Monday, January 31, 2005

All the News That's Fit to Print

Be sure to pick up a copy of the NY Times this Wednesday. The Dining Out Section will contain an article about "waiter rage" in NYC. My blog is supposed to be mentioned and quoted. I'll post the URL when it becomes available.

I was also interviewed by the Washington Post. I was the "Deep Throat" for waiters! I have no idea when that article will be published. I will also provide that link when the article comes out.

My many thanks to the reporters who were kind enough to interview me for their respective organizations.

Hey I finally got into the Times and it's not a mug shot or an obituary!





Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Therapeutic Jujitsu

It’s a slow Monday night and I snag my first table. Seated is a hirsute middle aged man projecting an air of superiority that makes me want to pull out my pepper mill and club him over the head like a baby seal.

Hirsute says a shade too politely, “And how are you today young man?”

“I’m fine sir and how are you?” I reply. I look at his wife. She sports a blank expression.

Nodding his head solemnly he says. “What a shame you are working on such a slow night. You can’t really be making much money. That’s got to be tough for you.” There's a faux therapeutic quality to his speech.

In a flash I have this guy’s number. Having spent years in analysis he’s adopted the “I see all and know all” mannerisms of his shrink because he desperately lacks a personality of his own. Therapy junkies are bad customers. They therapize every situation and try and use what they learn on the couch to manipulate the people around them. Pointing out our age difference and remarking on the night’s economics is his way of establishing dominance.

Surprise asshole – I was in analysis too. Luckily my therapist wasn’t the “suck Woody Allen dry” variety that infests Manhattan. Marty was one of the good guys and he taught me all the tricks.

“The night is what it is sir,” I reply keeping my face neutral. I give him no room to maneuver.

Realizing his domination attempt’s been blunted he tries a different approach. Pointing to the wine menu he asks, “What kind of grape is in the Barolo?”

“Nebbiolo sir.”

“Yes but it’s a blend of grapes. Can you name the others?”

It’s a trick question. “Barolo is made only from Nebbiolo grapes sir.”

“Are you sure?” he asks.

“Well I’m a beer guy but I’m sure about the Barolo,” I reply smiling. Humor is another neutralizing tactic.

“I think you’re wrong.” he ripostes.

“Well that’s where we’re at,” I reply simply

Hirsute looks confused. He is supposed to be controlling the situation with whatever crap he learned through years of navel gazing on the couch. I’m not getting flustered or angry – just shutting his bullshit down with some verbal jujitsu.

“Well I’ll have a beer in any case,” he says. What a surprise. He probably can’t afford Barolo after his therapist’s through billing him.

“But of course sir.”

I take their orders. They devour the appetizers and I bring out the entrees. Sesame encrusted yellowfin tuna in a sweet balsamic reduction sauce. Yummy.

“Waiter this tuna is cold,” Hirsute crows happily. Finally he thinks he has some leverage.

“Freezing,” his wife chimes in.

They ordered it rare.

Smiling painfully I say no problem and take the entrées back to the kitchen.

After the chef gets over his disbelief he reheats and plates the entrées.

“You didn’t microwave this did you?” Hirsute inquires when I return.

“We don’t have a microwave sir,” I lie.

He fixes me with a patronizing smile. I give him the thousand yard waiter stare. He blinks first.

They finish their entrées and order two cognacs. When I deliver the drinks to the table Hirsute tries doing a little therapy on me.

“Aren’t you angry that the night is so slow?”

“Can’t be angry over the weather sir.”

“But it must really eat at you,” he presses.

“Sir we’re not here to talk about me," I say mocking his Freudian accent, "You're here so you can enjoy dinner with your lovely wife."

“But I’m interested in what you have to say.”

No Sigmund, I’m not interested in being on your couch.

“Concentrate on your own happiness tonight sir,” I say politely. “Enjoy your brandy.” I turn and walk away.

That’s what the therapists call a “bitch slap.”

The Bistro empties and most of the staff goes home. The owner swings by Hirsute’s table to ask how everything was. He complains that the tuna was cold. He wants another cognac on the house.

