Sarah and the Waiter

by John Delach

It had been a grand day to spend hiking in the Canadian Rockies. We had trekked along a trail that followed the Bow River.  Accompanied by my sister, Sarah, her friends, Molly and Agnes, we had enjoyed magnificent views of the river, lakes and falls all framed by the endless mountains. Our attempts at stealth had been rewarded by moose, elk and mountain goat sightings. I was happy that we had not stumbled across a grizzly or black bear. I feared the ladies’ city skills would not protect them. Secretly, I also doubted the extent of my own skill.

After a delightful morning of hiking followed by a picnic lunch, we were weary and all to ready to return to civilization. We piled into the estate wagon for the drive to the Banff Springs Hotel. Having access to a car was a new experience for all of us. War rationing had only ended last spring and our vacation was a unique break before we all returned to university. I drove our Nash across the river and onto the road leading to this imposing stone structure built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to pamper its important travelers. Parking a short distance from the main entrance, I approached the doorman and asked, “Excuse me, can you accommodate three young ladies and myself for a drink and a snack? We have been hiking and we are all dressed in sporting gear.”

“Yes sir, the Mount Rundle Room is just such a place.” Bring your automobile up to the front door and I will have the valet park it. When you pay your bill, the waiter will validate the receipt providing you with free parking.”

“Thank you, “ I replied, “that will be swell.” I give him a half-dollar as a tip. Walking away, I wondered if my tip was probably more than the cost of parking.

The doorman directed us to the stairs leading to the mezzanine and the café. Although we found it without difficulty, the hostess seemed reluctant to seat us. “Is there a problem?” Sarah asked, her voice guarded.

“No miss, not really.”

But her demeanor demonstrated s certain discomfort, so I imposed myself between Sarah and the hostess. “What is your concern?”

“I am so sorry sir, but we are serving high tea. I can sit your party, but would you mind if it is here, close to reception. I am afraid the seats with the view of the river are occupied by others.”

I looked at the opposite end of the room. Ladies and gentlemen were taking tea dressed in Sunday finery. “ One moment,” I replied to her.

The four of us huddled and I suggested, “Come ladies, let us sit here and conspire in this private location. If we are discreet, you may all have Champagne and mother will never know.” Agnes and Molly gladly accept this compromise. Sarah bristled but chose silence.

Pleased with our decision, our hostess exclaimed: “Wonderful, I will have Hans, your waiter come right over.”

After a delay, Hans reluctantly arrived. “Ah, my good fellow, champagnes for the ladies and I will have a Canadian Club and soda.”

“ I do not wish to serve you because of the way the ladies are dressed.”

I was stunned. “I beg your pardon. Who do you think you are speaking to in this manner?” I felt my voice rising, but then, I saw the look of rage in Sarah’s eyes. Sarah was about to begin a tirade; her goal to destroy Hans. Immediately, I thought, “Poor Hans.”

Poor Hans indeed. But, before Sarah could begin, the hostess intervened, “How dare you! Hans, we have had this conversation before. Now off to the kitchen where I will deal with you privately.”

Looking directly at Sarah, she continued, “I am terribly sorry for this incident. Please accept your refreshments with us today as being complimentary of the hotel.”

To my relief, Sarah made a conscious effort to regain control and not make a scene. Instead, she looked directly at the hostess and said, “Thank you.”

Our table turned quiet, spirts saddened by that near-confrontation. Once drinks arrived,

the alcohol worked its magic restoring gaiety. A second round returned us to our original good mood. Too soon, it was time to leave as to not be late for mother and dinner.

I tipped and thanked our hostess. Feeling good about the outcome, I handed the receipt for the auto to the valet. Sarah observed and drew near, “So George, if you are such a smoothie, why didn’t you have your new friend validate your claims check?”

I remained silent as I turned away from my sister while I mumbled to myself, Dear Sarah, what a pill you can be. Hans managed to  avoid your serpent tongue, so you took it out on me.