Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cell phones and SUVs. Just say no!

Last Saturday afternoon I’m walking from my car to the bistro. In one hand I’m carrying my work shirt, cleaned and pressed. In the other a steaming hot delicious Starbucks latte.

I reach the crosswalk across from my job stopping to wait for the “WALK” sign to turn green. You have to be cautious in my neck of the woods. Drivers tend to treat red lights like they’re suggestions.

The light turns green. I pause a few seconds then walk into the street.

All of a sudden I hear the skittering of tires behind me. I know what’s happening. Some idiot is blowing though the red light to make a right turn. I’m gonna get run over.

These thought processes are, of course, occurring on a pre conscious level. My sphincter puckers, the adrenaline jolt hits my leg muscles, and, like a Jedi guided by the Force, I leap several feet backwards. My latte flies into the gutter.

Brooooom! A large SUV flashes past my eyes along with my life history. It’s that close people.

But what happened next really pissed me off.

The SUV stops in the middle of the street. The passenger side window lowers and a Yuppie matron sticks her head out saying, “Excuse me could you help us?”

I walk over to the window. I notice the truck is a Lincoln Navigator.

“Where can you park around here?” the matron asks.

“Lady you almost ran me over back there.” I say angrily but politely.

“Whaaaat?” the matron whines uncomprehendingly.

I stick my head in the window. The woman’s husband, a porcine gold chain sporting artificially tanned bald guy, is busy talking on his cell phone. “No that price is too high too high” he rants animatedly into his handset.

“Hey buddy,” I say, my temper rising, “While you were blabbing on your cell phone you almost ran me over back there.”

“Hang on,” the man says. He looks at me. “Hey where can you park around here?”

“Didn’t you hear what I just said? You almost ran me over” I repeat.

Gold Chain blinks. He’s confused. Car horns are blaring. He’s stopped in the middle of a busy street.

“I’m looking for a parking spot.” he continues petulantly.

When I get scared I get angry. When I am angry and ignored I blow up.

“IF YOU DON”T GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE I’M GONNA PARK THAT CELLPHONE SO FAR UP YOUR ASS IT WILL BE COMING OUT YOUR MOUTH YOU FAT DUMB FUCK!” is my calm measured reply.

“EEEEK he’s crazy!” the wife shrieks.

Gold Chain drops the phone and throws the truck into gear taking off. I pull my head out of car to avoid decapitation. The SUV roars down the street barreling around a corner out of sight.

I take a deep breath and continue across the street. Several onlookers stare open mouthed. I notice my shirt is splattered with coffee. Perfect

Inside the bistro I discover the lunch waiter forgot his shirt and used my backup. Things are getting better and better.

I clean my shirt with seltzer to the point where it’s almost presentable. I make an espresso and get the specials from the chef. I call the other waiters over to review the night’s festivities.

“Nice shirt.” says one of the waiters giggling.

Without looking up I flip him the bird.

The hostess interrupts my review of the specials. “You have a table.”

“Already?” I say looking at the clock, “We don’t open for half an hour.”

“They sat down anyway,” she says shrugging.

“Fine.” I cinch up my tie, plaster on the happy face, and walk over to the window seats.

My first table is Gold Chain and his wife.

I groan inwardly. This can’t be happening to me.

“What happened to your shirt?” Gold Chain asks.

“Excuse me?” I reply a tad indignantly.

“Your shirt is dirty.” he says simply.

Holy shit. The dumb bastard doesn’t recognize me. Hey - he only saw me for a second, I was wearing an overcoat, and my face was, how shall put it? - contorted in rage. It stands to reason.

I’ve caught a break.

“Just an accident sir,” I reply.

He harrumphs and asks what the specials are. His wife stares glumly at the menu.

Everything proceeds normally. They order. They eat. Gold Chain makes a dozen calls on his cell phone. I act like a total professional. They never recognize me. They pay the bill and leave.