“Get it for them,” Fluvio growls.

Bringing the second round Hirsute smiles at me triumphantly saying, “Sorry we’re keeping you here all night.” More passive aggressive bullshit.

“That’s the job sir.” I say.

No answer

I eat dinner and complete my sidework. Fluvio and I sit and talk. We laugh. Hirsute looks annoyed. He thought I would be sitting glumly waiting for him to finish. Guess again.

Finally they ask for the check. Time to go home and count the navel lint.

“I was really disappointed about the tuna,” he says nodding his head while mouthing the remains of dinner out of his beard.

His wife nods in agreement. Whatever personality she once possessed was subsumed by years of living with a guy who thinks he’s everyone’s intellectual and emotional superior.

“I wish it were different sir,” I counter with another verbal jujitsu move. JUDO CHOP!

Hirsute looks up sharply and for the first time I see anger flash in his eyes. He thought he could manipulate me into giving him more free stuff. He probably gets over on a lot of people like that. No such luck.

“Feel the rage pal,” I think to myself.

They were my first table. They were my last table. On a bill of $124.95 they leave me a $12 tip.

I watch them walk away. The fail to answer when I say goodnight. Not very emotionally enlightened of them. I notice the guy's wearing Birkenstocks with socks. It’s like five degrees out. What an idiot.

I got a bad tip and stayed late so you might think Hirsute won. Not really. Therapy junkies don’t like it when someone calls them on their shit. It screws with their view of reality causing an unpleasant dissonance. Hirsute will never come back to the Bistro.

Good riddance. Part of being a good waiter is knowing what customers you don’t want in your establishment.

And my diagnosis of Hirsute?

Severe chronic assholisim. Probably terminal.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Baby it’s Cold Outside

When I left work last night we had a hundred reservations on the books. When I checked in late this morning we were down to thirty. Goddamn snow.

“So whatcha gonna do?” I ask Fluvio, the owner.

“Close,” he replies glumly.

I sigh - losing a Saturday night is a major hit in the wallet for both of us.

“Well it’s better to close than stay open for a couple of tables,” I offer.

“I guess,” he exhales. “I called the reservations we had left and told them we were closing. Some of them were pissed.”

“So we’re gonna risk death so some Yuppie can have his pappardelle chingale? Screw them.” I retort.

Some of our kitchen staff commutes from New Jersey. I wouldn’t want to drive tonight.

“Yeah screw ‘em.” Fluvio agrees.

“Look on the bright side,” I say, “You can stay home and play in the snow with your kid.”

His voice brightens. “Yeah that’s true.” His son is three.

“Ok we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Perhaps Sunday will be a banner day.”

“I hope so,” Fluvio says hanging up.

Wonderful. I finally have a Saturday night off but I’m trapped in my apartment.

I walk down to the convenience store to get supplies. The place is mobbed. You would think Armageddon is around the corner. According to the weatherman on TV - it is. I snatch the last loaf of bread and buy a small bottle of bourbon. If I’m gonna be holed up I might as well enjoy myself.

By the time I get home several inches has fallen. My landlord is ill so I shovel the walk. Covered in snow I walk back in the house and put a pot of coffee on. I shower, change into some comfortable clothes and select an old favorite off the bookshelf. I pour myself some coffee, add bourbon, flip on some jazz, and settle into my easy chair for some serious reading. Ray Charles sings “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” I smile.

Hours pass. The snow blows outside. My dog is sleeping on my lap and I’m near the end of my book. Two “coffees” later I’m feeling no pain. Suddenly my dog jumps off my lap and starts barking. He’s looks at the ceiling and growls.

Now some dogs can sniff out C-4 explosive in the labyrinthine fuselage of a plane. Others can find cocaine in a pile of luggage or a lost child in the woods. My dog’s particular expertise?

He can smell booty.

My dog knows when anyone is getting their groove on in the apartments next to mine. The couple upstairs are newlyweds. They’re trapped like me. They have nothing to do so they do what comes naturally. It’s the second time today.

