Written by Erskin Quint

Sunday, 5 December 2010

image for At The Restaurant
"Your bill, Sir." "No I'm not. He's Bill. I'm Rodger."

Good evening Sir. Are you ready to order?

Why yes, I think I am.

Very good Sir, go ahead.

Who do I give my orders to?

To me, Sir. That's my job, to receive your order.

Right. I want you to recite Charge of The Light Brigade for me. Then I would like you to fetch the Chef and I would like you to dance a polka together. Then I want you to go and stand over there, by the castor oil plant, and count to 3567. When you've done that, can you bring me a Bhutanese shepherdess, naked in a bath of rosewater?

I don't follow you, Sir.

I'm giving you my orders.

(sigh) Very good, Sir. Very funny. Perhaps Sir would like to order something from the menu?

The what?

The menu, Sir. It's the big card thing standing on the table there.

Ah, that. I wondered what that was. I thought it was a magazine. What do I do with that?

You use it to order your meal, Sir.

Oh, I'm supposed to order a meal, am I?

That's it, Sir. Sir is a quick learner.

Ah, right, order my meal.

That's about it, Sir.

Hmm. Ok, I'll have pudding first, then an aperitif, and finally the main course. That's the order for me.

No, Sir, that's not the way to do it. You...

Don't tell me. I want to work it out myself.

Very well, Sir. I'll just wait here shall I?

Yes, you do that. You are a waiter, aren't you?

I am a waiter, yes, Sir.

Right. I tell you what I want. I'll have the aperitif upside down, the starter facing West-North-West, the main course diagonally-aligned, and the dessert back to front.

Excellent, Sir, but may I...

I haven't finished yet.

Sorry Sir.

I'd like coffee and biscuits and brandy all at once but in a widdershins direction, OK?

Thank you, Sir, these are very full and precise instructions, but I'm afraid we serve all our food in the conventional way here.

How do you mean, "conventional way"?

Well, Sir, it all comes the right way up, completely stationary, on plates or in dishes...

Stationary, you say? By stationary, do you mean...?

Now Sir, please, I can divine your intent here. No, to anticipate you, we do not serve envelopes, pens, set squares, postage stamps, writing paper or punched pockets, amusing as the pun might seem to be to you. We...

What are you talking about? That's not what I was going to ask at all. I was merely about to enquire whether by stationary, you meant:

  • not moving or at rest
  • unchanging
  • a stationary process in the statistical sense
  • a stationary point in the mathematical sense
  • a stationary set in mathematics
  • a time-invariant quantity such as temperature, such as they speak of in physics
  • a steady state physical process like a vibration, again described in physics

The word is often confused with that describing office supplies, but I was not party to such confusion just now, neither accidentally, nor indeed deliberately.


What's the matter, cat got your tongue?

Well, Sir has quite thrown me rather, with Sir's expoundings.

We were discussing the "conventional" ordering of my meal.

Ah yes, the meal. Well, I am sure that I don't know about vibrations or statistics, but I can assure Sir that all our food is of the highest quality and very highly-rated in the business.

Is it?

Oh yes, Sir. So perhaps, finally, Sir would like to order? After all, the night draws on, the sky begins to bruise, and we shall be forced to camp!

Are you telling me to hurry up?

Heaven forfend, Sir, that I should even suggest that Sir is deliberately wasting my time, the time of the kitchen staff, the time of those other customers who even now are beginning to glance askance at this very table, or, indeed, the time allotted to Sir himself to strut and fret across this world of troubles.

Very well, I can see that I'm not going to get the answers I am looking for here. So sod it. I'll have the melon to start, followed by the beef wellington, and I'll try the spotted dick for dessert.

Thank you, Sir. And would Sir like to order some wine with his meal?

Yes please. Can I speak to the wine waiter?

It's not a problem, Sir, there is no need. I myself can advise you on the wine list.

No, I want to speak to the wine waiter please.

