Monday, February 28, 2005

Man Down!

It’s Saturday night and I’m up front chatting with the new hostess. Whenever she bends down to grab a menu I catch a glimpse of a tattoo stenciled above the cleavage of her rather nice backside.

I’m wondering how I’m going to see the rest that tattoo when I hear a bloodcurdling scream emanate from the back of the restaurant.

“MURRAY! OH MY GOD! MURRAY! HELPPPPPPPPPPPP!”

I run to the back of the bistro to see what the hell’s going on. Standing on the back bench, pressed into the corner like a trapped animal, keening uncontrollably, is an older woman shivering in pure terror. And, slumped unconscious in his chair, drooling from the mouth, is Murray.

Oh shit.

The other couple seated with them are glued to their chairs in shock. I grab Murray’s shoulders to prevent him from falling out of his chair. I shake him gently asking, “Sir, are you all right? Sir, are you all right?” No response.

A million possibilities run through my head. Heart attack, stroke, choking. I put my finger on Murray’s jugular. He has a pulse.

“Was he choking?” I ask the other diners.

“No, he was fine a minute ago,” says the man from the other couple, regaining his senses.

My old emergency training takes over. Establish airway. Establish airway. Call 911.

“Call 911 NOW,” I order the hostess. She runs to place the call.

“We have to get this man on the floor right away. Help me.” I tell Murray’s friend.

“Oh God is he going to be all right! Murrrrayyyy!” the woman, I assume Murray’s wife, cries. Her friend tries to pull her back down into her seat.

I ignore her. I discover I can’t lay the victim flat on the floor. The Bistro is cramped. Table nine and the two rather large gentlemen sitting in it are in the way. I let the other man hold Murray and go to the table.

“I’m sorry gentleman we have an emergency and I’ll have to ask you to move.”

To say the two men at table nine were fat would be a disservice to understatement. These two guys were so massive they warped the fabric of space and time, generating their own gravitational field. I’m surprised cometary debris hadn’t crashed into them yet. They stare at me, mouths full of food, stopped in mid chew.

“You have to move – please.” I repeat.

They blink at me uncomprehendingly.

Are they deaf? Retarded? Don’t speak English? I don’t care. I reach down and grab the table, lifting it up, plates and all, and swing it into the aisle.

I turn back toward the Twin Moons and say, “Move now,” in my best command voice.
They get up reluctantly.

The area cleared we lay Murray gently on the floor. Kneeling next to him I put my cheek next to his mouth to determine his respiration. I feel nothing. I tilt Murray’s head back to open up his airway and try again. I feel something but not much. I start to open Murray’s mouth to look for an obstruction when I hear a voice calmly say,

“I’m a physician. Let me in there.”

I look up to see a youngish bespectacled guy standing over me and quickly trade places with him. I've never been so glad to see a doctor.

The Doc leans in and checks for breath. “He’s breathing,” he comments. Then he slaps Murray gently. “Wake up sir. Wake up.”

Murray’s eyes flutter open. “Whaaaa happened?” he groans.

“I think you fainted sir,” the doc says smiling.

“Murray, Murray, Murray!” the wife sobs.

“I’m alright dear,” he says weakly.

“Doctor is my husband going to be all right?” the wife demands. I note she is still not by her husband’s side.

Malpractice wary the doctor replies, “Well, he needs to go to the ER to be sure.”

“I’m ok. I’m all right,” Murray says trying to get up.

By this time several policeman and an ambulance squad are crowded in back of the bistro. The EMT checks Murray’s blood pressure. He refuses to go to the hospital. After a brief discussion the emergency personnel decide to leave. Radios crackling, hauling a stretcher and medical kits, they depart while fifty restaurant patrons look on nervously. I hope they don’t think it was the food.

I notice the fat guys are standing at their table’s new location – still shoveling the food in like nothing happened.

“What the hell?” Fluvio says making an appearance.

“Guy on table eight passed out.” I reply. “The doc over there helped us out in a big way and it’s under control.”

“Give the doctor's table free dessert,” Fluvio orders relieved.

“Oh my God. Was that guy’s wife gunning for a best actress Oscar or what?” the hostess observes.

“She was just scared.” I say. I’m glad it’s over.

Things go back to normal. The doc’s kids get free gelato. Murray eats his dinner. His wife orders a double scotch. The Twin Moons are parked in their original orbit. I feel bad that I was so brusque with them.

“I’m sorry about the excitement gentleman. Dessert is on the house,” I offer.

The men smile and order two desserts.

Apiece.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Numa Numa!

This post has nothing to do with waiting tables but bear with me…..

Today I read a NY Times article about Gary Brolsma, a nineteen year old kid from New Jersey, who posted a video of himself singing an obscure Romanian pop song called “Numa Numa” on the internet. I don’t think he figured many people would watch it.