I lower the radio and sure enough I can hear the creaking of bed springs. Having lived below them for a couple of years I know the routine pretty well. Slow, fast, slow, fast, frenetic, bang, crash, silence. The girl is rather operatic.

The dog barks louder. I click the radio back on and turn it up. The dog calms down. Then above the radio I hear the tremendous climax and I’m not talking about the drum set. I lift up my cup and offer a toast to the happy couple.

“At least someone is getting laid around here,” I say to my dog. He looks at me rather oddly.

I finish my book and zone out with the TV. The weatherman delights in telling us how miserable it is outside. I think about the homeless people in my neighborhood. I hope they got a place to bunk for the night. I think about my warm apartment and the food and bourbon in my belly. The wind howls outside for added emphasis.

Around midnight, feeling a little foggy, I go to bed. My little dog sleeps next to me. I can feel his heart beating. He whimpers slightly. I know he’s chasing something in his dreams. I start to drift off.

Then I hear a bang, a laugh, and the familiar creak of bedsprings. The dog wakes up and starts barking. I gotta hand it to those kids – they have stamina.

It’s going to be a long winter’s night.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tapestry

It’s Saturday night. The first round of tables is seated and eating. That means there’s a lull until the dessert madness begins. Everyone takes a breather.

I’m standing by the beverage dispenser hydrating myself with club soda. Saskia, one of the new busgirls, comes by and pours herself a Coke. She smiles at me. I smile back.

Saskia is about eighteen. Her mother is Japanese; her father’s rich, white, and important. The result of their union is a young woman who is rapidly developing into an exotic beauty. In a few more years she’ll be breaking hearts. Perhaps she is already.

A senior in high school, dating a famous actor’s son, she’s won early acceptance to Cornell. Her father, a self made man, used to work in a restaurant and wants his daughter to experience “how the other half lives.” He made a few calls and now she works for us. Like I said - he’s important.

She’s chatting, as young girls do, about her boyfriend. Being older and invisible I nod and make all the polite noises. She’s in love, eighteen going on forty, and knows everything.

Ernesto, the sous chef, pops out of the kitchen, and pours himself a Sprite.

“How’s it going Poppy?” I ask

“Same shit different day cabron,” he replies.

“Siempre mierda,” I say smiling.

“Si,” Ernesto sighs heading back into the kitchen.

“Later amigo,” I call after him.

“What a sad little man,” Saskia says when Ernesto’s out of earshot.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because all he’s ever going to be is a cook. What a limited existence. I mean there is so much of the world to discover and he’s never going to see any of it.”

Her comment pisses me off.

I want to tell Saskia that Ernesto WALKED a good part of the way from Nicaragua to live in the US. He’s worked thousands of hours to get money to bring over the rest of his family. While the other busgirls take a bus home to a tenement, Saskia hails a cab and returns to a palatial abode.

I’m about to say, “You’re young and don’t know shit,” when suddenly I remember somebody I used to know.

He’s a young man, a divinity student, not much older than Saskia. Floating in a cloud of incense and tradition, he possesses very definite ideas of how the world ought to be. Excelling academically in theology and philosophy he understands nothing about how real people move and live and have their being. Looking at the world through stained glass windows he’s rigid, analytical and arrogant. A good kid, don’t get me wrong, idealistic and compassionate, he struggles unconsciously to find his identity. He doesn’t have a clue.

That young man used to be me.

God and I had a lover’s quarrel. The stained glass window shattered long ago. So much happened.... An intense love was joyously found then lost. Friends were cut down in their prime by disease and circumstance. People I assumed irretrievably lost found redemption; the sick were made whole, evil men triumphed, babies were born, and the world made less and less sense. I passed from certitude into the cloud of unknowing.

I look at Saskia and my wounding comment dies in my throat. For the first time I understand what my elders mean when they say “youth is wasted on the young.” Saskia is arrogant but then again that’s the way it should be. Time will be her teacher.

“You’re a nice girl Saskia but in twenty years I’ll bet your opinion of Ernesto will change.” I say instead.

Saskia stares at me blankly.

“You’ll feel differently when you’re older,“ I add gently for emphasis.

“Thanks Obi-Wan. Coming from a waiter in his thirties that means a lot,” she says sarcastically.

Ouch.

Saskia and I don’t speak much after that.

Four years later…………………………………………………………………………..

I’m sitting in a bar appreciating a perfectly poured Guinness Stout when I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn.

It’s Saskia. My prediction was on target. She’s turned into a ravishing beauty. She’s graduated from Cornell.

“You know I want to apologize to you.” she says.

“Why?” I ask confusedly.

She reminds me of what she said about Ernesto four years ago and what she said to me. I had forgotten all about it until that moment.

“I never forgot what you said to me,” she says. “And you were right.”

“Don’t sweat it,” I say, “I’m learning more about how little I know everyday.”

We share a pint. She’s going to law school. She’s broken some hearts and had it broken in return. There’s some hard won wisdom in her eyes that wasn’t there four years ago.

I drive home. Four years! I’m amazed that Saskia remembered my comment. You never know what effect you’re gonna have on people. Serendipity? Or is there a larger plan at work?

My thoughts drift back to a time when my godfather and I were in a museum. We’re looking at a medieval tapestry. He’s intently studying the back of it. Puzzled I join him.

“What do you see here?” he asks me.

The back of the tapestry is rough and frayed; betraying the handiwork of the person who made it. The colors are mottled and muted. There’s a lot of darkness.

“A mess,” I reply.

“Yes,” he smiles. “I like looking at the back of the tapestry because it’s a lot like real life. A mess. It makes no sense, there seems to be no order or beauty.”

Then, his arms on my shoulders, he moves me to the front of the tapestry. I look at it. Undimmed by the centuries - it’s gorgeous.

“But every once in a while God gives you a glimpse of the other side and it all begins to make sense.” he says gently.

I’m silent. I know something important has happened but I’m too young to understand.

I look at my godfather. He’s a Byzantine Catholic priest. With his beard and flowing robes he really looks like an Obi-Wan – except he’s the real thing.

“No one is unimportant. We all play a part in designing life’s tapestry. You never know what your effect on people is going to be. When you think the world is ugly, makes no sense, remember there is always another side. If you’re lucky God will grant you a peek.”

“Uh-huh” I nod.

“Remember life is beautiful – even when you can’t always see it.”

Recalling that moment my eyes tear up. My godfather was right. My response to Saskia, unbeknownst to me, had a profound effect. Another stitch in the cosmic tapestry.

I don’t know where my life is headed or what its purpose is. But tonight Saskia gave me a glimpse of life’s interconnectedness. I think of my parents and family, of friends and mentors long gone. I think of the cast of characters I’ve encountered; Fluvio, Claude, Ernesto, Mr. Smooth, my coworkers - yes even the customers.

We’re all part of the tapestry my Obi Wan talked about it. On this frigid night driving home I catch a peek of the other side

And it’s beautiful.

Update

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while everybody but I’ve been busy

When I got home from work Monday night I found my dog acting strangely He was shaking uncontrollably, didn’t want to be touched, and whimpering. When I picked him up he howled in pain. He never acted that way before. It frightened me.

Luckily my parents were visiting. At one in the morning we bundled up my precious cargo and ventured into the frigid night, driving to the 24 hour Emergency Veterinary Clinic.

To make a long story short there was nothing seriously wrong with the dog. The vet said he probably sprained his hind leg. He gave him a shot and I took my stoned little pooch home. The next day I followed up with my regular vet and she prescribed him some canine Advil and cage rest.

The grand total for all this medical care? $200.00! Pets are expensive!

Many thanks to my parents for driving me to the vet! I could have done it myself but it was nice to have the help.

I also found a roommate! Thank you Craigslist! After sorting through the nuttier housing proposals (One girl offered sex in lieu of rent, hmmmmm) I settled on a nice fellow who’s a computer engineer. He’s moving in next month. Now I don’t have to move. I’m sure this situation is familiar to a lot of my readers. Finding a nice affordable apartment that’s not a crackhouse in this area is well nigh impossible.

