For those of you who are opera buffs or merely enjoy an occasional aria – let me say this so that you can move on to other things. Despite its title, this post is not about Bizet. This is about the most terrific waitress I ever had the pleasure to meet.
When I first moved to Las Vegas I quickly learned that the casinos who catered to “locals” offered far better value than those on The Strip. The food was a third the cost, the slots had higher payouts and it only took half the time to get there. So I began frequenting them.
One of these was a 15 minute drive from the house. I played in their poker room regularly and I liked their buffet.
One night I saw the buffet had a long line. So I thought I would try the casino’s coffee shop instead. I walked in, was seated immediately and began reviewing the menu that the hostess had given me.
As I was pondering my dinner options a server came over to my table. Her name tag said that she was Carmen – but in case I missed it, she introduced herself.
“Hello, my name is Carmen and it’s my pleasure to serve you. Thank you so much for coming in tonight. If you have any questions about the menu I’d be happy to answer them.”
I barely had an opportunity to view the extensive menu but I put it down because this lady’s enthusiasm was so uplifting and genuine. She truly sounded happy to see me – a complete stranger.
I asked her to give me a minute to decide.
“Take your time,” she said. “If you have any questions make sure you let me know.”
I was torn between two items. Would I have the “Turkey Dinner” – or the moderately-less carbohydrate-infused “Meat Loaf?” (I had a high need for some comfort food that night). Decisions. Decisions.
Carmen returned to my table and asked if I had decided.
When I go to a new restaurant I will often ask the server what they would order. So I said to Carmen, “Here’s what I’m thinking about.” And I mentioned the two entrees I was considering.
“Which would you prefer?”
She sort of crinkled her nose and said, “I don’t think you would like either of those so much. I mean, they’re okay – but nothing special. But if you happen to like Reuben sandwiches – those are terrific!” The way she pronounced terrific made me think of Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy.”
I smiled. “Okay, Carmen. You’ve sold me. I’m going to have a Reuben.”
I ate my Reuben and, just as she had promised, it was terrific.
After dinner I got up from the table and left her a 50% tip. I think I was less than generous. This bubbly lady made my day so special with her friendliness, enthusiasm and sincerity that there was no tip I could have left to compensate her adequately.
As I left she said, “Please come back and see me again. And thank you so much.”
When I got to the cashier to pay my check I asked if the manager were available. He came to the front expecting to hear a complaint. I told him how much I had enjoyed my meal and what a pleasure it had been to have Carmen wait on me. A look of relief came over his face and he smiled.
My final comment to him as I left was, “If you could find a way to clone Carmen you wouldn’t have an empty seat in your restaurant.”
Since then I have eaten at the coffee shop every few weeks and always ask for Carmen. Every once in a while the kitchen gets backed-up and my meal takes longer than usual. Whenever this happens, Carmen is always at my table, apologizing for the delay and letting me know, “I’m on those guys in the kitchen.” Then she smiles and says, “You know I’m going to take care of you.”
She always has.
So if you’re ever in Las Vegas and have a taste for a Reuben – I know a place where the service and the sandwich are terrific.