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How the Server Got Stiffed

Last night was book club. I was deeply looking forward to going, partly because there would be no computers, baby barf or putting stuff away involved, but mostly, to be honest, because all of the girls were going and it was being held at a wine bar. How festive!

I ditch my precious 11-week-old with my husband while Deb and I burn rubber to The Wine Lover in Hillcrest. We're giddy. We've never been here before. The place has great reviews and a good atmosphere. Plus, rumor has it they serve wine.

We sit at a nice table. Soon the gang's arrived. We settle in, review the menu and order a nice bottle of Spanish red, plus a $15 charcuterie and cheese plate to ride shotgun.

The bottle arrives and is deftly opened by the server, who seems rather annoyed at having to come out from behind his bar to serve us. He vanishes, then returns and tosses a plastic plate onto the middle of the table before turning heel and striding away.

This is a picture of the charcuterie and cheese plate I imagined us ordering:

 

 








  

This isn't too far from the plate we actually got - except that this one looks fresher:

On the single, teensy-weensy saucer-sized plastic plate are three sawed-off hunks of cheese, some fuzzy grapes and four skinny slices of public school-grade sausage. I swear one set of sausage circles was actually bologna fresh from the plastic wrap.

Aghast at such a meager, downscale offering for five people, we just look at one another. I kept thinking the server was straight-facing us and then would bust out laughing and say, "Juuuuust kidding!" and pull out a real charcuterie and cheese plate. It didn't happen.

Knowing we needed to be there for at least an hour longer to finish our book club, we cringe as we order another $15 cheese plate. It arrives, a sad smattering of cheese hunks aboard a mini plastic saucer, much like the first, only without the "meat."

He disappears again - and doesn't come back. Mind you, the place is empty except for us and one other couple slowly getting loaded at the bar. Twenty minutes later, Deb gets up from the table and walks over to him, and like Tiny Tim, asks for a little more bread, please.

Once again, Capt. Clayface returns. This time he's got a Ziploc bag in his hand. He sighs, tips the plastic bag into the plastic bread basket on our table and shakes out three stale chunks of bread. He then turns tail, and without a word saunters back behind his counter. We never see him again until it's time for the bill.

After the Ziploc incident, the five us sit there stunned for a minute, our mouths open. Have you ever had such bad service that at the end of the night, while in bed, you find yourself reliving the experience in your mind - just to be sure you didn't accidentally offend the server? I realized at some point that I was doing this while still sitting at the table.

Maybe the server was having a bad day. Maybe the restaurant usually serves a decent plate, with some sense of presentation. Maybe they ran out of food and he had to walk to the gas station to restock their pantry because nothing else was open. Maybe their regular server had the flu and he was the sweet-but-bumbling boyfriend filling in. And maybe we were such understanding patrons that he still got a tip.

Oh, wait. That would be no, no, no, no and HELL NO.

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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >