Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Deaf Guy


This story deals with a customer that has a disability. Servers are trained to deal with and be sensitive to whatever special needs a customer with a disability may have. I am no exception. I have read the menu, word for word, to a blind customer. I have provided pen and paper to help deaf customers order. My overall attitude is to make the customer feel as comfortable as possible.

This story is about a customer, his actions, and a tip. I will probably delete any posts that focus on the issue of disability. Disabilities are a side issue in this case.

-A Description of The Deaf Guy-

The Deaf Guy is in his mid-to-late 60's. He towers over most at 6'5''. I'd guess his weight at about 315. He has a substantial potbelly, and must sit at a table because he can't fit into a booth.

He wears jean shorts and solid-colored, loose-fitting T-shirts. He always wears the same faded blue/orange hat. His hair is gray, greasy and stringy. It hangs about an inch over his collar. He has a thick Santa-Claus length beard.

The Deaf Guy always walks to the restaurant. He must live close by, because he is never winded or sweaty when he arrives, even on scorching hot days. He usually comes in after the lunch rush, which is a good thing, as you'll see.

He always seems impatient and he loves to run servers, like playing with puppets on strings. I hate being a marrionette.

-The Deaf Guy's Story-

It's 3:00 on a Wednesday. I'm late-checking with Amy. Amy, odd as it may seem, is a mostly deaf server. She's a damn good one too. She lost her hearing gradually, so she was able to learn to read lips. She wears a surgically implanted hearing aid, which allows her to hear people in close proximity. Amy also harbors more neuroses and psychoses than a psych ward during a full moon. I could fill an entire other blog with stories about her, but a one word description will suffice for this story- BITCHY.

The Deaf Guy is walking through the parking lot. Amy and I are chatting at the host stand. I'm treading lightly on eggshells throughout our conversation. I don't want to do anything to make her snap, especially when we have another two hours before the PM servers relieve us.

Amy sees The Deaf Guy coming.

"Damnit! You take this guy."

"Amy, it's your turn." We've been rotating tables all afternoon.

"I don't care. I refuse to wait on him."

She hightails it to the kitchen, leaving me alone to face whatever horrors may be coming my way.

He walks through the double doors in front and fixes his steely gaze on me.

"Good afternoon, sir. Table for one?" I try to be cheery.

The Deaf Guy holds up one finger and proclaims, "Uuungghhhh!!" The grunt lasts for a full five seconds.

I'm taken aback, but I recover quickly. I grab a menu and lead him to the nearest table. As I'm setting down the menu, he taps me on the shoulder and points to a seat by the window.

"Uuungghhh!" Creepy, but OK. Who doesn't like a nice window seat? The windows overlook a large pond. Not a bad view, actually.

I nod and lead him towards the windows.

"Please sir, sit wherever you'd like," I say, sweeping my arm in the general direction of our window seating.

He pulls out a chair and folds himself into his seat. I hand him a menu, which he opens. He grabs my arm, as if I'm going to run away before he can order. I don't like being touched.

The Deaf Guy points to "Iced Tea" with his free hand.

"Uuunghhh" he says, running his finger repeatedly under his selection. He lets go of my arm. I can't be sure, but it feels like he gave me a gentle push towards the kitchen.

"Yes, sir, I'll be right back with that for you." I walk to the back rubbing my sore arm. The Deaf Guy has quite a grip.

Amy is cutting lemons for the night shift.

"What's wrong with that guy? Is he mentally retarded?"

"No, he's deaf."

I find it logical that a deaf server and a deaf patron would be a good match.

"Why didn't you take him? I don't know sign language or anything, but you do. You could do a better job than I could with him!"

"That asshole doesn't know sign language. He can't read lips. He gives deaf people a bad name!" Amy storms off in a huff.

I didn't know that someone could give an entire disability group a bad name, but I wasn't going to chase Any down for clarification.

As I fill The Deaf Guy's iced tea, I think about what Amy said. Amy worked hard to learn sign language and lip reading. She should be proud of her achievements. But does that give her the right to bang on someone who wouldn't or couldn't do the same things? I didn't think so.

