Tales from the Café: Item Unavailable

Time: Thursday, 3:14 pm

I stifled a yawn behind my elbow, running a hand through my hair as I blinked hard. It had been a long day, and I was ready for my shift to be over. Just a little less than an hour and I’d be home. I’d just start doing a bit of side work so that we’d be ready…


Or I was going to take care of this customer first.

On went the smile. “Good afternoon, welcome to Mocha Time. How’re you today?”

The couple looked up in sync with each other, and the woman smiled back at me. “Hi, I’m good thanks. How’re you?”

“Doing well!” They picked up a couple of menus, and I tapped in my number to get an order screen ready. “This going to be for here?”

“Yes. I’m not sure what I want yet, though.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be ready when you are.” I tapped in a table number and waited for the two to choose what they wanted. Even some of our regulars went through this process, staring at the menu for minutes and then ordering the same thing every time. I couldn’t decide if it was annoying or amusing. Probably a mixture of both.

“Okay. Hon, you go first,” the woman said, gesturing to the man next to her.

He took a step forward. “I’m going to have the tuna salad sandwich.”

“Whole or half?”

“Whole is fine. And, uh…what are your soups?”

“Tomato, french onion, and maple habanero chili.” I did my best to not look over his shoulder at the board where all the soup options were listed.

“I’ll get the chips,” he finished, setting the menu down on the counter. I bit my tongue and punched in the order.

“And for you, ma’am?” I looked over at her.

“I…I think I’m going to have the strawberry and brie salad.” She set the menu down.

Inwardly I sighed. That particular item on the menu had been discontinued at least four months ago, and we’d never gotten new menus printed up. When pressed for an explanation, I said that we were undergoing a large menu overhaul soon and they didn’t want to have to reprint twice.

Then again, they’d been saying that since I’d gotten hired almost a year ago now, so the real reason was anyone’s guess.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. We actually don’t serve the strawberry brie salad anymore.”

If looks could kill. The level of absolute affront in her eyes could have knocked me off my feet. “What? Why is it still on the menu then?”

I tried my best to give a sympathetic shrug. “I’ve heard my managers talking about changing up the menu, so it’s probable that they’re just waiting until they’ve finalized the new menu to reprint them.”

“That was my favorite thing on the menu. I can’t believe they took it off. Why is it gone?”

“I honestly don’t know, ma’am. We’ve had a lot of changes back in the kitchen, but I’m not sure why most of them happen.” That was the honest truth. What happened back of house was a whole different world, and I did not have the necessary skill set to figure it out.

She scoffed in disgust. “Well now I have no idea what I want. That’s ridiculous. You tell your manager that there is a long-time customer who is very unhappy about that. I couldn’t get that anywhere else but here.” She grabbed the menu again, glaring at her now inferior choices.

“I’ll be sure to bring it up, ma’am.” Along with the nine hundred other people who have said that to me in the past few months. You being angry about it will not bring it back.

We waited for a few moments in silence before she tossed the menu down again. “Fine, I guess I’ll just have the wedge. And put chicken on it. And no tomatoes, with dressing on the side.”

“Absolutely, ma’am.”

“What dressings do you have?”

You mean like the one in the description? “The wedge standardly comes with bleu cheese.”

“…that’s fine.”

Fantastic. My eyes flickered to the clock. Just thirty-five more minutes, man. You can do this.


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