Friday, September 25, 2009

Kanpyo: Ejected!

Under the current regime that ticks away like a hammer-pounded clockwork inside my confines, there has been little upheaval.  Firings are few and far between; the bulk of the turmoil is carried internally by the employees who are forced to work under absurd conditions--for this reason, employee walkouts are far more common.  It's rare that employee actually puts in two weeks notice.  Certainly, there have been few incidents between patrons and owners--customers bring in money, and while their more difficult aspects may not suffered gladly at the hands of the staff, the owner, seeing more clearly the direct relationship between any given clown and the profit margin, will often wear her false smiles unfalteringly throughout an interaction with a difficult customer.

Emma Dayo, the owner, loves money.  A lot.  She would chase a rolling dime down a sewer grate and emerge triumphantly (though covered in feces) clutching it between her thumb and forefinger.  I have overheard employees speculate on a treasure room in which she indulges in Scrooge-McDuck-style swimming sessions in her sea of tender.  She has time and time again answered employee complaints with her self-penned adage, "I love customers."  (It's a relatively simple code to crack; simply replace the word "customers" with "money.")

How is it, then, that Dayo's hatred of an individual outweigh her worship of money, and cause her to bar a customer from ever returning to her establishment?  Leave it to Kanpyo . . .

Despite money he invariably brings, Kanpyo's long list of special requests has long since chapped the ass of Dayo.  But, ever the coward (and seldom forced to deal with him directly,) she has on a number of occasions refrained from giving him the boot (though she has given certain employees the opportunity to pull the trigger for her).

This brewing tension recently came to a head, during a photo session in which a member of the press was snapping photos of a steaming cauldron of nabeyaki udon for an upcoming newspaper article.  Kanpyo felt that the shutter snap and flash was more than enough to disrupt the elegant atmosphere he had engineered.  He did not hesitate in airing his displeasure to the owner, who--making a rare appearance dressed in a chef coat--was acting as a shepherd to the member of the press.  Kanpyo felt that the proper recourse would be a showering with apologies and gift certificates.  The owner did not see it that way.  An impasse was met.

At this point in the narrative, one might expect that Emma Dayo would point a finger toward the exit and say in an authoritative voice, "Get out of my restaurant!"  This was not the case.  Ever avoidant of conflict of any shape, she foisted her burden upon the sushi chef, who was to inform Kanpyo upon his next visit that he would no longer be welcome at this establishment.

When the moment came, Kanpyo went quietly and without protest.  Emma Dayo hardly felt the sting of the money she was sure to lose.  After all, the upcoming article was sure to bring in new customers--and no one loves customers like Emma Dayo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warning Signs: Cutesy Orders Edition

Please save everyone involved the embarrassment and resist clever wordplay when ordering food and drink at a restaurant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Horrids: Epilogue

Really?  Is that a promise?

I don't understand why some customers think that this is an effective threat . . . it just goes to show how divorced from reality some people are.  They haven't the slightest inkling that they are perfectly unpleasant people and that every time they set foot inside a restaurant they set into motion a chain of events which will be akin to slow torture for all parties involved.  Imagine the hollowness of Daughter Horrid's parting words.  Was she hoping to give everyone involved cause to celebrate?  Joy-spreading seems more than a little out of character for her, but joy she had spread nevertheless.

What exactly is a person like Daughter Horrid bringing to the establishment besides an appalling lack of social grace?  A six-dollar payout?  A nonexistent tip?  Does she enjoy keeping people beyond the closing hour just to wait on her--I often wonder about certain people the type of help they have at home because it seems that they often confuse servers with servants.

Already, one can see that Daughter Horrid ranks in the most netherly-located reaches of the morass from which bad customers emerge and that her absence from any restaurant would be a source of unending delight for workers and buildings alike.  Now, to sweeten the proposition, we'll throw in a handful of hissy-fits and unnecessary calls to law enforcement.  Are you sure we can't talk you into coming back, sweetheart?

If Daughter Horrid really wanted to sting us, might I suggest the following parting shot:  I am coming back to eat every day.  I know I am a horrible person and that to be in my presence is nearly unbearable.  My behavior, while outlandish and symptomatic of any number of recognized personality disorders, is my own and it is my right as a customer to behave in the reprehensible manner that I have chosen.  You'd better get used to me, wage-slaves, because we are going to be seeing a lot of each other.   Now can I get a side of eel sauce?

