Friday, April 29, 2005

New Guy

We’re training a couple of new waiters. I forget their names. Actually, I don’t want to know their names. They probably won’t last long. Being a waiter is like being a soldier in combat. Veterans don’t want get to know the green recruit. They’re going to get blown up anyway so why waste the time?

Louis and I are sitting around with one of the trainees drinking coffee. He looks lost.

“Hey, you know what we need around here?” Louis says.

“What?” I reply.

“A waiter with Tourette’s Syndrome.”

“That would be sweet,” I agree.

“Huh?” New Guy asks nervously.

“It’s a disorder where people have involuntary facial and vocal tics. Sometimes they curse like a sailor and fling their arms about. They can’t help it,” I explain.

“How on earth is that a good thing in a waiter?” New Guy demands.

“Louis sir,” I say smiling.

“Yes?”

“A demonstration if you please.”

Louis gets up pretending to address a table.

“Good evening Messieurs and Madams. Tonight we have a lovely bing bing BOOP! rack of lamb with a white wine Grrrr SHAKA SHAKA demi glaze.”

The new guy looks horrified.

“Yes Madam? Oh, we can put the sauce on the f-f-f-f-f-FUCKING side, No problem BOOP!

The other waiters are on the floor laughing.

Oui Oui Monsieur I LIKE YOUR WIFE”S RACK VERY MUCH! Merde! I mean your wife would like the rack very much. BOOP!

“Let’s hope they don’t ask about the fish specials,” I whisper to New Guy.

“Madam would like lemon with her Ch- Ch-CHEAPSKATE MOTHERFUCKING water! SNORT! But of course!” Louis yelps.

I wipe a tear form my eye. Louis and I have been doing this Tourettes shtick for years.

My name is Louis WHOOP! and it will be my pleasure to s-s-s-s-serve you BITCHES! tonight. Oh! Pardon Moi.”

“The best part of all this is if we hire a waiter with Tourettes he can’t get fired.” I say

“Why not?” New Guy asks in disbelief.

“American’s with D-d-d-d disabilities Act BING!” Louis spurts.

“No discrimination at this Bistro,” I add.

You guys are crazy,” New Guy says moving rapidly away from us.

“You might be right,” I reply.

Louis sits down exhausted from his little bit of theatre.

“I don’t think the new guy is gonna last,” he says.

“I don’t either. No sense of humor.”

“What his name?’

“I don’t f-f-f-f-fucking remember.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Waiter Rant meets Roadhouse

I've only had to physically throw out one customer in all my time as a waiter.

The guy at Clublife gets to do it every night!

An entertaining blog about a bouncer in NYC. Go read!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Happy Birthday

Waiter Rant is one year old today. Can you believe it?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Not Getting Any

Twice a week Mr. Escher comes into the bistro to get takeout for his wife.

Twice a week I get to hear how much he hates her.

"Are you married?" Mr. Escher asks me while paying for his order.

"No sir. I'm not."

"Good. Never get married," he says wearily signing the credit card slip.

A smile creeps across my face, "Why does every married guy over 40 tell me the same thing?"

"Because they know."

"Here's your food Mr. Escher," I say sympathetically, "Try and have a nice evening."

"Is everything in order?" he queries suspiciously.

If the food isn't prepared exactly to his wife's specifications she sends it back. To make the process less painful for all concerned we created a special button on the POS computer just for her.

"Just the way she likes it sir," I say smiling, "A pink sauce with more cream than tomato."

"You know why husbands die before their wives don't you?" Escher asks heading for the door.

"Because they want to," I reply finishing the joke.

"Right," Escher smiles grimly.

"Good night sir."

After five years I've never met Mr. Escher's wife. Like Niles Crane's unseen Maris on "Frasier" - she remains a mysterious malevolent harridan.

I watch Mr. Escher walk down the street. Poor bastard.

He's not getting any tonight.

A short while later I'm getting the order from a four top of middle aged yuppies. They're transfixed at the sight of a fifty year old man making out with a much younger blonde a few tables over.

'He's old enough to be her father," one of the matrons exclaims.

"Disgusting. Why can't he find someone his own age?" her companion huffs.

I can't help but notice the husbands are smiling.

"Goddamn Viagra," the matron whines, "Makes old goats think they're 25."

"Why don't they make a Viagra for women?" the other wife laments.

Staring at the canoodling couple her husband sighs, "They've already made something for you girls."

"Oh yeah, what's it called?" his wife shoots back.

"Jewelry."

I stifle a laugh.

"You think that's funny don't you Robert?" his wife hisses.

The husband stares at his spouse with a look born from years of accommodation.

