Like the lure of the Sirens that drew sailors towards the shore of their rocky island coast, so goes the lone dirty table in the restaurant crying out to the customer to "sit here, sit here." It matters not how many clean tables may be in the restaurant, for if there is but one table that has not been wiped down and set with silverware, that is the one the customer will want to seat themselves at.
One of the restaurants I work in is very small with only fourteen tables. On a particularly slow night recently, we have one table occupied with one table that is dirty because the two-top had just left. This leaves twelve tables that are blissfully clean with glasses, silverware and napkins. At precisely that moment, another two-top comes in and stands at the front of the restaurant waiting to be seated. I am standing behind the bar washing my hands.
"Hi folks, how are you tonight? Table for two?" I ask.
They nod their heads which I take to mean "We are doing fine, thank you for asking. How are you? And yes, we would like a table for two."
"Sit anywhere you like and I will be right there with menus and water."
They again nod their heads which I take to mean "Thank you very much for acknowledging us, you're very kind and your hair is really pretty."
I watch them as they walk towards the dining room. They pass the one booth in the restaurant that has people at it. They then pass the second booth that is perfectly ready to have people sit at it. Then they approach the third booth that has two dirty napkins on it and some spilled water along with a few crumbs. They sit there.
What is it about that table makes them want to sit at it? The booth right next to it is identical and then there are two other booths in the back of the restaurant. There are a total of twelve other tables these people can sit down at, but they choose the one table that practically has a sign on it that says "Do Not Sit Here."
Is there a big golden magnet underneath the table that pulls these people to it? Is that table emitting some silent song like those of the Sirens that customers find so lovely that they have to get as close to it as possible? Do they do it on purpose just so they can get a bird's-eye view of their waiter cleaning a table.
I grab my spray bottle and a paper towel and head over to the dirty table.
"Let me wipe this down for you folks since it looks like it's still dirty from the last customer."
I ball up the napkins and spray the table with soapy water. I wipe it down being careful to not let the crumbs fall into the laps of the customers.
"I'll be right back with silverware and glasses, folks."
They nod which I take to mean "Oh, we're so sorry we sat here. I guess we weren't paying attention but thank you for not making us feel uncomfortable."
I return to set the table.
"Now, I'll be right back with those menus I promised you."
The rest of our time together went as usual. Was it a big deal that they sat at the one dirty table? No, it wasn't that big of a deal but I find it incredibly irritating that people will sit at the one goddamn dirty table in the whole restaurant and not think twice about. Note to those who are seating themselves in restaurants: if you see a bunch of tables that are set with silverware and glasses and you see one that is dirty, don't sit at the dirty table. We don't like that.
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