Saturday, March 15, 2008

Austin service

Austin is a fun town, filled with drunk kids and music blaring out of every downtown door and backyard. It’s also refreshingly hot here: it got to 95 yesterday, and from my first show at 2 p.m. until I stumbled back to the hotel 13 hours later, everyone I saw was covered in a thin film of rock sweat, with breath smelling of cheap beer. (I was lugging my computer around in the afternoon and my sweat layers weren’t so thin.)

But it is so not New York City, a fact reinforced every time I find myself the irritated fast walker on a sidewalk full of people who seem to be strolling, or even just swaying. It’s especially clear in restaurants and, as I just experienced for the second time, with hotel room service.

Me: Hi, I’d like to order some food for Room 918. I’d like the bowl of fruit with yogurt and honey, some orange juice, and coffee.

Room service (young guy, didn’t give his name): OK, you said you want honey with that?

Me: That’s just what it says on the menu. It says fruit with yogurt, dried cranberries and honey.

Room service: I do apologize sir, but we are sold out of honey.

Me: Sold out of honey?

Room service: Yes, sir.

Me: Uh, OK. Just forget about that then.

Room service: So cancel your order?

Me: No, please don’t cancel. Just forget about the honey.

On Thursday night I ordered dinner in my room, with great reluctance. I was tired from my flight and hadn’t eaten anything all day. The great BBQ place down the street (Iron Works; old sign inside reads “general and rectal surgery”) had a huge line and doesn’t deliver, and I had a deadline to meet. So I called downstairs.

Me: Hi, I’d like to order the barbecued ribs.

Room service (lady named Cindy): OK, sir. [Pause.] You say you’d like the Jack Daniels glazed ribs?

Me: Uh, no, just the regular ribs.

Cindy: OK, sir. Just one moment. I’m not seeing that here.

Me: It’s right here on the menu, under “Steak and Ribs.”

Cindy: Just want to make sure I’m on the same page, sir.

Me: Well, the pages don’t seem to be numbered. But it’s the page before all the Jack Daniels stuff.

Cindy: OK. [Pause.] Still not seeing it, sir.

Me: Really? Just a plate of barbecued ribs.

Cindy: We’ve updated the menu recently, sir. Could you hold please, and I’ll check on that.

Me: You know, I’m actually really, really hungry. Could I just put in an order of basic ribs?

Cindy: OK. I’m sorry, you were looking for steak, or ribs?

Me: Ribs. I’d like to order the barbecued ribs. I imagine your kitchen will know what that is.

Cindy: OK, sir, I do apologize for the delay. We’ll get your order up just as soon as we can.

Here’s the thing about being a New Yorker getting frustrated with Texas ways: you get a little ticked off and you know it’s clear in your voice, but the response from the Texan is always friendly and calm. And you feel like an asshole. So when I opened the door, I found Cindy herself delivering my food, calling me “Mr. Sisario,” apologizing profusely, and kindly asking how I was enjoying the festival. I felt like I was the one who should apologize.

But now it’s 35 minutes later and I’m still waiting for my breakfast of fruit and yogurt with no honey. And that ticks me off.

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