So the dog and my need for shelter have been consuming my time and energy. I have more stories bouncing around in my head – don’t worry.

See ya all soon.

Waiter

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Maltese Falcon – sort of

It’s lunch. I’m managing the floor but the new waiter is overwhelmed. I have to leave my beloved NY Times behind and actually do some work. Now I’m in a foul mood.

I target the most impatient looking table. Two middle aged businessman. They’re doing the “where the hell is the waiter?” bobblehead thing.

I recite the specials. The fat one peers at me with porcine eyes.

“Waiter is all the pasta homemade?” he inquires.

I reply that some pasta, like the ravioli, gnocchi, and pappardelle are handmade. The spaghetti is out of the box.

“All the pasta should be homemade daily,” the man harrumphs.

Oh great. I’ve got a gourmand on my hands.

“Well I’ll have the Spaghetti Gamberi,” he says. Mmmm. One of my favs. Spaghetti with plump shrimp in an oil and garlic sauce with peppers and chilies. Delicious.

“Would you like your dish spicy or mild?” I inquire.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” the man retorts

“I’m sorry sir did I say something wrong?” I reply confused.

“If you have to ask if I want the dish spicy or mild then the chef doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s not a good sign.”

I wonder if now’s a good time to tell fatso about his resemblance to Sydney Greenstreet.

“Sir it’s just about giving the customers what they want.” I say.

“Well they’re all idiots,” he shoots back.

“Yes sir. Some people have uneducated palates and manners.” I comment dryly.

My dig is lost on Sydney. But then again I imagine a lot is lost on Sydney.

“I want my dish spicy. Not like everyone else has it,” he crows.

“Not a problem sir,” I say smiling. I turn on my heel and go into the kitchen.

Our fab sexy Italian import sous chef Armando is cooking up a storm. He’s a nice guy.

“Hey Armando! I’ve got a guy who told me that if I have to ask him if he wants the Gamberi spicy or mild YOU don’t know how to cook.” I yell

“Oh really?” Armando grins evily.

“He wants it spicy.” I say.

“Does he?” Armando says.

I point smiling to the crushed red pepper and intone slowly in my best deep evil voice,

KILL HIM!”

Armando grabs the hot stuff and pours it liberally into the sauté pan.

A few minutes later I deliver Sydney’s entrée. The mere smell is making my eyes water.

He tucks into it greedily. Armando applied the spice perfectly. The heat doesn’t hit Sydney right away but sneaks up on him slowly. Sweat beads on his fleshy forehead.

“How’s your pasta sir?” I inquire sweetly.

“Spicy,” he croaks.

“Is it too hot? I can take it back if you want.”

“No” he says shaking his mammoth head, “Just the way I like it.” Yeah sure.

“More water sir?”

“Please.”

To my surprise Sydney eats the whole dish. He downs copious amounts of H2o.

When they finish I ask if they want dessert.

“Ice cream,” is Sydney’s brief desperate reply.

The eat dessert and pay the bill. The tip is sub optimal as I knew it would be.

“Come on Rick we have too get back to the office,” Sydney says mopping his forehead.

I stifle a laugh. Rick? You can’t make this stuff up.

Sydney waddles out. In an hour he’ll be sitting on the bowl, crying like a wild dingo in the outback, dropping a burning dump the size of the Maltese Falcon.

Somehow I don’t think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Never tell the chef he doesn’t know how to cook.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Trojan Man

Sitting in my section is probably the best looking couple I've ever laid eyes on. The man is matinee idol handsome. The woman looks like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue.

They delight in each others presence. Perfect teeth flash, crystalline laughter echoes, eyes dance, happy superficial chatter, small touches are exchanged.

It's got to be a first or second date. There's none of the usual silences that belie years spent together.

The woman is really into this guy. She tosses her hair, runs a finger seductively along her wine glass stem, and somehow manages to wiggle without moving. It's fun to watch.