I go over to the table. The tip is 12%. Why am I not surprised.

Then I notice Gold Chain’s cell phone lying on the table. He forgot it. My face breaks into a smile. I grab the phone and go outside.

I spy them halfway down the block. “Sir you forgot your phone!” I yell.

The man walks back towards me sheepishly. While I’m waiting I calculate how much force it will take to jam the phone up his rectum.

“Thanks.” he says stretching out his pudgy hand to take the phone.

I don’t give it to him. I look him dead in the eye and say,“Remember sir, talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in New York State.”

His eyes widen with the shock of recognition. Now it's his turn to have his sphinter pucker.

I hand him the phone. “Have a NICE day sir.”

He takes the phone and waddles away - looking over his shoulder several times.

I go back inside.

I fucking hate cell phones.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Tsunami Relief

Click on these URLs to contribute to tsunami relief efforts in Asia.

Action Against Hunger

American Jewish World Service


American Friends Service Committee

American Red Cross

Catholic Relief Services

Direct Relief International


Doctors Without Borders

International Medical Corps

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee


Mercy Corps

Operation USA

Save the Children


Islamic Relief USA

Contribute what you can. Thank you.







Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

To my non Christian readers - enjoy the Chinese food and the movies!

Will be back with more stories soon.

Ho Ho Ho and all that stuff.



Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Thanks Blogwise!

Many thanks to Blogwise for making Waiter Rant their "Blogwise Pick of the Week."

Little ol' me? Thanks guys/gals! Happy Holidays!



Monday, December 20, 2004

Innkeeper’s Epiphany

The day starts off badly. Just as I am about to pull onto the highway to drive to work I hear the “thunk thunk” of a flat tire.

Damn.

I still have enough tire pressure to drive the five blocks back to my house. I get out the jack, slap on the donut spare, and creep down to the discount tire store.

Everyone, it seems, has a flat tire today. The line is long. I’m late for work. The workman promises he will fix it as soon as he can.

I drink bad coffee and watch Oprah on the waiting room TV. She is giving away IPods, spa vacations, and HDTV’s to a screaming bunch of deserving teachers as part of her “Favorite Things” bonanza.

That just depresses the shit out of me. Ever since my girlfriend left money has been tight. If I have to get a new tire and miss a night’s work I could be out $300 bucks. I think of my penury. I think about all the Christmas gifts I won’t be buying this year. The clock ticks. I should have been at work already. A yawning darkness overtakes me.

I catch a break. The tire only needs a $20 patch. The workman bumps me up to the head of the line and I'm out the door. I race to work.

I hit rush hour traffic and slow to a crawl. By the time I get to the bistro I’m two hours late.

I walk in angrily pulling up my tie. Fluvio grins at me saying “I have a lovely table waiting for you.”

“Oh shit.” I exclaim.

“The lady is a bitch. Have fun.” he chuckles. This is what I get for being late.

I pass by my new table on the way to the kitchen. It’s a couple with a toddler and an infant. They look upset.

I get the specials from the sous chef and head over to the table. Louis, another waiter, shakes his head and sighs, “Better you than me my friend.” This is going to be fun.

The husband is too busy typing on his Blackberry to look up. He simply says, “Get me Chianti.”

The wife, a Prada clad Ilsa the Executivitrix She-Wolf, glares at me.

“My son is allergic to everything,” she says pointing to her three year old, “What do you have that he can eat?” Just then her toddler starts playing the drums on the table with his utensils.

Over the clamor I ask what her son is allergic too.

She-Wolf launches into an exhaustive list.

“Madam I’m sure we can make something," I say.

Her infant squirms in her arms. She lifts him to her breast, pulls a flap on her blouse, and pops out her tit. The baby clamps onto her nipple and starts suckling. Being a male of the species my eyes are drawn to her bosom. Hey, I have no problem with a woman breastfeeding in public. I just don’t see an aureole at the table everyday.

