“You need to see the manager,” the waiter told me, raising his eyebrows and shrugging to show me it was out of his hands.
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary. All I’ve asked is for you to bring me one of the stubbies I handed over to you earlier. Just bring one of them with you when you come back please.”
“You go see the manager.”
I had absolutely no fucking idea why I would need to talk to the manager but I was given the distinct impression that it was because I’d done something wrong, and it had something to do with my asking for one of the stubbies. Maybe they’d lost them and the manager was going to apologise and offer me some other bottles of beer. That was about as much as I could come up with and judged it pretty unlikely as soon as it occurred to me.
No, it looked like I was going to be hassled. And I was a bit irritated by that prospect as I dragged myself up from my seat and walked through an arch to where the manager was standing behind a bar. I’d already heard from the colleague who organized the night out that this manager had a long and proud history of rubbing people up the wrong way. He was thirtieish; smooth of skin and hair; and ginger-fair in that northern Italian way. Southern Italians reckon northern Italians are all up themselves. I’m not sure if that’s one of the great truths, but this bloke might have had his own colonoscopy footage playing over and over in his mind.
Like the waiter, he looked like he wanted to impose himself on the ambience. And he was going to do that by being a pain in the arse. And I picked up that he thought I was not the kind of customer he really wanted in his restaurant. So he and the waiter probably felt some kind of entitlement about treating our group like shit. I wanted to help him understand that the unpleasant customer he was dealing with was entirely his own creation.
“The waiter told me I had to come and see you to get one of my stubbies.”
“Well, there’s a problem with the stubbies you’ve brought into the restaurant. We are BYO, but wine only.”
“Really. That sounds like a very uncommon arrangement.” This is a few years ago now, probably 1998, when this sort of drink-specific BYO, now widespread, was still very much in its infancy. “There’d be quite a few of your patrons caught out by that, I’d imagine.”
“No, not at all. It’s printed on all of our menus.”
“Menus that aren’t sighted till after everyone’s sat down. I said g’day and went off to get some beer. This is the first time that’s ever been something to be hassled over. What’s the reasoning behind the restriction?”
“People come in, and I’m sure you can imagine, they have eskies loaded up with beer and it’s not the sort of dining experience we want for this restaurant.”
“My dining experience has been getting hassled for bringing in six stubbies. Of light beer. You’ve created a problem where there wasn’t one.”
“You’ll find most of the restaurants in Lygon St are now BYO wine only.”
“I don’t go to Lygon St much anymore. Too many people who just want to give you a hard time. I’ll grab those stubbies thanks. All of them. I don’t want to have to ask your waiter to bring me one and have to go through this all over again.”
“Do you intend to drink them here?”
“Yeah I do. And I don’t expect to be persecuted for it either.”
He handed them over and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly. We’d finished the main course by this time and didn’t need to have as much contact with the waiter and didn’t see the manager again.
One wit back at the table referred to my stubbies as the Carlton Six. The next day, I was to hear a view of the evening and the incident that seemed to come from a strange parallel universe.
Update: Well, not really an update, but does anyone know how to make my sidebar appear at the side of my posts and not all the way down the bottom? If there are any kind souls out there who can help, I'd really appreciate it. And feel free to patronize me for my stupidity.