Some nights at work, everything seems to go horribly wrong.
There are the nights when a guest causes it by being incredibly rude or childish (like calling me "Sweetcakes" when my apron clearly says "C.J." or letting their spawn toss forks at other tables.).
There are nights when I cause it. (like when I jiggled a tea pitcher to get some ice into a woman's glass - as requested - and ALL the ice flew out and covered the table)
And then there are the nights only Murphy can deliver.
One night in particular comes to mind.
A party of five came in and chose to sit at a four-top with a chair in the aisle. This is a common practice and really isn't a problem except that this guy's chair happened to be right beside the doorway from one part of the dining room to the next. Very high traffic area. Waiters carrying beverages and plates of food and a chair sticking out in their path are a bad combination.
This man was a nice guy. He smiled at me when I greeted the table, placed his order politely, and generally seemed like someone I'd like to wait on.
I delivered their drinks and checked on them a few minutes later, puzzled to see a look of distress on the man's face. He quietly informed me that there was a gnat in his water.
It's rare to find a bug anywhere in my restaurant. We pass all our health inspections with flying colors. We have a "bug guy" who regularly services the entire store to ensure things like this don't happen.
But there it was. One little gnat carcass floating in his water. As his table was next to a window (and bugs that get trapped in a restaurant inevitably head toward a window), I figured that was the culprit. I apologized and replaced his drink. He was nice about the whole thing.
No big deal.
Or it wouldn't have been a big deal if one of my fellow waiters hadn't tripped over his chair on his way through the dining room to refill tea. Tea sloshed out of the pitcher and landed right in my guy's lap.
Since the Mt. Dew incident in Taco Bell with Paul, I have firsthand knowledge of how uncomfortable it is to get a lapful of icy beverage while wearing jeans. There are more uncomfortable things, of course, but most of them involve sand, salt water, or someone with a medical degree.
I apologized again to him and brought him a towel. He continued to be nice about everything. I really, really liked this guy.
I delivered the table's food minutes later and wouldn't you know it? This guy's steak was raw in the middle. As he'd ordered it well done, this was a problem. I apologized again, got his steak re-cooked, and we began to joke about his poor luck (we wondered aloud if perhaps he'd broken a mirror lately or offended a black cat).
Unfortunately for him, the worst was still to come.
And the worst came from me.
We deliver our food on large rectangular trays. These suckers are heavy when full of dishes and unwieldy even when they're empty.
I picked up a tray of food, headed through the dining room, past my guy's chair, delivered the food, turned to go, and heard the fateful words, "Oh, Miss?!" from the table whose food I'd just set down.
I was already walking away, entering the doorway between the two dining rooms. I whipped around to see what this table still wanted and the tray that I'd carefully tucked under one arm smacked my guy upside the head and knocked him to the floor.
There is no apology in the world that can make up for that. I offered him free chocolate instead. He accepted and, unbelievably, was still totally nice about the whole thing.
He even tipped me well.
Oddly enough, I haven't seen him enter our restaurant again.