Surprise. Gary's little video has been downloaded by millions of people becoming a mini phenomenon. He’s appeared on Good Morning America and his singing parody was broadcast on CNN and VHI. Gary’s now experiencing the transitory whirlwind of internet stardom and Fame can be a cruel mistress. Embarrassed by the entire furor, he avoids calls from the media and was quoted as saying he just wants all this attention to end.

I saw the video. At first glance it shows a pudgy kid doing the technological equivalent of singing in the shower. He lip syncs the words while waving his arm around in an improvised dance while never getting out of his chair. His facial expressions are priceless.

So I looked around other web sites wondering what others thought of Gary’s little effort. Some of the reactions were negative. “That’s sad” or “pathetic” were comments bandied about. I suspect words like that give Gary grief. Remember, he’s only nineteen. Then again, some people only get pleasure by making fun of others. Shame on them.

While I watched that video I saw what millions of other people saw – a kid who was, for a moment, supremely happy. Haven’t you ever been so caught up in something; a song, a sporting event, a dance, that you lost yourself in the moment? Never sang in the car to the consternation of passersby? Danced like an idiot at a wedding? Not once? You’ve never been alive. (And try telling those fat guys who paint their bellies with team colors while enjoying a football game they’re being pathetic. I dare you.)

Every once in a while we get so absorbed in the moment we step outside of ourselves – not caring what others think. Whether its music, literature, painting, prayer, or athletics, times like that are priceless. They connect us to the joy of being alive.

Truth be told, I sometimes dance around in my underwear while listening to 80’s tunes. You all, I’m sure, do something similar. Admit it.

There’s a lot of crap on the internet. I want to thank Gary for sharing a little of his joy, albeit unwittingly, with the rest of the world. Don’t be embarrassed Gary. Screw the immaturity of your adolescent critics. You brought a smile to the faces of millions of people

Very few of us can make the same claim.

Rock on kid. NUMA NUMA!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Amputee

A new two top is seated in my section. The girl is pretty. The boy is tall and quiet. They look young. If they order alcohol I’ll have to see ID.

I pat my breast pocket to make sure I have my reading glasses. I need them to read the small print of a license. Time and years working in dim lighting have weakened my eyes. It’s a sign I’m getting older.

I welcome the couple and ask if they’d like a drink. They order a bottle of wine. I ask for identification.

“Sorry, If you look under thirty I have to check,” I say, half jesting, to lighten a potentially tense moment.

“Sure, no problem,” the young man says. Ready to have his age checked, he pulls a license from his shirt pocket. Putting on my glasses I squint at the ID. Date of Birth – 1983. I was a high school sophomore in ’83.

“Thank you sir,” I say handing back the card.

The young woman is not so well prepared. She fumbles nervously through her purse. I notice she’s holding her bag funny. Finally, she produces a license. 1983. Good no problems.

“Thank you Miss,” I say handing her license back. She reaches for it with her left hand. Her right arm moves to open her purse. Then I see it.

The young woman has no right hand.

Usually my customers have all their fingers and toes. Caught of guard my brain performs a hard reset. I stare at the missing limb for one second. It’s one second too long.

The young woman looks at me and jerks her arm back placing it out of sight in her lap. Flushing slightly she looks at her boyfriend. He looks at her. A volume of information is telegraphed between them in a fraction of a second.

I feel the color rush to my face. “Let me get your wine,” I say excusing myself.

“Real smooth moves,” I think, kicking myself in the ass while I grab their Chianti from the wine cellar. I worked in health care for years and saw all sorts of things. Never once was I surprised or shocked. Then again, I haven’t worked in a hospital in ages. My old unconscious professional coping mechanisms have faded with time.

I return to the table and perform the tasting ritual. The young woman’s arm is still in her lap. She’s not looking at me.

“The wine is fine,” her date says looking mildly annoyed.

While I rattle of the specials on autopilot I think about the girl’s hand. She must have lost it in an accident. If it was something she had lived with since birth her reaction might have been less pronounced. Some people with similar injuries develop unconscious habits to cloak their missing appendages and avoid embarrassing gaffes like the one I’d just experienced. I went a whole year living with a college roommate before I discovered he was missing two fingers on his left hand. Dan always had his hand in his pocket or was holding a pen a la Bob Dole. He wasn’t embarrassed by his injury but explained he developed his habits unconsciously as a form of self protection. School children can be cruel I guess.

The young couple places their order. I decide that giving them extra attention or free stuff to repent for my mistake would be make a bad situation worse. Just treat then like everybody else. I thank them and punch their order into the POS system.

A little later I stop by the table and pour some wine into their glasses.

“Are you enjoying your entrees?” I ask.

The young woman looks directly at me and smiles, “Yes, everything is wonderful.”

It seems the girl recovered her equilibrium. “Let me know if you need anything else,” I offer.

“Thank you,” she says graciously.

The rest of their dinner proceeds without incident. They pay their bill and get up to leave. The girl leans forward and plants a kiss on her date’s cheek. They walk out arm in arm.

I pick up the check of the table. The tip is a solid 20%. I guess my screw-up wasn’t as monumental as I thought.

