Friday, August 01, 2008

Spare me the Schemes, Main Course Will Do


(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, dated 26th July, 2008)

It was one of those unfortunate times when one member of the party has had a setback in his or her love life, another suggests it would be a good idea to drink and a third would rather go to a fancy restaurant than drink at home.

Now, let me not say anything more about the restaurant than that part of its name refers to a precious stone and the other half to a day of the week. So we’re sitting there, and we’ve just about ordered and sat back to tear relationships as a concept apart, when the waiter grins,
“ma’am, do you know about the membership programme?”

“Yes, I do, but I’m not keen at the moment.”

“Ma’am, actually, we have some new schemes.”

“See, let me see how long I’m going to be in Delhi, and then I’ll decide.”

“Ma’am, actually, we have some short-term schemes also.”

“Yeah…can I think about them and let you know?”

A stiff smile, and off he goes. We’ve just taken up our pitchforks and are spreading butter on the concept of relationships, and are just about ready to light the fire, when the Smiling Waiter makes a reappearance.

“Ma’am, here.” A laminated, A-4 sized card is thrust into my hands. “These are all our schemes.”
I tiredly thank him, and after a few minutes of his hovering about, say, “okay, I’ve had a look at them. Let me think about it and get back to you.”

Relationships as a concept have now roasted to a golden-brown, and we’re pouring fuel into the fire, quite warmed up to the idea of charring them and stamping on the remains when the Smiling Waiter plays phoenix.

“Ma’am, have you thought about it?”

“We’d like to order the main course, please.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll certainly take your order, but before that, would you like to take up the
membership? Because then I can offer you free drinks?”

“No, just the main courses please.”

“Ma’am, would you like to hear the schemes, again?”

“No, see, I’ve read them. Could we order the main course?”

“Ma’am, certainly, ma’am.” He takes the order, and then, “ma’am, see, your bill will be approximately three thousand. Now, a membership is four thousand, and you’ll get vouchers worth three thousand, and free drinks and for three people, you’ll get thirty-three percent off.”

How does he even know this treat is not on me???

“I would really appreciate it if you could bring the main course, please.”

“Ma’am, shall I register you as a member?”

“Let me think about it. Could you bring the main courses, please?”

“Yes, ma’am. Will you be taking up the membership?

“Let me think about it. Could you bring the main courses, please?”

“Yes, ma’am. One last offer from my side. Pay me thousand for the bill, I’ll write it off against your vouchers, and also give you free drinks.”

“See, the math doesn’t add up. I’m still going to be paying a lot more than the bill. Now, just the main courses, please?”

The Smiling Waiter gives me the kind of look people at Manolo Blahnik and Versace give you when you notice there is no price tag, on your first visit there in your Pepe jeans and export-surplus shoes, and tell them you’ll be back later.

The episode repeats itself after the main courses are brought, when the dessert order is being taken, and after the dessert is brought.

“Can I have the cheque, please?” I ask.

“Ma’am, your bill is three thousand one hundred and five rupees. If you pay me thousand now, I will register you as a member, give you drinks on the house and write off the bill against your three thousand rupees’ worth of vouchers!”

“Just the cheque, thank you.”

At which point the manager comes up to the table and asks, “ma’am, do you not come here that often?!”

“Just…the…cheque…thank…you.”

“After this, we’re not!” my friend hisses to me.

The one thing that salvaged my mood that evening was that the only tip I left the waiter was an unspoken one – “do NOT harass your customers!”

1 comment:

Random traveler said...

Plightful reality. Have experienced a lot!! :(

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