Matinee smiles eagerly. The evening is going his way. He's got champagne on ice at home. He'll invite her up for a nightcap. They'll talk and he’ll surprise her with a kiss. Clothes will drop to the floor, the tumble into bed, mad passion, lit cigarettes, more talk.

I'll even wager Matinee burned a mood music mix CD that’s playing on his Bang & Oulfsen.

Vogue Girl leans forward and plants a kiss on her date's cheek. Yes things are going his way. Matinee signals for the check. I'm happy. When a guy knows he's getting laid the tip size expands proportionally with the ego trip.

I print up the check. It’s a $100 bucks. I walk over and deliver it.

Matinee reaches into his breast pocket for his wallet. As he draws it out something falls and lands in the middle of the aisle with a click. I look down automatically.

On the floor is a solitary Trojan Condom.

I look up. Matinee is staring at it too. Uh oh.

When Vouge girl sees that condom she’ll think her date is a presumptuous bastard and the night will be over. My tip is evaporating before my eyes. It’s time to act.

I throw the checkbook to the floor. It lands on top of the condom. A lucky shot.

“How clumsy of me!” I exclaim. Bending down I pick up the check, palm the prophylactic, and hand the book to Matinee.

“Thank you.” he says with a trace of relief.

“Your welcome sir.”

I stand off to the side while he examines the bill. I sneak a peek at the condom. “Ribbed for her pleasure.” How nice.

The man slaps down six twenty dollar bills. A twenty percent tip. Not too shabby.

Matinee looks up at me. I permit myself a small smile.

He peels off another twenty.

“That’s so generous!” Vouge cries happily.

“He’s a very good waiter.” Matinee replies.

Baby you have no idea how good.

They get up to leave. Vouge waves cheerfully.

“Have a great evening.” I say.

“We will.” Matinee says winking.

They exit. I go into the kitchen. I think about putting the condom in the tea box.

Nah. Too much trouble. I toss it in the garbage and wash my hands thoroughly.

I go back to the table to collect my money. $40 easy bucks.

Thank you Trojan Man!





Sunday, January 09, 2005

Yet another waiter website

A Canadian waiter threw together a very professional looking website called Waiterblog. Check it out.

More stories of woe! God I hope the Canucks tip better in their own country!





Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"Sideways" meets "Star Wars"

The four top is polishing off their second round of martinis. Entrée’s already ordered they’re debating what wine to drink with dinner. I wait patiently.

One of the wives looks at me. “Waiter have you seen the movie Sideways?” she titters boozily.

Ah Sideways. “A movie about two old friends setting off on a wine-tasting road trip...only to veer dizzily sideways into a wry, comedic exploration of the crazy vicissitudes of love and friendship” Every Yuppie asks me if I’ve seen it. I haven’t. I’ll wait for the DVD.

“No Madam. I heard it was a great movie.” I reply.

“Don’t drink the merlot!” her husband crows. It seems Merlot is one of the inside jokes of the movie. Like I said I haven’t seen it.

“We’ll have the Pinot Noir,” the other husband says laughing pointing to the wine list. Ever since that damn movie made Noir the hot wine to drink our supply has been exhausted.

“I’m sorry sir but we have run out of that selection. May I help you pick something else?” I offer.

I guide the table to another choice, fetch it, pop it open and do the tasting ritual. They’re all happy. Then again they’re so sauced. I could’ve given them Thunderbird.

I go to the next table. They’re a young couple. I tell them the specials and review some wines by the glass we’re offering. One of them is a Merlot.

“Merlot?” the young Yuppie in Training exclaims, “Haven’t you seen Sideways?”

I groan inwardly. I tell her I haven’t.

“We’ll have two glasses of Pinot Noir,” she says pronouncing Noir “knorr.”

I explain, again, we’ve run out of that wine. I offer an alternative. Since they don’t know the difference between red and white they like what I give them.

I’m seated another four top. Two middle aged Yuppie couples. I hustle out their cocktails and tell them specials. The minute I mention Merlot one of the men wearing a tweed sports coat starts chuckling, “Merlot? Waiter haven’t you seen the film Sideways?”