Realizing my faux pas I look back up at the mother. She looks annoyed. This is getting better and better.

“Well you better get my son’s food right because I don’t want to end up in the ER tonight,” she says prissily.

It’s been a bad day. My blood boils. “That’s it bitch,” I think to myself. I reach back into my quiver of waiter insults, putdowns, and expressions, select the appropriate arrow, set the smartass remark on the bowstring of by tongue, and start to draw it back.

Suddenly, there is a flash of light and a roaring wind. The fabric of space and time is rent asunder. Surrounded by an effluence of seraphic fire, the Angel of My Better Nature appears unto the world of Man. He looks pissed

“Waiter stay thy tongue.” he commands.

“What do you want?” I reply shocked.

“Look at that woman.” he thunders. “Where have you seen her before?

The angel has stopped time. Everything is frozen - captured in a moment. I see a knife, glinting strangely in the light; halfway through it’s plummet to the floor. The toddler has just knocked over his glass. Droplets of water hang still in the air like diamonds.

I look at the woman nursing her child.

“Look at her,” my celestial visitor repeats. “What do you see?”

Images flicker through my eyes like the pages in an art history text book: Da Vinci's Madonna, the Icon of Vladimir, the picture that hung in my Catholic grade school library, the manger at my Mom’s house.

“The Madonna and Child. The Nativity.” I respond weakly.

The seraph sighs, “Are you going to act like that innkeeper in Bethlehem? Are you going to deny her shelter from the coldness of the world?”

“But…..” I start to say that Mary and Joseph weren’t swilling Chianti and driving a BMW but think the better of it.

“Be careful waiter,” the angel warns reading my thoughts, “That innkeeper from Bethlehem is still scrubbing the toilets up here.”

I am silent. Still looking at She-Wolf I see something behind her eyes that wasn’t there before.

Vulnerability.

The angel’s allusion to Bethlehem begins to make sense. Despite her bluster and arrogance, She-Wolf is a young mother who brought her child into an uncertain and sometimes cold world. She too fears the Herodic tyrannies of existence. Like all humanity she seeks shelter from the storm. I think of my own personal flight into Egypt - my own darkness. She-Wolf ceases being customer. She becomes a fellow traveler in this crazy beautiful world.

The angel prods gently. “Will you cast this woman into the coldness of your words? Is there no room in the inn of your heart?”

I shake my head in surrender. “You win.”

“Waiter sometimes you think you’re a real bad ass – but you’re not. Try being nice. It’s Christmas for Christ’s Sake.”

I look at the angel. His countenance gently caressed by tendrils of heavenly flame, he is smiling at me.

“I understand now.” I say.

He nods his head and says, “Have a good life waiter. I’ll see you on the flip side.”

In the twinkling of an eye he vanishes.

Time and space return to the bistro. Like a film suddenly speeded up, time snaps back into place. Voices clamor, the knife clatters to the ground, the water splatters on the floor, and the infant removes his mouth from his mother’s breast and begins to cry.

At that moment it is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.

“Hello?” She-Wolf says curtly, “Can you make something he can eat or not?”

A beatific smile breaks out on my face. “Madam I will take good care of you. Don’t worry.”

Something of the angel’s grace still must be hanging in the air. The woman softens a bit. “Thank you,’ she says quietly.

I go to the kitchen and verbally place the table’s order – carefully explaining the toddler’s allergies.

Truth be told She-Wolf’s table was a real pain in the ass. The kids screamed. The husband ignored his wife while thumbing his Blackberry. She looked at him longingly with sadness. I kept the happy smile glued to my face. It wasn’t easy.

Check paid they get up to leave. The husband goes to get the car. As the wife waits at the front door with her children I walk over to wish her a nice evening.

Her armor cracks. Her eyes brimming with tears she says. “Thank you for being so kind to us. I know we’re difficult.”

“No problem Madam.”

“You are a very nice man.”

“It’s been a pleasure serving you. Come back soon.” I say.

