Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Dead Waiter Doppelganger

A couple of years ago we hired a waiter, whom I will call Carl, who arrived with impeccable references. A Swiss citizen, Carl had worked in some of the finest establishments all over the world. An older man, in his fifties, he knew everything there was to know about waiting tables. He could rattle off wine vintages, discuss the finer points of French and Russian service, spoke three languages, could debone a filet of sole and prepare flambé tableside. The man knew his shit.

Erudite and able to converse about a wide range of topics, I found he was a pleasure to talk to: a welcome change from the coarser discourse usually found in the back of the house. Yet there was a sadness that clung to him like tobacco smoke. Divorced, childless, living alone in a small apartment in a downscale neighborhood, he had the air of a man who accepted that his moment in life had come and gone.

As we walked to our cars one night at the end of a long shift I noticed we were wearing the same exact beige jackets, smoking the same exact cigarettes, and doing the exact same job. I looked at this guy, twenty years my senior, and wondered if I was going to end up exactly like him. I felt I was in a bad Star Trek episode catching a glimpse of my future self in some sort of time machine. The question was could I, like Captain Kirk, change the future? The thought disturbed me. I went home.

Then one day Carl had a problem with a table. Two nasty old biddies, festooned in gaudy jewelry and even uglier hats, were eating lunch and were unhappy with their meal. Carl went over to resolve the problem but they bitched and sent the food back. As he turned away, plates in hand, the nastier of the two, mistaking his Swiss accent for a German one, hissed, “He’s a Nazi dear I just know it.” Carl turned around and archly replied, “There is no need to be rude madam!” and strode away.

Two days later the owner got a letter from the aforementioned biddies demanding Carl be fired. The owner laughed and told him not to worry about it. Carl was, however, shaken. I bought him a drink at the end of the shift but he seemed to be in a fog.

The next day, Friday, I was surprised to see Carl had failed to arrive for his shift. I called his home but no answer. The following day he didn’t report for work either. Maybe he quit. Maybe he was on a drunken bender. On Sunday evening the owner, who had a sense something was amiss, called the cops. They found Carl. He had been dead in his apartment for two days. Heart attack.

The owner, in typical Italian bride at every wedding / corpse at every funeral fashion, freaked the fuck out. While I was at a table was about to regale another table of overfed aging yuppies about the specials, he grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “Carl is dead man. He’s fucking deaaaaaad!” The news barely had time to register when I looked down at the impatient upturned faces waiting to hear what culinary delights awaited them. Dead. Carl is dead. In one shocking moment my fears of ending up like him took on a new urgency and I was insensate. I described the specials on autopilot while my mind tried to process the news. After I finished a shrewish woman asked me to repeat the specials - again. I asked her to excuse me, that I had just heard a colleague of mine had died and I needed to compose myself. Without missing a beat the bitch said, “Ok, but is that striped bass fried or grilled? The withering stare I gave her, coupled with my abrupt departure from the table killed any chance of a tip from those assholes but I didn’t care. The rest of the night was like serving food in a funeral parlor. After shift the entire wait staff got stinking drunk.

There was no wake to go to. No funeral to attend. Carl was cremated the next day and his ashes FedExed to his gray haired old mother in Switzerland. It was as if he never existed.

Time, however, marched on and the jokes, of course, soon followed.

“This place will fucking kill you.”

“Better tell the customers it wasn’t the food.”

“The only way you can get a Saturday night shift in this dump is if someone dies.”

“Can I have his wine opener?” Where did he stash all his pens?”

“Some people will do anything to get out of working Saturday night.”

“Carl’s ghost did it.” - used to excuse every imaginable fuck up.

I told the owner he should write a letter to Carl’s old Nazi hunting bitches stating that:

“At our restaurant we take customer suggestions very seriously. You will no doubt be gratified to hear that the waiter in question no longer works for us, He is dead. I hope this resolves the matter to your satisfaction. You dumb cunt.”

Yet, after all the jokes and mythologizing, I was unable to shake the preternatural sense that I had seen a glimpse of my possible future. The nagging question that faced Captain Kirk still faces me. Can I change it?

Too you Carl. Votre’ Sante.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Is that a lady's snatch on the wall or am I hallucinating?

Lots of doctors eat in our restaurant. Every couple of weeks pharmaceutical reps drag these guys in and treat them to dinner while pitching their particular brand of poison. Audiovisual presentations are a normal part of these ethically dubious dinners and last night's was a dooszy.

We set the medical ten top in the back so the drug pushers could set up their power point projector to display images on the side wall near the entrance to the men's room. The doctors arrived and immediately began to wolf down copious amounts of free wine and food while a rep showed her presentation to the assembled freeloading horde.

I was up front so I didn't hear what the topic was nor did I care. It was easy money for the restaurant and I envied the waiter who caught the table. When I checked in to see how things were going I noticed the waiter looked kind of pale. I asked him what was wrong and he said he couldn't believe the pictures they were showing on the wall. "What kind of pictures?" I asked. The waiter leaned forward and whispered in my ear "Broken pussy."

Dumbfounded I peered around the corner and sure enough, displayed en flagrante on the wall was a woman's malformed genitalia oozing some kind of pus. Shit. The pharmaceutical whores were pitching some treatment for some kind of gynecological medication: just what I want to see on the wall before I tuck into my dinner. We had to redirect all the other customers well away from the doctors so they did not upchuck their $30 entrees.

