Disclaimer: No, I haven't won the lottery, so they still aren't mine. But in my heart, they always will be!
Notes: This is based (and slightly exaggerated) on something I experienced last Friday when four co-workers and I went to lunch. No waitresses were actually harmed in either that incident, or this story. Yes, Chris was a good boy.
~o~ ~o~ ~o~ ~o~ ~o~ ~o~ ~o~
The following takes place between 11:45 am and 1:30 pm:
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Team Seven had been across town for a meeting on changes taking place in the computer program they used to post their reports. As expected, the meeting had been boring, and could have easily been dealt with in a memo. But, this was the government and there was no such thing as posting a memo if a four hour meeting could be organized. It had the effect of looking efficient, while being completely inefficient.
Driving back, lunchtime traffic was - no surprise - heavy. Vehicles danced around one another like a swarm of angry bees, as the drivers hurried to complete a multitude of tasks during the break from the multitude of tasks they got paid for. Horns blared and more than one voice was raised in anger.
After the forth collision near miss, Chris growled, "Let's find someplace to eat and wait 'til the circus is over."
"Sounds good to me, I'm starved!" JD called out from the back seat of the bureau van they were using.
"And this is different, how?" Ezra grumbled, only marginally under his breath.
"Hey, I can't help it if I'm a growing boy!"
"You're not a boy, Kid," Buck teased. "And that growin' thing ain't workin'!"
"Oh, Buck, come on!"
While they continued their argument, Vin, sitting in the shotgun seat, said quietly, "Heard of this place over on Baker. Uncle Al's, I think. Supposed to have a good menu and decent prices. It's about six blocks over." He pointed to the right.
Cutting the corner sharply, Chris said, "Works for me." He grinned somewhat sadistically when the men in the back yelped and protested the surprise move.
"You've got one hell of an evil streak in you, Cowboy," Vin snorted, shook his head and smiled.
Arching a brow, Larabee scoffed, "Was there ever any doubt?"
Holding up both hands and shaking his head, Tanner replied, "Not from me."
Uncle Al's sat crammed in amongst several other buildings, making parking the first obstacle. The restaurant had a small - very small - parking lot on one side of the building; angle parking, with barely enough room to maneuver a vehicle along behind those already parked there. Chris' vein was throbbing along one temple by the time he managed to plant the van between two other vehicles; an SUV on one side and car on the other. There was barely enough room for them to exit the van, Josiah finding it particularly complicated to climb out of the second back seat, where he, Nathan and Ezra had wound up. By the time his feet hit asphalt, he had to force himself to stand straight. By that time his seat mates were making impatient noises as they waited to exit.
By the time the van was emptied, Chris and Vin had already entered the restaurant, Buck and JD behind them. When the other three entered the crowded establishment, they saw that the dining room was arranged in an "L" around the staging area and other "behind the scenes" rooms. They quickly spotted their companions, made easier by the fact that JD was waving wildly from where he sat.
As they expected, Ezra was not particularly happy about their choice of restaurants, seating, or anything else. After several sighs, he quieted, thanks in part to the look Chris shot him.
Buck and JD were arguing over who owed whom lunch. Nathan and Josiah were quietly watching the recap of the game from the night before, on the muted television mounted near the ceiling, in a corner near their seats. Ezra was using several paper napkins from the dispenser to make an impromptu place mat on the somewhat scarred, red table. Vin was using a napkin to practice his origami; he was proud of his talent for the craft, he had been taking classes at the youth center where he volunteered. Chris was staring, the level of his glare at a two, toward where a waitress was standing and chatting with a customer.
She was wearing especially baggy pajama pants, a rather stained tee-shirt and flip-flops, even though it wasn't flip-flop weather. She didn't seem to be wearing a bra, increasing the possibility that she had simply rolled out of bed and into work. The only thing that designated her as wait staff was the apron she wore, which was tied below what could easily pass for a 'beer belly', although she didn't look old enough to drink. She was also carrying about a dozen menus.
Before his glare moved up a notch, Chris cleared his throat, loudly, and waved his hand in an effort to get the waitress' attention. After the third repetition, calling out "Miss" with more and more force, the woman finally stopped her conversation. Slapping the elderly gentleman she was speaking to, on the shoulder, she came toward their table.
"Hi, would you all like a menu?"
"That'd be great," Buck interjected, using his best 'afternoon-in-a-diner-flirt' voice. He reached out to take one of the large, plastic covered menus. To his surprise, she smiled, nodded, and continued on.
"Uh..." JD stammered, his mouth hanging open. Closing it after she disappeared into one of the 'employees only' parts of the restaurant, he continued, "Wasn't she carrying..."
"Menus. Yeah," Vin said, his tone one of amazement. Then he shivered slightly as he felt a level 6 glare focused on his back. Turning toward his friend, he protested, "I didn't say nothin' about the service. Just the menu and the price."
Hesitating almost a full minute, the other man said, "fine," and reduced the level of the glare. He turned his attention to where the waitress had disappeared.
