In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a people watcher. (I suspect most writers are. In fact, that’s what makes them such good spies—at least, according to the International Spy Museum.) Sorry, that was a digression. I come from a distinguished line of people watchers. My grandfather used to arrive at airports a good ninety minutes before someone’s flight was due so that he could sit and people watch. It’s no surprise, given that he used to work for the Underground during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. You see, this is why I became a writer—I had to put those people watching skills to good use.
Airports are great for people watching. Even better are restaurants. In fact, I usually try to face away from the other patrons so that I won’t be tempted to watch the couple fighting in the corner. The young man breaking up with his girlfriend—it’s obvious that he chose the restaurant so that she wouldn’t cause a scene. Etc., etc.
When Cal and I went to a restaurant on Monday, I put my back towards the other diners. But the other diners weren’t the problem. The waitress was.
Now let me set the stage. This wasn’t a cheap restaurant. It was a very nice one (someone gave us a gift certificate). The kind where the wait staff wears black and says, “Yes, Ma’am.” So you expect a certain quality of service. Like beverages. Our waitress didn’t seem to think that we could be thirsty. The weird thing was that she seemed to think that the empty tables might be. She filled up glasses at empty tables with iced tea. Then she walked away. When she came back a few minutes later, she poured the iced tea back into the refill pitcher, swirled it around and refilled all the glasses. (I think that’s some kind of health code violation.) The couple across from us gave up and filled their own glasses with an iced tea pitcher that had been left at another waiter’s station. Eventually, we got some iced tea. Though she almost fell on the way to our table. For some reason, she tripped on the wall-to-wall carpeting. Later, when we asked for coffee she brought us three pitchers of cream after we told her that we didn’t want any. She served me a cup of the vilest stuff that ever masqueraded as something derived from beans. And while she had a cup for Calvin, she didn’t give it to him. He had to chase her down because she didn’t seem to hear him when he spoke.
After the meal, I considered talking to the manager. The waitress seemed seriously stoned. But the manager was nowhere to be found. And then I thought that maybe the waitress was mentally ill, and the manager was trying to help her become self-sufficient. And I didn’t have the heart. But she really did look like an addict. And now it’s going to be my fault if she ends up poisoning someone... You know, there are some seeds of an interesting story there. No wonder I people watch.