By Tom Chapman
Let us bow our heads in silence for a moment, remembering the brave souls who risk their lives to clean the love nests that Valentine’s guests leave behind on 15th February. Let us also remember the courageous hospitality worker, who will spend Monday morning scrubbing heart shaped confetti from every table in their workplace, then remove it from every one of their personal orifices.
The fact of the matter is, you are never fully indoctrinated into hospitality until you have lost your V. Plates. Forget Christmas, stuff NYE- the sweaty slap of Cupid’s full scrotum across your face could possibly herald the worst day of the year.
A deluge of special specials. Everything is a Dulux colour chart of pinks and reds, arranged in a heart shaped mould… Even the soup. They are accompanied by dayglow pink cocktails, sporting names like ‘Love Potion’ and ‘Blind Date’ that would have Cilla Black spinning in her grave. Your standard eatery becomes an assault on the senses; sickly sweet cheap perfume, little red dresses and poorly ironed shirts litter your once humble establishment. Everyone enjoys carving a pumpkin for a window display on Halloween, but forced to cut happy little hearts to display makes you want to carve your own one out with a butcher knife.
Then there is the request system, a modern torture of the reservation system; you can be held ransom before someone even enters the building. There came the man once who had requested that it was a special occasion. “Certainly sir, you and the other 200 people in tonight”. His demands were a concise Hans Gruber from Die Hard affair. At precisely 20:00 hours a jug of our finest tap water was to be brought to the table, in said jug of FREE council pop was to be placed an engagement ring (some Haribo gummy one no doubt). At this point he was to tie his Lacoste trainers and get down on one Kappa tracksuit knee, popping the question to his Jeremy Kyle girlfriend. Thankfully this never happened and the world was spared one more bitter divorce in the proceeds.
It is everyone’s special day and God help you if you ruin it. Hell hath no fury like a Valentine’s TripAdvisor woman as she spews venom across her keyboard like a lovesick puppy. Those people that syphon every extra moment of your time like love Dementors and you, their own personal server. People who ask for a bouquet of red roses to be ready on arrival, or a dusting of rose petals need to understand, unfortunately your standard restaurant isn’t affixed to a branch of Interflora. This request will go unfulfilled. Secondly our gondola is currently in the repair shop and the opera singer has laryngitis .
Canoodling in a Tunnel of Love like arrangement, the Valentine’s customers will sit on the same side of the table, interlocked for the entirety of their meal and facing you like a washed up X Factor panel. As you can imagine, a Tetris of customers is pretty hard to navigate round. Expect Medusa death glares as you try and place down every course, weaving in and out of their hand grip with each pink food monstrosity.
In my current place of work we operate a strict Valentine’s deposit system. Even a simple request such as this causes outrage amongst Joe public:
“Well, I don’t want to pay a deposit… I have booked five restaurants and me bird is going to pick.”
“I’m sorry sir, but we need the deposit to secure the table, I’m going to have to cancel your booking.”
“But what if she wants to go to your gaff?”
No doubt her first choice of KFC would still have been available at this time.
And yet these people with their requests and deposit qualms are the best of the rest. We have been fully booked for the best part of two weeks now, and yet the phone still rings every five minutes. There is outrage, there is swearing, there is sobbing. “But I have told her I have booked.” The term ‘fully-booked’ also appears not to be one of common knowledge:
“You are fully booked? What about 8pm?”
Calmly you repeat:
“We’re fully booked.”
“How about 8.30 then?”
At this point you twist the knife and prepare for the token “have a nice evening, goodbye”:
“I am afraid we are fully booked and have been for over a week, with it being Valentine’s weekend I am pretty sure most good places are the same… Have a nice evening, goodbye.”
Even as your walk-ins hover over your shoulder and point to empty tables saying “Can’t we sit there?” you can chuckle to yourself. Little do they know, that table is for the saddest event of the evening. The odd number party. Three couples and a hanger on, the table of three, or the elusive keys in the bowl relationship. As the Valentine’s customers shuffle off they are no longer our problem, we pass the baton to those other troopers, the hotel maids.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day everyone – love is in the air.
Tom has promised us he isn’t bitter and he is happy for the people who have found love, he wishes them all the best in their future and he refuses to cry.
Find Tom on his twitter: @TomTomChap
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