Ladies Who Lunch

Posted on Monday 13 November 2006

“That’s my car!” shouted the guest, one of six ladies who’d made a late afternoon reservation and then arrived late.

Ladies who lunch.

I remember my most favorite teacher ever–my 6th grade teacher–who later turned up as a substitute teacher to my kids in elementary school, who turned out to be only nine years older than I was; who said, when I asked her to have lunch with me, “I don’t lunch.”

My former counterpart used to describe these guests as “ladies who lunch and split salads.” He routinely sat pain-in-the-ass servers with them. They never tipped well, and they generally complained about everything.

And now I had one in my midst, scrambling to get out of her chair, scurry through the dining room, and dash out the door. The other five ladies at her table turned as one to stare out the window to watch as their friend ran across the street and tried to cajole a city parking official not to boot her car.

Somehow, ladies who lunch and booted SUVs didn’t seem to mesh.

Apparently, they do. Because nothing my lunch lady could say or do could stop the parking lady from bolting a bright orange boot on the front wheel on the driver’s side of my guest’s car.

“Oh no, they’re doing it,” lamented one of the lunch lady’s friends.

“She’s right there and she’s still getting booted!” moaned another, as though the lunch lady’s mere presence could stop the parking lady from doing her job. (If I wrote the blog for the parking lady who boots cars….)

“Uh, uh, uh,” clucked another.

Now we all watched, as if viewing a silent movie through the plate glass window. After much discussion and gesturing back and forth with the parking lady, my guest crossed the street and returned to the restaurant.

“Do you have a computer I can use?” she asked, breathless. “If I pay the parking tickets online right now, they’ll take the boot off this afternoon.”

A computer? To use? Right now?

Oh, you mean the only computer in the back office, where I routinely throw childish tantrums in order to toss a sous chef, the bar manager, or my coworker off the keyboard so I can answer the private-event email that piles up every day?

That computer?

“Certainly,” I smiled. “I’ll go back in the office and see what’s available.”

And I am thinking, if she has to use a computer before she can sit down to lunch, she–and we–will be here through dinner.

But divine intervention played a trump card, because there was Chef, back in the office, pounding away at his laptop.

Genius.

“Hey, Chef,” I smiled through the partially opened door. “Could you lend your laptop to a guest for just a second so she can pay her parking fines and get a boot off her car?” As if this was a guest service we routinely provided.

He stared up at me for a second, sort of comprehending, frowned, hesitated, then caved–as if this was a guest service we routinely provided.

“Yeah, okay,” he grumbled. “Hang on.”

And out he trundled to the bar, his chef coat mostly buttoned up, the laptop under his arm, where my anxious guest waited.

“Oh, you brought the computer to me! Thanks,” she said, as if this were a guest service we routinely provided.

What followed was a half dozen attempts by Chef and my lady who lunches to navigate the city government’s Web site in order to pay the bill in precisely the right way to ensure the boot would be removed within hours. It seemed to take forever.

Chef typed while the lady recited ticket numbers and credit card details. I looked over both their shoulders, half afraid to see the grand total my lunch lady owed in fines.

It was less than $250.

Wow, my city means business with the boots! Who knew?

Finally, the deal was done, and Chef printed out a confirmation.

“Now I don’t have any money to eat,” pouted my lunch lady, sounding very much like she wasn’t kidding.

Great. This lunch was doomed. And her friends still waited at the table.

It went downhill from there. The server didn’t bring straws for the iced tea, “I can’t find anything I can eat on this menu,” sniped one, and all the while the boot remained in place, glowing neon orange in full view of the ladies.

“They are getting on my last nerve,” complained the server.

“They are such pains!” snapped the server who was acting as the back waiter.

“Tip, what tip?” quipped the server.

“Not another word about it on the floor!” I admonished, fearful the ladies would hear all.

But the ladies eventually found something to order, and when we served their food, they nodded appreciatively.

And then, with soft jazz playing in the background, they acted again as one, this time bowing their heads as my lunch lady led them in prayer.

And not a short prayer.

She spoke a heartfelt, meaningful prayer–for their friendship, their wonderful meal, their blessings on this earth.

Please understand, I do not reside in Texas, the South, or any other place resembling a place where people pray in restaurants before meals.

I live in a city filled with self-important, arrogant, tunnel-visioned big-wigs for whom praying in a public restaurant–at lunch, no less–would be incomprehensible. Laughable.

But no one laughed as these ladies prayed. As if ladies who lunch routinely prayed in our dining room.

They also ignored the “Gratuity Included” message we stamp on every check for six or more guests, and tipped some more.

“That is not necessary,” said the chagrined server.

“No, you all were so helpful to me,” said my lunch lady. “It’s the least I can do.”

