Owner Steve’s wife Mary Ann, who everyone thinks is a spy and/or a snitch, approaches Tara and Melissa, who are chatting amiably behind the bar. It’s 5pm, and the only customer is Long Haul, who has returned to drinking Miller Lite after her stint of drinking the more potent Guinness, which she undertook to build up her tolerance. As it’s so early in the evening, there’s no evidence yet that her tactic did or did not work.
“Tara. Melissa,” Mary Ann says.
“Mary Ann,” they reply in unison.
“A man will be coming in tonight to whom you should pay special attention.”
Tara and Melissa say nothing, also in unison.
“He’s very important, and must be treated like gold,” Mary Ann says.
“We treat all of our customers that way,” Melissa says. “What’s so special about him?”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Mary Ann answers.
“How will we recognize him?” the practical Tara asks.
“I’ve never met him, so I don’t know.”
“So why are you even telling us this?” Melissa asks.
“To make sure you are especially careful tonight to provide exemplary service to all your customers.”
Melissa tenses, and Tara is afraid she might say something that both of them will regret, so she quickly says “Will do, Mary Ann, thanks for the heads up.”
Mary Ann literally turns on her heel and heads back to the hostess stand.
“I hate her,” Melissa says. “I hate her very much.”
“I know. She’s awful. Did you notice she has a lazy eye?”
“Yes I have. She probably had it done on purpose, so people don’t know where she’s looking.”
“No doubt,” Tara says. She sees Long Haul indicate she’d like another Miller Lite, and pours one for her.
It became a typically busy Burger Night Tuesday, and Tara and Melissa push the conversation with Mary Ann to the back of their minds. But at about 8:30pm, when most of the crowd has cleared out, they both see a man seat himself at the bar.
“I think that’s our Mystery Man,” Melissa says.
“I don’t disagree, but what makes you think so?” Tara asks.
“He doesn’t look like a bar customer. He looks like he’s sitting there waiting for a meeting to begin.”
Melissa’s comment is likely influenced by the pad of paper and the pen the man has placed in front of him.
“Nice looking guy,” Tara says. “Looks like Paul Rudd.”
“Yeah, but a mean Paul Rudd, which makes it very weird.”
They both reflect for a moment on how nice the real Paul Rudd seems and then realize that by standing around they are not providing the exemplary service mandated by Mary Ann.
“I’ll take him,” Tara says, and heads in his direction.
“Hello, sir, welcome,” she says. “What can I get you?”
“What type of scotch do you have?” Mystery Man answers.
“Cutty Sark, Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker Black, Dewars, and Dewars White,” Tara answers.
“Grey Goose, Absolut, Smirnoff, Skyy.”
“Which is the house brand?”
“May I see a menu?”
“Certainly,” Tara says. There are a few menus behind the bar and she hands him one, along with a clipboard holding a piece of yellow paper listing tonight’s specials. “It’s also burger night. $5 for a 6 ounce burger.”
Mystery Man silently studies the menu. At the one-minute mark, Tara says, “Can I get you a drink while you look at the menu?”
“No,” he says. “Stay.”
Tara stays, and one minute later Mystery Man says, “Grey Goose rocks, blackened chicken sandwich on a Kaiser roll, fries.”
“Lettuce, tomato and onion on the sandwich?” Tara asks.
“No,” Mystery Man says and belatedly adds “Thank you.”
Tara gets him his drink, and enters the food order through the computer at the bar.
Melissa glides up next to her. “What’s the story?”
“Not completely sure. Some sort of mystery diner, maybe.”
“I love that show. My name is Charles Stiles and I’m with a company called Mystery Diners. Solves all restaurant problems in about 12 minutes.”
Tara ignores this. “I’m heading back to the kitchen to make sure that sandwich is perfect.”
If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”