the “a la carte” we didn’t eat!

27th mar 07
boracay island

there is something you have to know about four of my siblings.

there are only few dishes served on the face of the earth that they all eat. three of these are known up to this period and the rest, i have high hopes, will unfold before our eyes in the future to come.

take the case of eggs, for example. our two younger brothers only eat them sunny-side up and one would only touch the egg whites and the other, the yolks. a younger sister of mine would only eat it scrambled (with onions and tomatoes).

one of them doesn’t eat chicken. one of them worship fish. they all eat pork meat but they prefer different dishes out of it.

jesse and i have ideas how to make them snapped out of it; jesse’s idea more evil than mine, of course. but for this particular holiday, they can eat anything they want.

that was how we ended up in this filipino restaurant by the beach that serves grilled meat among others, a variety of a la carte dishes that suit each of the eccentric member of the Po family. dinner was predictably fun, as all family dinner are. although we do not have the luxury of time to spend as many of them as we like (with me and jesse in the metropolis all the time and father only coming home twice a year), we are considerably one very happy and contented family.

and we are always fun together.

and then the cashier informed me when i asked for the bill that they are going to charge us for the two dish mistakenly served in our table by one of the waiter. what we ordered were a la carte dishes and thus very easy to keep track of. we would have known if it was served to us because that would mean 2 more extra plates on the table for 9 people who already have 10 plates of a la carte orders. i saw at once that there was indeed two orders unaccounted for, otherwise, the waiter wouldn’t take as much effort trying to pin down to which table it was served. the two orders didn’t cost a fortune, they were really reasonably priced (one reason why we chose their restaurant over the others). i could have paid for it with one eye closed if it wasn’t for the unprofessional way the cashier carried herself,

“and about the two orders, maam? i will charge it to the waiter instead.”

“i am sorry?”

“he mistakenly served the orders to your table.”

“we would have known if it was, miss.” i told her. “because by then we would have too much in our table and we obviously ordered one for each of us plus an extra order.”

“okay, then. i will charge it to his salary instead.”

there is only one thing that i cannot tolerate more than delayed flights, it is poor customer service. my consideration for bad service is zero. it irks me more than anything else because although in my line of work i am way above the frontliners, i breathe the financial figures in a way that they will smell excellent customer service to our clients.

“excuse me,” i started in Filipino language and from the corner of my eye i saw mother squirmed. i gather it takes a lot of getting used to seeing me stand up for my rights. after all, i was still the 8 year old girl who cried softly in one corner after a 4-year old girl hit me for fun because i was afraid that if i hit back my parents would scold me for getting into a fight. fights, arguments, debates…. they were all synonymous then. “we are paying for what we ordered and ate.”

she has the nerve to shrug! “here is your bill.”

i did not accept it and keep on looking at her in the eye. hers was strayed wherever. and because i was already mad and insulted and because i have the need to express myself to her, i spoke in straight english, “there is something you have to understand, miss. you seem to be implying that we ate something that was mistakenly served on our table without raising it up and then refuse to pay for it because we did not order it.” i paused, she did not contradict me. “i am very much insulted about that impression and i would like you to tell me otherwise if i have mistook your attitude that way. it is quite a bad thing that you have two orders unaccounted for but to go as far as behaving like that to your customers is much worse.”

i would have like to add, just because we do not look like the type of family that can afford a holiday in boracay. but i restrained myself when i saw my father’s expression. it was one thing to set the record straight to other people, it is another thing that in doing so, i might have given a wrong impression to the rest of my family.

and after i said it, she stammered an incomprehensible statement. “im sorry, what is it?” i asked her to say it louder just so i would hear it clearly.

“here is the bill for your orders.” she handed me the charge slip. i paid her in cash and she went back to get the change.

because i was already pissed and when i am pissed it is very hard to hide the expression from my face, i asked my parents if it was alright that we should leave the restaurant and go enjoy the sandcastles. father reminded me it would be a good idea to wait for the change. i told him they can keep it as a tip; after all, before the mix-up happened, we had no problem with the service.

“she might think we really ate the two orders.” he said.

“oh, she can think what she wants. bad customer service pisses me off.”

“they will charge the waiter for those two orders. they’re gonna take it from his already small salary.” father continued. father always have a soft spot for the financially inconvenient party, no matter where the fault lies. we all got it from him; he was the influence why we would never complain for a late pizza delivery because we find it seem very unfair that the delivery boy has to pay for a pizza we can very well afford just because he was not able to deliver it in 30 minutes.

father and i are alike in so many ways it is quite dangerous sometimes to put us under one roof together. the only difference between us is that where he keep his mouth shut, i opened mine.

what father was trying to say was it wouldn’t hurt us to pay for the two orders. it was not really much for me. i understand his point. and seriously, i wouldn’t have blink twice for the charge if it weren’t for the way the cashier treated us. she would never say it the way she said it if i was with my city friends or if i was with my swiss friend, dani, or if our complexion was a little fairer, our expressions a little stricter.

but, reality check, this is how the world turns. in an island that is frequented by the more privileged, by the balikbayans, by the yuppies, by the social climbers, gold diggers, and impostors, being the kind of family that you were at home is a crime in itself.

no, we love the way we are. the way we look. and we ain’t gonna change.



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