The waitress finally returned to their table. She now carried exactly seven menus. "Here you are." She waved one menu in the vicinity of each man, leaving them to catch it on the fly. "I'm Kelli, I'll be your waitress. What do you want to drink?"
"Tea." Said Josiah.
"Tea." Said Nathan.
"Tea." Said Vin.
"Diet Coke." Said Buck.
"Coke." Said JD.
"I believe I'll have sweet tea." said Ezra.
Frowning, the waitress said, "There's sugar and sweetener on the table."
"Ah, yes..." Standish managed, "I see."
"Water, with lemon." Chris said through gritted teeth.
"Don't have lemon. Want some lemonade?" Kelli asked.
Rubbing his temple, the blond said, "What do you make the lemonade with?"
Shrugging her shoulders, the woman said, "Country Time, I think."
Rubbing a little harder, Chris said, "Water."
"Okay. I'll be back with your drinks."
Kelli reappeared, carrying a scarred tray, like those found in the school lunch room; on the tray stood seven plastic tumblers. When she reached the table, she tossed seven paper wrapped straws in the direction of the table, and then began distributing the glasses. Rather than walking around the table, despite the adequate room, she reached across the table, not aware of or not caring that she was pushing in between the men. Passing out the last glass she said, "Okay, I'll give you guys a few minutes to decide."
"I think we're -" Josiah shook his head, when he found himself speaking to the air. Huffing, he finished, "ready to order."
Chris couldn't help the visual of a target that suddenly found itself superimposed on the woman's retreating back, thanks to his growing annoyance. He squeezed his eyes closed and pressed his fingers against the lids.
"Our attendant does seem to be... lacking... in a few of the skills of an efficient server." Ezra managed, as shocked as the others.
"And she's a crappy waitress," JD redundantly agreed.
Chris closed his cell phone and announced to the others, "Okay, I talked to Jill and let her know we'll be late. She said it's quiet, so we should be okay getting back late." He was beyond thinking about simply walking out. As good as that sounded, going back into the traffic and listening to the others bitch about being hungry was the far less attractive option. Besides, behind the wheel, he might just ram them all into a building. Here, the only thing he was in danger of, was pleading temporary insanity for murdering one waitress.
Across from Larabee, Vin had filled his part of the table with seven origami animals, each one - he stated emphatically - representing one of them. They were able to agree on the bear as representing Chris, but argued over the others. Quietly. Their fearless leader's vein was pounding faster than they could remember and his glare, which continued to be focused on the door that hid their so-called waitress, was at a level eight and rising. A ten would require a 9-1-1 call.
Then Kelli, who no doubt signed her name with little hearts or circles, arrived back at their table. "Hi, are you guys ready to order?"
"YES." Stated seven men in unison.
"Great," she responded, unfazed, "shoot."
Nathan, sitting closest to Larabee's right arm, unconsciously grabbed it. The blond shot him a look and growled, "Nate."
"I'll have the soup of the day," Josiah stated. He frowned when she shook her head. "Uh, yeah, I would, chicken noodle is my..." again she shook her head. "I'll bite. Why not?"
"Out? Didn't you just open at 10?" JD questioned, pointing at the "Hours of Operation" sign nearby.
"It's only 12:30."
"I... " JD shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
"Okay," Josiah took the exchange back. "What soups do you have?"
"Vegetable and chili." Kelli reported with a smile.
"No chili." Nathan ordered curtly, staring at each of the other six men.
"Vegetable soup and a burger, loaded," Sanchez ordered.
"Vegetable and a grilled cheese," JD ordered.
"Burger, loaded, and... what are potato triangles?" Buck asked.
"Burger loaded and potato triangles," Kellie stated.
"Uh, no, I asked - "
"Regular or large?"
"No, I asked what they are." The big man tried again.
"So, would you rather have fries?"
Wondering when he'd entered the rabbit hole, Buck simply managed, "Yeah. Fine."
"Chili and an order of quesadillas," Vin instructed, slowly, giving Nathan a cocky grin.
"Hope you've got your Pepcid with you." The medically trained agent groused.
"Sorry, no Pepsi, we only have Coke products," Kelli offered helpfully.
"Uh, that's fine." It wasn't worth arguing, Jackson decided. "I'll have the grilled chicken and a salad, French dressing, on the side, please."
"I believe I'll have salad as well, bleu cheese dressing, on the side."
"Okay, anything else?" She asked, closing her order pad.
"Yes. I. Would. Like. To. Order." Chris gritted out between clenched teeth.
"Oh, thought I got yours already." She seemed to be waiting for him to agree with her, but finally opened her pad.
"I would like a bowl of vegetable soup and a turkey sandwich, lettuce and tomato only." Around him, silently, the other six men prayed that the tryptophan, aka turkey tranquilizer, kicked in quickly.
"Got it." Kelli scribbled something on the pad, closed it, and took off once more, disappearing once again into the "employees only" part of the restaurant.