The car arrives. She bundles up her children and heads out into the cold.

I pick up the checkbook and look inside. The tip is thirty percent.

My shift ends. As I walk to my car I think about my heavenly apparition. Sometimes being a hard ass isn’t always the best way to go. I am in the hospitality business after all. Besides – I don’t want to be scrubbing toilets for all eternity.

I pass by a storefront church. The congregation inside is making a joyful noise. Just then, through the windows, I hear the preacher's voice proclaim ecstatically,

“A light came into the world. A light the darkness could not overpower!”

I smile. How right he is.

We are, all of us, that light struggling against the dark. It has always been. It will always be.

I get in my car. A church bell rings. The wind whistles past my ears. Listening closely I can almost hear the beating of an angel’s wings.

I go home.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

WAITRONINATOR

The waitress fucked up. She told the customer the salad special is $10.95. When he gets the bill it says $12.95. He’s screaming for the manager. Tonight that’s me.

“That salad has buffalo mozzarella in it. It came from Italy. Fluvio picked it up at Kennedy Airport. Do you know how much that shit costs us?” I tell the Maria the waitress.

“Oh please take care of it please!” she pleads.

I go over to the table.

“Hi sir I’m sorry for the misunderstanding but the salad special is $12.95. The prices vary day to day and the waitress just made a mistake,” I say apologetically.

Staring at me with his beady little eyes the man yells “CHANGE THE PRICE TO THE ONE SHE QUOTED!”

Like the cyborg killer in Terminator, a menu of options flickers up in the view screen of my eyes

WAITRON TARGETING SYSTEM – ACTIVATED.

TARGET ACQUIRED


SPECIES: Yuppie Boomeranus Maximus

STRENGHTS: Money, Political Power

WEAKNESSES: Greed, Vanity, Inflated self importance, Viagra addiction, Fifty year sense of entitlement.

TACTICAL OPTIONS:

a. Say sorry and run away like little bitch. CAUTION! Will cause Waitron Unit to self destruct

b. Tell target to lower voice. Remind him he’s on private property.

c. Yell back

d. Sucker punch target in larynx

e. Use thousand yard waiter stare.

None of these options are satisfactory. The man’s wife looks at me like I’ve strangled her kittens. Saying nothing I reach out, gently take the checkbook out of the man’s hand, and walk over to the register.

I reduce the salad to $10.95, run the credit card, note the name, and return the slip for his signature.

“Have a nice evening sir.” I say politely. They say nothing.

While the couple is getting their coats I remember a previous incident we had with this guy. He bought a steak, ate it, and refused to pay for it – saying it was too expensive. Fluvio lowered the price. This cheapskate uses the threat of making a scene to bully himself into a cheaper meal.

As he walks out he give me a shit eating “I got over on you,” smile.

Tonight I decide discretion is the better part of valor. I just wish them a nice evening.

After they leave I go over to the reservation computer and look up his name. Oh, he has a reservation for New Year’s Eve. How nice. He requested a window seat. Too bad.

I juggle the reservations around. I place a large party in Beady’s coveted window perch. The party is coming earlier so there is no way he can snag that piece of property.

Beady is now sitting next to the men’s room this New Years Eve. He will flip. His wife will cry. It will be glorious.

SUBJECT TERMINATED……………………………………………………………

SEARCHING FOR NEW TARGET…………………………………………………..

It's a one eyed one horned flying purple............................Oh Shit!

This has nothing to do with waiting tables. It's just funny. From Avatar.

Ladies be more careful. And you yell at us when you find the porn!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Hanson's Karma

I posted this at ShamelessRestaurants.com today. It is my reaction to comments made by Steve Hanson, the CEO of BR Guest Restaurants, in the NY post article "Unsavory Kitchens."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I don't know Steve Hanson of BR Guest Restaurants. I've never worked for him. I read the horror stories about him on this site (ShamelessResturant.com) with a grain of salt. I understand there are lots of disgruntled waiters with an ax to grind.