Fortunately, this degree of self-awareness is a rarity.  Daughter Horrid will go on with her life, holding on to the belief that she has somehow struck a blow to our establishment.  The promise never to return is always met by the staff with a sense of relief.  Nobody who has ever worked inside my confines has ever felt otherwise.  The crass broadcasting of one's unhappiness with the dining experience is something in which polite, well-mannered people simply do not indulge.  They may make their decision not to return privately and indeed, if they did belong to that special brand of exemplary customer, their absence may be noted, even lamented.  So the next time your every desire was not met in a restaurant, go ahead, raise a big stink and promise to never return.  You're sure to make some people very happy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Horrids

In the normal course of dining out it should not be difficult for all parties involved to follow the social contract. Polite words and smiles are exchanged; the server, chefs, and staff try their utmost to keep the diner happy; the diners, in turn, try not to be utter pains in the ass to those working so hard to give them a satisfactory experience. At the end of the meal the bills is settled, gratuity is left, and everyone goes on with their separate lives. Calls to 911 in the hopes of having a server arrested are not part of the routine dining experience. In fact, it is a phenomenon I was entirely unaware of until the appearance of The Horrids in my sushi bar.

The Horrids are a mother-daughter team of dark-haired harridans so foul that to gaze upon them is to know firsthand the terrors of hell. They are the dung-dropping harpies of folklore, a pair of ready-made additions to the cast of a reality television series that highlights the worst that the human race has to offer. They are shallow, vain, and self-centered to the marrow, and may god help any and all who cross their path.

The Horrids pushed their way into my bar five minutes before closing. They did not seem concerned in the slightest that the place was entirely empty and that they'd be keeping a number of people late simply to serve them. They were utterly unfazed upon taking a seat to see the chef had emptied the refrigerated display entirely of its contents. They ordered water from the server.

Daughter Horrid, an archetypal sorority sister, makes a single mark on the order sheet and places it atop the bar. The sushi chef takes a moment to examine the sheet.

SUSHI CHEF: So just a California roll?

DAUGHTER HORRID: Could I get that with cream cheese?


DAUGHTER HORRID: And could I have that tempura fried?

SUSHI CHEF: Can we get you anything else? We're about to close.


The Chef nods and begins to prepare the order, dirtying the bar he has recently cleaned for the night.

A California roll costs four dollars, adding cream cheese is fifty cents, and tempura frying a roll costs an additional buck. The total for the bill, with tax, was $5.95. Six employees were staying late in order to serve the pair. In short, the owners were taking a bath and the employees were kissing what remains of their evening goodbye.

The Chef continues to prepare the roll. Mother Horrid listens to her Daughter Horrid's hateful tirade in which she issue forth a steady stream of vicious gossip about a friend. Suddenly, as if coming out of a trance, Daughter Horrid stops speaking for a moment and looks to the chef.

DAUGHTER HORRID (to Sushi Chef): Don't we get soup?

SUSHI CHEF: Uhhh . . .

Daughter Horrid turns to the Server.

DAUGHTER HORRID: Don't we get miso?

The Server, putting on a show, knowing very well that they don't get miso, takes the order sheet from on top of the bar and looks it over.

SERVER: Well, it looks like miso wouldn't come with this meal.

DAUGHTER HORRID (spitting out the words as if they are made of excrement): Since when?

SERVER (having made the calculation long ago): Well, we serve miso with orders of seven dollars or more, and this looks like it's not going to be much more than five. But, I'd be happy to get it for you as a side. It's only two dollars per bowl. Would you like some?

There is a protracted silence in the room. The hatred is palpable.


There exists a common misconception in diners in that restaurants are not businesses at all, but will happily take loss after loss in order to give away as much food as possible. Many feel that upon entering the building they should be greeted with a bowl of miso soup and a heaping plateful of edamame, even if it is only a reward for ducking in to use the restroom and not to actually order anything.

The chef handed the roll over the top of the bar to Daughter Horrid, who promptly asked for eel sauce. This is a common request among sorority types. Rather than dunk their sushi in the traditional mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, they time and time again opt to for a small dish full of the thick, sweet concoction. I am not sure where this shared affinity comes from. I sometimes wonder if Paris Hilton has written a book, a sort of guide for the lobotomized, on how to enjoy the finer things in life. I have reason to believe that in this book, if it indeed exists, there is an entire chapter devoted to eel sauce.

The daughter, immersing her fried, cream-cheese-filled California roll in the sugary sauce, may as well have been eating a jelly doughnut. The Mother abstained from eating and listened to the continuation of her daughter's black tirade against her friend, nodding solemnly at the pauses in conversation, her face like that of a Disney villainess cast in wax, coated in makeup, and beginning to melt in the summer heat. She is the overseer and her daughter a sort of demon in training. Every nod of the mother's head is an assent, a tiny step along the path she will take to shape her progeny into a perfect vessel of shallowness and stupidity. Like the cruel master whose dog's viciousness is already ingrained, the bulk of the whippings is behind them, and only the smallest rewards are required to maintain what is now second nature.

