Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pour Me a Cold One

The Quaff is seated on prime real estate, wedged under some apartments on a main stretch of downtown. Half the city pours down that street as they commute to and from work every day, so it makes sense that the bulk of The Quaff's business stems from the worker bees who support the downtown honeycomb. They buzz in and out all day for lunch, then head back at the end of the day to quench their thirst.

Every Friday, a group of cubby-gofers I work with kick up their heels at a local pub's Happy Hour. The service sucks, but the beer's cheap, the music's loud, and the pool's free. This week, however, one of the gofers gets the bright idea to patronize The Quaff, which has $4 draws (that's a lot for the Midwest, folks). It's the guy's birthday, so nobody puts up much of a fuss. The whole group heads down after the 5 o'clock whistle blows.

I stroll in late with a gal pal of mine after running home to freshen up and walk the dog. The Quaff is split into three rooms; the center portion is the largest, sports the most floor space for large groups, and holds the dart board and some pool tables. They're not super-busy, but the place isn't empty, either. Our party is taking up a good third of the center portion. The table's crowded, but they nudge around and make room for two more. We grab some chairs from an empty table nearby, and slide 'em over.

Seconds later, we're accosted by a tiny sprite of a waitress. "Those are my chairs," she spits, hand on her hip, other hand lofting the tray at her shoulder.

"What do you mean?" my buddy says.

"Those chairs are from my section. You have to put them back."

My co-woerker shrugs and starts pushing hers back to the table we nabbed 'em from. Keep in mind that the table was empty. It was completely bussed and wiped - no evidence of occupancy whatsoever. In fact, that entire half of the room was empty, aside from an older couple playing pool, who were very obviously occupying a smaller table in the pool corner.

"So where do we get chairs?" I looked down at the top of the snippy gal's head, who happens to be sportin' a major camel toe in her too-tight white denim short-shorts.

"Ask your waitress," she snaps, before spinning and stomping off. What a brat.

Thankfully, this adorably sheepish busboy swooped in just before I gave in to the impulse to reach out and snatch her ponytail.

"I'll get you some chairs. Where would you ladies like to sit?" We indicate the table and stand at the end while we wait for him to return with the chairs.

"What are you doing?" one of the girl-gofers asks.

"Waiting for chairs, I guess." Maybe there was a party coming in or something, and the table was reserved. It sure wasn't marked, but ya never know. It became less of an issue when the busboy returned a few seconds later hulking two chairs. He pulled them out for us with a slight bow. Cute kid.

"So which one's our waitress?" I ask the gopher-boy next to me.

He points. She's got an ultra-dark fake-bake tan and long, dark, over-processed hair framing a face that mildly resembled a rat, hammered-to-center teeth and pinched expression included. We're there for a good ten minutes before she realizes that more have joined our party. She wanders over to my gal-pal and I.

"Can I get ya somethin?" she asks my friend.

"No thank you."

"Yeah, I'd like...." I trail off. She's already walking away.

Another ten minutes go by. She returns with a pitcher and some cups of beer. I sit and wait patiently for her to make it to my end of the table. She drops her load and goes to walk past me. No eye contact.

"Excuse me? Miss? Can I please get a beer?"

"Sure. Whadya want?" She smacks her gum, disinterested. I order a bottle. Before I can pull anything out of my pocket, Super-Waitress is gone.

Fifteen minutes later, she's still giggling with a high-top full of frat boys in the corner. She's been to the bar twice. I still don't have my beer. Frustrated, I scoot back my chair and head into the next room to the bar. I order a longneck. The owner/manager, who recognizes me (because I go often enough and have one of those faces people don't forget) snags my elbow. "Aren't you at a table?" he asks.

"Yeah," I say, takin a pull from my beer.

"You have a waitress."

"I know. And if I could get her to wait on me, I'd use her." I walk off, and see him out of the corner of my eye making a b-line for Super-Waitress. I wouldn't have said anything had he not stopped me and questioned why I'd gotten my own drink.

I head back into the other room and rejoin my party. The gophers were laughing. Apparently the waitress, who'd been completely inattentive up until that point, noticed I'd gotten up and walked to the bar, and had come over to ask what that was all about. "She wanted a beer," a gopher had shrugged.

They claimed her response was, "Well, fine, then!" Sounds about right.

Couple seconds later, the owner/manager walks up and puts his hand on the back of my chair. "You guys make sure you're letting your waitress handle your drink orders. They get in trouble if y'all get up and go to the bar."

"If she'd come around, we would," I say. He walks off. No apology, no assurance of better service.

Just after he leaves, Super-Waitress swings by and asks if anybody needs anything. "I'd like another," I lift my bottle so she can see what I'm drinking.

"You already have one," she answers.

"I'm sure I'll be done with this one by the time you bring it." She rolls her eyes and takes off for the bar, presumably to retrieve the drink orders she just took from our table. Sure enough, about twenty minutes after I ordered, I drained the last of my drink as she was setting another one in front of me.

Now, I'm not a serious drinker. I'll have a beer or two every other week or so, but I don't drink fast, and I don't drink heavily. This gal was slow, and there was no way around it. To top it off, she definitely wasn't interested in waiting on anything that didn't have meat and potatoes in it's shorts.

Our party started breaking up around midnight. Had I been there alone or with one or two friends, we'd have left, but I didn't want to be rude and bail on the guy's birthday.

Yanno, about thirty minutes before we left, some folks finally wandered in and took that empty table we borrowed the chairs from. Super-waitress was on for the rest of the night, making sure everybody got what they needed and actually doing her job for the most part.

Honestly, I didn't mind getting up and getting my own beer. I do it at our regular place all the time- like I said, the service sucks, but at least they know it and make up for it in the price. Sometimes a bar gets busy, or the waitress knows the customers at another table will drop a load of cash if she pays special attention to 'em. It's not a big deal, but don't chastise me for taking matters into my own hands. I wasn't pissed about it... I just wanted my beer.

As I left, I passed by the table full of frat boys she'd been hanging around most of the night. I slipped a few bucks in front of her.

"Thanks," she said, barely turning her head enough to see who left it before diving back into flirting with the frat boys.

"No problem, hot stuff," I thought to myself. "I won't be back."

Damn shame, too. They have good chicken, but I can get shitty service anywhere.


LV said...

Wow, I don't think I could have handled that as calmly as you. I'm in the midwest as well. And I've had my share of bad service. But when the manager says I shouldn't go to the bar to get a beer - that's where I would have a big problem. I would likely have gone to the bar for every beer at that point and stiffed the rat-waitress.

Mouth said...

I'd have liked to, trust me... actually, I'd have liked to have walked out, but I was there with co-workers, and we were celebrating a birthday. I didn't want to be rude, and you have to kind of keep things under wraps when you know it might carry over into the workplace.

Cubby-gophers do like their gossip, after all.