"No, I told you, the redhead was - "
"triplicate by tomorrow and I said - "
"lord, is nothing in here clean, the board of -"
"bullshit - "
"Good God! Will you all stop!?" The six other men at the table, along with those at every other table in the vicinity grew instantly silent. All of them stared at the red-faced blond.
Chest heaving, senior agent Christopher Larabee counted to one hundred. Slowly, tensed muscles began to relax.
"Uh, I think I'll go check on our order." JD slid out of his chair, five other men longingly wishing they had thought of that first.
"Chris, did you take your -"
"Don't even finish that sentence, Tanner. Yes, I took my Cozaar this morning. My blood pressure is fine."
"Yer face is sayin' different." He knew he was baiting the bear, but Vin decided that if he could deflect the anger from the others, he'd gladly take the hit.
"My blood pressure is fine. My patience is at its end. If that little -"
"Boy," JD said, accidentally interrupting the senior agent. "I thought waitresses were supposed to be nice. I think ours has been watching too many Seinfeld episodes! 'No soup for you!'."
"JD." Buck warned quietly.
"Yeah, okay. Anyway, our order will be up in another few minutes."
"Okay, here we are!" Kelli chirped. At first they thought she'd been taken over by a smiling alien, until they realized it was probably a show for the other waitress behind her. This one had a bandana tied around short, dark hair. Half of her face was covered in a rash that not even Nathan wanted to identify. At least she was wearing gloves. Kelli wasn't.
Kelli took up a platter that contained a bowl and a handful of wrapped crackers. She promptly handed it to Buck and grabbed another platter. This one she handed to Nathan. Next came a burger, which went to JD. The chicken went to Vin... and so on. Not one order was delivered to the right person. From beyond the table it looked like a Marx Brothers routine as the seven men shifted the platters and plates around. Kelli obliviously continued to hand them out, taking them from her co-worker, who only watched with a dumbfounded look.
"Do you need anything else? No - "
"Excuse me," Chris said in a tight voice. "Could I have a spoon for my soup?"
"Oh, sure," She pulled one out of her apron and tossed it onto the table, all though Larabee made an effort to grab it out of the air.
"Okay, enjoy!" Kelli disappeared once more, trailed by the other woman, who carried the trays with her. The men of team seven could only stare.
"Good lord!" Ezra looked at his salad, which had at least two ladles of Italian dressing on it. And, for some unknown reason, he had acquired a chicken sandwich.
JD grimaced as he looked at his bowl. The outside was coated in tomato juice and other bits of soup. He exchanged looks with Josiah. Both men wondered if their waitress had simply dipped the bowls into the pot of soup.
Nathan picked at his salad, which was slathered in ranch dressing. At least his gilled chicken seemed relatively safe.
"So, these are potato triangles," Buck said, as he held up what looked like hash browns formed into a three sided shape.
Chris simply closed his eyes, prayed for the best, and dipped into his soup. Then he shivered as the tepid broth made its way down his throat. He picked up his turkey sandwich and then put it down and dismantled it. There was everything piled on it but lettuce and tomato.
"Well, like I said, the food's decent," Vin grinned. He had been the only one who didn't seem disappointed with what he had ordered. Then he ducked his head when six men glared at him, at a range between a level 5 and a level 9.75. "Yeah, fine, see if I suggest a place to eat again."
"You'll sign an agreement to that effect when we get back to the office, we'll all witness it," Chris said with a straight face. "You will be required to carry a copy of it at all times."
"Dare I ask where our waitress is?" Ezra wondered aloud. "She has yet to return with our checks."
"Maybe that's a sign. We could just leave without paying," Buck suggested. The others snickered and agreed. Soon they were devising an elaborate scheme to walk out without settling up. Even Chris joined in the laughter. The turkey must be doing its job.
Looking at his watch, Nathan suggested, "Maybe we should just go up and pay at the register."
"And if that doesn't work, then we pull the fire alarm and run!" JD chuckled.
Following Chris, the others marched up to the register. They weren't exactly shocked to find Kelli on the other side of the counter; nothing would shock them in this restaurant, at this point. She was simply staring at nothing. As each man reminded her of what he had ordered, she frowned, that expression deepening with each man. Silently each man pondered the look. Finally, as she was ringing up JD, the last of their group, she said, "Are you guys sure? I don't remember your orders like this at all."
Seven men opened and closed their mouths, trying to formulate a response. Finally Josiah gathered his composure. "I suppose it must be difficult to keep them all right in your head. Is this your first day?" He was trying to be diplomatic.
Kelli's expression turned from confusion to near-anger. "I'll have you know that I've worked here for three months! And Daddy says that, if I work at it, I can become a manager by next year!" She huffed and practically threw JD's change at him.
In silence team seven walked toward the van.
"Daddy." Josiah said.
"Answers a lot, don't it?" Buck responded.
Chris rubbed one hand over his churning stomach and the other across his pounding head. Handing the keys over to Vin, he growled, "I call shotgun."
Five of the six others were fine with that. Nobody was particularly interested in sitting any closer to Chris than they had to. Nor were they interested in dealing with all the paperwork when he rammed them into a building.
November 16, 2008