The wait for sandwiches drove me insane. When we placed our order, they said to expect forty-five minutes. We grabbed a couple bags of chips and two twenty-ounce sodas and picked a table. We settled in, the four of us, onto barstools around a raised table. Each of us beyond hungry because we hiked through lunchtime. I’m not sure what it is with sandwich shops here in Vermont, but food prep always takes longer than anywhere else.
Traveling through Vermont last year, we called ahead a sandwich order thirty miles from a shop. They guy on the phone said our food would be ready in a half hour. When we arrived thirty-five minutes later, he yelled at us. “You’re too early, give us a half an hour.” Yesterday, I worried that the forty-five-minute prediction would stretch into a seventy-five or ninety-minute wait.
Long after ordering, our sodas and chips gone, me edgy and bored, I volunteered to run to the car to grab the water bottles from our hike. When they rang up our sandwiches, sodas and chips, it totaled sixty-six dollars. When I paid, shocked at the price of lunch, I decided to skip the tip. I didn’t notice the iPad interface defaulted to fifteen percent. As the receipt printed, I saw the price jumped ten more dollars. So water with lunch. We couldn’t afford another eight dollars for two more sodas.
Caution: boomer rant approaching.
Allegedly, the word tip gained popularity in eighteenth century England as an acronym for the phrase To Insure Promptness. By modern custom, tips became common for waitstaff because restaurateurs lowered food prices by skimping on server wages, forcing them to hustle to earn additional money from the customers.
Today, everyone gets tips whether a waiter serves the food or not. When I walk into the bakery to buy a baguette, I need to opt out of tipping the guy at the register who turns around to grab the loaf. Here in Burlington, Vermont, where sandwich chefs earn twenty dollars an hour, I’m inclined to skip the tip. Our meal of four sandwiches and an insufficient number of sodas totaled almost eighty dollars, about twice what I hoped to pay for lunch.
At the car, I filled two water bottles from a larger container. The parking lot was deserted. Three people sat at an outside table lingering over their empty sandwich wrappers deep in discussion. Inside the restaurant, only one other table was filled, and they only just arrived. Our sandwiches were the only ones the staff were making. I began to wonder why it might take four people forty-five minutes to assemble our order.
“Hellou.” I looked up at the barren tree next to my car and found a crow perched on a branch. “Hellou. Hellou.” The crow was talking to me. I looked around. No one else saw, or else they weren’t interested. The three diners, twenty feet away in the outdoor seating area never looked up.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Hellou, Hellou!” My heart beat faster, my head spun, I felt wobbly on my feet. I wanted someone else to hear. “Hellou.” I wanted to share this treat with someone. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
I quietly closed the hatchback and hurried to the restaurant to get my family. “Hellou, Hellou.” As I opened the restaurant door, I saw the crow take flight and flap his way into the adjacent woods.
Our food was on the table. Susan, Sophie and Eli beamed with excitement as they tore into their taped up sandwich wrappers. Sophie saw me at the door and waved me over with that universal ‘hurry up’ gesture. “There was a crow outside saying Hello!”
“No, really, there was!”
“Sure, dad.” The sandwiches were delicious. Worth the wait and almost the money. But the crow was the highlight of the meal.
A less happy crow story: https://jefftcann.com/2022/09/04/i-killed-the-crow/