Relieved, I process the rest of my customers and the night draws to a close.

As I’m walk to my car I think about that young woman. I wonder how I would cope if, God forbid, I was in a similar situation. I once knew a coworker who lost both legs above the knee in a car accident. After rehab he became a computer whiz, cashed in on the dot com boom, married a knockout, and lives in a big house in Delaware with a veritable legion of children. He still drives his own car. I also knew a patient who lost a foot to diabetes. He killed himself soon after amputation surgery.

I shake my head. There are a lot of variables to consider. I guess it depends on the person and their prior history. I can’t help but wonder if I’d rally or fold.

I’m grateful that young couple was gracious. I think they remembered I’m only human and it won’t be the last time something like this happens to them. That young woman is going to be all right.

In any case, I wish I could relive that single awkward second.

But I can’t.

I drive home.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Viva La Revolucion!

Well, it seems more people in the food service industry are jumping on the blogging bandwagon. Here are two blogs I've noticed recently;

Cook Rant (Hmmmmm, sounds familiar) - stories of woe from a line cook.

Manhattan Waitress - tales of a waitroness in NYC.

Eating out will never be the same again.....................

We Report – You Decide

Yesterday I taped an interview in New York City with Fox News about waiters and blogging.

The segment was produced for the Fox News affiliate in Chicago. The piece should air in the Chicago market on Wednesday. The interview might be used for a Fox New York affiliate show at a later date.

I was filmed in silhouette so my identity remains secure. It was actually kind of funny, all the cloak and dagger – I felt like I was informing on the Mob.

Many thanks to Mark, Hannah, Steve, and all the staff at Fox News for making my interview a painless and fun experience!

If anyone finds a link to the interview please send it to me! Let me know how I “look.”

How about that? Warhol was right about that “fifteen minutes.” In my case it’s anonymous!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tea Nazi

Two scruffy bespectacled bohemian guys come through the door. Pausing at the hostess stand they look around, exchange a few words, shrug, and deign to grace us with their presence. They look like pains in the asses.

Of course they’re seated in my section.

“Good evening gentleman. May I get you something from the bar? A glass of wine or a cocktail?” I ask in greeting.

“We’ll have tea,” the thinner of the two sniffs.

Oh great. Tea for an aperitif. I’ve got the last of the big time spenders.

“Do you have lapsang souchong?” the fat one inquires, his lower lip trembling.

“I’m afraid we don’t but we have a nice selection of other teas. I’ll bring the tea box.”

“Mmmmm, no lapsang,” Fatty murmurs sadly.

“Sorry sir.”

“Just fetch the tea box,” Thin orders.

Fetch? I think about emitting a little bark but think the better of it.

Now, any waiter will tell you that serving tea is a monumental pain in the ass. Unlike coffee, tea requires about a dozen accoutrements for its preparation and presentation. First you have to lug out a tea box the size of a cigar humidor, stand around while the patron agonizes over the selection, run back to the kitchen, steep the cup in hot water, assemble saucer, spoon, biscotti, lemon, milk /cream, lemon wedge, sugar bowl (which better have every cancer causing brain cell killing artificial sweetener ever cooked up in a lab), a miniature teapot of scalding water, and, finally, honey. God forbid you forget a single thing.

Imagine doing that for five different tables at the same time and you get a taste of my pain.

I deliver the tea humidor to the Bohemians. There are about a hundred tea packets in the box. They flip through every single one. After what seems like an eternity Fatty pulls out four herbal teas and a bag of Lipton. Thin draws out five herbals and a decaf Lipton. I stand there in confusion. How much tea are they going to drink?

“Well aren’t you going to get us some hot water?” Thin huffs impatiently.

“Sorry sir,” I say, beating a retreat to the kitchen.

When I return, tray laden with supplies, I notice there are only two bags of Lipton tea on the table. The other nine tea bags have vanished.

Steeping their tea they place their order. Two house salads and the cheapest bowl of pasta we have – split for two.

“Can I have more bread?” Fatty asks hopefully.

“Of course sir.”

I go to the computer and place the order.

“Hey Maria,” I ask the busgirl, “Did you take any tea bags off of table twenty-six?”

“No,” she replies, “Why?”

“Forget it,” I murmur, “Just bring them some more bread please.”

Two hours elapse. The men eat their salads and entrees while polishing off four baskets of bread. Plates cleared I go to the table.

“Would you gentleman care for some dessert?” I ask warily.

“More hot water,” Thin says without looking up.

“Very good sir.”

I bring two fresh pots of hot water. The men recycle their cold Lipton bags. The other teas are nowhere to be seen.

I’m steaming. “Ok motherfuckers,” I think to myself, ‘You wanna play? Let’s play.”

After another half hour the Bohemians signal for the check. I happily ring it up.

