26 April 2010

Le Select

At the center of the village of Gustavia sits an open-air bar and hamburger place called Le Select. Big hangout for locals and crews off the yachts tied up at the nearby quay. Open from noon to midnight, it is always crowded. Very informal. No table service. Want a drink, go to the bar and get one. Want a hamburger and fries, go the food grill opposite the bar and place your order. The girl writes herself a note, says you are “Number Six”, and you go sit down and drink your beer until she calls your number.

As constant readers may recall, this historic place is the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

So last night, with our time in Paradise growing short, Pinks and I decided to bag the French cuisine and do some good old bacon cheeseburgers et frites at Le Select. But I went ill-prepared. Down here I generally carry no cash, just my “Carte Bleu” --my local debit card-- and ten or twenty euros to leave as a supplemental tip when I pay for dinner with the card. (When paying for dinner, one does not get a credit card receipt containing a line for tips. The server punches in the amount of the check on a portable machine brought to the table, you punch in your four digit PIN, and the machine prints out a receipt. Gratuities are included in the menu prices, by law. It is customary to leave some additional coins. I generally overtip, leaving an additional 10%.

So with the ten euros in cash in my pocket, I bought three bottles of Red Stripe, and proceeded to the counter to order the food. I got nervous when I spied a cash drawer but no credit card machine, and before I ordered I showed one of the young women at the grill my Carte Bleu, and asked if that was okay. In adequate English, the grill lady said, with a smile, “ No, sorry, only cash. Euros or Dollars, but only cash.”

Yikes. I put on my saddest face, told her I had no cash, and asked if there was not some way she nevertheless could take my credit card. She just shrugged her shoulders, smiled again, and said, “So? You have no cash? This is not a problem. You tell me what you want to eat, enjoy your food. If you don’t have the cash now, just pay later.”

And that we did.

Next morning,I ran down to Gustavia before the lunch crowd got there and said, “ I owe you money. I had none last night, and they said come back tomorrow to pay.” The lunch shift pair working the grill gave me the impression this was business as usual at Le Select. I got a shoulder shrug and a smile from both, they asked me how much I owed, I told them and paid, they smiled again, I left an outrageous tip and walked away. I too was smiling.

Everybody smiling. Ahh, just like New York City.

Leaving Paradise ain't easy.

A bientot.

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