"Yes I do."

His wife stares at him sullenly. I wonder if I'm ever going to get the order.

After a long pause she smiles wanly saying,

"We'll see about that Robert."

Robert shifts uncomfortably in his chair.

Poor bastard I think to myself.

He's not getting any tonight either.

Sigh......

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Gay Reality TV

Louis and I are back by the soda machine shooting the shit.

“Check this out,” Louis says, “Did you hear of that new gay TV network that’s starting up?

“I heard something about it,” I reply

“Well they called me.”

“Really? Why?”

“My twentieth high school reunion is next month. No one in my little New Mexico hometown knows I’m gay. The network wants to fly me and Bill out and film everyone’s reaction at the reunion.”

“To your being gay?”

“Yep. Coming out reality TV.”

I have an uneasy feeling in my gut.

“What’s Bill’s take on this?” I ask.

“He’s not thrilled about the idea.”

“How do you feel about it?”

“I don’t know. It’s an all expenses paid trip plus a speakers fee,” Louis says.

Louis is one of the nicest and funniest waiters I’ve ever worked with. But I know being funny sometimes flows from a wellspring of pain. Louis keeps that part of himself very private. I wonder if him being on TV is the best idea.

“Well, if you want my opinion,” I offer, “I’d take a pass.”

“Why?”

“No matter how tastefully it’s done - TV is TV. Gay network or not, they won’t have your best interests at heart. It’s still about money.”

Louis is quiet for a moment.

While he’s thinking an old Dylan lyric pops into my head,

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

That’s reality TV in a nutshell.

“Don’t whore yourself out for a TV show,” I say gently, “Don’t gargle in the rat race choir.”

“You might be right,” Louis murmurs wistfully.

“So,” I say changing the subject,” what other programming is on this gay network?”

“Lots of Golden Girls reruns.” Louis says.

“Golden Girls?” I bluster, “Can you please tell me why gay men love that show so much?”

“I have no idea,” Louis says shaking his head.

“I mean why do gay guys the world over watch that show? I think some big gay alien is beaming messages directly into your brains.”

Louis laughs.

“YOU WILL WEAR ARGYLE SOCKS AND LOVE SHOWTUNES! I, BEA ARHTUR, COMMAND YOU!” I mock bellow.

“Oh that’s fucked up,” Louis chuckles.

“Why the Golden Girls? Why THAT show?” I wonder aloud.

A sly smile spreads across my face,

“Why not, let’s say oh….. BJ and the Bear?”

Louis stares at me in astonishment.

“Oh man, that has multiple meanings doesn’t it?” I say cracking up.

Wiping the tears from his eyes Louis says, “Brilliant, fucking brilliant.”

“Well they should have the truck driver and the chimp on the gay network,” I hurumph.

Out laughter subsides. We’re quiet.

“I like bears.” Louis says suddenly smiling.

“I’ll bet you do.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

Gringo Shit

It’s Sunday and we’re mad busy.

Fluvio's home sick so I’m left with the keys to the kingdom. The waiters are all working doubles. The “who gets to go home first” begging ritual is in full swing.

“Oh man I am so tired,” Shlomo says to me. “You can have the rest of my tables and take the cash.”

I’ve been sick for three days. Stoned on antihistamines I’m performing my duties on autopilot. I don’t feel like picking up the slack

“We’re all exhausted,” I reply, “let’s see what happens.”

“Dude pleaseeeee,” Shlomo pleads. He looks crisped around the edges.

“Let me think about it.”

Now Shlomo was out carousing last night. His car broke down on Jerome Ave and he spent all night trying to get a tow truck. He got no sleep. I sympathize. But I have a hard and fast managerial rule I live by…..

What a waiter does the night before is their problem.

Hungover? Detoxing? Burning urination? You should have gotten some one to cover your shift. If you come in and tie on your apron I expect you to do your job. That’s the ethos of working in a restaurant.

I stumble through the rest of my tables and try and remember to smile. When my entrées are delivered I sit on a crate and drink some coffee. It’s the first time I’ve sat all day.

“Someone is at the front door asking about a job,” the hostess says interrupting my rest.

“Is it about the waiter position?”

“Yep.”

“Goddamn it,” I say wearily getting up.

As I walk over to the front I see one of the busgirls wearing a garbage bag over her head like a poncho and latex gloves on her hands.

“What’s with the outfit?” I ask

“Someone mierda all over the bathroom,” Olega replies.

“Huh?” I mumble incomprehensively. That Day Quil is really screwing up my synapses.

“Look cabron,” Olega says gesturing to the ladies room.

I open the door. Mistake.

