People are fascinated with water. Our bodies are composed mostly of water, our planet is covered mostly in water, we bottle water, we sparkle water, we flavor water, we enhance our water with vitamins- basically, our fascination has turned into infatuation if not sheer obsession.
In restaurants in the desert, water is only served “by request” as we have strict water laws. Therefore, we ask who would like water, and who will pass. We serve our standard water of Albuquerque’s finest over ice and garnished with a lemon wheel. Typically the out of the ordinary water requests are those without ice or perhaps with no lemon. An easy fix. However, on this occasion, one table managed to redefine unusual water service.
Lunch on Mondays at my restaurant is hysterical. The younger business people who are still drawn to the night life like a moth to a flame, tend to need extra water for that notably parched (and hungover) body. Then you have the business professionals who fly-in and arrive for their “power lunch” in Albuquerque . They’ve been up since 4a.m. EST and are jacked up on Southwest Airlines Lift coffee, thus needing some water to dilute their hummingbird like tendencies.
The middle-aged, work-out junkie business professionals who wake-up and plug in to their latest pod cast and run 10k (in place) at the gym need their water too. Last, but not least are the business people- not age specific- who are owners of small neurotic dogs and attempt to do yoga in the morning to be calm and level-headed; but instead are irritable as their 14 small yappers jump in a ferris wheel-like rotation only aggravating our poor yoga-business person. These ones order water in the most obnoxious way possible as their Zen was disturbed by a pack of pedigrees.
I was seated an eight-top and quickly darted over to greet them and assure that my return was to be a prompt one.
“My busser will be around in just a moment to fill your water glasses.” I announced as I was walking away.
“MA’AM!” they all seemed to screech simultaneously. “Could you get me a water with no ice?” asked one woman.
“Ooh, yes-” said another, “No lemon for me.”
And so it began…they each raised their hands like kindergardeners eager to announce their requests. Combined, they managed to order water eight different ways. I am never one to write down orders as I have a decent memory. This one required written assistance: water no ice, water with ice, water no ice with lemon, water with ice and lemon, water no ice and lime, bottled water, water with ice and a lemon twist and finally water with no ice accompanied by 6 lemon wedges and some sugar.
Flabergasted is an understatement. Bewildered couldn’t describe my face. COuld they be serious? I decided to see how serious this was.
“Ok, I’m going to need to write this down. Now let’s get this right-” and had them repeat their orders. As it should turn out, they were serious. As I went around the table confirming their orders, I got the last order with a bit too much attitude.
I took the order for the glass of water with 6 lemon wedges (which equals one full lemon) and some sugar with a condesending tone that I did not appreciate. This order-sans attitude- is one that I have coined the “gateway lemonade” and is a cheap way of getting out of ordering an actual lemonade. A surly man he was, and an assuming one in that he thought I must be both dumb and tolerant of bullshit. Silly, silly man.
Nevertheless, I took the orders with a smile, and retrieved them as quickly as one possibly could. Refills were soon in order and I negated asking the “gateway lemonade” if he’d like another given his previous demeanor. He of course asked for a refill and I decided to play into his assumptions and ask him to repeat his request. Sure I was being difficult, but I was also hoping that by repeating his order, he might realize how ridiculous it sounds.
With a huff and puff, he repeated, “I want a glass of water, 6 lemon wedges and some more sugar-” his tone didn’t improve, nor was there an epiphanous realization. Alas, I went and got a refill for him.
And it wouldn’t be the last- his surliness was quite parched and must have gone through 5 whole lemons, 9 packs of splenda and 5 glasses of water. Considering the nature of the order, it wasn’t with much ease that these refills were achieved.
When order number 6 came around for the “gateway lemonade” I was both shocked and annoyed that both his thirst persisted and his tone only got worse. It came time for them to request their bill, and of course, it was separate checks for their respective expense reports. I was itemizing each bill when I heard the “gateway lemonade” yelling at my non-English speaking busser as to how she had refilled his glass with lemonade and not water. She was terribly confused and glanced in my direction waiting for me to explain. Hadn’t he been drinking lemonade? Yes, a “gateway lemonade.”
I was so repulsed by his reaction to an honest mistake, that when splitting his check, I charged him $1 for every whole lemon he used, which came out to $6. I presented their checks, counting to 10 as I waited for the “gateway lemonade” to catch his surcharge.
“MA’AM! What is this charge for?” he inquired. The entire table was all ears.
“Oh, for the lemons sir. You used 6 whole lemons for your water,” I explained.
“I have NEVER been charged for lemons- what restaurant charges for lemons!?” he fumed.
Now as much as I am intolerant of bullshit, I am damn good at coming up with it.
“Well, we’re a Farm-to-Table restaurant sir and these lemons are organic. You should have just ordered a lemonade and saved yourself $4.”
The table burst into laughter as the “gateway lemonade” reluctantly gave me his credit card, not uttering a word.