War with a Butterfly

20 Sep

Tonight’s drama centered around a “butterflied” steak.

Certain assumptions must –and should– be made about a person who orders a $50 filet mignon,  “butterflied, extra well-done.”  Such a person, who would ruin a divine piece of meat, by requesting to have it sliced down the center, with the intention of grilling all the juices out of it, until it is a charred, tasteless, brown nugget of nothing, surely hates himself, and life.

Mr. Butterfly was no exception.  When I served the first  filet to Mr. Butterfly, he reacted as if I had just served his first-born, rare, on a platter. Without even prodding the steak he exclaimed:

-“This is… You people are… you have got to be kidding me… (no words). ”

-“Oh, I’m sorry. So you didn’t want it butterflied? Or, is it too grilled?”

-“It’s not even charred on both sides. It’s just… it’s cooked on one side.”

-“So you want it charred on both sides?”

-“That’s butterflied, yes!”

-“Oh, okay. I’m sorry.  I’ll talk to Chef. ”

-“Okay? No, it’s not O-K. Are you people sure you know what you’re doing?”

I wanted to say, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Sir?”  I had a feeling that nothing short of inviting the guest’s masochistic Mother, to personally butterfly grill his steak, was going to make him happy. Unfortunately she wasn’t in Midtown tonight. Too bad, because two filets later, we still couldn’t get it right. And by the third filet, Chef told me to, “Educate the fuck.” 

Four manager visits, and $300 worth of free wine and food later, Mr. Butterfly still refused to touch his filet. Of course, I removed it. And he was content to be a martyr, sitting in a silent rage while the other guests ate their meals.  

Every time I came over he seemed to get more mad. Mad that I graciously conceded to his requests without question, mad that I didn’t flinch at his threats to “handle this with the owners,”  mad that I could even look him straight in the eye and ask him questions like, “Would you like an espresso?”

My new mission was to make him internally combust.  And I’ve found that the most affective way to throw an ego- possessed New Yorker into a violent rage, is to be truly kind to them.

Now, to generate unaffected kindness after being subjected to cruelty is a difficult feat. Indeed, it’s damn near impossible to generate the quality of kindness I am talking about, considering the previous circumstances. One might be taken for being “fresh.” However, such sincere kindness is absolutely essential to make the guest lose themselves in a fit of rage.

But how can one possibly achieve such an emotional effect?

Well, today on the train, I was listening to a Deepak Chopra’s daily affirmations on empathy. In the back server station I began my affirmation, “this is someone’s son; a mother loves this lost child,” and then proceeded to imagine Mr. Butterfly as a child, a six year old, lost in a shopping mall, crying for his mother (I don’t know, that’s what came to me in the moment, and I just went with it). I g0t lost in a daydream for a few minutes, until I was fully related to the horrifying pain of this child, crying for his mother, and then I entered the dining room, completely immersed in the daydream, forgetting my past hour of hell with Butterfly the Elder.

-“Your check, Sir. Of course, my manager took off the filet. And she also wanted to send you the Barolo. Again I’m, so, sooo sorry we weren’t able to get that right. Have a wonderful night.”


-“Let me talk to your manager.”

-“Oh, you’d like to speak with Sonia again?”


Dare I say, “Mission accomplished!” Butterfly started a yelling match with Sonia, who he claimed, “Didn’t look like a manager,” (Yes, she has incredible breasts).  Butterfly became so heated that Sonia flagged security for back-up.  Unfortunately for Butterfly, the six-foot-four, two-hundred-and-fifty-pound, former center tackle from Florida State University, was not “the man in the suit” that Butterfly had requested.


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