Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got stories about old people, who can be…interesting, to say the least. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
About 10 years ago, I worked at a beachfront golf, polo, and tennis club in South Florida. The members of the club requested that the staff keep some of the empty bottles of expensive liquor in a tub behind the bar rather than throw them away. The members would then come into the clubhouse between the lunch and dinner shifts, take the empty liquor bottles they wanted home with them and fill them with cheap liquor.
Now there was one member who loved Beefeater Gin. When he walked in, we always knew what to get him-Beefeater on the rocks, and he could really throw them back. But one day, his wife came into the clubhouse and asked if we had an empty Beefeater bottle. We did, and as I handed it to her thinking she was going to try the ol’ cheap booze in a premium bottle trick, mentioned that her husband drinks so much of this stuff, he will probably notice if it isn’t Beefeater. She replied, “oh no, honey, I’m not going to do that. My husband died. I’m going to use this to hold his ashes.”
I loved my frail, nonagenarian aunt dearly, but going out to eat with her was a major trial. First, she had to find a comfortable seat. It didn’t matter if every chair in the restaurant was exactly the same, she had to try several (nine was her all-time high) before she found the right one. I’ve known her to ask other patrons if she could try theirs.
Then, of course, the chosen chair might not be at the right table. So we would change tables and the chair had to come with us. Coffee must be scalding hot and refreshed constantly. There was never an order where something wasn’t wrong, must be returned, and a new selection made. She’d even return my food — that I was perfectly happy with — because she would taste it and declare it not acceptable.
I habitually pulled the server aside, asked them to just box her original meal, and told them I would purchase the new item. Going out for lunch was her favorite activity — I would take her every week. I learned to put aside my frustration, wait until the lunch rush was over, order myself a large glass of wine, and leave a very, very large tip.
Jayna Van Allen
My husband and I went to the nice-ish Chinese restaurant that I grew up going to for a last meal before we moved out of state. As we walked in, I held the door open for this shuffling, stooped, elderly man. There was a bit of a wait for a table so my husband and I took a seat near the take-out counter. What followed was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve seen.
The elderly man approaches the take-out counter and tells the woman working behind the counter that he’s there to pick up his wife’s order and it had better be ready because he took two buses to get there. She turns around to get his bag, and he starts yelling, “Is it ready? Is it ready? Because so help me, God, it had better be ready.” She hands him his bag and his response is “Is it cold? I think this is cold. How long has it been out here? Don’t you do this to me, I pay your salary.”
Then it went from weird to insane. The woman reassures him that the food isn’t cold, so he begins screaming about how he hates the food at this place. It made him sick, it’s too expensive, his wife likes it but he hates it. The woman behind the counter is being far nicer than I’d be, but then has enough and goes to answer the phone, so he GRABS her wrist to get her to pay attention to him. My husband steps in at this point and very calmly tells him to let go of the woman. He lets go, but stands there for another 5-10 minutes yelling about how awful everything is. He finally leaves to take his 2 buses back to his wife, who I still think of with deep pity. I’m sure the food was already cold.
The woman behind the counter tells the manager that my husband stepped in, and our meal was, very generously, comped.
For a few years, I worked at this country resort style village that offered “real estate, lodging, fine dining, wedding, and meeting options.” Because it was pretty pricey to do just about anything there, it had its share of the overly wealthy and pretentious.
One afternoon, I was working the post lunch shift; it was pretty quiet and I had just gotten a new table, an older couple in for a late lunch. I brought their drinks and then took their orders with the normal chit chat, nothing out of the usual. Until I came back to check on them once before their meals had come out, when during casual conversation, the man brought up the recent election. It was late November, 2008, and President Obama had just been elected for the first time. I was young and full of progressive zeal, having just participated in my first presidential election and over the moon about President Obama and how he would change EVERYTHING that was wrong with our system.
That aside, this man clearly did not share my views. He was exactly the crotchety, old, white, republican man type who was furious about the president for all the reasons such types usually are. Fortunately, he wore his opinions out in the open enough that I could read him from little conversation and I was NOT going there. I politely demurred and repeatedly tried to steer the conversation away from politics. He would not drop that bone. He finally said, “He’s from Chicago! Don’t you know they’re all crooks in Chicago?!” This was too much; my mom is from Chicago. I politely stated this. So he state in an almost yell “So you do know!” The few other people in the restaurant started to look interested. I looked to his wife for support; she was ignoring us; she’s probably heard these rants many times before. I fled to go “check on their food.”
He kept at me for the rest of the meal, trying to convince me about the “certain and absolute decline of the county now that that man had been elected.” Finally, towards the end of the meal, I calmly informed him that I had happily voted for the man in question and said sweetly that I hoped he got a second term. He was apoplectic — though he did finally give me up as a lost cause to recruit for the republican dominion. I brought his check by shortly after. While he did have the decency to not stiff me outright for the tip, he only left 10%.
When I was 18 I landed a great job at Whole Foods as the customer service representative. It really was a great job with profit sharing that never happened (for me) and a 20% discount (I still couldn’t afford). Working the counter only disgruntled customers patronized was an ok gig seeing as I was so politely awkward it usually was pretty amicable.
Then lamb chop happened. LC was an elderly man who approached my counter when there was a line, disregarded it and started angry shake yelling at me. I asked him to please hold a moment and his anger grew. When my customer was finished I had already had another line set for the other customers. With full attention on him he shrieks that there is “too much fat on my lamb!” which turns to “THERE IS ONLY FAT ON MY LAMB!” I try to calm him down by offering g a full refund on his whole hot bar experience. He declines. I am a now the sole being that is Whole Foods and I intentionally put fatty lamb meat on his plate. I try to make some mild jokes and ease the situation. No can do, Senior Lamb Chops has had enough of my shenanigans and demands no refund and no gift card and is pissed as hell! ‘Your whole operation is a rip-off!’ After he shook the flaccid masticated lamb particles in my face again, I tried to keep it light by telling him I was sure he is correct because I was actually a vegetarian and would have all the reason to trust the lamb expert that he was correct in his anger. His response was to make an angry face and throw the masticated lamb piece at me.
It hit my chest, though he aimed at my face. The drool-covered fatty meat hit me like a brick of shit as it slid down to my apron. All the reserved muted anger decided to vacate the second I looked at his wrinkly smiling ass of a face. I leaped over the counter and my manager who had been watching through a doorway behind me pulled me back by the apron strings. The man was asked to leave. I got a good laugh at him.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu?Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.