It’s a slow Monday night and I snag my first table. Seated is a hirsute middle aged man projecting an air of superiority that makes me want to pull out my pepper mill and club him over the head like a baby seal.
Hirsute says a shade too politely, “And how are you today young man?”
“I’m fine sir and how are you?” I reply. I look at his wife. She sports a blank expression.
Nodding his head solemnly he says. “What a shame you are working on such a slow night. You can’t really be making much money. That’s got to be tough for you.” There’s a faux therapeutic quality to his speech.
In a flash I have this guy’s number. Having spent years in analysis he’s adopted the “I see all and know all” mannerisms of his shrink because he desperately lacks a personality of his own. Therapy junkies are bad customers. They therapize every situation and try and use what they learn on the couch to manipulate the people around them. Pointing out our age difference and remarking on the night’s economics is his way of establishing dominance.
Surprise asshole – I was in analysis too. Luckily my therapist wasn’t the “suck Woody Allen dry” variety that infests Manhattan. Marty was one of the good guys and he taught me all the tricks.
“The night is what it is sir,” I reply keeping my face neutral. I give him no room to maneuver.
Realizing his domination attempt’s been blunted he tries a different approach. Pointing to the wine menu he asks, “What kind of grape is in the Barolo?”
“Yes but it’s a blend of grapes. Can you name the others?”
It’s a trick question. “Barolo is made only from Nebbiolo grapes sir.”
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“Well I’m a beer guy but I’m sure about the Barolo,” I reply smiling. Humor is another neutralizing tactic.
“I think you’re wrong.” he ripostes.
“Well that’s where we’re at,” I reply simply
Hirsute looks confused. He is supposed to be controlling the situation with whatever crap he learned through years of navel gazing on the couch. I’m not getting flustered or angry – just shutting his bullshit down with some verbal jujitsu.
“Well I’ll have a beer in any case,” he says. What a surprise. He probably can’t afford Barolo after his therapist’s through billing him.
“But of course sir.”
I take their orders. They devour the appetizers and I bring out the entrees. Sesame encrusted yellowfin tuna in a sweet balsamic reduction sauce. Yummy.
“Waiter this tuna is cold,” Hirsute crows happily. Finally he thinks he has some leverage.
“Freezing,” his wife chimes in.
They ordered it rare.
Smiling painfully I say no problem and take the entrées back to the kitchen.
After the chef gets over his disbelief he reheats and plates the entrées.
“You didn’t microwave this did you?” Hirsute inquires when I return.
“We don’t have a microwave sir,” I lie.
He fixes me with a patronizing smile. I give him the thousand yard waiter stare. He blinks first.
They finish their entrées and order two cognacs. When I deliver the drinks to the table Hirsute tries doing a little therapy on me.
“Aren’t you angry that the night is so slow?”
“Can’t be angry over the weather sir.”
“But it must really eat at you,” he presses.
“Sir we’re not here to talk about me,” I say mocking his Freudian accent, “You’re here so you can enjoy dinner with your lovely wife.”
“But I’m interested in what you have to say.”
No Sigmund, I’m not interested in being on your couch.
“Concentrate on your own happiness tonight sir,” I say politely. “Enjoy your brandy.” I turn and walk away.
That’s what the therapists call a “bitch slap.”
The Bistro empties and most of the staff goes home. The owner swings by Hirsute’s table to ask how everything was. He complains that the tuna was cold. He wants another cognac on the house.
“Get it for them,” Fluvio growls.
Bringing the second round Hirsute smiles at me triumphantly saying, “Sorry we’re keeping you here all night.” More passive aggressive bullshit.
“That’s the job sir.” I say.
I eat dinner and complete my sidework. Fluvio and I sit and talk. We laugh. Hirsute looks annoyed. He thought I would be sitting glumly waiting for him to finish. Guess again.
Finally they ask for the check. Time to go home and count the navel lint.
“I was really disappointed about the tuna,” he says nodding his head while mouthing the remains of dinner out of his beard.
His wife nods in agreement. Whatever personality she once possessed was subsumed by years of living with a guy who thinks he’s everyone’s intellectual and emotional superior.
“I wish it were different sir,” I counter with another verbal jujitsu move. JUDO CHOP!
Hirsute looks up sharply and for the first time I see anger flash in his eyes. He thought he could manipulate me into giving him more free stuff. He probably gets over on a lot of people like that. No such luck.
“Feel the rage pal,” I think to myself.
They were my first table. They were my last table. On a bill of $124.95 they leave me a $12 tip.
I watch them walk away. The fail to answer when I say goodnight. Not very emotionally enlightened of them. I notice the guy’s wearing Birkenstocks with socks. It’s like five degrees out. What an idiot.
I got a bad tip and stayed late so you might think Hirsute won. Not really. Therapy junkies don’t like it when someone calls them on their shit. It screws with their view of reality causing an unpleasant dissonance. Hirsute will never come back to the Bistro.
Good riddance. Part of being a good waiter is knowing what customers you don’t want in your establishment.
And my diagnosis of Hirsute?
Severe chronic assholisim. Probably terminal.