Absurd Moments of Restaurant Zen

In Depth

Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today we bring you stories as absurd and ridiculous as they are unique and inexplicable. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.

Mary Anderson:

“A few years ago my sister and were driving across a few states and decided to stop at a Taco Bell in eastern Kentucky. Near our booth standing by the beverage fountain was a young couple (early 20’s) looking confused. In as thick of a southern drawl as I’ve heard, they were going back and forth:
“What is Sierra Mist? Is that like Sprite?”
“I think so, and ‘Bah-Jah’ Blast is like Mountain Dew.”
“Ah. So, is Sierra Mist like Sprite?”
“Yeah I think so, and Bah-Jah Blast is like Mountain Dew.”
“Ah, so, is it good?”
“Yeah it’s good.”
“It is good?”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
Then they both got Pepsi.”

Tanya Olsen:

“I have a problem that was especially pronounced when I was a teenager: my mind works too quickly for my mouth to keep up, causing me, in my desperate attempt to articulate my thoughts at the speed at which they come, to splice words together into strange half-word combinations (for example, “happy day” might turn into “dappy hay”, or even just “hay” if my mind is moving particularly quickly). This typically results in hilarious new words, but every once in awhile, it’s been rather embarrassing.
Scene: a small-town diner in rural Michigan. Me, a naive, bubbly teenager waiting tables during the summer in between freshman and sophomore year.
A lovely young couple came into the diner and sat at a table by the window. They were probably in their early 30’s, very proper, and had most likely come straight from church, based on their conservative and formal dress. They also had their year-old baby with them. After cooing over the baby and making idle chit chat, I took their drink orders. Wife ordered a coffee; husband ordered a coke. I got their drinks, returned to the table, and set them down. The husband looked confused.
“I didn’t order a coke,” he told me. “I ordered coffee.”
Flustered and confused as to why I’d thought he’d said “coke” instead of “coffee,” I started stammering. My brain started working much too fast for my words to articulate.
“Oh, I am so sorry,” I told him. “You wanted a cock?”
The couple stared at me in stunned silence, mouths agape. I’m pretty sure my look of horror mirrored theirs. I started walking slowly backwards, face still frozen. I somehow managed to mumble, “I’ll go get that for you,” before dashing into the back room. They couple was rather stiff but polite for the rest of the meal, which thankfully was uneventful. I can’t help but wonder what they thought about their strange waitress, who somehow combined the words “coffee” and “coke” together and ended up asking if they wanted a “cock” as their beverage.”

Sarah Bethany:

“When I worked at a cafe in high school, we had a customer who would come in every morning and order the bagel and lox. And every morning, he would then complain that ‘the lox tastes funny.’ Finally, one day he ordered it and I said no. He stared at me and asked again. I explained, “Sir, you do not like lox.”
Unrelated, this guy eventually took a dump so big in the employee bathroom that we had to close shop for the day, and he never came back again.”

Meg Baker:

“My boyfriend was waiting tables at Claim Jumper, “hearty American fare in Western digs,” in Renton, Washington. For those who don’t know, a Claim Jumper is basically a few steps lower on the rung than a Cheesecake Factory. And this one was located in one of the worst suburbs of Seattle.
It was right after the lunch rush, and this large family party comes strolling in, one of those nightmares, you know lots of kids, lots of demands, etc. My BF was right nearby clicking in an order when he saw his co-worker, whose section it was, going around taking their drink order.
A child, he estimates about 7 years old, was standing up and nursing from his mother while this was going on (Editor’s Note: OK, obviously there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, but if the kid is talking in complete sentences, they shouldn’t damn well be doing it anymore). When the waitress got to the mother/son pairing and asked for a drink order, the child let go of the nipple, squarely said, “Sprite,” and promptly reattached himself to the teat for another go.”

Kinja user OmahaJezzie:

“Throughout college and law school, I worked for one of the four country clubs in my hometown, which happened to be the most expensive and exclusive. Unsurprisingly, the median age when I was there was approximately 84.
So it’s New Year’s Eve and all servers, banquet and a la carte, are required to work. There are buffets and events set up in various rooms, and a dance later in the evening for all four members under 45. I was assigned to the ballroom.
It was 5:30 PM, the DJ had already started playing some tunes, and the first wave of reservations walks in. Specifically, a group of about twelve octogenarians shuffles into the ballroom with their walkers as “Slow Ride” by Foghat plays. Just picture it. I had to leave the room. My manager saw me and asked what the hell was so funny. I told him just to walk in the ballroom and see what’s going on. He came back in five seconds later in tears. Such a beautiful moment.”

Do you have a crazy restaurant story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail [email protected] with “Behind Closed Ovens” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome! In particular, if you have any ridiculous co-worker or awesome customer stories, I’m looking for at least one more of each.

Image via Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock.

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