2 House Salads $ 0.00
1 Penne Pomodoro $ 11.95
Split Charge $ 1.00
2 Regular Teas $ 3.00
9 Herbal Teas $ 22.50

Total (Pre tax) $ 38.45

I drop off the bill with a friendly, “Thank you very much gentleman.”

Thin examines the bill. He looks like he discovered someone put sand in his Vaseline.

“Waiter, come here.” he yelps.

“Yes sir?”

“Why are you charging us $25 for tea? We only had two!”

“But you gentleman took nine herbal teas and they’re $2.50 each.”

“We gave them back,” Thin argues. Liar

“No sir, you didn’t,” I reply, putting some steel in my voice.

“Well, we’re not paying for it.”

I look away from Thin and fix my gaze at a point on some imaginary horizon. After a long pause I say softly,

“I would hate to involve the police in this conversation.”

I look back down. Fatty’s lip is trembling in overdrive.

Thin looks at me venomously. He’s probably pulled this shit a million times and gotten away with it. Not tonight. He’s come face to face with the Tea Nazi.

The men pull the tea packets out of their pockets and place them on the table.

“Happy now?” Thin snorts.

“Thank you sir.”

I readjust the check, process the credit card, and hand the check back to Thin. He writes a prominent zero in the tip section.

“Very generous sir,” I deadpan.

“We are never coming back here,” Thin sputters looking at Fatty, “Are we?”

Fatty just nods.

“Good.” I reply simply.

Thin looks positively livid.

“And we are telling all our friends not to come here either,”

“If they’re anything like you we don’t want them here either,” I reply in a dead even voice.

“Fuck you,” Thin hisses. He jumps from his seat and barrels out the door.

Fatty, who can’t move as fast, is still in his seat.

“I’m sorry,” he says in a small voice. He looks terrified.

I look at Fatty. I feel sorry for him. Something tells me Thin is the only friend he has.

Fatty pulls out $5 and hands it to me.

“I’m sorry,” he repeats.

I purse my lips and think for a moment. I put my hand on Fatty’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry too.”

Fatty gets up and shuffles out the door.

Walking back to the kitchen I hand the busgirl the $5 bill.

“What’s that for?” she asks.

“Don’t worry about it.”

I don’t feel victorious. Just sad. All this over tea.

Fatty’s trembling face will haunt me for the rest of the night

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Fart

It's the Saturday night before Valentine's Day and the Bistro is packed with couples who couldn't get a reservation for Monday's cupidinal shakedown party. All the tables are two tops. It's loud. It's crazy. Smelling revenue, Fluvio has 'em packed in like sardines.

I'm standing in the small space between two tables telling a couple the specials when I feel a rumbling deep in my stomach. Damn. I knew I shouldn't have had that farro and red bean soup at the start of shift.

As I'm mindlessly reciting the specials I feel a bolus of gas materialize at the entrance of my large intestine. It can't seem to decide if it wants to travel north or south. After teasing me for a minute it plunges downward.

Uh oh.

I feel a sharp pain in my gut. I wince in pain. If you've ever had bad gas you can relate.

"Waiter, which Chardonnay is the most oakey in flavor?" my customer asks innocently.

"Try the special Chardonnay from California. I think you'll like it," I reply in a strained voice. I'm grateful the ambient noise is overwhelming the tectonic sounds of activity in my GI tract.

"Hmmmm," she says gazing at the wine list.

The gas cloud has worked its way through the small intestine. Things are going from bad to worse.

"What about the Italian chardonnay?" she asks.

"Not oakey," I grunt. I can't speak in complete sentences now.

"Just give me a sec," she says scanning the extensive list.

I have to fart - NOW.

I run through my options. I could make a break for the door - but that would be rude. I could just let it fly but in cramped quarters that could be disastrous. I try and remember if the Yuppie behind me ever stiffed me on the tip.

"Ok, we'll have the Sauvignon Blanc," the customer pronounces.

"Very good madam," I acknowledge. I grab the wine list from her hand and make a beeline for the door.

I barely make it outside when nature takes it course. The resultant explosion is so loud it startles a man walking across the street. He looks over at me. I try and look casual.

When the pedestrian rounds the corner I dive back inside the restaurant with an evident look of relief on my face. I run over to the computer, enter the order, and duck into the kitchen.

I grab a box of baking soda off the shelf and mix some into a glass of water. Poor man's Alka Seltzer.

"Feeling all right?" Louis, our token gay waiter, asks.

"Oh man, I have some bad gas. I thought I was gonna fart at the table."

"I hate when that happens," he replies sympathetically.

"That would deep six a tip for sure," I continue.

"It's not like you can pass it off on someone else," Louis muses.

"Right," I say, greedily drinking my homespun medication.

Then out of nowhere Louis says, "You know I've this recurrent fantasy that I'm wearing an adult diaper, Depends or something, and I just pee in my pants while taking a table's order."

I laugh so hard sodium bicarbonate spews out my nose.

"Just pee."

Convulsed with laughter I steady myself on the counter. "That's so fucked up," I exclaim.