They lingered much longer than necessary, sucking the ice cubes on the bottom of the glass that the server had long since stopped refilling. The daughter paid the check with a debit card. As the server cleared the dishes, he noticed that she has left no tip.

"Let's go," Daughter Horrid said. "It smells like bleach." The chef cleaned the sushi bar for the second time that night, spraying bleach water on the surface.

"Well, he told you they were closing." Mother said. I was surprised to hear even this much opposition come out of her mouth.

They got up and left. No words of gratitude were exchanged. The manager locked the front door. The server began to wipe down the counter with a wet rag.

"Ha!" he exclaimed. "Look! She left her phone." He held it up to show the chef. It was an expensive data phone with a neon pink rubber case. "Oh, boy. That's what she gets. Instant karma. How do you like that? Barging in like that at the last minute, being rude, leaving no tip. That's what she gets. Forgot your phone, honey? Looks like you're going to have to wait until tomorrow. Oh, and those girls just absolutely live through their phones. She's going to suffer without it." He continued on in that vein for some time.

He peeked around the corner to speak to the manager. "Everyone's gone," he said. "Don't open that front door for anyone." I could see a dark glimmer in his eye as he savored the sweet taste of vengeance. Situating himself behind the counter, he began his closing duties.

The chef held the phone's display for the server to see.  It showed daughter horrid, smiling prettily.  "Look at that," he said.  "A picture of herself.  That really says a lot about a person."

"Funny you never see her smile like that in real life."

After some minutes, the manager crossed the servers line of sight as she headed toward the front door.

SERVER: Where do you think you're going?

MANAGER: Someone called. She forgot her phone.

SERVER: Don't you open that door. We're closed.

MANAGER (as if by repeating herself the magic contained in the words will rob the server of his determination to keep the door locked): But she forgot her phone.

SERVER: Oh-no. We're closed. I've got money out here and that door is not going to open.

MANAGER: Fine. Then you tell her.

SERVER: Gladly.

The server approaches the front door. On the other side, Daughter Horrid waits. She puts on a smile and opens her mouth as if to speak.

SERVER (cutting her off): Sorry. We're closed.

DAUGHTER HORRID: I forgot my phone.

SERVER: I'm not allowed to open the door. You'll have to come back tomorrow.

DAUGHTER HORRID: I need my phone.

SERVER: Sorry.

The SERVER walks away.

Any reasonable person or building would at this point expect the incident to end. Daughter Horrid, through her own stupidity, has left her phone at a restaurant that has closed. Having been given anything she has desired for her entire life has imbued her with a distorted view of reality. A business isn't really closed if she clamors loudly enough for it to be open.

The Horrids got into their luxury automobile and drove off.  There is a wave of calm inside my confines.  The incident, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be over.

Not so, for ten minutes later twin sets of headlights flared in my driveway.  A nervous silence filled the sushi bar.  The employees said little, anticipating a knock at the door.  No knock came.

"Great," the server said.  "They went and got their boyfriends and now they're waiting outside to lynch us over a phone."  Silhouettes traversed the narrow span of my windows.  "Are they carrying pitchforks or torches?"  So began a silent battle with those inside left to wonder what exactly those outside were plotting.  This went on for a number of minutes.  Finally, a messenger (in this case, the dishwasher) was selected to put an end to the evening by delivering the telephone to Daughter Horrid.

For some minutes he remained outside before returning to tell a tale of tears, incoherent babble, and a telephone call to 911.  "She called the cops on you, dude," he said to the server.

The police never came . . . I suspect that perhaps putting a sorority girl's telephone into the Lost and Found until business hours resume is not the crime that Daugther Horrid imagined it to be.  Through a shameless display of histrionics, Daugther Horrid got her phone back--even though to do so she had wasted the better part of an hour driving back and forth and making calls to 911 (while real emergencies doubtlessly went on elsewhere in the city).  This tremendous waste of time, emotion, and city resources could have been avoided if during her dining experience Daughter Horrid had made even the shallowest attempt to foster good feelings between herself and the staff in any of the following ways:

1. Had said "please" or "thank you" even once.

2. Had left a tip.

3. Did not carry with her a smug sense of entitlement and at every opportunity show open hostility toward the staff.

This is a situation in which everybody loses.  The Horrids' own misery is apparent, for the wish to inflict that misery upon every person with whom they come in contact.  They are not merely from hell, they are hell itself--a movable hell that sucks in anyone unfortunate enough to fall within their radius.  And for that they will forever be defeated, they will move on to other friends, other restaurants.  The people who surround them will remain in a constant state of flux, while the Horrids will remain forever married to their own selves, chained to all the stench and misery they bring wherever they go--and no amount of money could ever set them free.

On a scale of zero to five dung heaps, the Horrids are all the dung heaps in the world, all the dung heaps that have ever been, and all the dung heaps to come.

Let's not let it come to this . . .