“Sorry ladies! This table is reserved. May I suggest…”


I went to get their tea. My mind was busy thinking “What can I possibly do to make these guests’ night a special one, beside the usual cake and candle routine?”

1991, working at Triples restaurant in Monterey, I had these two most charming older ladies. I seated them myself, handed them the menus and explained the daily specials in detail. No! They didn’t care for anything from the bar but ordered hot herbal teas, one with milk, the other with lemon. Before being told by one of ladies, I knew they were sisters. They looked so much alike that I actually thought they might be twins. I had guessed both to be in their late sixties and was surprised to hear that it was the younger sister’s eightieth birthday.
I went to get their tea. My mind was busy thinking “What can I possibly do to make these guests’ night a special one, beside the usual cake and candle routine?”
Without an answer, the question still lingering in my mind, with two teas on a round tray in my left hand, I walked from the kitchen back out into the dining room. To my surprise I found the ladies had moved to the best table in the house. Anger toward their outrageous arrogant action was building up. However on second thought I felt somewhat amused about their gutsyness to ignore a reserved sign, to overlook an ice-bucket and the bottle of finest Champagne in it. They had even had the nerve to push the two champagne flutes aside.
Now they smiled into my direction, happy and worry free. I said to myself, “They couldn’t do such! No way!” But realized “They had done it!” I took two deep breaths. The tray with the tea pots in my hand I approached the table and inquired in a nasal French reserved for unpleasant situations, “Excuse moi, madam, mademoiselle. How come you moved to this reserved table?”
“This one is nicer!” One stated as a matter of fact, smiling at me. “We like this table better!” The other confirmed my fears.
“Sorry ladies! This table is reserved. May I suggest a different table?”
“No!” “No!” both sisters agreed, disagreeing with me. “But ladies, you cannot do this!” I said, trying to keep a straight face, knowing they had already done it and they knew too. “We asked for the best table in the house.” One said, looking at me like an innocent angel.
“And we were promised the best table in the house.” The other added uncompromisingly. “This is the best table and that’s where we are going to have our dinner!” The two ladies were persistent not bending one degree.
“Excuse me.” I said and retreated into the kitchen. I needed to get out of their sight. I still had the tray with the women’s tea in my hand. All I wanted and needed was a minute or two to think. Typical the manager had gone home and it was up to me as the senior waiter to deal with the guests problems:

–It was obvious they wouldn’t give up their table without a fight. Yes I knew the couple, for whom I had reserved the table, well enough to move them instead. No, no! I did not want a big scene with these two friendly looking but hostile acting females. If it would have been a any couple or two guys I wouldn’t give in but tell them to get lost. Two women in their eighties this was different.–

I went back to the dining room. Here they were sitting and chit-chatting away, like they had no problems in this world. I served their tea, saying something like, “I respect your wish you may have this table . . .!” I moved the Champagne and the glasses to another nearby table and took the orders from the two sisters. They shared a salad and a pasta. As I served their main meal, the couple, whose table I had given away, arrived. They asked for their table and I noticed myself getting very uncomfortable under their inquiring eyes. Then the wife started laughing and he followed her example. This couple knew the two ladies. The two sisters were relatives of the anniversary couple.
In the years to come, I had the pleasure to wait on the same couple, they usually called before their arrival and asked: “Is our table still available? Or is it once again invaded by alienating relatives?” I have been getting a lot of laughter about the facetious story of the two “old maidens”.

by helmut schonwalder