Seven classmates wander into an establishment, the bags under their eyes blue and swollen from studying the night before the exam until the wee hours of the morning. They are not greeted by any host or service person, or even a sign. Instead, rows of tables, each surrounded by four uncomfortable looking plastic chairs, stand before them. Most of the tables are taken. Sullen and tired, they trudge to a pair of empty tables, and knowingly take up the duty of dragging them together.
As one of the table’s feet drags across the floor, the screaming sound of scraping metal pierces the air. The friends fail to register it, as they are instead pounded by today’s choice of obnoxious and repetitive rock music. Slowly, the tables come together. But of course, as the tables are round, they fit poorly with against one another. The patrons understand this nonetheless, and scrape together the seven chairs needed to seat the table. It’s all part of the establishment’s experience, they know, so they suffer quietly and wait for their server to arrive.
Their server never does.
One of the seven stands up and gets menus from the bar after 10 minutes of waiting. The pseudo-server/menu retriever knows that this restaurant is chronically understaffed, such that during busy times they refuse to put extra staff on the floor. Instead, this restaurant prefers to put their servers through the stressful situation of taking 10-12 tables at a time–resulting in poor service across the board. The pseudo-server understands this, but as he and his friends are undergraduate students, they have no other choice of casual sit-down restaurant on campus.
A server finally notices the group and comes to apologize for the wait. Shift change, he complains, and quickly asks what he can get the group to drink. While they order, the server’s eyes dart around to his seven other nearby tables and therefore, he gives minimal attention to the group he already knows got screwed over.
Fifteen minutes later, food arrives. McDonald’s style fries serve to bulk up the lunch the group came in for. An excess of salt or cajun spice makes them eat the low quality potato extracts. The friends shrug it off, expecting little more. The server appears once again, bill in hand, dropping it on the table as he half asks if they need anything else. The bill has its own issues. Besides being printed on a printer needing an ink change, the server has scrawled a barely legible "Thanks!" into the corner of the bill. After retrieving change from the bar, the group leaves the bar just as anonymously as they came in.
Max Cafe and Bar has closed with little fanfare. We at the Gauntlet agreed it would be remembered for its infamously poor service, odd layout and incongruous menu. We also agreed that the story above could take place in the new Den, which is to serve as succesor to both the old Den and to the now defunct café. We’ll have to wait until August to find out for sure.