Carl was about to about to snap. Being a waiter was taxing enough, remembering all the orders, sides, specials, the wiping, the cleaning, the prepping, the boring were all hard enough, but having to endure them while all the people in the room talk behind your back, was starting to grate on Carl. He noticed that every table would immediately stop talking as soon as he approached. That could only mean one thing in Carl’s mind: they were all talking about him. Carl would constantly check himself in every mirror he passed, in the blade of every knife he set on every table. He saw nothing wrong with his appearance. In fact, Carl secretly thought himself handsome. Carl had a big old crush on himself, a crush Carl thought he was hiding. He couldn’t understand what the people could possibly be saying about him.
‘Maybe they’re talking about how handsome I am, and how I am the greatest waiter ever,’ Carl wished. He looked for signs in the diners’ faces to see if he could read if their discussions of him were good or bad.
Carl came up to a new table of diners, a good looking couple in their twenties, and asked if they were ready to order.
“We haven’t got menus yet,” Doug informed Carl.
“That’s because I haven’t given them to you,” Carl said, distributing the menus he had forgotten he had in his hands. “Now are you ready to order?”
“We haven’t looked at them yet,” Anna laughed.
“Fine,” said Carl, “then, while looking at the menu, could I offer you some dessert?”
Now both were laughing, “No, thanks, we just need a minute to look,” Doug dismissed the waiter who was clearly having a bad day.
Carl walked passed a family who were waiting to give him their order, and headed straight for the kitchen. “Give me one t-bone steak, rare, side of fries and a salmon with a side of greens,” Carl told Mike, the dishwasher.
“I don’t care,” Mike didn’t even look up at him. He knew the waiter was nuts. Mike didn’t have time for crazy people.
Carl thought he’d try Roberto, the head chef. “Give me one t-bone-”
Roberto cut him off, “Punch in the order, don’t tell me!” Roberto was getting fed up of reminding this waiter how to order.
Carl punched in the order, then made a bee-line straight to the good looking couple to tell them their food was coming. He again walked passed the family of five, who were getting impatient with hunger. Hannah, the matriarch, waved her arms above her head like the signal of the shipwrecked. She was ignored by the waiter, who walked through the restaurant with tunnel vision.
The couple stopped talking as soon as Carl got to the table.
“You were talking about me, weren’t you?” Carl demanded.
“What? No. What’s…” Anna could only laugh.
“Your food’s on its way,” Carl told them.
“But, we haven’t ordered yet.”
“Perfect, let me go get it.” Carl didn’t wait for a response, turning and heading back to the kitchen, passing the family that were all waving their arms above their heads; Hannah whistled through her teeth, to no effect. “How’s my food?” Carl asked Billy the bus-boy.
“I dunno,” Billy kept walking through the kitchen door to make himself useful in the dining room.
Carl found his food waiting for him, took the two plates, and returned to give them to their rightful owners. But, Mr. Angeloni, the restaurant’s owner, stopped him before he could step back out to the dining room. “Who is this food for?” asked Mr. Angeloni.
“Table 23,” Carl knew his numbers.
“Kristen!” Mr. Angeloni waved over to the waitress, who promptly jumped to her boss’s command. “Take these plates to table 23,” Mr. Angeloni instructed the waitress, “you’re fired,” he canned Carl.
Carl couldn’t take it, falling to his knees before Mr. Angeloni, who had seen all sorts of reactions to firings. “Please!” Carl begged. “Just tell me what everyone’s talking about! Why does everyone stop talking when I get to the table?”
“So they can order, but, you don’t go to the table. There’s a family out there that’s been waiting forty-five minutes to order.”
“I know, I’m giving them family time. Their frustration with me is bringing them together,” Carl reasoned.
“Enough, good bye,” Mr. Angeloni handed Carl the rest of his pay, and waited for him to show himself out. Carl did, walking past the family who were devouring a bread basket, and the good looking couple, who were enjoying the very order they never ordered. They had asked Kristen how the restaurant could have known what they wanted, but Kristen could only shrug, wondering if Carl had magic powers.