The saga of Mr. Choad
“The Thanksgiving three weeks after my sudden divorce was a mandatory work day for our entire crew at the ‘GermanPubAndGrill’ where I worked. Booked far in advance, the morning brunch buffet and afternoon prix fixe ‘family style feast’ was basically a busy double shift for all of us, but an easy one and we closed at 4 instead of dinner service. Plus who doesn't love all-you-can-eat, sweaty, leftover petit fours in the back kitchen?
"I had no plans beyond binge-watching NCIS with my dogs, so I did not mind working the holiday. I was grateful for my crew of friends and the lovely Thanksgiving plate that the chefs made each of us on our breaks. Yes, we even got actual breaks, which doesn't happen in many restaurants.
“Since my section was fully reserved and the menu limited, Thanksgiving was easy money. Everything normal, senior after senior shuffled in to enjoy some company and a fine meal -- second only to Dead Oma's Thanksgiving Feast of Yore.
“At about 2pm at the table nearest the server station, table 201, an elderly male who we’ll call Mr. Choad and his even older female companion silently enjoyed their dinner. After they had polished off the pie, I refilled their coffee-mugs and left the bill standing on the end of the table. They were the last reservation at that table. I carried on and ran Mr. Choad's credit card when he was ready to pay. I thanked them again and wished them a happy Thanksgiving, inviting them back next year. Mr. Choad responded with the usual holiday pleasantries and I went to the kitchen.
“On the line, grabbing up plates from the expo, I heard a sudden ruckus from the lobby. A man was shouting ‘I know she's here!’ One of the hosts burst into the kitchen and took the orders out of my hands ‘table 201 wants his credit card back!’ Confused, I hurried to the table. Mr. Choad was loudly berating another server for not being me. She fled. I asked Mr. Choad how I could help and he demanded that I return his credit card.
"Embarrassed, I quickly searched my pockets, wallet and server book right there, but could not find his card. I apologized and promised to find it. Mr. Choad harrumphed unhappily. The card was not on the table, and he would not check his wallet, which is usually where lost cards turn up. I apologized again, scanning beneath the table. I retraced two steps to the micro, then all the way to the kitchen and enlisted the help of my managers and the hosts to scour the restaurant floors just in case and check all the stacks of empty bill folders. I gloved up and began going through the giant trash beside the dish station. I tried to keep my long-sleeved, white button down and tie clean. But it was my fault, so digging through chewed sauerbraten and cold kraut was my duty.
“A few minutes later, I heard Mr. Choad hollering again: ‘She can't hide, I know she's there! Thief! I saw this on the news!’ And my day had been so blah and easy. So the restaurant Gods taketh.
“I washed my arms and hands and went back to 201, where Mr. Choad was hollering. My three other tables and the other server's guests, everyone in the lobby, and my manager Matt were sort of frozen there in shock while Mr. Choad yelled. He yelled about elder abuse and exploiting vulnerable seniors, he yelled about ‘identity theft and how I must be the scum of the earth to work in a shit hole like this which must hire felons to take such terrible advantage of vulnerable, sick, elderly people AND on the holiday!’
"He refused to let Matt have the check back, because then I would ‘have his signature, all the better to abuse and exploit him with.’ I was made to turn out my pockets again in front of the whole place, showing Matt, too, but came up cardless again. Aware of his audience and with a manager captive as well, Mr. Choad took an even more victimized, aggrieved, shrieking pitch, spitting in rage.
“Poor, vulnerable, abused Mr. Choad held the open bill presenter around to show everyone how I ran his card and now had the ‘numbers’ to use. Waving the book, he yelled I 'cannot hide from him like you tried to’ (while I was searching through the trash), how he would call the police, how ‘my kind is all the same,’ and how he ‘saw this on the news, daggummnit, and here he is a vulnerable senior on the brink of death and I have stolen his identity and will use it to buy drugs.’
"Since I am a butchy looking person of color and he is Caucasian, his accusations had double and triple meaning, and other diners were visibly insulted or embarrassed. I have been called many things by guests, but never dishonest or thief.
“Since I lost the card, I just kept apologizing while he got louder, refusing to let go of the book, even when Matt offers to comp his meal. When Mr. Choad began to stand up, Matt sent me to the office.
"I went to cry helpless and stupid in front of the GM while Matt took Mr. Choad's contact info, comped their meal, and somehow got him out of the restaurant. From inside the office, I could hear Mr. Choad shouting all the way out about how he will find me and send me to jail. I figured I was fired or about to be arrested or both. I didn't have the card, but the customer is always right.
“As soon as Mr. Choad had left, Matt walked into the office with Mr. Choad’s check holder in his hand. Without saying a word, he handed it to the GM, who opened it and fished down behind the black plastic lining, pulling out Mr. Choad’s credit card from where it slipped accidentally.” [Editor’s Note: OK, two of them involved racism.] -- Salma Zapatero