Tales from the Café: Lunch Rush

Time: 12:46 pm, Friday

I took a deep breath, looking out at the line as I slipped behind the second register. “I can help the next person in line!” I called out, looking down for the next customer ready to order. We’d been dead all morning, and now it was like everyone in town had decided to come eat lunch with us.

I reached over and grabbed one of our table tags as a couple walked over to me. We did full service at night, with “proper” waitstaff and cloth napkins and everything, but during the morning and afternoon we were counter service, and we’d hand out numbers to deliver orders.

“Hello,” I greeted them with a smile.

“Hi there, how are you?”

“I’m doing well, thanks. This for here?”

“Yes sir.” The script was basic, and I’d repeated it so many times that day–with absolutely no sign of an end any time soon. Of course, what always seemed to happen was that eventually we’d run out of open tables, people would complain to me (as if I could do something about it?) and then we’d start getting more to-go orders and I could get a second to drink some water.

After a few customers had gone through, I reached out my hand for a number and came up empty. “Wh…” I looked over and saw nothing but empty counter next to me. “Hold on one second and let me find a few numbers,” I said to the woman in front of me, who just nodded and gestured me away.

Where the hell are all my numbers? This always happened. Everyone dropped off the numbers either in front of the other register or outside the door to the kitchen. Sure enough, when I ducked back toward the kitchen, a good nine table tags were sitting there. Son of a… I grabbed them all, the metal of the stands clacking against each other. Returning to the register, I smiled at the woman standing there and set the ’60’ table tag in front of her.

“Right. So. What can I get for you today?”


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