Observing the Rules
Coffee and cream

A man walks into a café and asks for a coffee without cream.

“I’m sorry, sir,” replies the waitress, “we don’t have cream today. Would you like a coffee without milk instead?”

I used to think that joke was funny because the waitress’s reply was so absurd that nothing like that would ever happen in real life.

Some of the things I’ve heard and seen lately, however, have made me realise that is not true.

The first occurred when my partner tried to order boiled potatoes with her meal at a pub over here in England.

“I’m sorry, madam,” said the bartender, “we used to be able to do that but now we can’t because we have changed the menu.”

Back at our table we discovered ‘boiled new potatoes’ featured as a side dish on the new menu, so we returned to the bar and tried the order again with a different bartender who had no problem making the switch.

My other example comes from a story three friends told me about their trip home from a recent holiday.

They stopped for lunch at a road side restaurant and tried to order three bacon sandwiches.

One asked for white bread and another asked for whole wheat, and that was fine.

When the third asked for bacon on a breakfast bap, however, the waitress said she couldn’t do that.

“I’m sorry, madam, but we have stopped serving breakfast.”

When my friend asked for her meat on a white roll, which is just another name for a bap, that was okay… which goes to show that people who get hung-up on rules can be good for a laugh as long as we have the patience to get around them.

Of course, they can also be a royal pain in the butt… especially when the rules are new and they carry penalties.

That’s the kind of thing that happened to my daughter recently when she met a friend at yet another café to work on a university project.

The coffee shop was connected to a hotel and the sign at the carpark entrance said parking was restricted to hotel and café customers.

Inside, however, there was another small sign that said customers had to punch their vehicle registration numbers into a computer at the end of the counter to get free parking.

The girls missed that one and a few days later, notices arrived from the car park company demanding they each pay P1500 fines.

That’s right; P1500 fines for parking at a café where they bought coffee and food.

When my daughter called the hotel, the duty manager said the lot had been leased to a private company and there was nothing he could do.

Fortunately, the coffee shop manager was much more reasonable, and when Tess took the notice in for him to see, he acknowledged the new rules were unclear and that the fine was excessive, so he cancelled it.

That made my daughter, her friend and me all want to use the shop in the future… which just goes to show that sometimes bending rules can be the right way to do business.