Enough is enough.

I call upon the dark powers of the Force and summon my pepper mill into my hand. I thumb the ignition switch and, with a brilliant snap, a lightsaber blade springs to life. I spin, move the blade through a graceful humming scintillating arc and cleave the man’s head right off his neck.

His cranium lands on the table with a loud thud.

I pick up his head and hold it aloft for all to witness. Suddenly I am seven feet tall, encased in black armor, with a synthesized voice that sounds like James Earl Jones.

“Listen up people!” my metallic voice thunders, “I am Darth Vaiter, Dark Lord of the Kitsch. The next sorry ass person who mentions the movie Sideways or makes jokes about Merlot is gonna fucking get it! And for the last time – WE'RE OUT OF PINOT NOIR!”

The bistro is silent. The customers are in awe of my dreadful majesty.

“Any questions?”

The customers shrug and resume mastication.

I throw Tweed’s head down the aisle like a bowling ball. A busperson scoops it up, looks at it disinterestedly for a moment, then throws it in a linen basket.

Darth Vaiter closes down his lightsaber and turns back to the table. The wife is staring at her husband’s decapitated corpse. She’s smiling.

“What are you smiling about?” Vaiter rasps menacingly.

“Well Murray always was a bit of bore. Now that he’s dead I can use the insurance settlement to get that co-op I've always wanted on the West Side.” she chirps merrily.

“And people say I’m evil.” Vaiter hisses.

“You obviously don’t live in Manhattan Darth darling……………”

Tweed, his head magically restored to its proper place, points to the wine list and says, “We’ll take the Pinot Noir.”

I blink and clear the little violent sci-fi fantasy out of my head. I smile and say in mock exasperation, “Ever since that damn Sideways movie we’ve run out Pinot Noir.”

That elicits a big laugh. They order something else. They end up leaving a nice tip.

The night draws to an end. Nary a word about that frickin movie for three hours. A couple gets seated a minute before the kitchen closes. Damn. Since I’m the closer it’s my table. I’m gonna be here forever.

As I approach the woman picks up the wine list and looks at me mischievously, “Hey, have you seen the movie Sideways?”

John Williams score suddenly swells over the stereo system. My hand moves towards my pepper mill. A mechanical hissing noise fills the air.

Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.................


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Touch of Evil

It’s ten o’clock in the morning. I’m spread out in the booth by the window perusing the papers sipping espresso. The staff bustles about readying the bistro for business.

This is my favorite part of the day. The busgirls’ soft voices rise and fall, blending with the rough hewn timbre of guys arguing in the kitchen, producing a comforting harmony. A pot crashes. A door slams. Somebody laughs.

Delivery men come and go. Young women jog past the window and wave. The owner of the dress shop next door sweeps her stoop. Sunlight streams through the window, glinting of the tableware, providing gentle warmth. I savor my coffee and remember why I like working here.

The door chimes. I get up and walk over to the entrance. A man is waiting.

He’s in his late forties, tanned and well dressed, with blow-dried hair, manicured nails, and in excellent shape. He smiles winningly. His teeth are perfect.

“Hi. I’m looking for a job.” he says.

“As a waiter sir?” I inquire.

“Waiter, cook, busperson, dishwasher - anything,” he replies.

I find that odd. He doesn’t look like the dishwasher type. “Do you have any experience?” I ask.

“No but I’m a fast learner,” he replies smoothly. He may be smiling but his eyes watch me intently.

I hand the man an application and he gets busy filling it out. We talk some more.

As we chat I get the feeling this guy is dangerous. I have no evidence to support my gut reaction – just a sense honed from years working in psychiatric hospitals and waiting tables. There’s something predatory about him. I can’t put my finger on it but it makes me nervous. I decide in an instant he will never work here.

He hands me back the application. I read it over. I’m surprised to read he attended an Ivy League school. I go through his list of former employers. His work history stops abruptly in 1990. What has he been doing the past fourteen years? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just want him to leave.

