A romantic evening. A trendy restaurant dripping with ambiance. A unique and tasty meal. A cup of coffee would really top things off.
When the waitress comes to clear our dishes, we'll ask for the coffee. And maybe a slice of something sinful.
The waitress is not coming to clear the table. She's not even bringing our check. We try to catch her eye as she passes, but she walks by without a glance. We signal to her as she turns from another table, but she does not notice. Even a loud "Excuse me!" does not attract her attention.
I look at him. He looks at me.
"It's happening again," he says.
"Yes," I say. "Once more we've become . . . INVISIBLE!"
Fortunately, invisible people can see each other ‑‑ they needn't feel alone in their plight. When we're invisible, my guy and I discuss the shrinking size of our server's gratuity. If we remain invisible too long, we leave an invisible tip!
Restaurants seem to be the worst place for invisibility. (Is it something in the food?) We once ate a delicious lunch in the garden courtyard of a Santa Fe restaurant. At first, we did not realize we had become invisible. When we ran out of tea and had to suck ice cubes to combat the spicy food, we knew it had happened again. We would have tried the usual things to get our waiter's attention, but he had disappeared as soon as he served the food, though once I may have glimpsed him from afar.
When we went to the hostess to complain about the poor service and to get our check, she explained everything. "The computer is down," she said.
I suppose our waiter was some kind of hologram.
Invisibility must be contagious. I spread it to a friend when we went out to lunch one day. We became invisible as soon as the waitress brought our food. Then two men at another table became invisible, too. And right before our eyes, it happened to a young couple at a third table ‑‑ they were sucking ice cubes between bites of nachos.
The only visible person in the room was the waitress's friend. The waitress stood at her table and chatted like they were at a slumber party, oblivious to glares, hand signals, or any other attempts to get her attention. When the two men resorted to banging their silverware on the metal lamp above their table, she did look in their direction and narrow her eyes as if she thought she saw something. Then she shook her head and went back to her conversation.
Invisibility can strike at other places besides restaurants. A typical scenario: I wait at a cash register, intending to buy a small part for a big item I bought at this very establishment. The salesman is with another customer, one who may buy a big, expensive item – perhaps even the very item I bought. It will take this customer at least twenty minutes to decide whether to make this major purchase.
Here is an opportunity for the salesman to show how the store believes in good service after the sale. Does he take advantage of this situation, impressing a potential customer and keeping an old one? No‑‑once again, I am . . . INVISIBLE. The salesman could see me just fine when I was thinking about spending a lot of money, but the smallness of my current purchase has shrunk me into nothingness.
It doesn't always happen that way. In fact, the service industries serve well most of the time. But I become invisible too often these days.
I only hope all the good salespeople, servers, and clerks don't catch what I've got!
(originally published in Laf!)