Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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Celine was very unhappy indeed. As my long-time industry friend Rakhita Jayawardena asked for two glasses of late-night, show-closing Champagne at his hotel (one of Cannes’ finest) on Thursday, bartender Celine was having none of it.
“The bar’s closed.” No smile, in fact a frown like vinegar, then she turned her back on us to continue cleaning up.
“But I’m a house guest,” said Rakhita politely.
“I already told you, it’s not possible. The bar is closed.” Celine was terse. Snappy. Angry.
“But last night they served me via room service, it was no problem,” Rakhita continued.
“I said no.”
Rakhita turned to her male colleague. “Sir, is it possible to get two glasses of Champagne on room service? Last night they said it was no problem.”
“Yes, on room service, that is ok,” he replied with a smile, indicating to Celine she should pour the Champagnes. She was none too pleased.
Celine filled them clumsily, without a word. They were two-thirds full.
“Excuse me,” said Rakhita, a braver man than me altogether, “please fill them properly. To the top.”
[Rakhita Jayawardena and I earlier in the evening in the Old Town of Cannes]
Celine practically threw the Champagne into the glasses.
I’d had enough. “Why are you so being rude to us? My friend was very polite.”
Celine didn’t acknowledge the question. So I continued.
“Look, I know you’ve probably had a long day and you might have had some rude customers but we are not being rude, you are – and it’s unacceptable. This man is your hotel guest and has paid a lot of money to stay here.”
Just another frosty glare. The conversation was clearly futile. We decided enough was enough and returned to our Champagne and conversation, both of us noting that we had never witnessed rudeness like it.
After about five minutes, Celine appeared from behind the bar, now off duty and heading home. As she stormed past us, her face like thunder, it came to me what I should do.
“Celine,” I said.
She looked at me menacingly.
“This is for you. You must have had a really, really rotten day.” I handed her a €25 tip.
Celine looked at us, astonished. And then the strangest, most wonderful thing happened. She burst into tears. And then she said over and over again, “I’m sorry, I’m really, really sorry.”
We told her not to be sorry, to go home, to rest. She smiled through her tears and then Celine was gone into the night.
Who knows what happened to that young woman that day. Maybe things were not good in her personal life; maybe she had had to deal with a 100 drunken businessmen during her shift. Maybe, in fact certainly, everything had just become too much. But in the humanity of her torment she revealed more than her anger – or ours – ever could. It was a poignant lesson in not reacting to rudeness but instead seeking to understand it.