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  1. Reality Check Redoux* By Rhonda Hansome

    Thursday, January 5, 2017


    I walked the two blocks home from Kumquat, talking to myself. That’s nothing new, what with the seven voices vying for attention in my head.  I was trying to process what just happened.  If my mother (God rest her soul) had done what I’d just done would I have been embarrassed? 

    9:00 PM
    I marveled at the number of white faces crowding the Brooklyn “A” train as we passed Nostrand Ave. I exited the gentrification express and made my way up the M.C. Escher staircase at Utica Ave. station . If I survived the steps, I’d treat myself to a quick drink, an appetizer and call it a night.

    Successfully topside, I saw a martini in my future.  The restaurant, Kumquat (not the real name) is of the new breed Bed-Stuy eateries with real flatware and not one sheet of plexiglass between me and the server. I have 6 receipts from Kumquat offering a 10% discount on future meals (weekends excluded)  stuck on the refrigerator with a magnet that reads, 



                                                    "All these years and still a fox.”  

    It figures I’d be here mid-week without my discount. No biggie. I’ll have a drink, a snack and be home in no time. The hostess seated me and I waited … and waited. I scanned the room, no wait staff in sight. Earlier this week, Daylight Savings snatched an hour and tonight in Kumquat, time was still evaporating. I did the craned neck - index finger at half- mast gesture and got the distracted attention of the hostess. 

    “Are there any waiters on duty?” 

    “Yes, she’ll be right over.”   

    “What’s the soup of the day?” 

    “I’ll go find out.”

    You’ll go find out? It’s almost closing time, and you don’t know the soup du jour?

    I ignored that voice grumbling in my head. I cleared my phone, of fifteen emails, and decided to forgo my drink by the time the hostess returned and announced,

    “Black bean with kale, how does that sound?” 

    “Good”

     “So that’s what you’ll have?” 

    I nodded yes. Three emails later, my waitress appeared.

    I’m Kira, would you like something to drink? 

    When I came in, I did, but now?  More head grumbling.

    “No thank you Kira. I’ll just have soup. The hostess may have put in my order.  She mentioned the black bean with kale.”

    “I’ll put that order in for you now.”  

    Sounds like more waiting. I  picked up my phone to quiet the restless toe tapping in my head. Two emails later my soup was on the table. It was indeed black bean and kale, but mammoth chunks of chicken jostled for room in the huge white bowl. I’m not complaining because a mass of smoked poultry lurked under every piece of kale. If I were still a practicing semi-vegetarian, I’d have been outraged by the surfeit of fowl in what had sounded like a hearty vegan potage.  I forged through the gumbo with gusto, but pieces of chicken relentlessly mocked me from the enormous bowl. 

    After seating two men, the hostess passed within arm’s length and noticed my finger again at half-mast. 

    “The soup had chicken, lots and lots of chicken.”  She paused, perplexed.  “I’m not complaining.  It’s just you said black bean with kale and the soup had lots of chicken.” 

    She fixed her face and said, “Yes, there’s chicken in it, but that’s the way it’s written up ‘black bean with kale.” 

    “No problem, I’ll take my check.” 

    Bam! Kira materialized at my table.

    “How was the soup?” 

    “Actually it was very good, but there was a lot of chicken in it.  It was more like chicken with black beans and kale.” 

    “There’s chicken in it but that’s the way it’s written up, black bean with kale; anything else?”

    “No thank you Kira. Have a good night.”  

    She placed the check on my table and went into hiding. $6.00 for a giant bowl of soup, 53 cents added for tax.  No problem. Just above the 10% discount incentive was the suggested gratuity: 16% leave $1.08, 20% leave $1.20. To spite the “Blacks are bad tippers” stereotype, I went all out and left $1.25 on the table. I’ll pay the hostess at the door with a twenty and get on home.

    Well, she’d been at the door when I rose from my table, but where was the hostess now? No Kira, either, so I approached the bartender.

    “I’d like to pay my check.” 

    Her face said, “This is not my job”, her mouth said, “I’ll get your waitress.”   

    I checked messages until Kira returned from the hidden world where servers… well, hide.  From behind the bar she handed me two 5’s, three one’s, returned my receipt and went back into hiding. The receipt total read $6.53 and I had thirteen dollars in hand. I have math anxiety, so several times I used my fingers to confirm, I was short forty-seven cents. I offered the bartender my receipt and the money.

    “I’m short forty-seven cents change.” 

    She sighed, “Since the waiters don’t carry nickels and dimes they just round up.”

    That’s when one of the voices in my head, Penny Pincher, shouted “What the fuck???  That bitch just took money out the cash register. Don’t tell ME there’s not forty-seven cents in there!!”  I ignored Penny’s outburst and quietly said, 

    “I’m short on my change.” 

    She sighed,  “I’ll call your waitress.”

    When Kira appeared bar side, I calmly said,

    “I’m short forty-seven cents change.”
     
    I kid you not, Kira tilted her head and said.

    “We round up.” 
    Now I’ll admit I’m still catching up to the 21st century, but when did rounding up your bill become the norm? 

    “You round up without mentioning it to the customer?”

    Kira set her jaw, veiled her eyes but not her incredulous tone.

    “You want me to break a dollar?” 

    Penny Pincher began stomping her feet, rocking her neck and looking for the nearest exit out of my head; to throttle Kira. 

    I calmly replied, “Yes.”

    For a reality check,  I complained to the bearded brother sitting at the bar. 

    “I’m short forty-seven cents because they rounded up.  I just want my change.”  

    From behind a shield of beef, lettuce and bun, he murmured, “If that’s what you want.”

    Penny Pincher ignored the hint of dismissal dripping from his burger. In an effort to rile up the other voices in my head Penny started to chant, “It’s my money!  It’s my money!”  Kira appeared before the other voices could pick up the mantra. She counted out forty cents in coins and with a sullen thump placed them AND a dollar on the bar.

    “This is yours.”

    “I gave you a generous tip.”
     
    “Did you?” 

    Kiri shot down my feeble attempt to reason with a wait person I would likely encounter again.  
    Seven cents short, I pushed Penny Pincher AND Kira’s dollar aside. I palmed the forty cents and made my way into the night.  

    Did I miss the news flash - Restaurants Agreed To Round Up Your Bill?  Who gets the profit?  Is it shared by the staff or go straight to the owner?  And why did Kira ask befuddled,

    “You want me to break a dollar for you?” 

    “Hell yes, bitch, if it means I get MY MONEY!”


    Penny Pincher shouted from her corner of my mind where she sat washing pennies plucked from rest room floors.
    Come see me make funny
    7:30 PM Friday Jan. 13th 


    *Redoux = Re-purposed from May 2013 (Hence the ancient Blackberry)
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  2. 2 comments:

    1. I remember this story from when you lived in Brooklyn. I'm with you and Penny, not because I'm a pincher but because I like to decide what to do with my money. That rounding up BS is nothing I ever heard of.

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