Restaurant Etiquette for Negroes: A Life Tutorial
Last week, My Lady and I went to Chili's with some of my old friends from college. After a short wait, the friendly hostess seated us at a nice table near the door. The waitress arrived soon after. "Hello, my name is Kelly," the waitress said. She was a young lady of ambiguous ethnic background. "I will be your server tonight. What can I get you all to drink?" We ordered two waters, a lemonade and an iced tea. Unfortunately for us, Kelly's hospitality ended when she filled that order.
She didn't bring out my friend Deebo's Chicken Caesar Wrap when she brought everyone's food, and she failed to apologize or offer an explanation. She just walked away and left Deebo there in a state of wonder, mouth and eyes agape. When Kelly returned, the rest of us had nearly finished our food (Deebo insisted that we start without him).
"There was a problem making your chicken wrap," she said before she left again. A few minutes later, Kelly finally returned with Deebo's food.
"What was the problem," I asked her. "Y'all run out of chicken or run out of wrap?"
"Yeah, you just forgot about my man, Deebo," I thought to myself.
On one of her few visits to our table, she refilled my water and Deebo's iced tea, and then turned to my friend, Sean. "You had the lemonade, right?" Sean answered that he did indeed have the lemonade. Kelly then silently walked away without refilling his glass. I guess she wanted to know what he was drinking for her own edification. Or maybe she was just taunting him.
When she brought out the check, the four of us took to the task of divvying up the cash. Somewhere in the process, My Lady pulled a red pen from her purse. "We're striking the chicken wrap from the check," she said. "Kelly can figure out what to tell her manager. I don't think we should pay for it." That proposition made us all a little nervous, especially Deebo, who ordered the wrap. The 250 pound Nigerian has the heart of a saint and wasn't ready to resort to such militant tactics.
"Let's just take it out of her tip," he said in his native tribal language.
"I hate leaving small tips," I replied in English. "She's just going to think that black folks don't leave good tips. You know that's how they think!"
"I feel you," Sean said. "I worry about that too."
"We're probably getting bad service because some other Negroes didn't come out of pocket."
"Maybe they didn't come out of pocket because they got bad service," Kim said.
"Damn, it's like the chicken and the egg!"
"I don't know which came first, but I'm sure glad God made chicken!"
"Shut up, Quint!"
"So what do we do about the tip," Deebo asked.
"Kim, hand me that pen," I said. "Sean, pass me the check. I'm going to write her a note."
"What are you going to say?"
Dear Kelly: I am writing to let you know that the tip is small because your service was sorry, not because we are black.
"There. That's the truth in red ink."
"I just hope we haven't made things worse for our Negro brothers and sisters that may come in the future," Sean said.
"Me too," Deebo said. "Me too."