It’s a moment every waiter dreads.
You’ve just placed the food down at a table of four elderly folks. “Everything look good?” you ask. They nod and mumble a little, slowly unwrapping their forks and knives.
“Well, you folks enjoy!” you say, in your most cheerful waiter-voice. You fill a few iced teas and walk away.
Moments later, you return. “Everything taste all right? Ma’am, how’s your dinner? Not too much pepper?”
“Sir, how’s that steak? Cooked all right?”
Then you notice: they’re all dead. Three of them have sprawled forward and smashed their faces into their food. One of the ladies is submerged up to her ears in a bowl of gazpacho, while her friend – Lydia, she called her – is sinking face-first into a generous serving of mushroom lasagne. Her husband, a man of about 80, is balanced on his forehead in the middle of his steak.
The other guy is gone. No, wait: there’s a wrinkled hand jutting out from below the table cloth. He appears to have slid off his chair.
You decide to play it cool.
“Can I get you guys anything right now?”
No answer, obviously.
“Great! Enjoy your dinner.”
You walk away, clenching your teeth, your mind racing. What do you do? It’s a slow night. You need this tip, bad, and dead people are notoriously bad tippers.
About 20 minutes later you check in again. The guy with the steak has rolled a little to the left, and his head is now resting peacefully in a soft pillow of red chili mashed potatoes. You glance at the empty chair for the guy who’s now laying under the table: “how was your pork chop, sir? Not too dry?”
You pause, then chuckle, and look at the back of his wife’s head, the one laying in her soup: “is he always like this? Does he behave himself at home? Ha, ha. Oh, stop it, you!”
“Well, if everyone’s done, I’ll get these plates out of your way,” you say, reaching for a plate then quickly jerking your hand back. “Not done? There we go! Whoop! Ha, ha, ha. You guys are trouble!”
With some effort, you manage to twist the plates out from under their heads. The soup lady is now lying in a shallow pool of gazpacho. Lydia, the lasagne lady, is wearing a veritable cheese-mask and there’s a whole button mushroom jammed in her nose. “Did anyone leave any room for dessert? You did? No? OK, I’ll just bring the check, then.”
You print out their bill, place it on the table and give it a little pat: “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready,” you say. “No rush.”
After a few minutes you walk over, find a wallet among the corpses and put a credit card on the bill.
“This all ready to go?” you ask. “OK, great. I’ll be right back.”
You drop the check back at the table, along with a pen: “Thank you SO much for coming in folks! Hope to see you again soon!”
Later, you’re thrilled to discover they’ve left you a 25 percent tip! Unfortunately, a guest from one of your other tables looks over and screams: “those people are all dead!”
The restaurant goes silent. Everyone turns to look at the dead people, and you, holding your tip.
“Oh, that’s so sad,” you say, almost in a whisper, backing away from the table. “I’ll get some to-go coffins.”