Yesterday afternoon the employment agency sent Noah and I to wait tables in an Italian restaurant on Nicholson Street. The head waiter was very agitated because an official from Holyrood Palace was lunching in the restaurant, and he wanted everything to go smoothly during the official’s visit. Unfortunately, just after I had presented the official with his lasagne, a large tabby cat wandered out of the kitchen, leapt lightly up on to his table, trod without concern around his dinner, and demanded to be stroked.
“I say,” the official called. “There’s a cat sitting in my dinner!”
“Don’t!” Noah hissed at me.
I have told myself on countless occasions that under no circumstances should anybody in the catering industry ever pronounce these glorious words, but the temptation was overwhelming…
“You really shouldn’t!” Noah warned.
But the moment passed, and “keep your voice down or they’ll all want one,” remained unuttered. I marched over to the official’s table to extract the cat from his dinner, but several children from a family who were dining noisily on an adjacent table got between myself and the cat.
“What a pretty cat!”
“Let me stroke him!”
“You’ll frighten him!”
“Can you remove this cat!” the official demanded testily over the noise.
“Come on children!” I ordered, clapping my hands. “This cat does not belong in here!”
“The cat does not belong anywhere on the premises!” the official corrected me. “It’s basic hygiene… Ahh…”
The cat had trod boldly off the table and into the official’s lap, sinking its claws into the official’s leg. It evidently believed that it had not received sufficient attention.
“Ow! Its claws are in my trousers…”
The cat mewed plaintively .
I ducked forward, grabbed the cat’s underbelly, and pulled, but my progress was arrested by the sound of ripping.
“These are damned expensive trousers!” the official cried.
Meanwhile the children were in a state of mutiny. “He’s hurting the cat! He’s hurting the cat!” they were shrieking. I turned to berate the children, leaving the cat dangling in mid-air and refusing to relinquish the official’s trousers. The head waiter appeared with a desperate grin.
“Complimentary glass of wine sir?” he suggested to the official. “Whilst we try and deal with this cat inconvenience. I can’t think how it could have got into the restaurant…”
“It’s the chef’s cat,” I told him. “Maybe if you summon the chef, he will be able to persuade it to let go!”
Two elderly ladies were dining at the table behind us. The very presence of the cat had induced a sneezing fit in one of them and she was bent over, exploding loudly. Yet the other lady had taken a great fancy to the cat and she was now trying to feed it some of her dinner. The mother of the children was scolding me: “you are distressing the cat. I don’t think you know what you are doing!” I wanted to throw the cat into her face. The chef was on his knees, whispering to the cat and trying to disentangle its claws from the fabric of the official’s trousers.
The head waiter, however, had the right idea. He offered the official a glass of wine and the official, unable to reach his dinner, miserably accepted. Several glasses followed, and soon the official found that he was more entertained than annoyed by the cat disaster. Eventually, the official became drunken and infantile, and he just wanted to cuddle the cat. We discreetly removed the remains of his dinner whilst he clung silently to the cat, which purred happily.