Friends, it has happened again. A linguistic discovery has left a table of diners rouge in the face. Ready? Allez l’aventure!
It was a classically busy lunch shift; a full dining room, a slammed kitchen, iced tea pitchers running low, a line of people out the door and no busser to be found. I had 23 active tables and was seated a 10 top in the window. In the weeds to say the least.
I greeted the table, filling their waters as I announced the days’ specials and took drink orders. In the two minutes it took me to do this, I already knew what kind of scenario was presenting itself- eight locals impressing the two foreign head honchos that were in town. Where were the big wigs from you ask? I’ll give you one guess…
Asking what the frog honchos would like, they both nearly ribitted as they both requested a “COCA-cola, you know” in a heavy French accent. I turned to the next person to take their drink order when I heard one mutter to the other [translated], “you know, American champagne!” and start to giggle prompting the others at the table to (cluelessly) laugh. Funny yes, but not original. Thank you writers of National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
I zipped over to the wait station, mildly verbally abusing the busser- “YOUR HANDS SHOULD NEVER BE EMPTY!”- and quickly returned to the table, delivering drinks and retrieving lunch orders. Setting each beverage down in a tightly seated 10 top, it is absolutely inevitable to not brush against someone and notably impossible for me not to. Why you ask? Well, let my explain in the nicknames I’ve acquired in the restaurant throughout the years: Count-rack-ula, Rackzilla, Chest meat, Mountain chest, Kaboobs, Twins and my personal favorite Sandia Peaks.
Understand my dilemma?
So as I leaned over to set the American champagne beside the frog, one of the peaks brushed passed his shoulder. Typically, it doesn’t cause much of a reaction other than moving aside- but leave it to Frenchy to of course, make a comment.
“Now you would never get this sort of service in France!” said the one frog.
“Indeed my friend, an hourglass envies her figure,” said the other.
“Maybe, but looking is she’d be good for- only the dumb ones have jugs like those.”
Rolling my eyes, I looked at the remaining eight diners who were curiously smiling at the frogs, wondering what they could be talking about.
I spared them.
Taking their orders (6 burgers with cheddar and green chili, 2 cobb salads and 2 crepe du jours…can you guess who had what?), I entered them into the computer and zipped over to the line to drop them.
“ON THE NEW!” blurted out the expediter.
For a moment, I watched them scurry about the kitchen, olive oil viscously flying through the air and perfectly landing into a frying pan. Blindly grabbing a fist-full of minced herbs, but always amounting to the perfect amount to dress seven scallop orders. Each of them frantically plating each plate, but no trace of stress on the ceramic- and all the while, harassing each other as some heavy death metal softly plays on the radio.
I was snapped out of my trance as the expediter, vein popping out of his forehead, held the ticket I had just dropped clamped between a pair of butter-soaked tongs, “Six burgers ruined (well done) Peaks?!”
“I can’t reverse distaste dude- fire the order.”
I quickly meandered through my ever-growing section dropping off bills, greeting new tables, filling glasses, taking espresso orders and then dashed to check on the frog table.
“Ah, here she comes. Ask for a refill so my arm can get a taste again,” said a frog.
“Eh, MEES! Cood I hev a beet more uh, watER?” requested the other.
“Sure!” I responded like a perky American cheerleader, “I’ll have my busser come fill that for you. Ok? Ok.”
“Well shit, that backfired.”
Bolting to the wait station, I found another waiter taking their turn with busser, “Heat, HEAT the coffee cups before they go out!”
I slid my way between the reaming and stood in front of the capuccino machine like a hindi deity with five arms as I cranked out 4 espressos, 2 capuccinos and 3 lattes in no time at all. All the while having a conversation about my table with the other waiter.
“So I have a table who doesn’t seem to think I speak French,” I said.
“Oh no way! Which one is it?” asked my co-worker.
“Table 10, the two frogs. You couldn’t miss them if you tried.”
“Well what are they saying?”
“Yes. But don’t worry, they have it coming.”
My pager- clipped to the back of my belt- went off notifying me that my “ruined” burgers were ready. I zipped up to the line, grabbed an armful of plates and began to run the food, leaving the frogs for last.
I retrieved the (you guessed it) two crepe du jours and leaned in to set each plate in front of them. In the most obnoxiously fake accent I could muster, I announced each dish.
“Le CRAYPE du JJJJOOOR!”
“OH! Tank you MEES!” they both replied, tickled by my faux efforts.
“She could do me the favor and feed my lunch to me too,” said one frog.
“Naked!” blurted the other, sending them both into a cackling fit. The eight lemmings laughing along to appease them.
Repulsed, I simmered knowing my revenge was on the horizon.
Time passed and the restaurant cleared out. A few tables lingered, one of which was the frog table. Cracking my whip, I helped the busser clear the table.
“Can I offer anyone any coffee, tea or dessert?”
A few requested cups of coffee, and the two frogs darted their arms up like third grade boys eager to be chosen.
“And what can I get you?” I asked.
“Ah, I weel have eh, capuccino,” said one frog. I looked to the other to ask him, only to find his eyes fixated on the peaks.
“AND FOR YOU,” I thundered, snapping him out of his gaze, “sir- would you like anything? Coffee?”
“Eh, oui- ah, yes. Expresso-”
Not only was he not even trying to resist his wandering eyes, but he uttered one of my absolute pet-peeves, “Express-o.” This was not a language barrier. My father, a man who will pronounce an English word in French any time one presents itself; a man whose French accent has mysteriously only thickened in the 40 years he’s lived in the United States, still manages to properly pronounce the word espresso.
That bloody bastardization of the word espresso, which no one seems to be able to say properly. Not even the damn baristas- a position whose focus is concocting couture coffee drinks- can pronounce the base of what all their concoctions derive from: ESPRESSO.
Coupled with the gawking, my simmer quickly morphed into a rolling boil as I grabbed a tray from the ledge, covered the goods, and leaned in for the verbal reveal.
“Sir, there is no ‘x’ in espresso.”
The frogs’ eyes widened, their lips drawing thin preparing for a puny ribbit. I read their faces like a graphic novel; thought bubbles slowly forming above their heads reading the words, “GOD DAMNIT!”
“Yes gentlemen, I am French.”
The remaining eight at the table starred at the interaction, wondering what was being said only further pressuring the frogs to respond. But they were speechless.
Espressos were consumed, the bill was dropped and they left shortly thereafter. I went to retrieve the bill only to find that they had left me a 35% tip.