by Esther Elizabeth Suson
On Independence Day (June 12) last week, the family and I celebrated my youngest sister’s eighteenth – and my grad, and Dad’s – at a buffet place at our favorite mall with the dancing fountain.
While I was filling my coffee cup at the Nescafe vendo machine after a couple of plates, I realized that it would be rather difficult to lift it off its perch without a saucer. Then I saw them: the saucers were behind the cups and I, glasses on and all, had missed them.
A man in a chef’s uniform and no hat was leaning against the counter drinking iced water, with an air that bespoke ownership or authority, not the poised attention of trained service. As I glanced at the saucers, he reached over, took one, and plonked it on the counter beside me without so much as a “here you go ma’am” and without any attempt to keep the movement soundless.
“Thank you,” I said, and turned and tilted up my head to look at him – but he was already turning away. He was tall, and I was even in heels (not that there’s much inches on me, but still). His face caught my eye though – it had that Gregory House/Sherlock Holmes ‘look’ of a man who is something of a sociopath but is too high-functioning to fire.
I could almost hear his brain: Who is this idiot girl who forgot to get a saucer first? Her lack of a saucer is annoying me. Her lack of height is annoying me. And then I imagine him reaching over and giving me the saucer so that his annoyance goes away.
Even as I looked after him, he stalked away without any of that subservience that renders the best-trained waiters invisible. He checked on each dish, glanced over at the cooks behind the counters, and walked around the paying guests as if they were non-existent. (My Ramblemate referred to him as a “strutting rooster”).
It amused me, amuses me, no end – that man who doesn’t seem to see anything but his own work – that he may have given me a saucer simply because he couldn’t stand the unfitness of my not having one.
[I must say that most of this is conjecture, of course. But it really did happen, and in the manner that I described. And it was half the fun of the lunch, after all].