There’s shit all over the bowl and floor. Someone had a bad case of the runs. The smell is overpowering.

“See?” Olega grins.

Sometimes women don’t want to plant their lily white asses on the bowl so they try and “hover.” Combine alcohol with bad aim and you get a mess.

“I’m so sorry you have to clean this up,” I mutter

“It’s ok. It’s my job,” Olega chirps. Grabbing some bleach she enters the hot zone in her makeshift hazmat suit to clean up gringo shit.

We don’t pay her enough.

When I get to the front door the prospective applicant is waiting. He looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ.

“Are you the owner?” he asks superciliously.

“No, I’m the manager. How can I help you?”

“I’m here for the waiter position. I’m very experienced,” he says looking me up and down. Suddenly I’m conscious of the tomato sauce stain on my tie.

“Please come back tomorrow between 10 and noon,” I say, “The owner will be in then to conduct interviews.”

“Those times don’t work for me,” the man sniffs.

“Well, you coming in during the evening rush doesn’t work for me either. If you were experienced you would know that,” I retort.

“Oh.”

I hand the man an application and he leaves. He’ll never come back.

I return to the back where Olega has finished her clean up operation. It’s bad enough the busgirls have to scrape slimy plates of half consumed food they can’t afford to buy themselves. But to clean up some Yuppie’s bowel movement? Gimme a break.

I’d love to find the culprit and leave a little post Tex-Mex present in HER bathroom. You know what I'm talking about.

As the night stretches on the waiters begin to squabble angrily over who gets to go home first. I call them into an impromptu huddle.

“Listen. Sometimes this job just sucks. Long hours are part of it. No one is leaving early and that’s that,” I say. If Olega has to clean up shit - they’re all staying.

Shlomo has a gleam in his eye. I think if he had access to a firearm he might use it.

“That’s it people.” I pronounce. Another rush of Yuppies queues up hungrily at the front door.

You would think the waiters would be happy to make all this money but they aren’t. When a server’s tired money ceases to be a motivating factor. When business is slow they bitch about not having enough shifts. When it’s busy they want to leave early. You can never win.

The night grinds on. Not being a complete asshole I take the last rush of tables and let the other guys cashier out. The kitchen crew is close to mutiny. I close the bistro early.

After I complete the night’s paperwork I clock out and head over to the Irish pub. I shouldn’t be drinking with a cold but my knees are killing me.

Lenny pours me a Guinness. While I’m waiting for the pint to settle I admire the expertly drawn shamrock in the foamy head. Suddenly one of the pub waitresses runs up to the bar.

“Some asshole just shit all over the ladies room!” she cries. Talk about being literal.

“Goddamn it,” Lenny and I exclaim in unison.

Lenny disappears to handle the problem. I stare sullenly into my beer.

“Gringo yuppie motherfuckers,” I sigh taking a sip.

It never ends.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Sick and Tired

Sorry I haven't ben writing more. Very busy week at the Bistro and I'm under the weather. Thank God for Ny Quil!

I'll be back with more tales of horror soon!

Welcome to all the new readers! So you know - this isn't a daily blog. I post on average twice a week.

I'm off to bed. Ugh.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hit And Run

On April 8th Maria Nolan, a 45 year old financial planner for Fleet Securities, was crossing the street near Madison Avenue and East 65th Street when she killed by a hit and run driver.

Described in the press as a pretty, well dressed, and petite woman – she lived in a luxury condominium on East 57th street with her husband, John. He must be devastated.

One of the victim's neighbors said, "She was a lovely woman; she was very quiet and unassuming, and she just... it's gonna be a tragic loss... really feel terrible."

Police are blanketing the area with signs and reviewing traffic camera surveillance tapes trying to find the driver of the car.

If you live in the NYC area I’m sure you’ve seen the story. It’s been all over the TV and the newspapers.

But there was another hit and run accident this weekend in New Jersey that didn’t make the front pages or the evening news.

Buried in the back pages of the Bergen Record was this story……

WESTWOOD (NJ) - A restaurant worker riding his bike home from work was killed by a hit-and-run driver Saturday morning.

Jario Gonzalez-Romero, 23, of Cedar Lane in River Vale was riding home about 1:45 a.m. when he was struck and killed near Old Hook Road and Carver Avenue.

Police said they are looking for a dark-colored compact vehicle, based on witness descriptions.

Gonzalez-Romero worked at the Harvest Bistro & Bar in Closter. He would ride a Schwinn bike about three miles between his home and the restaurant, said Detective Robert Saul of the Westwood Police Department.

A friend of mine worked with Jario and emailed me today....