And as they left, the orange boot was still firmly in place over the driver’s side of my lunch lady’s car’s wheel.

“Do you want to leave me a cell phone number, and I’ll call you when the boot is gone?” I asked, assuming the ladies would go shopping or something to pass the time.

“No, no,” laughed my lady. “We’ll just wait in the car until they come take off the boot.”

Which they did.

I glanced outside an hour later and my lady’s SUV was gone.

All had worked out.

On a wing and a prayer.

12 Comments for 'Ladies Who Lunch'

  1.  
    November 14, 2006 | 2:00 pm
     

    surreal… your stories are just surreal.

    and you’re a fantastic writer.
    [[[hug]]]

  2.  
    wineward
    November 14, 2006 | 2:46 pm
     

    Gal,

    Great story. Just another reminder to be wary of first impressions, which can get extremely difficult after dealing with the aforementioned “self-important, arrogant, tunnel-visioned big-wigs.”

    I haven’t commented much lately, but rest assured I have been reading. And enjoying. And sympathizing. And rooting for you. I am glad that things seem to have smoothed out a bit.

    Kudos. And keep up the good work.

  3.  
    November 14, 2006 | 4:10 pm
     

    “as if this were a guest service we routinely provided.”
    … I just love that line!
    Thanks for the great reading, Gal!

  4.  
    Mary
    November 15, 2006 | 2:09 am
     

    regarding “no straws” for the iced tea — I’ve not used a straw for a cold drink since I was 15 years old or younger (more than 30 years ago)! Why do restaurants give adult patrons straws? I do have adult friends who use straws, but I still don’t understand it…

    Chef was much more understanding than I would have been — didn’t your lunch lady have a blackberry?

  5.  
    Julia
    November 15, 2006 | 1:43 pm
     

    Mary – My mother uses a straw so that the ice doesn’t hit her teeth; a former boss uses a straw to keep the cola she drinks from staining her teetth; I use a straw because it seems more sanitary that putting my mouth directly on the glass. I’m sure there are many other reasons.

  6.  
    LB
    November 15, 2006 | 3:56 pm
     

    Although I know it’s hard not to get jaded as a server in this country (my sister and many a friend get more jaded every day), this story is exactly why I think pre-judging and stereotyping are such a mistake. If the Gal had treated these ladies as if they were going to tip poorly, it might have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Good thing the Gal is wise enough to go to the ends for each and every customer – I’m so glad to see that this time it paid off.

  7.  
    krisinluck
    November 16, 2006 | 8:36 am
     

    Oh, how awesome it is to be surprised by the guests who come off one way and turn out another!

    On prayer at the table – we see a bit of it here, being such a small town. But one evening this rather boisterous group of five middle aged folks came in. Ordered beer, fun, joking with the servers…and when their food came, they prayed first. I was so taken aback, and moved by it, that I had to tell them how wonderful it was to wait on real people, who weren’t afraid to laugh and have a beer with dinner, who also took the time to pray. I told them the best witness is one where they show their joy in the faith. They looked surprised at first, and then they understood what I was saying. Makes a difference! Just like that table did at your place. =)

  8.  
    red
    November 16, 2006 | 3:30 pm
     

    I’ve lived in Texas all my life, several different cities in fact, and I have never seen anyone pray in a restaurant.

  9.  
    Suz
    November 17, 2006 | 3:02 am
     

    Praying before a meal in the restaurant where I work is a routine occurrence, though not what I would term rampant. I love a prayer of thanks for food! It’s a great reminder that we should all be thankful for the blessings we take for granted.

  10.  
    m
    November 17, 2006 | 10:43 am
     

    I’ve lived in Texas for most of the last 50+ years (from Podunk to Houston and Dallas), and have dined everywhere from mom and pop diners to top-flight restaurants. I see people praying in restaurants often. Not every table by any means…but nearly every meal I see someone quietly bowing their head and praying just before the meal. It doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’m also a bit of a magnet for prosletyzing tables. Very ferverent religious conversations frequently are in full gear at the adjacent table. I figure the odds of that happening are pretty slim in general, but it happens a LOT to me. Strange.

  11.  
    L.
    November 19, 2006 | 1:53 am
     

    Hello. This is my first comment on your blog … I really liked this story. It has a contemporary Christmas-ish theme. Well, just wanted to let you know that I thought it was very nicely done.

  12.  
    E.
    November 20, 2006 | 6:48 pm
     

    Hey, I really liked this post, but didn’t I read it at waiterrant.com a long time ago? I’m not saying you blatantly ripped it off, but I swear I read this exact post, word for word, on waiterrant’s blog, in the archives, a few months back. Maybe you two work together? Maybe this is a coincidence? I dunno. But I’m curious to know who this actually happened to.

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