However, after reading the NY Post article "Unsavory Kitchens" I was struck by his comments on waiter blogs like ShamelessRestaurants. I think they provided a real glimpse into his character.

This is not some anonymous posting - these are his words in a newspaper of record:

"If it was written in a newspaper, it'd be slander. The problem here is with accountability," Hanson says. "There's no legislation. It's malicious." (Baby the word you’re looking for is libel – and it’s only libel if it’s not true.)

"I'm waiting for the day when restaurateurs start posting information on waiters that shouldn't be hired," he says. "Wait till that happens. Just wait. It will." - Hanson

Now compare that with comments made by Anthony Bourdain and Four Seasons co-owner Alex Von Bidder:

"Paper is patient, they say, and it's the same with the keyboard. You can spill your guts onto it but your computer will just get clogged," he says. "Waitering is a highpressure job. They're just letting off steam, which is a good thing to do.

And, if you want to lead an organization, you have to take the criticism." - Bidder

"You have to take it with a grain of salt. Some of it is just waiters whining. But it's like Amazon.com, when you write a book. It's a blank bathroom wall. Anyone can write, good or bad," he says. "It can be valuable, and at the very worst, it's funny! Sure, the day will come they might write about me, but I won't complain. Someone could say they saw me grinding dog meat. Is it true? No. Is it a good story? Yes! It's 'reader beware.' Certain gripes ring more true than others." - Bourdain

Just from Hanson's comments in the Post I can tell he's a little baby. Bourdain and Van Bidder laughed off or saw the value in waiter's venting steam. Hanson sputtered with rage.

Why? We'll I think Boudrain and Van Bidder are very secure in themselves and their careers. Hanson's comments reek of insecurity. Insecure people are bullies. If you do read the postings on this site, Hanson acts in a bullying manner. After his comments in the Post I now view these stories as more credulous. Nice going Steve! If you had a brain you would have laughed off the whole thing too.

Mr. Hanson is a rich and powerful man with a legion of lawyers and underlings. Internet sites like this one and mine (www.waiterrant.blogspot.com) are one of the few venues where the powerless can have a voice. Control freaks can’t stand that. They have to control every aspect of the image and message.

Steve, anonymous speech is an old American tradition. Thomas Paine wrote "Commonsense" anonymously because he was afraid the British would hang him. Waiters don’t want to get fired, blacklisted, or sued as you indicated you would like to do. The Supreme Court upheld anonymity in political discourse saying: "Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny ofthe majority” (McIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission) Some legal scholars believe that the Court’s decision has implications for blogs and websites like this one.

Steve baby – you are a tyranny unto yourself.

Steve you are a very successful man as business goes. But something tells me you are not as successful in your relationships with people. I bet you have a high staff turnover. I bet you yell – a lot! I’ll bet most of your wait staff and mangers loathe you. I’m sure you say “I don’t want people to like me.” Secretly you want them to like you.

A successful leader nurtures his employees. You do not. As a reader wrote me: “I am waiting to see if karma will catch up with him in this lifetime 'cause at this point he is very successful in the business sense of that word; he can continue to treat people like they are pieces of shit as long as there are others waiting to take the place of those who have been burned by him.”

Karma’s a bitch Steve. Try treating your employees better. Try to relax and enjoy life. Be careful. It’s almost Christmas. You don’t want the “Waiter Ghosts” of Christmas Past, Present, and Future paying you a little visit!

Oh the Post said you’ve never looked at ShamelessRestaurants.com. Bullshit.

You read it every day.

Merry Christmas.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I welcome comments from Mr. Hanson or any employees of BR Guest Restaurants.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Semper Fi

A hard cold rain is falling. The bistro is almost empty. I'm up front reading the paper waiting for customers.

The door swings open. I feel a blast of cold wet air hit my face. A young man, about twenty one, walks in.

“Are you open?” he asks.

“Yes we are.” I reply hopefully.

“Do you have a vegetarian menu?

“Well not specifically but we have pasta and I’m sure we can make you something. What kind of vegetarian are you?” I reply.

“I’m not vegetarian. My date is.” he answers.

“Do you know if she can eat fish or dairy? It would help if I knew.”

“I don’t know her that well.”

“Ah a blind date?” I say smiling.

“Yeah I just got back from boot camp and a friend of mine set up the date. I saw a picture. She’s really pretty.” he says.

“I’m sure she is.”

“But her girlfriend called and told me she was vegetarian. I have no idea how where to take her.” he says nervously.

Oh man if this kid was in boot camp he hasn’t been with a girl in months. He needs help.

“Well bring her here. I’ll take care of you myself and make sure it works out.” I offer.

“Thank you sir.” he says relieved.

Kids are calling me “sir” now.

As I take down his info I ask him where he completed boot camp.

“Parris Island” he announces proudly.

“Ah the Marines.”

“Yes sir. If your gonna sign up - sign up with the best.” he says

“Semper Fi to that.” I reply.

That elicits a big smile.

This is a really nice kid. He has an easy going manner and an innocent face. I’m feeling rather paternal. I want to make his evening go smoothly.

“Ok sir you’re all set. See you at eight o’clock.” I say

He thanks me, shakes my hand, and leaves. As he walks into the rain my stomach twists into a knot.

I realize he is probably going to Iraq.

Horrible images of this kid screaming in pain or lying dead in a dusty road fill my head. I shake my head to clear it.

I try and reassure myself. Statistically I know this kid will probably walk away from his military career with a few tattoos and even more bad drinking stories. That’s cold comfort. I knew this kid for only a moment. Imagine how his mother feels. For the first time I realized on a gut level how young most of our soldiers are. From my perspective they’re children.

I find myself worrying about this kid. Will he be ok? Will he be scared? Will he have the things he needs to survive?

I read in the paper today that during a “town meeting” morale talk in Iraq some servicemen laced into the Secretary of Defense. The asked him why there wasn’t enough body armor to go around. Why their vehicles lacked adequate protection.

Taken aback Rumsfeld stated “You go to war with the army you have. Not the army you wish you have.”

If I was at that town meeting that answer would have pissed me off. Then again my relationship with authority has always been tenuous at best. I’m sure it pissed off the parents of a lot of servicemen and women.

Rumsfeld never saw combat. Neither will his children. If my Marine was his grandson he might be singing a different tune.

Now I am not gonna get into whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong. Sometimes war is necessary. Sometimes it isn’t. I’m only a waiter. What do I know? But one thing is certain. War is not measured in territory gained or causes won. It is measured in blood spilt; limbs shattered, and lives prematurely ended. Meeting this kid tonight brought that reality home.

Eight o’clock comes and goes and no young Marine. Maybe his date went south. Maybe he thought my place was too expensive. That’s too bad. I wanted to pull out my waiter charm, flatter his girlfriend, and help him get laid. Hey – it’s my way to support the troops.

As I walk to my car I think about that young man. I hope he’ll be all right. I hope he comes home.

Semper Fi kid.

Gotta Love the New York Post! The BBC too!

I was interviewed on Wednesday by the New York Post. They are doing a piece about waiters and blogging. The article should appear in the upcoming Sunday edition in the Pulse section. How about that?

I don't know how much of the article will be about my site. I'm sure the reporter has talked to my other waiter/blogger comrades. In any case it should be an interesting article. Pick up a copy!

I also had a phone interview this morning with Dr. Jo Twist of the BBC. She will be writing an article about my site which will appear in their online Technology section. The piece should be published around Christmas.

I enjoyed talking to both reporters. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Also - they both sounded very cute!





Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Payback

It’s the day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday. The bistro is crazy busy.