Egged on by my response Louis adopts a bad French accent, "And how would madam like her steak cooked? Oh! Pardon moi for a second."

He stares up at the ceiling for a minute.

"Ah," he exhales.

I'm on the floor in hysterics.

"Ok Madam, would you like the steak rare or medium rare?"

Louis' adolescent age regressive Monty Phytonesque toilet humor is priceless sometimes.

"I'm glad you didn't go number two," I remark, my laughter subsiding.

Louis grabs his pants and starts adjusting them like he's uncomfortable. "Oh man! Mommy! I made something for you!"

We're laughing so hard Fluvio comes in the kitchen to shut us up.

"What's so funny?" he asks.

We tell him.

Fluvio smiles, shakes his head, and runs away. Louis and I go back to work.


If the customers ever knew what we talked about - they would never stop throwing up.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Deep Throat

The article in the Washington Post appeared today. Yes, you have to register to see it. Many thanks to Amy Joyce for writing an excellent article. I was happy to contribute. (I'm mentioned on the last page.)

Could someone send me a permalink to the story like we did for the NY Times? Beth help! :)

Oh, you thought this post was about something else?

Perverts

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Things you never want a chef to talk about…..

It's 3:30 in the afternoon. We have an hour to ourselves before the doors open for dinner. Armando, the sous chef, made something special for us today - steak tagliate; simply dressed with arugula, fresh tomatoes, and superb olive oil. It’s delicious.

Having already polished off my lunch I'm sipping espresso and reading the paper. The bus people are just sitting down, liberally pouring Tabasco sauce on their meals. Not the condiment I would suggest - but then again they put would put hot sauce on a Twinkie.

"Hey Maria, do you put Tabasco in the baby formula?" I say peering over the top of the Times.

Our newest mother smiles, "Of course Gringo."

"Ay mamacita caliente!" I yelp.

"Silencio cabron," Maria chides gently. The kitchen men laugh. It’s an old bistro joke between Mexicanos and Anglos.

Armando emerges from the kitchen holding a cappuccino. He sits down across from me.

"Thanks for lunch Armando, that was excellent," I say.

"Of course it was," he replies modestly.

I chuckle and turn back to the Dining Out section.

"Anything interesting in the paper?" Armando asks.

"Same shit, different day," I sigh.

Armando takes a sip of his cappuccino, wiping the foam from his upper lip.

"You know when I was in the gym yesterday I read a really interesting magazine article about bourgers." he says.

Sometimes Armando has trouble pronouncing English words. "Bourgers? Like in Big Macs?" I ask in clarification.

He shakes his head, "No, bourgers, the things that come out of your nose."

"You mean boogers don't you?"

He snaps his fingers, "Yes. Boogers, that’s it. Si. "

"What about them?" I ask warily.

"A doctor said that it's healthy to eat boogers. Somehow it helps keep you from getting sick," he says.

"Really?"

"He said it helps stimulate your, your….what is the word?"

"Immune system?" I offer.

"Si, immune system," Armando says triumphantly.

"Well it makes sense. We've all picked our nose. It's natural. We are probably ingesting dead bacteria giving us some sort of immunity," I muse.

"That's what the article said."

"When you think about it there were no seasonings in caveman days," I reason.

"Yes, they probably thought it was tasty," Armando replies. Remember this guy is the chef.

"Could you guys talk about something else please," a lunch waiter bitches, "I'm eating."

"Sorry," Armando and I say simultaneously.

Armando polishes off his coffee. "Hey, I made shortcake with crème fraiche for dessert."

"Yummy," I say. Small wonder my pants are too tight.

"Let me get it," Armando says rising from his seat.

"Armando!" I call after him.

He pauses at the door, "Yes?"

"Wash your hands."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

6.8 %

It's Saturday afternoon. I'm standing at the reservation terminal listening to the owner's latest scheme to become the next Emeril.

"This could be big - real big," Fluvio announces

"Which pasta company are you gonna be the spokesman for?" I ask.

He tells me.

"Never heard of 'em. Do we even use their pasta?"

"We do now," Fluvio replies, grinning.

"When do you film the commercial?"

"Next month," he says expansively, "Mario Batali better watch his ass."

I have a vision of a gigantic Fluvio staring down at me from a Times Square billboard. Hey, it could happen.

"God, if you become famous you'll be even more insufferable," I quip.

Fluvio chuckles evilly. The phone rings.

"Hello, The Bistro, how may I help you?" I chirp brightly.

"I want to make a reservation for February 14th," a slightly accented voice demands.

"Let me just get over to that day sir," I say turning to the reservation computer.

"That's Valentine's day," the voice huffs. No shit Einstein.

"What time would you like to make the reservation.?" I ask.

"Seven o'clock. I want a window table for two."

Since most guys make Valentine's Day plans at the last minute we have plenty of open tables.

"And your name, sir?"

"Dr. Zamir."

Zamir, Zamir, hmmmmm. I flip through my mental Rolodex of bad tippers. Ah, here we are.