“Well to be honest we aren’t looking for anyone right now. I’ll keep your application on file and if a job opens we’ll call you in for an interview,” I say

Mr. Smooth’s face is good natured but his eyes are like a cat’s regarding a mouse.

“When do you think something will open up?” he purrs.

“Can’t ever know sir. “ I reply.

“Ok. Thank you,” he says flashing a smile. He looks around a moment then exits.

I mark the application “NEVER EVER HIRE” and put it in a drawer. Call me crazy but there was something nutty about the guy. I go back to my paper.

A few hours later I discover we’ve run out of Triple Sec. I run to the liquor store to get more. Can’t deprive Yuppies of their goddamn Cosmopolitans.

Walking back to the bistro I see Mr. Smooth standing on the corner talking to a young woman. It’s obvious she likes him.

Before I get close enough to hear their conversation two police cruisers roll up. Four cops jump out. In a flash Mr. Smooth is facedown on the ground being handcuffed.

“This is bullshit guys.” he protests calmly. I’ll bet he’s still smiling.

“Oh yeah we’ll see about that," one cop retorts caustically. They dump Smooth in the squad car and drive off. The young woman he was talking with stands open mouthed on the corner.

I look at her. She looks at me. I shake my head. She walks away – her world a little more diminished.

I know the cops in my neighborhood. A few hours later I have the whole story.

Turns out Mr. Smooth fancied himself a porn producer back in the Eighties. He would talk up strippers and prostitutes with promises to put them in the movies. Under the pretense of getting some “sample pictures” he lured them back into his hotel room. He was convicted for raping one of them.

Smooth just finished a fourteen year prison term. That explains the gap in his work history and his buff physique. He’s now on parole looking for work.

So what does Smooth do when he gets out of jail? He walks around my neighborhood posing as a photographer propositioning young women to pose for him. He becomes infatuated with one girl. He stalks her. She calls the cops. It’s a violation of his parole so the police pick him up.

“We’ve been watching him for weeks.” the cops tell me. I shudder.

Smooth, however, beats the rap. In a few days he’s back on the streets. Everyone in the neighborhood, however, is wise to him now. We watch him warily. Occasionally Smooth talks to a new face on the street. When that happens there is a discrete conversation, his history is made known, and that’s the last time that person talks to him. Smooth has trouble finding work. No one wants to hire a convicted rapist.

Several months pass and it’s another morning at the Bistro. I’m outside putting rock salt on the sidewalk. Delivery men unload their trucks, proprietors open their doors, the young girls still jog by and wave hello.

Mr. Smooth walks around the corner. His tan has faded, his face is haggard, his physique less chiseled. He’s wearing a tired looking overcoat over a suit. His tie is undone and his shoes are dirty. He looks like an unkempt downsized Wall Street trader. He sees me and says hello. I return the greeting. He's still smiling.

I watch him travel down the street. He’s one of the hollow men now. I believe in redemption and wonder if it’s possible for Smooth. Probably not. I wonder what it must be like to be him. I feel stirrings of pity but quickly extinguish them. If Smooth was a simple felon or even a murderer maybe I could muster up some compassion. I can’t. Sexual crimes cut to the bone. God may be merciful but I’m not him. I thank the heavens for the millionth time that I don’t have His job.

Smooth disappears from view. The wind blows cold. I shiver. There’s a touch of evil in the air.

I head back inside where it’s warm.

BBC Story

Waiter Rant was mentioned in a news article about blogging in the workplace. Many thanks to Dr. Jo Twist of the BBC for writing such an excellent article and mentioning little ol' me.

Enjoy!



Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year’s Eve – Anticlimax

Wondering what happened to “Beady Eyes” on New Years Eve? I would love to tell you that he created a humorous frantic scene when he discovered he was moved from his high status window seat to one near the men’s room. No such luck.

Coming in yesterday I discovered that when Beady called to confirm his reservation he canceled when he learned he wouldn’t be getting his primo table. Damn!

Sorry everybody.

I have other stories from last night but I’ll wait until the aching pain in my cranium subsides to write them.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Now where did I put the aspirin.........................

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