Tonight I was watching the news and saw a piece on a woman who was run down and killed in Manhattan. She was a financial planner. They spent several minutes on the story. Below you will find an article about a young man who worked as a dish washer and prep cook at Harvest. They used a total of 5 sentences and the article was buried on the last page of the local section. Seems fair. He was making next to nothing, couldn't even afford a car so he had to ride a bike. It doesn't even mention (Jario’s friend) , who was riding right next to him when this happened and has decided to go back to Costa Rica because of his feelings of guilt.

I don't know, I guess I'm just pissed and think someone should do something to catch the shit who only stopped for a second before speeding away. I thought maybe if there was more news coverage someone who saw something or someone who knows the guilty person might be persuaded to do something.

……. I'm just trying to deal with a death…..he was a nice guy and he worked hard. It’s just not fair.



It isn’t fair. It never is.

You’ve all seen guys like Jario - working long hours gutting fish; hauling stinking heaps of garbage to the dumpster, and washing dishes so better heeled customers don’t have to. People like him work quietly, backstage, making the theater that is a restaurant become reality.

Maybe when you walk by a restaurant you see one of them - catching a quick smoke while wearily sitting on an empty crate in the back alleys of affluence.

What's their life worth?

My first reaction when I read my friend’s email was anger. Why does the hit and run in New York get broad media coverage while Jario’s death only merits five sentences in a local paper? Was it because Ms. Nolan was affluent and attractive and Jario is only another faceless immigrant? Is Jario somehow less valuable? Less newsworthy?

After my anger cooled I accepted the hard reality that news about people dying on the Upper East Side sells more papers than someone run down in Westwood, NJ. It’s not personal or evil. It’s just the way it is.

I realized something else. Two families are grieving today. One in New York, the other in Costa Rica and New Jersey.

To them Maria and Jario’s lives were treasures beyond price.

At the restaurant where Jario worked they’ve taken up a collection to ship his body back to Central America. People who didn’t even know Jario are volunteering to work in the kitchen so his coworkers can take some time off and mourn. The restaurant owner is pitching in financially to help. Others are contacting the media to ask them to help the police find the car the struck Jario.

Obviously – by the actions of his friends – Jario was valuable.

In New York City, Ms. Nolan’s friends and family gather to grieve. There will be remembrance and tears. She sounded like a nice person. Another valuable life ended too soon.

Similar accidents in two different cities, two lives of equal value cut short - the same aching sense of loss.

My deepest sympathy for Jario and Maria’s families and friends.

To the people that killed them - turn yourselves in.

If you have any knowledge about Ms. Nolan’s death contact the New York City Police Department at (646)-610-5000

If you have any knowledge about Jario’s death contact the Westwood, NJ Police Department at (201) 664-7000.

Donations to help cover Jario’s funeral expenses and provide support to his family are being accepted at this address:

Jario Fund c/o Russell Stern
Harvest Bistro
252 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624

Make checks payable to Harvest Bistro. Write “Jario Fund” in the notation section.

Thank you.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Thousand and One Uses

I’m telling a five top the specials when I feel a hand slide into my pants.

Catching a whiff of perfume I enjoy the sensation of delicate female fingers wriggling around in my pocket. Grasping the hard object she’s looking for she pulls out…..

….. my wine opener.

Nonplussed I continue reciting the specials. Drink order in hand I grab some tumblers and head over to the service bar. I’ve gotta make four chemistry experiments.

As I’m shaking and mixing, Beth, our cute new waitress, comes up to me.

“Sorry to grab your opener but I had to uncork a bottle on table 12,” she says meekly.

I look at Beth. She’s very pretty. I have to remind myself when I graduated college she was still wearing Underoos.

“Not a problem,” I say sliding the tool into my back pocket, “What happened to your opener?”

“I lost it.”

Pulling a spare opener from my apron I place it in Beth’s hand saying,

“Your wine opener is your life young Padawan. Don’t lose it!”

“Oh thank you Obi Wan!” Beth chuckles delightedly, “Don’t you need it?”

“I have a thousand of ‘em at home. I won’t miss it.”

Although a wine opener is one of the most important items a waiter carries – you can bet a night’s tips at least one waiter will forget or lose theirs.

“Thank you,” Beth says heading onto the floor properly equipped.

A little while later I find Louis in the kitchen smelling his corkscrew.

“Now that’s interesting.” I deadpan.

“Smell this,” he says proffering me his opener. Warily I take a sniff. It’s a pungent sweet odor I can’t place. It isn’t wine.

“That’s weird. What is it?” I ask mystified.

“Pot resin.”

“Huh?”

