It’s late afternoon and the thermometer reads a pleasant 85 degrees. The only problem? That’s the temperature inside the Bistro.
“Why does the A/C decide to crap out now?” Beth, one of our servers, wails. “Today of all days.”
“Because it’s a hundred degrees out,” Saroya, another waitress, replies sarcastically.
I’m sitting in the back section sweating with the rest of the staff. The busgirls are fanning themselves with napkins. The kitchen guys are drinking soda wishing it was cold beer. Beth and Saroya are slurping down iced cappuccinos. Me? I’m drinking hot coffee. Call me crazy.
“The humidity’s overwhelmed the system,” I say. “This stuff’s happening to A/C’s everywhere.”
“Did the repair guy say when he was gonna get here?” Beth asks.
“He said he’d get here as soon as he could. But on a day like today he’s really busy.”
“But we’re dying over here!” Saroya says.
“Listen,” I say, “I tried bribing the repair guy with beer. What more can I do? Call in an air strike?”
“There’s an idea,” Beth says.
“I hope it gets fixed before the rush,” Saroya adds.
“Oh God,” Beth says, “I can just hear the yuppies bitching.”
I don’t say anything. Murphy’s Law says it’s only gonna get worse. I settle into my chair and close my eyes. It’s siesta time. All I need now is a sombrero. Maybe one of the kitchen guys has one. I’d look like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Isn’t Spaghetti Bolognese on the menu? Sigh. Too hot for spaghetti today. What’s the pasta special? I forgot……
Suddenly two gunfighters stride into the middle of a dusty western street, hands hanging loosely at their sides. Vultures circle high above, barely visible in the glare of the midday sun. A saloon door slams. Wooden buildings creak in the desert wind. A church bell tolls noontime. As the shootists glare at each other gigantic meatballs roll between them like garlicky tumble weeds. Both men reach for their six shooters – only to find their revolvers have turned into spatulas. As the chefs gawk at each other in disbelief a squadron of F-16’s screech in from the north and napalm the whole town. Now it’s really hot…..
Funny, there were no airplanes in 1876. Curious. Not how Clint would do it. Not at all….
I don’t know how long I was out. Could have been a minute, could have been an hour. But it was a blessed escape. Of course you can never have a true siesta in a restaurant.
“Hey cabron,” Maria, one of the busgirls says, poking my arm. “Wake up. People at the door.”
I open one eye. Framed in the doorway an anxious looking couple peers inside.
“Are you open?” the woman says in a birdlike voice. “You’re open right? The sign says you’re open now.”
I sigh deeply and haul myself out of my chair. I hate these people. It’s not because of who they are or anything that they’ve done. It’s just axiomatic that waiters hate the first customer of the day.
Blinking to chase the sand from my eyes I walk towards the front, affix my waiter smile, and prepare to treat these people as if they’re lifelong friends. I’m in the hospitality business after all. I wonder if doctors hate the first patient who walks into an empty emergency room. I’ll bet the nurses do.
“Welcome to the Bistro,” I say pleasantly, “Two for dinner?”
“Yeah,” the man says, “Two.”
I grab some menus and guide the couple to a nice table in the window.
“I want to sit in the back,” the woman pouts. “I don’t like being in the window.”
“Sit us in the back,” the man orders.
I groan inwardly. I was hoping to continue my nap in the back. All the staff’s gonna have to get up and move. They’ve been on their feet in an overheated restaurant all day. They need to sit.
“Of course sir.”
I guide the couple to the back. The staff scrambles out of their chairs. Newspapers, soda cans, magazines, and Starbucks cups disappear. The kitchen staff heads back into the blast furnace. Within thirty seconds it’s as if the area’s never been disturbed.
As the customers sit down the woman looks around and sniffs. “Why were all these people sitting back here?” she asks.
“It was their break time,” I reply.
“They should be doing something,” the woman says. “Not just sitting around.”
“Man does not live by work alone,” I say jovially.
The woman stares at me. She’s about as pleasant as napalm.
“I own a business. I know what I’m talking about,” she says sourly.
I can tell this lady’s business philosophy has paid dividends in her personal life. She looks like the vultures from my dream.
“Would you like to order something to drink?” I ask.
“I’d like to order some air conditioning,” the man says.
“I’m sorry sir, ” I reply, “We’re having problems with the AC today. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“You’re kidding!” the woman yelps.
“I can’t eat here,” the woman says, her voice tautening with panic, “I can’t eat here!”
“Buddy you have to do something about the A/C,” the man says gravely.
Since I can’t pull a spare compressor out of my ass I just shrug and repeat my apology.
“We’re leaving!” the woman says, getting out of her chair.
“I am sorry madam,” I say, trying to look sincere, “We’re waiting for the repairman to arrive. Please try us another night.”
The couple exit without saying a word. Good. Now I can get back to my siesta.
Before I can sit down and doze the phone rings. It’s the A/C guy. The part he needs won’t be in until tomorrow morning. He apologizes but it’s no use. We’re still gonna fry. Murphy was right. As the repairman blabs on the phone I idly wonder how much it would cost to rent a fully armed F-16.
“Just fix it as soon as you can,” I say, before hanging up.
But the phone keeps ringing. Reservations need to be taken, directions given. A truck pulls up in front of the restaurant. Oh joy. The fish delivery’s here.
I step outside to sign for the order. It’s over a hundred humid degrees out. I feel like I’m cooking soup in my underwear. The kitchen guys pile out to unload the catch of the day. The fish may be on ice but the stench emanating from the back of the fishmonger’s truck could be classified as a bio-weapon. Oh man, it’s all around miserable out.
The fish delivery is stowed away. The customers start coming. Most of them stay. For the millionth time I thank god the food here is good. Our patrons would eat Al Fresco in Baghdad if they had to. I not amazed they put up with the heat.
I hustle my tables, make a million apologies and drink a gallon of water. I don’t pee till I get home several hours later. That’s not right. Not right at all.
If the central air’s not fixed by tomorrow a 2000 pound bomb is in that repairman’s near future.