Friday, February 8, 2008

The Rest of a Day in The Life

A little background is in order before we get to the fun part…

It has been an increasing annoyance to me that a certain element of our community has come to think of my café as a large empty space with tables and chairs which they are free to use any time. I wish I had a dollar for every group that comes in, disappears into the back corner and proceeds to have hours-long business meetings. Occasionally, they condescend to buy a couple of cups of coffee. If we’re lucky, we can bad-vibe them into buying a pastry or a meal.

Since we installed the free wi-fi, this problem has grown worse. Internet junkies who feel entitled to any free connection they can sniff out, and don’t feel they should be compelled to buy anything in order to make use thereof, duck into our back corner and spend literally hours geeking out. Or whatever it is they are doing. We have a few especially annoying people—I think they are Real Estate agents—who treat our dining room as if it were their personal office-away-from-office. They drink gallons of coffee, squat at our largest tables for hours, and get annoyed if we should "pester" them about actually ordering a meal. Several times a week, I resort to disconnecting the modem to get these folks to pack up and go away.

Recently, we have enacted some house policies designed to rein in the out-of-control wi-fi use. On two occasions last week, I asked single wi-fi users to please set up their computers on smaller tables, rather than using our larger tables meant for parties of four or more. In both cases, these folks arrived just before a typical rush period…otherwise I probably would not have approached them at all. The reactions I got were over-the-top.

One guy (who had just spent much of the previous day attached to our internet) packed up and left in a huff after I asked him to set up at a smaller table. Then he called us on the phone and went off on this sputtering, barely-controlled-rage diatribe about refusing to buy one of our extremely overpriced burgers just so he could use our wi-fi (I hadn’t asked him to purchase anything…I simply asked him to sit at a smaller table.)

So, what has this to do with the continued fun and games on Sunday last? Well, husband and I were settling into our seats after ordering breakfast, and I noticed that there was a large group holed up in the back corner, complete with spiral notebooks, folders, computers, pens and pencils, and very little evidence that they intended to partake of any food or beverage.

This was a bit worrisome, because Sunday morning between about 9:30 and 10:30 is typically our busiest hour of the week. We have a bunch of folks who come out to the restaurant before church, often in groups of four to six. And here were our largest tables being squatted upon by people who were essentially non-customers. I was annoyed, and tried to think of some earthly way to get them to wrap it up and go away before the rush hit. Without starting World War Three.

As I was wrestling with that issue, a guy pulls up in front of the restaurant, gets out of the car with his laptop in hand, and comes in. He seems to know the folks doing the meeting, because he stops by their tables and chats with them for a bit. The next thing I know, he’s unzipping his case and setting up his computer on the last empty large table in the back corner. So, I stand up, walk over and ask if he could please set up his computer at the smaller table adjacent to where the big group is meeting. Whereupon he…goes off on me. He opens by telling us how he had had a bad experience at the café previously, so he’d posted a "very negative review" about us on his blog.

Eventually, we attempt to diffuse the situation by sitting down and trying to have a civil conversation. Husband is Mr. Mollification. "We apologize if anyone here has ever been rude to you. We assure you that is not our policy and it will never happen again…" Turns out he was pissed off because he came in one day, yammering on his cel phone, set up his computer and was not immediately and consistently fawned over by the counter girls. And, travesty of all travesties, they took away the coffee pots without telling him. (Our coffee is self-service refills until 5 pm, when we switch to table service for dinner. At which time we take in the self-service paraphernalia and give customers their own small pots at their tables if they order coffee. And if this jerk was ANY kind of a regular—as he claimed to be—he would have known that.)

I can barely tolerate this officious a**hole asserting that we need to realize that wi-fi isn’t a service we offer customers, it is a marketing tool designed to attract people like him and his group. "People like him" being those who intend to settle in for six to eight hours at a time, hold meetings and remain attached to the umbilicus of MY internet connection. All day. Maybe several days a week.

I don’t think so.

He likes our décor. He likes our music. The cafe should be a place where itinerant business people can set up shop, conduct business and connect to the wi-fi. With complete freedom to stay as long as they see fit. (And you know, we went around and around with that guy for fifteen minutes, and he never did say a thing about our food.) I am adamant that this is not what we intended when we offered wi-fi service to our customers. I’m getting more and more frustrated with this butthead and his "I-know-your-business-better-than-you-do" attitude. In frustration, I ask him, "What business are you in?"

And he says….

Wait for it…

"I’m a pastor."

I’m sure the words, "Are you f-ing kidding me???" flashed across my forehead in marquee-sized letters. I swallowed those words, opened up my mouth to say something, and swallowed those words again. Here was this overbearing, self-righteous son-of-a-bitch telling me he is a pastor.

Okay. Well, maybe that isn’t so unbelievable after all.

So I say, "Of a church here in Scappoose? Don’t you have a facility?"

And he says, "Yes, but there’s a school there, and it’s too noisy…not a good atmosphere for business meetings."

At this point, I think I have to be losing my marbles. I cannot reconcile this guy and the way he just…IS…with my idea of a pastor. Naïve and antiquated as my idea might be.

Somehow we managed to smooth things over enough to avoid the scene of his whole group standing up and walking out in a huff. I personally had to bail on the conversation and let the husband finish it up. If I sat there any longer and listened to his pompous flatulence, I was going to be sick. Or kill him.

Husband herds ME out the door before I can do any more damage. But of course, I go on obsessing about this for hours.Much later, I decide to indulge in some internet detective work. And find Mr. Pastor has posted yet another "negative review" about the café, and tagged it so that it will easily come up should anyone google us. Swell. That’s what I get for pissing off a geek, I guess.

So, like I said. The events of the past weekend got me to the place where I really wondered why the hell I made the decision to do what I do, and whether I will ever be any freaking good at it….

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