Five months ago, Dr. Zamir left me $12 on a $175 check - 6.8%. I remember him. My memory is long. My patience for justice - infinite.

Time to bring the pain.

"I'm sorry Dr. Zamir, my first available table is at 9 o'clock." I offer sweetly.

"9 o'clock?" Zamir sputters, "that's way too late!"

"It is Valentine's Day and those slots filled up early," I lie.

"Can't you do something for me?" he begs.

"I'm so sorry sir."

Giving me a "what the hell?" look Fluvio points to the open seven o'clock slots on the monitor.

I lower the phone, extend my middle finger towards the mouthpiece, and rotate it for emphasis.

As Fluvio starts to protest I call up Zamir's client history. He's been a no show for several reservations.

Fluvio smiles broadly.

Looking through the window a casual passerby would have seen two grown men hopping up and down, Italian saluting a phone, gleefully mouthing the words "fuck you, fuck you," a dozen times.

I put the receiver back to my ear smiling, "I'm sorry sir but that's all we have at this time."

"Ok," Zamir sighs, “I’ll take it. But I want the window."

"We'll do our best sir," I reply, putting the doctor in a lovely seat by the men's room.

"if any earlier tables open up you'll call me right.?"

"Of course Doctor," I lie again, typing "do not move to earlier time" in the notation field.

"Ok bye," Zamir says hanging up abruptly.

"Happy Valentine's Day asshole," I say into the silent handset.

"Isn't Dr. Zamir a proctologist? Fluvio muses.

"I don't know. In a perfect world he would be."

"Figures," Fluvio grunts walking away..........

Some people emailed me after the NY Times article that, even for good service, waiters didn't deserve more than a few pennies. "Shit skills, shit job," was their attitude. This story is for you.

Bad tippers shouldn't be surprised when requests for nice tables on important days go ignored. We save those tables for nice people who know the deal.

You can figure it out. Shit tips - shit tables.

Hey, at least I gave the doctor a table. I have a heart.

But tippers like Dr Zamir only get 6.8% of it.

Have a nice day.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I told you those Oompa Loompas gave me the creeps!

Goto http://www.dribbleglass.com/articles/wonka-scandal.htm

That's so delightfully twisted!

Oompa Loompas, Chocolate, and the Question of Evil

It’s a really slow shift. I mean its species are evolving around us slow. I wonder if my little toe will disappear before the night ends.

We are doing what waiters hate to do – wait.

Louis, our token gay waiter, stands near the bar debating if we should start dipping into the booze.

“Hey if you mix the vodka with Sprite who’s gonna know?” Louis suggests wistfully.

“Or Jack Daniels in ginger ale,” I offer.

“We should,” he says grinning.

“No, we shouldn’t.”

Louis and I never drink on shift and it would be a bad idea to start now. Boredom combining with alcohol could have catastrophic consequences.

We talk about movies to distract us from the multicolored containers of temptation shining in the barroom light.

“Hey, I heard Johnny Depp might play Willy Wonka in the remake,” Louis remarks.

“Really I heard it was Marilyn Manson.”

“No he dropped out.”

“Too bad,” I say, “Manson woulda been perfect for that part. He’s a scary bastard. I mean Willy Wonka was really fucked up for a kid’s movie when you think about it.”

“True, kids getting shrunken, drowning in chocolate,” Louis recalls.

“The Oompa Loompas still give me the creeps,” I shudder.

Overhearing us Shlomo, our token Jewish waiter, walks over joining the conversation.

“Actually Willy Wonka is all about the Hebrew idea of God and the nature of Evil,” he announces.

“Huh?” Louis gapes openmouthed.

Now I was a divinity student long ago. I studied the scriptures. I don’t remember the professors mentioning a mad chocolatier.

“Ok Rabbi,” I counter incredulously, my eyebrows arching, “Explain this one to me.”

“Do you remember when Charlie got the golden ticket for a chance to win a lifetime of chocolate?” Shlomo asks.

“Yes.”

“Then an evil looking guy named Slugworth tries to tempt Charlie into selling it to him?”

“Yeah and the kid told him to take a hike,” I say trying to remember the details.

“Right, right,” Shlomo puffs professorially, “and the kids go to the candy factory where they exhibit all the sins of humanity; greed, anger, selfishness, and are gleefully dispatched by Willy Wonka.”

“Oompa loompa doompety doo,” Louis says giggling.

Shlomo shoots him a dirty look. “Well the whole movie is a religious allegory. Willy Wonka is God and Slugworth is the tempting Devil. The chocolate prize is eternal life with God.”

“Ok,” I nod, “I’m following you.”

“Do you remember the end of the movie?” Shlomo queries.

“Wonka says Charlie and his Grandpa stole some floating fizzy drink so he throws Charlie out telling him he didn’t win the prize. The kid gives back his everlasting gobstopper and Wonka relents giving him the prize anyway.”

“That’s about right,” Shlomo says,” but do you remember Slugworth appearing at end?”

