Canadians Don't Always Apologize


Sandy was enjoying a slow coffee after breakfast at the City Centre Grill. Marcel was on a holiday to the old country and his daughter Samantha was in charge for the month. Sister Karina was cooking, and the new woman Cindy was waiting tables.

The latter had the nervous look of the hopeful novice. Her hair had been tossed back into a hurried pony tail. She talked with Samantha of the mechanics of day care for a little girl. Of buses to be caught. Of sniffles and symptoms which were raising some alarm.

Shortly Sandy would be off to help his son-in-law Ken paint a couple of bedrooms. He had picked up the colours as instructed the day before from Rona building centre.

An influx of cold November air at the door announced a middle-aged couple, smartly dressed and engaged in heated conversation.

"I told you Frank that there wasn't time to stop in at that men's shop. The rehearsal is in an hour. It's hard enough to stomach that niece of mine. But you had to add to my torment by keeping me waiting twenty minutes in the parking lot. And then that ridiculous sweater! You'll have to take it back."

The patrons of the grill registered a collective "neck-jerk", but then attempted to resume the quiet Saturday morning pace. Sandy looked at Cindy and winked.

"Young lady, could we have you over here quickly please?"

Frank liked the looks of the omelette and rye toast.

"No dear, that will take much too long. Something light just to tide us over until the wretched rehearsal luncheon...I'll have orange juice, brown toast and a poached egg, but not too soft."

Frank mumbled something about a fruit cup, coffee and "everything" bagel toasted.

Cindy noted, nodded and turned to the order counter.

Sandy resumed his magazine article about bird wood-carving techniques.

But the pain and the awkwardness were only going to intensify, and all at Cindy's expense. The table was tapped. The hour of the day was called out. The slight burn around the toast crust was noted. The egg was way too soft.

With each complaint the young waitress attempted to smile and rectify. But she was becoming flushed, and panic was rising in the face of cross-examination. At one point Frank interjected, "Ease up Valerie, it's only a light morning snack."

But a look colder than the out-of-doors caused him to resume his study of the buttered bagel. The manager came over inquiring. It was obvious that she was taking the path of least resistance. Casting a look of impatience herself at Cindy.

Ten minutes back Sandy had closed his magazine. Turning to his right he noticed that the two hockey dads and sons were staring wide-eyed.

"What does a person have to do to get a second cup of..."

That was it. Sandy had had enough. With his resonant voice he let it out:

"Valerie we are all disappointed...with YOU. I don't know where you come from, but you need to go back there, soon. Obviously this place...our place, is not to your liking. Please pay your tab. Don't worry about Cindy's tip. I'll make it a good one."

Frank lowered his head and smiled.

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