Almost every chair has an ass warming it. The few tables we have left are reserved for reservations. Countless walk-ins, holiday shoppers laden with packages, are being turned away. My waiters desperately try to turn over their tables. The scent of money, like blood in the water, elicits their predatory waiter instincts.

The owner is home with his family. I’m playing waiter, manager, and maitre d’. Saying I’m stressed is putting it mildly.

The door chimes. I go over to the door. Oh no. It’s Artsy Lady.

Mid forties with a manic depressive makeup job, bedecked in swirling over the top scarves and jewelry, she smiles broadly, asking for a table for two. She’s an affectatious twit.

“Do you have a reservation?” I ask politely.

A look of concern creases her brow. “No. Do I need one?”

“Well as you can see we’re pretty busy.” I reply.

Twirling her right hand into the air like some sort of dispossessed royalty she exclaims,

“Well the owner and I are old friends – I’m sure you will figure something out.”

I hate this woman. Let me tell you why………

A few months ago Artsy comes in alone and orders a bottle of wine. She asks for two glasses saying a “friend” will be joining her. I perform the bottle opening ceremony and pour two glasses. She thanks me and I go attend to my other tables.

A few minutes later Fluvio, the owner, pulls me aside.

“Why the fuck are you serving an underage girl?”

“Huh? What are you talking about?” I reply befuddled.

“Table Three - that girl is only eighteen!” Fluvio steams. He’s pissed.

I look over at Table Three. It’s Arsty’s table. Her “friend” is her teenage daughter.

In the State of New York the drinking age is twenty-one. No exceptions.

Sometimes parents ask me to serve their underage children. It’s a special occasion; they let their kids drink at home, blah blah blah. Sorry. No can do. I explain the law. If they protest I ask if the tip will cover my rent. That usually shuts them up.

Artsy Lady has pulled one over on me. She knows the law. She doesn’t care. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

If the Alcohol Control Board walks in Fluvio gets a big fine. His liquor license gets suspended. He would have to fire me. I would be well and truly fucked.

The damage already done Fluvio and I decide to do nothing.

“Get them out fast.” he orders.

That proves easier said than done. Artsy and her kid order one inexpensive bowl of pasta and take two hours to eat it.

Talking incessantly they slowly imbibe their wine. I have visions of the police raiding the place, dragging me away in chains.

Artsy’s daughter puts her head in her mother’s lap. The mother gently strokes her hair. They talk and laugh softly.

Now that’s just fucking weird.

Finally they pay and leave. Time elapsed? Three hours. The tip is under 15%.

Artsy Lady couldn’t give two shits about my situation. She just wanted to have her little enmeshed liquored up bonding time with her seriously age regressed daughter no matter what the possible consequences. I’m sure she never gave it a second thought.

I, however, never forget……..

“Well do you have a table?” Artsy says - snapping me back to the present moment.

“I’m sorry Madam but the only table I have left is by the door.”

It’s the worst table in the house. Whenever the door opens the breeze blows in - and baby its cold outside.

“I don’t want to sit there.” she puffs haughtily.

“I have nothing else I’m so sorry.”

“What about those tables in the window?” her husband chimes in.

They have Reserved signs on them. If these were people I liked I would have shuffled the seating around. But they aren’t so I won’t.

“I’m sorry but they have been spoken for.”

“You mean to tell me that people call ahead and ask for those tables specifically?” the man sputters.

“Yes sir they do indeed.” I counter.

“Get Fluvio I want to talk to him.” Artsy Lady asks pointedly

“He’s at home tonight.”

Artsy and I lock eyes. “Yeah I remember you and I don’t give a flying fuck what you want.” I telepath to her.

“We’re leaving.” she threatens.

“Have a nice evening.”

“What’s your name? I’m telling Fluvio about this.” the husband rages.

I spell it for him.

As they storm out into the frigid night air I hear Artsy say, “Where are we going to find a quality place to eat now?”

I hope you like Burger King bitch.

