Monday, September 1, 2008

Read Much?

Today as I was sitting in my office laboring away on Labor Day, as every other Monday, I heard the front door chime go off at 11:15.

I assumed it was my children for whom I was cooking lunch on their last day of freedom before the dreaded school year starts tomorrow. Aside—I know you're dying to know—We had a frittata of local eggs, chorizo, local tomatoes, local red peppers, pimentón, garlic, thyme from the plant in front of the restaurant, and local sheep's milk cheese similar to but better than Manchego.

Aside aside, back to the front door chime. Because I thought it was the girls and because I was in the midst of some bookkeeping, I was in no hurry to get to the front. Bookkeeping at a good stopping point, I stepped from my lighted office into the very black hallway—no sense in wasting electricity on lighting the restaurant on a day we're not open—and the light contrast left me unable to see for a moment.

Once my eyes became accustomed to the dark and I got to the front, I could see two elderly ladies poking about the nearly pitch dark dining room trying to find someone to seat them. When I cheerfully informed them that we were closed on Mondays, one blurted out a bit rudely, "Well, the door was unlocked."

I clamped a muzzle quickly on my very sarcastic mouth—the possibilities for very snide retorts to her statement are nearly endless—and reminded her that despite being closed to the general public, people do need to come and go: the postman, delivery drivers, tourists walking by who want to book tables, the pest control guy, the ladies that take care of our flowers, our electrician, etc.

Just to reassure myself that the front door is very clearly posted with our hours of business, I took my camera outside. Yep, the sign is still there, still legible, but largely unread by John Q. Public.

A lot of would be customers get semi-hostile when they arrive in the dining room on a Monday only to discover that we're closed. I know that they're only venting at their own failure to check our hours before leaving for the restaurant, but still I'm no different than anyone else: I don't enjoy invective aimed at me any more than you do, even if it really isn't intended for me.

I try my best to be tolerant by putting myself in their shoes, but I keep coming back to the fact that not only can I read, but I do read. I always scan the door of any restaurant that I am about to enter to see if they are in fact open and if they honor my credit cards, as I don't carry cash.

While I am dishing on customers—yes, you readers love it; the more dirt on customers in the blog post, the more frequently the post is read!—here are two more amusing incidents of a similar nature. Before I got in the restaurant business, if I had read about these two incidents, I would have thought that the author were fibbing. But as the saw goes, the truth is much stranger than fiction.

Each year in our town, we host the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, held the week leading into the first weekend in May, to celebrate the beginning of our local apple growing season. Naturally, the apples have already bloomed before the first of May, but never mind. And with fierce competition from both real estate development and Chinese apples, the apple industry is not thriving. Nonetheless, the first weekend in May sees 250,000 to 500,000 people descend on our town of 25,000 to watch our famous parades and celebrate with us.

Because of our location on a back alley, because visitors to the festival are conditioned to want corn dogs, fried confections, blooming onions, and sundry other junk from the myriad street vendors, and because the bulk of our customers are either out of town or are holding or attending one of vast numbers of private parties, we get no traffic that week. 10,000 people walk past our store and not one will come in, unless to use the restrooms.

So, we close out of self-defense to cut our losses and use that week to recuperate and get work done on the restaurant. One year we had the dining room torn apart to paint, with booths jammed into the entry foyer so tight that it was nearly impossible to squeeze by. In the midst of painting one afternoon, I went down the hall to the restroom and when I returned to the dining room, there was a foursome of elderly ladies seated at a table draped in a dropcloth, demanding to be served. How they managed to miss the closed sign on the front door, negotiate the obstacle course to a table, and sit at a draped table without concluding that we were closed is absolutely beyond my comprehension!

Another year, I was on the deck painting the fence when two ladies walked up to the front door, which was posted with a sign stating that we were closed for the week. One lady said, “Oh look, they’re closed!” And the other replied, “Let’s go in and see if they really mean it.” And they proceeded to go inside. Idiots.


  1. you readers love it; the more dirt on customers in the blog post, the more frequently the post is read!

    Hey! I resemble that remark!

  2. I had someone tearing on our front door one day around 3:30...we close between lunch and dinner...when I go to open the door, an elderly gentleman says "you open??"

    I politely responded "No, so sorry, maybe next time??" and went inside to tell my Sysco rep our new marketing strategy to drive customer counts...CLOSE THE FREAKIN DOOR AND BE OPEN! Yeah, that's the ticket??!