Every Wednesday I grill filet mignon and salmon on an outside grill across the patio about 40 feet away from the seating area, so that the smoke doesn’t bother the customers. It’s a popular special and, now, during high season it gets crazy, especially at dinner time when it’s dark and the cold, January air cools the grill down every time I have to open it. Large groups ordering both steaks and salmon across the range from rare to well done. Some tables everyone orders off the menu, except for one, so the kitchen is waiting on me before they can serve the rest of the plates. I have to run back and forth to deliver the orders to the kitchen and coordinate the timing of the next plates.
I used to enjoy it. The rush, cooking outside, even the running back and forth. But now I’m tired. My right knee is giving out. Between the exhaustion and stress of all the life changes going on, like having to find a new restaurant space and trying to sell my house while another is almost finished that I’m going to have to find a way to pay for, I can’t make my way through this head fog. And then there’s the dizziness, I feel like I’ve had too much to drink and the ceiling is spinning all the time. And then there are the mood swings. No one is safe. The butcher sent me a brisket with 2 kilos of exessive fat, he had to listen to my ranting about being a Jewish girl who knows how much fat a brisket should have and how dare he try to teach me about brisket! The kitchen staff doesn’t know how to turn down a flame or pay attention to any food on the stove covered with a lid, so they burn the pans and the food, which makes them, well, incompetant and wasteful! The waiters walk past dead plates and dirty tables and neglect to check the beverage deliveries for which I’m over-charged or shorted half a case of wine. Johnny just has to breathe in a critical manner while I’m driving, change the music to Selena or some hokey country shit, spend too much time gelling his hair, be a computer game zombie, color coordinate the candy (this could go on and on) and he’s toast.
What I’m saying is that this particular time of my life is blowing the irritating stuff I deal with constantly on a daily basis out of proportion and at some point my fuse shorts. So, when I’ve run over 2 miles back and forth to the grill, it’s not a good moment to have to deal with kvetching customers. Wednesday night, smack in the middle of a dinner rush, not a single indoor table available, a table of three women start to complain. My son has just walked in with no intention of staying, but gets caught in the web of restaurant insanity and stays to help. While I’m at the grill, one of the three women starts whining about how long they have been waiting for the food. Kauil goes to the table to show them the slow food snail printed on the bottom of my menu, explains to them how the specials are all grilled by order and this is not fast food, something that should have required no explanation as this was not their first time and they had front row seats watching me limp my way through the last stretch of my grilling marathon while they down wine and margaritas.
“Bullshit,” one lady snaps at my son right as I’m walking in with the next order up.
“Well, you have 2 options, you can wait patiently or you can leave,” he tells them.
“What’s going on?” I butt in.
“We’ve been waiting for two hours and I’m hungry!” she yells.
“You have NOT been waiting for two hours!” I yell back. Only 30 to 40 minutes before I had opened the door for the third person at their table. That the other two ladies had arrived earlier and were having drinks waiting on their friend was certainly no fault of ours.
“You’re being rude,” she snaps at me.
“Well, if you speak to me like that, then this is the way I respond,”
“You’re always rude, I was here since 5:15” one of the other three says to me, neglecting the fact that her friend did not arrive until 6:15, the order not taken until 5 or 10 minutes after that and it was 7 p.m. sharp. Then I heard “Fuck you!” from the other one.
I don’t remember if I made any nasty remarks back, because my head was sizzling with rage while still trying to focus on my full grill. I grabbed the pots I use to transport my steaks and salmon and took their two salmons and steak off, however rare they were, when they had asked for their salmons well done.
“Let me know if you’re going to stay before we plate these,” I said as I walked by them. They stayed. They ate. When I saw they had finished I told one of the waiters to give them their checks, so they could leave, not only so that I didn’t have to look at them anymore, but so that the people waiting for a table could take the table.
I was outside grilling the last of my steaks and salmon as they were walking out. Johnny tells me he’s going to go talk to them.
“Don’t,” I order. “Customers that speak to me like that while I’m busting my ass to cook them dinner shouldn’t come back.” One of them starts to say something back to me, I cut her off. “You don’t deserve to be here!”
And they don’t. Maybe perimenopause is just what I needed. And a long, hot soak in lavender and epsom salt.