“G'day,” said Jack to the short waitress standing behind the counter. “I'd like a coffee, thanks.”
The waitress looked up and said in an Irish accent, “Is that a collared shirt?”
Jack blinked. Talk about lost in translation. He'd thought he'd give the new Irish pub and coffee shop and whatever else was in this joint a try, but was already regretting it. “No,” he said, slower, more clearly. “I'd like a coffee, thank you. Black, no sugar.”
“Is that a collared shirt you're wearing under your coat?”
Jack looked down at his coat, which was zipped up to the top against the cold. “Why do you want to know?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“We have a dress code,” the girl said, still making no move to write down his order. “You need a collared shirt after six pm.”
Jack blinked again. “But you can't see my shirt.”
“I know, sir.” She seemed to be losing patience now. Waitresses were supposed to be more patient than this, he thought. Perhaps it as an Irish thing. “That's why I'm asking you now, if it's got a collar.”
“But it's like this,” said Jack. “A dress code can only logically apply to clothing that is visible. You can't mandate clothing that you can't see. Otherwise you might have a dress code that insists on brief-type jocks and not boxers.”
The girl looked puzzled.
“I hate boxers. I promise I'm not wearing them.”
She placed the order pad carefully down on the bench and sighed. Jack didn't think waitresses were supposed to sigh like that. Very unproffessional. “After six pm, you must wear a collared shirt. Even a t-shirt with a collar is fine.”
“Even if you can't actually see the shirt?”
Jack looked intently at her. “I'm willing to open up my jacket and check, if you're willing to admit that your dress code makes no sense.” He looked around about him. It was a pub. A clean pub, granted, but still just a pub. “I mean, it's not even such a nice place.”
“I don't rightly care if it makes sense,” said the waitress. “I just have to check for shoes and collared shirts.”
Jack looked down and checked his feet. “Well, I do have shoes on,” he said.
“I know.” Her voice was icy now. Pity; she hadn't looked half bad before she'd got cranky.
Jack unzipped his jacket, grabbed the top of his shirt near his neck and had a look. “I'm afraid you're out of luck,” he said to her. “No collar.”
“I'm very sorry, sir.” she said. “But I'll have to ask you to leave.”
“When will you have to do that?”
Jack shrugged. “I guess you can all do what you like, whether it makes sense or not,” said Jack, zipping his jacket back up. “You'll just have to do it with somebody else's money.”
As he left, he saw that the bouncers on the front door had t-shirts on without collars. Perhaps that's why they have to stay outside, he thought.
This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.