As the Barrel Turns...
The M6 marketing director and I went out to research the other businesses; how they handle customer service, attention and detail. We went to a breakfast venue in Austin Texas. This was a busy spot, budget price, and a reminder of times past. (In other words, we were hungry for breakfast and I did not want to spend much). Vinyl booths, busy carpet to mask stains and a dull roar of satisfied conversation permeated the room. Contentment was prevalent – except in the waiting area.
We are accustomed to waiting for a table at Austin area eateries. I have to wonder why I am willing to wait in a crowded room to purchase a product. Why don’t they cater to me? The food and service either must be over the top great, or it is cheap. With me today, it is the latter. As we waited, I became aware of the mood of the room.
We have all been there. We choose the place and drive up without a reservation. We immediately assess the number of cars in the parking lot. I notice cars dropping off passengers. Under the pretense of being considerate gentlemen, they are really rushing to get on the list before me.
I scan the lot for open parking. I calculate that I can park and still beat the retired couple who are waddling toward the door. I accelerate across the lot and the doors fly open as I slide to a halt. We goose step with large strides trying to appear casual as we rate to overtake the other contestants. Of course we always walk like that!
Alas, I resolve that we are beaten and I graciously reach to open the door for the couple. I may be slightly competitive, but I am a gentleman, after all. As I reach for the door, seemingly accidental and without the slightest glance my way, the flash of a walking cane firmly plants between my feet. The skill was akin to that of Errol Flynn deftly parrying his sword as Robin Hood.
The “sweet” lady then looks my way as if startled by my presence. The expression and smile on her lovely face told me that she did not see me coming and she appreciated me holding the door. Either that or ‘Watch it buster. I know how to use this thing and I’m not afraid of you. I can send you to the ER and make it look like an accident.’
Anne gives our name to the hostess who acknowledges our second-place finish behind the great-grandparental figures. We take our place among the anxious hungry. The atmosphere is thick with anticipation. 30 or so people have all been told that there will be a “20-minute wait”. Anne mentally catalogues each group and prepares to protest if any later arrival gets a table before us.
Few speak; only whispers. There is no eye contact, most stare at the floor or covetously at the occupied tables covered with eggs and pancakes. With the perceived pace of a sloth, names are called which reduce the congestion ahead of us. Thought bubbles appear over the heads of the despondent. Thoughts such as; “I hope I get my table before you”, and “If you were not here, I would get the next table”, and “If you are not hungry, can I go first?”. One skinny chick looked at me as if she was thinking, “You have not missed many meals. You need to skip this one and go home!”
Instead of banning together to plot against the real enemy, those taking their sweet time at their personal feed trough, the waiting room is futilely (mentally) jockeying for position. The hostess enjoys her authoritative control so much that she probably works for free. Twinkling eyes and a lipstick smile hides her true dictatorial disposition. Only the uninformed dare to approach her and ask ‘how much longer’. The seasoned veterans among us smile inwardly knowing that such bold individuals are moved to the bottom of the list and get a 20-minute penalty for questioning the commandant. We just moved up a notch! I consider pulling out a $20 for favorable treatment until I realize why I chose this place. Our whole breakfast will be less than $20. Frugality always gets my attention.
Eyes focus on a couple that has finished and are now sipping their 3rd cup of post meal coffee. Their return look was one of satisfied entitlement. I think I hear her say “I can stay here as long as I want. I think I’ll have a look at the lunch menu now.”
Another name is called and feelings of exultation sweep over the contest winners. The rest of us jeer disgust and frustration. When our name is called, we bow and I prepare to make a speech thanking all who made this moment possible. Anne grabs me by the arm for stability. She has been getting faint for lack of nourishment. She sneaks a sausage from a distracted patron as she glides past. We proceed to our spot at the feed trough with great anticipation.
I have been trying to eat healthy meals for the past couple of years. After this wait, I am looking for the Hungry Man’s Special Platter. We eat, coffee and take our deserved bonus time at the table. We lament overeating; AGAIN. We waddle to the car, drive away sleepily and then remember our task of market research. Next time, I must stay focused!