Maybe Amy had treated him poorly the last time he dined with us. I made up my mind that The Deaf Guy was going to receive stellar service this time.

I return with his iced tea. He grabs it out of my hand and drains it. We've got a Chugger!

He pushes the glass back into my hand and takes hold of my arm once again. He uses his free hand to order his meal, pointing to his selections, running his finger under each item.

He orders an entree, a salad, and three extra sides. Each time, he punctuates his order with another "Uuuunghhhh."

When he lets me go, I definitely feel the push towards the kitchen. OK, I'm starting to dislike The Deaf Guy. But I've made a promise to myself. He's going to get great service no matter what.

I refill his iced tea three more times before I can get his salad out. He finishes his salad without incident. I refill his iced tea twice more before his lunch is ready.

I bring his sandwich and ask if there is anything else I can get for him. He dismisses me with a wave, and digs in to his meal. I don't like being dismissed. I'm disliking The Deaf Guy more and more as time passes.

I go to the back and eat my lunch. Two breadsticks and a souffle cup of ranch dressing. Yum.

I wipe my mouth with a napkin, wash my hands, and walk back to the dining room, another iced tea in hand.

The Deaf Guy is fast asleep.

He's sitting upright in his chair, his head leaning back. He didn't just doze off. He's in a deep slumber, and he's sawing logs.

What the hell?!

I clap a couple times, trying to wake him up. Then I realize that clapping is pointless. He's deaf.

I think for a minute, and I remember an elementary school lesson about Helen Keller. I stomp twice on the floor. Hard.

This does the trick. The Deaf Guy awakes with a snort, and resumes eating as though nothing has happened. Odd.

I drop off his ninth or tenth iced tea (I've lost count). Going to the back, I wonder how a person could fall asleep after drinking so much caffeinated iced tea.

I walk back out into the dining room. The Deaf Guy is asleep again. Head back, mouth open, snoring at full volume.

I realize that The Deaf Guy is a narcoleptic. He was probably drinking those iced teas so he could stay awake through his meal.

It takes The Deaf Guy nearly an hour to get through his meal. He falls asleep twice more, and each time, I stomp on the floor to wake him. My foot begins to hurt.

He drinks another six or seven iced teas. Probably stockpiling caffeine for the walk home.

Finally, The Deaf Guy is ready for his check. He mulls it over, nods, and pulls out a wad of bills. He counts very carefully, recounts, places the bills in the book, and hands the book to me. He nods and, for the first time since he walked in, he smiles. He points to the book and makes a cutting motion with his hand. No change.

"Thank you sir, you have a great afternoon!"

The Deaf Guy walks out into the afternoon sun.

I look at the bill. $18.27. I count the money. $19.00. He's left me 73 cents as a tip.

I refilled his iced tea damn near twenty times. I woke him up so he wouldn't fall face-first into his plate. I was friendly, courteous, and I didn't get huffy when he grabbed my arm. For this, I get 4%.

Amy was right. That guy is an asshole.



Miss Sara said...

DOH! Well, hey... he grew up during the Depression... 73 cents was BIG MONEY back then. ;)

The Server said...

could probably have bought you a cardboard house and a week's worth of food. however, it is 2003 (at the time of this story), and 4% just doesn't cut it.

SierraBella said...

I'll bet you gave him the one ASL gesture we all know as he left!
Covertly of course.

The Server said...

right you are sierra, right you are. I will try to finish up another story for tonight. If you don't see one by midnight central time, then check back tomorrow morning. It'll be up by then.

Miss Sara said...

I just took my first ASL class last night, believe it or not. I didn't learn any filthy signs, though. :(

drew said...

you can say that one of the good things about serving is the fact that you are able to meet some of the strangest characters that animate this world.

kevinc said...

Miss sara you need to work on your math and history skills a bit...the great depression occurred after the stock market crashed in 1929...the man was about 65...this article is from 2005--sooo 2005-65=1940. Meaning he grew up in the 1940's..maybe you should lay off the witty comments. Pretty funny story though, I can't get the image of his pudgy hands on your wrist..that would bother me.