The Night of the Waiter


We start out at Demínka. It’s a classic Czech joint near I.P Pavlova. High ceilings, chandeliers, and, tonight, about 350 people. This is weird. Demínka is usually a relatively quiet place. What is also weird is the fact that three nanoseconds after I walk in the place and begin cutting through the crowd, the waiter is on me like John Goodman on a taco.

If you have ever been to the Czech republic or have had any experience with any Czech waiter, you know they are not the most attentive breed. If a Czech waiter approaches you immediately, it’s because he wants to deliver bad news. And this one does with a smile on his faux-hawked face.

“Nemáte reservace?” Do you have a reservation?

“Ne.” No. I already know where this is going. The place is jammed.

“Ah, bohužel…” Unfortunately, he shakes his head and tries to hide the smile from his face. It’s all I have to hear. I somehow try to resist the urge to give him a Merry Christmas headbutt in the throat.

Here’s the thing, there is nothing a Czech waiter likes more than to say “no” or “unfortunately” or “I’m sorry” and then follow that with bad news. Nothing. And as I walk out of Demínka, I know it’s going to be a Czech waiter kind of evening. And this prediction is spot frickin’ on.

The next place is a downstairs joint. Four of the tables have reserved signs on them, yet I disappoint the waiter by finding a table right next to the door. He is Droopy Dog in human form, he sighs deeply, drops his shoulders, and serves us a beer. It’s Christmas, so his level of misery is only 8.4 out of a possible 10. When I upgrade my order and ask for Becherovka he glares at me as though I have orchestrated a gang beating of his grandmother.

He perks up when one of his fellow waiters drops 6 (yes, 6) bottles of wine. She and he both stare in frozen horror as it happens, but it does give him something to complain about for the next thirty minutes. And, as an added benefit, he is now justified in turning away the next 18 people who come to the pub in hopes of getting a drink.

“Sorry,” he explains to them, “there’s wine on the floor.”

To the waiter’s phenomenal relief, the people all nod and go off to find libations in different pubs nearby.

The wine emergency has ended, family members have been notified, they take away the four chairs that act as orange emergency cones, and they decide to start letting in more customers. The Doctor and I decide to change locale. This is surely a gamble, since it’s after 9 pm and there’s no telling how one of the waiters in the area might react to someone coming to the door after 9 pm. It’s a risk we decide to undertake. It should be mentioned that nobody sat at one of the reserved tables. Perhaps they were one of the 18 cast back into the night.

The first place we come across boasts a 1 am closing time. The waiter rolls his eyes as we walk in, this in dark contrast to his Santa hat and elf ears. I order two beers and two shots of Becherovka and he pours them but informs me they’ll be closing after he pours my drinks. I look around the full restaurant and ask, “Fakt?” Really?

“Fakt.” Really. Then he says other things but they come out in the Gatling gun language of Asshole Waiterese and I don’t catch it. True to his word, when I try to get another round, he tells me they’re closing just before he walks off to a table with a tray full of drinks.

Learning a language is all about exposure and motivation. My newest motivation to become fluent in Czech is so I can properly tell a Czech waiter where he can stick his reserved sign.

I decide to torture the next waiter by acting as though I am not sure what kind of beer I want. Then I ask for water from the tap and she lets out a just heard about the slow painful death of a good friend sigh. She plops it down in front of me and I ask her instead for sparkling water. She eyes me with a hatred reserved for Adolf Hitler and those who change their order. When I ask her for a bag of chips I think she might actually have a stroke, so I tell her instead that I don’t want them and then I go to my table and sit down. I may or may not be slightly physically aroused.

When she comes to the table thirty seconds later I am fully prepared to pay.

“Closing,” she says. “You must pay.”

I pay, tip, thank her. She walks away. I say good night wish her a Veselé Vánoce (Merry Christmas) and she sneers at me so hard that I want to cry.

My work here is done. Merry Christmas to all you Czech waiters!

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