Payback is so sweet.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Random Brokenness

It’s a slow Friday night. I’m reciting the specials on autopilot to a middle aged couple. They look bored and impatient. It’s a long list.

Just as I get around to the lamb shank, Claude, one of the dozen homeless people who frequent our neighborhood, stops in front of the window. He smiles and waves. I halt my recitation, break into a big smile, and wave back. Its a little moment I’ve repeated a thousand times.

I turn back to my customers and start wrapping up my little routine. Before I can finish the lady says to me,

“Who’s that?”

“Who’s who?” I reply

“That man out there.”

“Oh that’s just Claude. He’s harmless.” I say soothingly.

“Well he bothers me. Make him go away.” she responds.

Claude is smoking his cheap cigar and having a low key conversation with himself on the curb.

“Well Madam he’s on a public street. Unless he is doing something disruptive there is nothing I can do.” I counter softly.

“He is bothering me. I want him to go” she repeats unmoved.

The husband, bespoke in his CEO suit of armor, chimes in, “Just do as she says.”

“But sir…..”

“Make it happen.” he orders without looking at me.

I fall silent. I do not move.

It takes a good thirty seconds before the husband realizes I’ve not left to do his bidding. He looks up. A look of confusion begins to dawn on his face. I skewer him with my patented 1000 yard waiter stare. You know - when I peer into your eyeball, bore through your brainpan, exit your skull, and zip out the window through several parked cars, pedestrians, and buildings fixating on something unseen several blocks away.

“No.” I say simply.

“Now wait one minute…” CEO begins to protest.

In a dead calm even voice I say, “Let it go brother. Let it go.”

“But…” he stammers.

I shrug. My expression is “And what the fuck are you going to do about it?”

This guy thinks he’s tough because he sends sycophantic bonus hungry subordinate drones into a tizzy with a memo. When faced with someone who doesn’t give a fuck he turns into a pussy. I’ve got his number and he knows it.

“Well let’s just order then.” he surrenders.

“Very good sir.”

They eat. They pay. They leave. The tip is a solid 15%.

The night ends. I walk to my car. Claude is sitting on a park bench eating soup from a container with my bistro’s name on it. One of the waiters must have slipped it to him. He looks like he won the lotto.

“Goodnight Claude.” I say softly.

Claude is lost in his soup. Lost in his castles in the sky.

As I drive home I think about that couple. They probably climbed into a hermetically sealed piece of German engineering and drove home to a gated community or doorman building. They pay people to keep their exposure to people like Claude to a minimum. Assistants fetch their laundry, lawyers fight their battles, and security guards keep them secure in their obliviousness. Life’s a journey from one comfort to the next.

People like Claude scare them. Why? Because he reminds them how lucky they are.

Much of what people possess or achieve has nothing to do with their own ability or ambition. Very often it’s just plain dumb luck. Don’t believe me? There are lots of Mensa members out there pushing mops. If things had been a little different that couple might have ended up like Claude. That kind of randomness scares the shit out of them. It scares the shit out of me.

I flip on the CD player. Durufle’s Requiem fills my car. It’s an old favorite.

I think about the seemingly random universe. I think of Claude. Durufle’s music whispers about eternity, forgiveness, and peace.

I think about how the universe can be a cruel, wondrous, unforgiving, and beautiful place. Instead of burying our heads in the sand we should be clinging to one another.

A wiser man than me once said we come together not in our strengths but in our brokenness. The universe can hobble us all. When we see some one like Claude we should remember our own brokenness. Deliver him some soup – not judgment.

I pull into my driveway. I fumble with my keys and let myself in. The apartment is silent. I pour myself a drink and settle into an easy chair. A few remnants of my ex girlfriend lie scattered about. A picture here - a piece of clothing there. I listen to the ice clink in the glass and take a sip. I am very in touch with my own brokenness.

I toast Claude silently repeating the old adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I go into my study drink in hand. It’s time to write

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