I couldn’t tell the fish specials the rest of the night with a straight face.


Monday, April 26, 2004


One of my pet peeves is decaf coffee. I don’t mind making it but it really irks me how some people order it. People have actually ordered coffee with declarations like, “I want decaf double espresso and if it isn’t decaf I will get your phone number and call you at three in the morning!”

Well this is so wrong on so many levels…

1. Even decaf coffee has some caffeine so if you are sensitive you are going to be up. Also all that sugar brutalizing your pancreas consumed via booze and crème brulle can hit your system like crystal meth. Alcohol also fucks up your REM sleep. If you’re up don’t blame me.

2. Trust your server to be a professional, Order decaf and that’s what you are going to get. Telling me that your going to call me when I am putting it to the missus is a good way to get hi test in your cup.

3. Double decaf espresso? What the fuck is that about?

Sit the fuck down!

So you want the best table in the house? You are not alone. Everyone in this entitled culture feels they deserve the best tables. Never been here before? Why right this way to table nirvana. Going to order $10 bucks worth of salad? Let me fall over myself while I kick Christy Turlington out of her table. You asshole.

The best tables are for the best customers. People who spend cash and know how to behave in a restaurant. The couple that spends the cool hundred and tip twenty is going to beat your tap water and garden salad every time. It’s like the real world. Want a pricey address? Better show up with cash in hand.

The worst offenders are women. Usually at lunch

They walk in, often without a reservation, and demand to sit in the nicest spots. Some of these bitches have an anatomical anomaly that allows their heads to spin a full 360 while scanning the floor for a choice spot. If you say that the table is reserved they demand to speak to the manager (which always elicits a smile from me since I am the manager). I have actually had women storm out even though there was a reserved sign on the table they wanted. It’s a lot of fun watching the expressions of anger trying to play out on their faces, but all the botox renders every forty plus woman from Westchester incapable of frowning. Even if I can give them the table they want (Hey if its slow its yours, I am not an ogre,) I know they will order nothing and spend the next four hours talking “about their lives as women.” Prattle drone prattle.

Other assoholic moves are people who want a table for four although there are only two of them. What? If the place fills up what am I supposed to do? Turn people away because your purses are warming two perfectly good chairs? That’s a mismanagement of resources and the owner is entitled to seat people in a way that maximizes the profitably of his establishment. Deal with a small table.

Also people who want to move their table because they feel slighted are fucking everything up. The seating arrangement on a Saturday night is crafted with the same meticulousness as the plans for the Gulf War. Everyone gets a table with an allotted time to eat. Remember that shit about how a butterfly beating his wings creates a tsunami a world away? It’s the same principle. Move one table and the whole war plan falls apart and the hostess becomes a psychotic bitch while she tries to reroute traffic before the whole place turns into traffic accident.

The Rules (to be amended at will!)

Since most dining patrons are social misfits I have decided to publish some guidelines to make your dining experience run smoothly.

1 Reserve early. You want to eat out on Saturday night? Well if the place is any good it will be mobbed so plan ahead. Book a table by Tuesday. Saturday night is rife with countless self-centered yuppies that stand open mouthed at the hostess stand when they are told the place is booked. Don't be like those people. Make the call.

2. Turn off your cell phone. Unless you are a doctor on standby waiting for a donor organ to arrive, turn your phone off. (Such a doctor would be eating in the hospital cafeteria anyway!)

3. Sit where you are seated. It's nothing personal. There are only so many primo tables and unless you are a heavy spender or tipper your chances of getting a good table is nil.

4. Order off the menu. If I went to your house would I tell you how to cook the food? I don't think so. Substitutions are a pain in the ass and are really for those people with MEDICAL problems. Allergic to pesto, it's gone. Vegetarian? Get the fuck out.

5. Say please and thank you. I can't tell you how many times people forget this simple courtesy. You want your kids to turn into well-mannered adults? Set an example. If you don't and your kids turn into little shits, well you know why.

6. Tip the coat check person. Yes you! You cheap fuck! A quarter is not a tip. It's a dollar a coat. Too much? Eat at Burger King.

7. Tip the waiter at least 15%! Preferably 20%! The waiter has got to eat too. Tip pretax if you want but you have to tip on the booze! You probably will forget you stiffed the waiter ten minutes after you leave. He, I assure you, won't forget you.

8. Give the waiter the whole order. Don't order appetizers and say you will order entrees later. He will probably fuck it up and ruin the rhythm in the kitchen. Your food will come out late and cold. Make a decision!

9. Don't stay forever. The waiter and establishment are here to make a living. Real estate is valuable. When you dawdle you are taking money out of people's pockets. The rule is the bigger the bill and the tip the longer you stay! Caesar salad and water split for two? You got twenty minutes.

10. Never touch the wait staff. This is a rule strip club patrons abide by why can't you? You grab my arm and ask for water you are going to be dining al fresco on your ass real quick.

Why a blog?

There are many books about waiting tables penned by frustrated authors and wannabe loser actors, so why should I add my tiny voice to the fray? Because all of these treatments are milquestoast pussywhipped stories written so as not to offend anyone. I read these books and I get a sneaking suspicion that the author is afraid he/she will be found out and lose their job. Inhibited bullshit. Fuck that.

I will remain anonymous so I can tell people what this job and working in the great American "service economy" is really like! All I will say is I am a waiter in a high end restaurant in the NYC area. The stories are true but some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent ( and my self form litigious customers!).

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