Waitressing Should Not Be In Her Wheelhouse  

, , , , , | Working | February 18, 2020

My husband was in a horrific auto accident which left him bedridden in the hospital for weeks, and then in rehab for several more. He has recently been released to continue his rehabilitation from home but is still dependent on the use of a wheelchair to get around. He’s feeling better and wants to go to a baseball game, something he did on a regular basis before the accident, and to celebrate his first day back in the ballpark he has also asked that we eat dinner before the game in an on-site sit-down restaurant. The place is hugely popular, does not take reservations and, on the day of a game, is open only open to those attending and is therefore only accessible from the continuously-staffed concourse entrance.

Although we are there when the gates to the stadium open, when we arrive, the restaurant has filled and there is a wait to be seated. Our name is put on the list — our pretty uncommon last name is used to avoid confusion as our first names are quite popular — it is noted that we need wheelchair access, and the family sits on a nearby bench to people-watch and wait.

Finally, our name is called and we are led to a table that has one chair pulled away — as requested — seated, and handed menus with the usual, “Your server will be with you shortly.”

We wait, and wait, watching several people seated after us get their drinks and even appetizers or meals, trying unsuccessfully to flag someone, anyone, down repeatedly as they pass the table to wait on others. Finally, a young lady, who has been waiting tables all around ours, approaches, and we expect to finally get service of our own.

Instead, the waitress says, “You know, you can’t just waltz in and seat yourself and expect someone to help you; there are many people who’ve been waiting for quite a while. You need to leave. This table was prepared for a customer in a wheelchair and we had to find a seat for them elsewhere.”

We have not seen anyone else in a wheelchair waiting to be seated, nor do we see any others currently seated. My husband responds, “Excuse me? We were seated here by the hostess, and as you can see, I’m—” 

The waitress cuts him off. “I told you to leave. If you don’t, I’m going to have to get my manager and security.”

“Please do, now!” I chime in, and she marches off, shaking her head. Soon, a manager arrives, as well as another man wearing a ballpark security jacket. The waitress is at another table but quickly joins them.

The manager says, “I understand you came in and seated yourselves at this table which was being held for a customer in a wheelchair instead of waiting your turn. We have many other people trying to get in to eat and you need to wait for a hostess to seat you. We don’t tolerate that and you will need to leave as requested.”

I start to explain, “We were seated by the hostess, at this table, and my husband is in—”

The manager cuts me off, saying, “That’s easy to check; what name did you give when you checked in?”

We give him the name. He approaches the hostess stand, looks back through the list and, shaking his head, starts back toward the table. It appears that he suddenly realizes that my husband is, in fact, sitting in a wheelchair, as he stops abruptly, his facial expression changing from bewilderment to surprise, looks between my husband and the smirking waitress, and then resumes his approach.

The manager says to the waitress, sternly, “Please see me in my office at the end of your shift. Now, go back to work; I’ll take care of this table.” Then, he turns to the security guard. “Thank you for your response; you can go now.” And finally, he turns to us. “I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding; dinner is on me. What can I get you to drink?”

We are late to our seats in the ballpark, but we are well taken care of from that point. The waitress never says another word to any of us but does shoot an occasional hateful glare our way until we leave, stuffed beyond stuffed, as the manager insisted that he was also paying for desserts all around. He also refuses the tip that we offer.

My husband has made a nearly full recovery and now uses only a cane on most days and a walker on bad days. The wheelchair rarely gets used. He’s been to many games since and I’ve joined him for a few of them, but we’ve not been back to the restaurant.

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