something to them, you know?" he said with an apologetic, yet determined voice.
     I slowly lowered my cutlery and looked up from my plate with eyes bulging from their sockets. "Please, don't."
     Now. You probably think my boyfriend was in the right and I was in the wrong (and in the completely gaga as well) for not wanting to complain but there are two things I have to point out so you could better understand — or begin to understand, I should say — my gaga. One: You obviously never worked in any food or drink joint ever. And two: You obviously didn't have my daddy dearest for a father. Obviously
     If you were spawned by my father, though, you'd learn soon enough than one does not nag waiting staff about anything or, even worse, everything when one goes out for a meal or, to put it simply, you don't shit where you eat. That is a lesson I mastered over none other than — pizza.
     One day, I still remember it like it was twenty, twenty-five years ago, our adorable, dysfunctional, soon-to-be-broken family went out for pizza. We came, we sat, we ordered, we waited. And waited. The restaurant was packed and the service was slow, as to be expected, but eventually we got our food and we were all happy but my father — of course. His pizza dough was supposedly still raw and he was pissed — of course. He called the waiter and ordered him (of course) to get the cook to bake it some more. The waiter, unlike my dad, was courteous and took the pizza with a smile on his face. He also brought it back with a smile, but my father still wasn't happy — of course. The dough was supposedly still not baked enough even though the pizza looked frigging awesome to me. Sure, I was at that age when you eat crayons and mud and therefore not the most credible person, but come on, it couldn't be that bad, it was in the oven twice after all. And yet my father called the waiter again and without any pleasantries told him to take it back and bake it some more.
     "I hope it will do now, sir," said the waiter when he came back moments later still with that smile in place. The pizza, what else, was burned. And when I say burned I mean that my father would've been better off putting some ketchup on a lump of charcoal and call it a pizza, it was that burned. But he ate it and didn't complain again. The moral of the story? You don't shit where you eat. Or else you'll get stuck with a burned pizza.
     Now thinking about the story, with years passed and things experienced, I wouldn't be surprised if my father's pizza wasn't just burned when it came back. Knowing what I know now thanks to working in several bars and restaurants in the past, I'm fully aware that all of the food- and drink-related horror stories are not stories at all — they're for fucking real. I've seen waiters spit in glasses of draft beer, I've seen waiters lick cups and glasses of their crushes before serving them their drinks, I've seen cooks throw in pots and pans shit you wouldn't even feed to your enemy's dog, let alone yours. And forget about the five-second rule. More like fifteen to forty-five to till-somebody-sees-it-on-the-floor second rule. You might have seen things like that only in movies, maybe you saw the one where a girl dips her menstruation-soaked tampon in a bowl of tomato soup or a guy scrapes his butthole with a piece of toast before serving it and you found that shocking, but again, knowing what I know, I don’t find those scenarios one bit shocking or surprising or inconceivable. I find them imaginative and most of all one hundred percent believable, possible and already enacted. A fact of life really. You may think that customer is king and that the customer is always right, but I'm telling you, right this very second somewhere someone is getting spit served with a smile. And you know why? Because you might be the king, my friend, but they are God. And that's why you are never mean to people who handle your food or drink, you are never disparaging or uppish or bratty, no. You're kind, courteous and low-maintenance, you smile, you say thank you, you say pardon me, you say could I please, you always leave a generous tip and if you don't like something, you simply don't come back, that's what you do. What you don't do is fuss that your pizza isn't baked enough seventeen times in a row and you most certainly don't bitch that something's wrong with your peppers, no way, no how. Unless ... Unless your boyfriend insists.
     "I am going to say something, babe, like it or not."
     "But ..."
     "I know, you don't shit where you eat, but come on — that pepper is rotten. Rotten."
     "But ..."
     "You don't have to say anything, I'll say it."
     "But ..."
     "I have to, I'm sorry."
     "Fine. But you better not be a mean bitch about it, it's not even the waitress's fault."
     "I won't be mean, don't worry." And he wasn't.
     When the waitress came to clear the table and offer us coffee or dessert, she asked how the food was and my boyfriend politely said, "Everything was great except the peppers. They were rotten."
     "Rotten??" The waitress was taken by surprise.
     "Yes, just slightly rotten," I added quickly, "but everything else was delicious, really, so good, best food ever!" I think I was half a second away from giving her the thumbs up.
     "Great," she said to me with a smile and then turned back to my boyfriend, "I'll go tell the kitchen about that rotten pepper. So sorry about that."
     I thought that was it, I thought we were goners. We dared to upset the gods with our big mouths and now they'd smite us, the mighty smiters. Or at least spit in the coffee that we ordered.
     That actually didn't happen. Or at least I don't think it did. But something else did, something infinitely more surprising: when the check came, the waitress gave us a discount. "Because of that rotten pepper. I apologize again." Man, was I shocked. I guess the gods were in our favor that day and what's more, I guess it's true what they say: you can catch more discounts with honey. So, seriously, people — don't shit where you eat or you'll be forced to eat other people's shit.

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