I can assure you, Sir, that there is not a...

Do you want me to call for the Head Waiter?

No, Sir, I do not wish for that to be done. The Head Waiter is very busy tonight, Sir, and he will not be available to come to the table, Sir, no indeed not, Sir.

What? Why not?

Well, we have a consignment of sheep's heads due to arrive later, and he is waiting for those. It is for a delegation from Outer Mongolia, who are visiting us tomorrow evening.

You're joking.

No, indeed, Sir, would that I had time to indulge in idle japings about Mongolian delegations and sheep's heads and a Head Waiter waiting for such heads. It is all as true as I am standing here, my good Sir.

All, right then. No Head Waiter for me, then?

I am afraid not, Sir. But if Sir really insists upon speaking to the whine waiter?

The wine waiter, yes, I do. I think it's the least I can expect.

Very well, Sir, but I would still assure you that...

Just get him.

Very good, Sir, I shall tell him to come. [goes off...]

[whiney voice, French accent] Good evening, Sir.

Er, good evening. You are the wine waiter?

Yes, I am he. Le sommelier.


Le sommelier. (sighs)

Wine waiter.

The waiter of the whines, yes, Monsieur. The French sommelier, n'est ce pas. Les vins.

Of the wines.

The whines, yes, Monsieur.

Would you care to describe the best wines for me, to help me to choose?

It is not a happy place for me to be au travail, this place, no.


For me, it is, how you say, the nuit-cheval? Oh yes.


As you say, the horse of the night, no?

What are you talking about?

Le cauchemar, as we say.

What has this to do with wine?

It is the whines of which I have been, how you say, requested, a expliquer, is it not, mon brave?

The wines, yes.

Ah, mais oui. Quite so. Parfaitement. En un mot. How you say, "Inside the shell of the nut".

Look, I...

Moi? I am not for the restaurant, no. It is la vie poetique for which I am suitable, no? For me to live in your Edinburgh, comme the grand homme de lettres like your Sir Robert Stephenson of the houses de light and the Jean d'Argent longue. But ici je suis, with the dirty dishes and the clientele ignorant who can neither tell the great volumes poetic from a book of the egg cookings by their Delia Smith.

Hang on a minute. I want to...

Ah, no. But will they listen to the cri de couer from the struggling artiste. Mais non. Ces salauds! How you say, the filthy dogs that smell without the fathers! I spit upon them and their mothers! And now you, who is the glutton and the salivating swine and should be in the fields with the stupid porks a-grunting and the silly sheeps covered in wool, you are sending for me to speak of the vins de table when I should be at my escritoire like your Jeremy d'Archer or the Alan de Titshmerde Le Jardinier de Ma Tante. I vomit in your bestiality. You son of a milkjug with the holes and the cheese with rottings. Ha! your Charles de Dickinson would not lecher mon derriere. He is the putain de putains!. Le faggot with hairs! Ha![goes off in a huff]

[after a pause, original waiter comes back]: Good evening again, Sir, and are you now the wiser for speaking to our waiter of whines?

Oh yes. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am a wiser, and an older, man, for that experience. I now truly know all about the whines of this restaurant, but, insofar as we are talking about wine, from the vine, then I will now bow to your expertise, my good man.

Very good, Sir. Then I would recommend an excellent Cote de Nuits. And so, would you be ready to receive your first course now?

I certainly would. But tell me one thing.

Yes, Sir?

On the menu here, it speaks of your atmospheric lighting.


Well, it certainly is atmospheric. But what's this here - "eclectic lighting? Surely that is an error?

Why no, Sir. Not one light is the same. They are indeed the most eclectic of lights, are they not?

Oh, dear, I should have guessed!

Quite so, Sir. And now, if Sir will permit, I shall bring Sir his starter.

Thanks, I'm pretty hungry after all this talking!

[pause. Waiter returns with another man in a white cap, with a pistol]

What's going on now?

Your starter, Sir. Please enjoy!

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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