As you must know, not all my days are always filled with rainbows and butterflies, and not all customers are likable. “The Stinkies” were the only couple in the history of the Diner to ever be banned from the restaurant, and I say that as a good thing. In over 30-years of business, my boss finally found it fit to ask someone to kindly never return! The couple was in their mid-40’s, both extremely unkind and horribly unkempt. Hence why they were given the nickname.
They were always dressed in the same clothes, unshowered, and smelled like death gone bad, yet they bragged about how financially well off they were. They also constantly intruded in other customers’ conversations, and tried to start unnecessary confrontations and debates with total strangers. They were bad for business from day one, I was told, because they were well known around the Diner way before I started working there.
To me, they barely seemed like they had the desire to get out of bed, so I never did understand why they even bothered. Though I do know that every time they came to the Diner, they drained the HAPPY right out of the building.
Despite their outward appearance and ability to aggravate everyone around them, Mick and Lois “Stinkie” were also known around the Diner for always trying to scam FREE food. Even though they were supposedly well paid “bounty hunters,” they were too cheap to ever pay for all the food they ordered.
I’m not sure what they actually did professionally, but “unprofessionally” they drove my co-workers and me crazy daily. Cheap as the day is long, they had freeloading down to a science. Not to mention, some days they used my booth for hours as their office, costing me money every minute that went by.
Our work station at the Diner rotated daily, and we encouraged our customers to seat themselves. With this, when The Stinkies did come in for their morning breakfast in the middle of our rush, we girls would all pray that we didn’t get them. Sad, right? What’s worse is they were fond of me. No matter what section I was in three out of four times a week they searched for me, and I won the (un)lucky stick.
At least when I served them I’d usually get a buck for my efforts. Whereas my co-workers swore that when they waited on them they never got a cent. What can you do? It’s the nature of the business. Unfortunately, some people believe that “server” and “servant” are the same. That is far from true. I am simply here to serve you.
Mick liked to order oatmeal when he came in. The only item on our entire breakfast menu other than toast that we (the server) actually have to prepare. You have to go into the back kitchen and measure out a cup of instant oatmeal from a 10 lb container. Then you have to get a cup of hot water from the coffee machine, which is not in the same area as the oatmeal or the microwave, so you have to run around the whole restaurant. The cherry on top of it all is you have to add just the right amount of water, otherwise, it either turns out like concrete, or worse, it blows up all over the microwave. My point, it’s just a big pain in the butt to be “stiffed” after.
One day, the Stinkies were in the Diner. They had already asked me to tally up their check, which I did and I placed it on their table. Then, Mick started running me back and forth for a little bit more brown sugar, a couple of extra raisins, and just another drop of cream… as always. He knew before he left the building he was going to pay for every item I brought him, yet he constantly tried to nickel-and-dime me for extras. I’m not going to risk being fired because he somehow believes he deserves something for free.
That day, though, another gentleman – a regular of mine, a Harley rider, and friend of my husband, Joey, had the misfortune of sitting in the booth behind him. Eric seemed to be interested in listening to one of Mick’s usual tall tales about catching criminals from the television show “America’s Most Wanted,” and how they were about to make a bankroll on some guy they had under surveillance.
“Blah blah blah,” I whispered, joking around as I made eye contact with Eric. Just as I did, he popped up out of his seat as though someone had just ejected him. Then he slowly walked past Mick’s table, paused as if to take a mental picture, then briskly walked off toward the front door. I thought maybe I read him wrong at first. He did get up in a bit of a huff, though, so I decided to follow him and make sure everything was okay.
When I approached him outside, he told me he needed me to do him a favor. He wanted me to casually go back over by my station and let Mick tell me his story again. He wanted me to act as though I was really interested. He wanted me to get him to mention details, but not to let on that anything was going on. I agreed and did as I was asked. I knew Mick would have no problem repeating himself, but I didn’t know how long I would last.
I followed Eric back toward my area and struck up a conversation with my favorite couple. Lois was way too busy shoveling her “eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, grits, biscuits and gravy and pancake” breakfast into her mouth to do anything more than nod and shake her head. Mick just rambled on like I knew he would – acting like he was some kind of superhero.
He started talking about specific crimes in Texas, Seattle, and Georgia, which he said he and his wife helped in the captures. Then he started talking about cases in the area. He spoke like he was trying to be a news broadcaster or some kind of television detective. I was not impressed.
What was impressive was that in less than 20-minutes, some kind of “ALERT” must have gone out. Our parking lot quickly lit up like the 4th of July with red and blue flashing lights from all kinds of vehicles marked City, County, and State.
It turns out, “Mick Stinkie” and his wife were not bounty hunters at all. Instead, they were criminals with warrants in multiple states for numerous crimes including forgery, tax evasion, embezzlement, and identity theft. Eric, however, unbeknownst to me, was actually a bounty hunter.
“They probably wouldn’t have gotten caught if it wasn’t for Mick’s big mouth and his need to talk crap. It’s not like anyone would have recognized them from their mug shots, considering both of them had gained at least 200lbs each since they were last seen,” Eric later told my hubby, who also must have been alerted because he too showed up at the Diner in less than 30-minutes from Eric’s notification to the world.
“I guess they thought obesity was one way of hiding themselves in plain sight,” I laughed. “Fat chance.”
Laugh on. Peace out.
Columnist Lisa DeMarco is a waitress at Billy’s Cafe.