‘Yeah, Slugworth appears, Charlie gets scared but Wonka says he works for him.”

“EXACTLY!” our rabbi cries.

“I don’t follow you.”

“Slugworth tried to tempt Charlie. Slugworth is the Devil. Slugworth works for Wonka. If Wonka is God - then Satan works for God.”

“And we think we have problems with our boss.” Louis interjects.

“It’s a very Hebraic idea. Satan is God’s agent. He only does what God wants done.” Shlomo prognosticates.

“And that is?”

“Satan provides a choice. Without choice there could be no free will. If there is no free will than loving God would be meaningless. Satan tempts man so he can have a choice and love God freely.”

“God is kinda like a guy wondering if a girl loves him only for his money.” Louis titters.

“Actually that’s not a bad comparison," Shlomo admits.

I have a flash of remembrance, “Lucifer is the Angel of Light that God sent to test Job.”

“And God created Satan to give man free will. Without the devil we wouldn’t be human.”

“Oh my God,” Louis groans, “This conversation’s giving me a headache. I’m gonna go in the alley and smoke a joint.”

In two minutes we went from booze to Oompa Loompas to the nature of Evil and the human condition. My head’s swimming.

“Some people would say that makes God a manipulative bastard,” I wonder aloud.

‘Yes, but manipulative only to our perception of reality. Maybe there’s a greater reality we can’t see and evil is an essential part of it.” Shlomo says.

Now my head hurts.

“Are you sure that’s the kosher Jewish view?” I ask.

“What the fuck do I know," Shlomo shrugs, “it’s been years since I set foot in temple. Hey Louis, wait up man!”

I shake my head. I’ve been thinking a lot about light and dark lately. I write about it in my blog. I’ve always thought concepts like Satan and God were actually literary diffractions of one and the same reality. There’s a darkness to what we call “God." We’re uncomfortable with that ambivalence so we divide the Divine into two separate and distinct entities - God and Lucifer. It makes it easier to wrap our minds around the question of Evil.

Man’s search for the divine brings him into contact with both light and dark. The thirst for God has created scholarship, learning, feats of heroism, compassion, and deep philosophical insight. It also brought us the Crusades, intolerance, and 9/11. Then again maybe there is no God, no golden ticket for endless supplies of chocolate– only a great yawning cloud of insensate electrons. Maybe I’m thinking too much.

“Excuse me waiter,” a customer beckons.

“Yes madam.”

“I’m want dessert,” she moans fluttering her lashes, “What do you have in chocolate?”

I almost laugh aloud.

“We have a lovely dark chocolate torte,” I reply.

“Mmmmmm gimme.” she says clapping her hands excitedly.

I bring her the torte. She tucks into it with gusto.

I walk over to the front and gaze out the window. Outside lovers wander arm in arm. Kids talk excitedly in front of Starbucks. An old man walks his dog. Mr. Smooth, our neighborhood registered sex offender, is hanging out on the corner. A police car drives slowly by. He walks away. It’s a snapshot of existence. Yes darkness is part of humanity.

The night ends. The customers leave.

I’m left alone in an empty bistro contemplating the Darkness of God.

Oompa loompa doompety doo!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Interview

A reporter from a foodie magazine wrote and asked, "How can a customer get the waitstaff to remember his/her name? Are there particularly nice ways a customer can go about making sure to get personal service, or get a reservation the next time around?"

My answer:

Dear Reporter:

Well there are many factors that would lead a waiter to remember a patron's name.

Being a good tipper :)
Being a bad tipper :(

Unfortunately here are some other reasons why I remember a customer's name

1. Customer's a drunk
2. Customer stiffed me on the entire bill
3. Customer physically abusive to spouse/kids
4. Customer vomited on me or table
5. Customer/s had sex in bathroom and broke sink (Happened swear to God in a friend's place)
6. Customer overdosed in bathroom had we had to call the ambulance
7. Customer tells me at dessert she wants to commit suicide. That was fun!
8. Customer gets into fistfight with another customer. Yo ref!
9, Customer is an insufferable asshole.

Some good reasons to remember a customer's name

1. Customer is cute and gives you her/his number
2. Customer remembers my name and repeats theirs in case I forgot (I see so many people it's hard to keep track. I remember faces)
3. Customer writes owner and tells him/her what a great waiter I am.
4, Customer requests me as their exclusive server
5. Customers asks non invasive but polite questions (How are you, how's your dog?)
6. If customer comes just before closing they're aware we need to close and skip dessert.
7. Customer says hi to you on the street and doesn't treat you like the help.
8. Customer is polite
9. Did I mention they leave a big tip?
10. Customer remembers you at Christmas $$$$
11. Customer tells all her/his friends what a great waiter you are and has their friends request you as a server.

Those people I remember. Hope this helps. Good luck with your article! :)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I threw this into the blog because so many people are screaming at me to post something. Actually I post once or twice a week. This is not a daily blog. Look for a new story over the weekend. Thanks again for all your kind emails!

