Monday, 16 February 2015

Armani Sunglasses and The Tavern

I often tell stories of my time in the U.S.  I stayed in woodsy northern Maryland, worked in Pikesville, and regularly ventured to NYC, DC and into Baltimore. I used local websites, The Food Network, FourSquare, Yelp and word of mouth to develop my 'to hit up' list of top restaurants, bars, live music venues and clubs.  I visited these venues one by one, often solo, but not always.  At the outset, I saw it as fun but as I trained in restaurant management, it quickly turned into research and business.

One important bar-restaurant that I needed to see was the Mt. Washington Tavern.  Known to locals as "The Tavern", it was known for being a great hangout that offered great food in a great atmosphere.  I should have tried to catch their dinner service or grab an evening drink, but I was never going to make it with my work schedule, so I eventually decided to go to The Tavern for a lunch. It's a lot like the Madison in Toronto: a collection of bars, each of which with its own character, shoved into a large mansion-like building.

We were seated in a very well-lit area for lunch.  It was empty with a skeletal staff.  There was one server, one busboy, one hostess working but not in my area, and no front-of-house managers visible.  The food was prompt. I had the beet and goat cheese salad and found it disappointing.  It would have been nice if they beets were drained better, and the goat cheese was warm.

After lunch, upon getting into my car, I realized that I had left my sunglasses on the table.  They were Armani Exchange's brown square butterfly style and matched everything I had.  I was in a rush to get to work, so I called The Tavern from my car while in the parking lot, and spoke with the hostess.  I told her where I had left them - on my table by the condiments.  She put me on hold briefly, then came back to say she didn't see anything on my table.  I was surprised because I remembered where I had left them and it had been less than a minute, but decided it was my fault for leaving them.  I headed straight to my restaurant to get ready for our happy hour opening.

Several hours later at my restaurant, I chatted with my bartender, Bryant, and the patrons about it.  Bryant interrupted, "Do you mean those really pretty brown Armani bugeye ones that all the girls are wearing these days?"  I nodded in affirmation.  He then asked me if my server was a young female.  I said yes.  He told me, "Yeah, those were stolen."  All the gentlemen at the bar agreed.

This was my first introduction to the difference between Toronto and Baltimore.  I was so used to Torontonian waitstaff, who would reasonably wait a least a week before claiming finder's keepers on personal effects left behind by patrons.  I decided that I was going to get my sunglasses back.  Several gentlemen offered to accompany me and be my "muscle", but I politely declined. I told them, "I got this."

As soon as our dinner service looked like it was under control, I headed out.  It was about 9 pm, 8 hours after the incident.  This venue had several entrances; no main one.  I entered through the same entrance that I used at lunch and spoke with the hostess.  Let's call her Hostess A.  Hostess A was not there at lunch. I asked her about their lost and found processes, and described the pair of sunglasses I had left earlier that day.  She told me that they have a lost and found at each hostess stand at each entrance, and she offered to check.

I watched her check by where we were standing and not find them.  She told me that she wanted to ask the hostess at the nearest entrance, let's call this one Hostess B, since Hostess B had been working all day.  The other stand was about 10 m away, and I watched their exchange.  Hostess A approached Hostess B.  Hostess B looked at me then spoke aggressively with Hostess A.  Her hand gestures looked like she was telling Hostess A what to do.  Hostess A appeared taken aback and changed from pleasant to uncomfortable, with tensed eyebrows.  I found this very interesting.  All the while, the busboy from lunch walked by.  I stopped him and asked him if he bussed the tables in my area at lunch.  He said he did.  I thought, "perfect!"  I asked him if he had seen a pair of brown bugeye sunglasses left at my table from lunch.  He said yes, and that he had picked them up and put them in the lost and found.

I looked back over at Hostesses A and B.  Hostess B now decided to approach me while Hostess A stayed back.  Hostess B told me that she had been there all day, but that the sunglasses that I described were not retrieved.  I told her that I just spoke with the busboy who confirmed that he had picked them up and put them in the stand.  I looked her square in the eye and asked to speak with the owner.  She went into the kitchen.

A floor manager came out.  He said that the owner was not in.  I explained what had happened and requested: (1) a copy of the lunch staffing schedule, (2) the name of my server, and (3) the owner's contact information.  He walked to the back.  I waited about one minute before he came back out appearing panicked and in tears.  He told me that his sister was the server at lunch, that she was in class until 10 pm and that he could return my sunglasses  at that time.

I didn't report the server, my sunglasses were returned, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Or did they?

My sister and I had our second sets of tires stolen last Thursday.  We left them in our parking spots in our building's parking garage. We knew there was risk in leaving them out, but it was a shared risk: everyone in my building left their extra sets of tires in their spots.  Unfortunately, only ours were stolen.

This theft reminded me of the sunglasses.  I asked everyone if they could have moved them before I believed that they were stolen, and I was comfortable with my loss so long as it was my fault. Once I realized that it was the handiwork of a liar, I had to do something about it.

My sister and I have filed police reports, and will be meeting with our building's security to review the security tapes tomorrow.  We may never see the tires again or get any remuneration for our trouble, but the hope is that the perpetrators will learn that they cannot get away with theft.

..but will these thieves ever learn?  I am pessimistic.

Post Script
The Tavern was burned down some time later that year, an event that inspired many to message me to tell me I 'didn't have to do it' because I got my sunglasses back.
There was an error in this gadget