If you have a question email me directly. Many of you don't leave a valid email address in the comments section. I respond to all emails. At least right now!



Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dear Readers

Since the article in the NY Times I’ve been inundated with email and comments. I will answer all your emails and questions as soon as I can. I’m working a bunch of doubles at the Bistro so I don’t have time to respond quickly.

I appreciate all the warm words of encouragement and support! Most of your responses have been very complimentary. Of course, there were some comments like “you’re an asshat,” “a miserable human being,” “whiner,” “loser, and “entitled prick.”

“Asshat” is my favorite! Hey you writes the blog you takes the heat.

I appreciate the comments – even the negative ones. If you left an email address with your posting I will respond to you individually.

Just a quick note - I think 15% is the minimum for a tip – not 20%. No, if the waiter is a jerk you don’t have to tip heavy. Just try and remember he or she is a human being too. We all have bad days!

Sorry – in the US waiters are not paid a salary. We depend on tips. Maybe that situation will change one day. I doubt it.

Man did my posting on tipping strike a nerve! It’s obvious it’s a hot button topic that generates a lot of emotion – from waiters and customers. I look forward to reading more of your comments!

I have to run. More stories are coming.

Thanks again for all the kind words everybody! - Waiter


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

NY Times Link / Housekeeping Details

Here is the link to the NY Times article where I'm mentioned. You may have to log in to read the article. Don't sweat it - registration is free.

Does any one know how to convert the Times feed for this story into a permanent URL? In a few weeks the article will go into the archives and be unavailable.

Many thanks to Julia Moskin for writing a fantastic article. I was honored that my voice was included.

A note to readers using Macintosh - many of you have written to tell me that my blog is filled with weird &*%$ symbols that interfere with your reading pleasure. I apologize. I do write my stuff in Word and cut and paste it into Blogger. I am open to any suggestions on using a different program to edit my stuff where this doesn't happen.

In the meantime you can read Waiter Rant at Bloglines - there are no formatting issues there!

Many thanks to all the people who emailed me. I reply to every missive. Just give me some time!



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Cheap Bastards

I was thinking about writing this long involved essay on tipping. I struggled with it for hours and then gave up. You know why? Because most of you are smart enough to know a waiter is supposed to get at least a 15% gratuity. Just let the following horror stories speak for themselves…………………

1. A table’s bill is $208.85. It’s a four top. They have a $100 gift certificate. They ask me to deduct the gift amount and split the remainder between two credit cards. I present the men with credit card slips for $54.42 and $54.43. The tips are $8.16 and $8.17 respectively. They screw me down to the penny.

2. An Italian national. His check is $55.00. His tip? A lousy $4. You’re in America now paisan.

3. Four Israelis. The check is $140. The tip’s a measly $14. Next time eat at the Tel Aviv McDonalds. Oy Vey!

4. A waitress has a table with a $44 dollar check. She gets $4 stuck inside a religious pamphlet telling her that Jesus loves her.

“Hey Eternal Salvation is a nice tip when you think about it,” I say

“Fuck that” the waitress replies, “I want the cash. Jesus doesn’t pay the rent”

Those customers are going straight to hell.

5. Two Sex in the City Wanabees. Their check is $108. They pay cash and race out the door leaving the poor waitress nothing. If you spend all your money on Jimmy Choos and designer handbags and can’t afford to leave a tip - you can’t afford to eat out. Sorry to mess up your Candace Bushnell fantasy. Might I suggest you dine at Château Blanc next time? Live within your means bitches.

6. A couple’s on a first date. The check is $150. The man leaves me $12. I’m pissed. His date passes me on the way to the ladies room.

“Just out of curiosity what did he leave you as a tip?” she asks.

I happily show her the credit card slip.

“What a cheap fuck,” she exclaims. She goes back to the table and angrily tells her date what a cheapskate he is. I guess he’s not getting lucky tonight. Come to think of it I saw her at the bar alone later…………..

7. A man leaves $5 on a $100 check. His wife yells at him telling him he’s being cheap. Smiling the man says, “I’m not giving them my money. Let them go out and get real jobs.”

Ok you Social Darwinist Ayn Rander puke………

A few weeks later he comes in again. I remember him. When he tries to pay the bill his credit card comes up declined.

“Trust me I have the money,” he says nervously.

“Don’t worry you can do a real job washing dishes in the back,” I deadpan.

8. My all time favorite. A Birkenstock shod hippie couple’s check is $55. I present them with the bill.

“Waiter we don’t tip because we believe that would force owners to pay you a living wage,” Deadhead proclaims proudly.

I stare at him silently. My look says, “And you should tip me if you want to keep on living.” He squirms uncomfortably.

“Well maybe just this once” he says counting out a few bills.

“Thank you sir.”


It’s not easy being a waiter. 3.8 million Americans work in restaurants. The vast majority of their income is from tips. Support the economy and tip heavy! At the very least take pity us.

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