“I cleaned out my bong with the foil blade last night. I guess I forgot to wash it.” Louis says grinning.

“So when a customer smells the cork they catch a whiff of Maui Wowie instead of Merlot?” I ask.

“Actually it’s BC Bud.”

“Whatever. Use the steamer to clean it off.”

Louis laughs and blasts his opener clean with a sterilizing blast of hot water from the espresso machine.

Louis takes the term “Waiter’s Helper” to a whole new level.

Wine openers. They’re not just for wine anymore.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

NY Post Story Killed!

Sorry guys. The Post killed the story on Europeans and tipping.

Maybe next time........

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I knew I liked Blogger for some reason.............

Many thanks to the staff at Blogger for including Waiter Rant as a "Blog of Note." in "Blogs We've Noticed Recently."

You have impeccable taste.

Thanks guys!

In other news......

I just did an interview with the NY Post (again) for an article about Europeans and tipping. It should be in the features section of tomorrow's paper (don't hold me to that date) I'll supply a link when it becomes available.

Traffic Surge

I've noticed a recent surge in traffic to Waiter Rant. Welcome to all the new readers! My Stat Counter software indicates that several hundred people have come to the site via a Google keyword search. (Keyword - "waiterrant.blogspot.com") Is there a news story out there I don't know about? I'd like to know who my referrer is so I can thank them with a link on my blog!

Almost 200,000 visitors. I should start selling t-shirts.

Thanks for visiting the Bistro!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hippie Faux Pas

I’m in the kitchen munching on some fried polenta chips when the hostess interrupts me.

“You’ve got a new table on ten.”

I look at the clock. It’s almost closing.

“Does anyone else want this table?” I ask. It’s a stupid question. The other waiters mentally vacated the place hours ago.

“Hell no,” Louis says eating his dinner.

“Come on Arlene. Remember when I let you leave early last week?” I plead.

“So sorry,” Arlene laughs.

“Shit.”

I walk out to the table. It’s a family of four.

The father’s a no nonsense military looking kind of guy. Seated across from him in the usual soccer mom getup is his wife. Next to her, facing me, a mass of black curls and inexpertly applied makeup, is her teenage daughter. She smiles at me toothily.

The other daughter sits facing away from me - face obscured by a hanging mane of heavy black hair. Her bejeweled fingers tap impatiently on the table top. Probably embarrassed to be seen eating out with her parents.

“Can I get anyone something to drink?” I ask cheerfully.

The man and his wife order some red wine.

“I’ll have a coke,” the first daughter says looking up and down. Yeah, she digs me.

“And what will you have miss?” I ask the other daughter.

The daughter looks up at me from under her hair. Suddenly and I notice “she” has a beard.

“I’m not a girl,” the newly revealed young man sniffs defensively.

Thank God, I think to myself, you’d be one UGLY girl.

“I’m very sorry sir. I need to get a new pair of glasses,” I say trying to cover my surprise.

“He said you were a girllll!” the sister taunts.

“Shut up idiot,” the brother shoots back.

“Enough” the father cuts in, “Tell the man what you want to drink.”

“I’ll have a Coke,” the young man mutters sullenly.

Tip in the toilet I go and fetch their drinks.

They order quickly and are soon tucking into their entrées. While they’re eating the son gets up to go to the bathroom. As he approaches me I can feel the hatred coming off of him like heat off a radiator.

“I’m not a girl,” he hisses looking me in the eye.

“No kidding,” I deadpan.

He’s stops in his tracks and starts to say something.

“Can I help you sir?” I say skewering him with my thousand yard waiter stare. I’m twice his age and outweigh him by fifty pounds.

Saying nothing he shuffles past me. I can’t help but notice he’s headed for the wrong bathroom.

“Sir, that’s the ladies room.”

“I knew that,” he says rapidly changing course.

“Just checking,” I chuckle.

The family finishes their meal. They take a pass on dessert. Dad asks for the check.

“Sorry for the mix up,” I say handing him the bill.

Saying nothing he hands me a credit card. Oh boy.

Check paid the family gets up and heads for the door. I warily look inside the checkbook.

Dad left me a $100 tip.

I run up to the front to thank the man for his generosity.

“That waiter’s a jerk,” I overhear the son saying as he heads out the door.

“It was an honest mistake. Get a haircut!” the father calls out after him.

Catching up to the father I extend my hand.

“Thank you sir!” I say.

With a firm grip he replies,

“No. Thank YOU.”

“Not a problem,” I grin.

“Goddamn hippie,” the father mutters walking out onto the street.

I stand in the doorway a hundred dollars richer.

That was the most profitable faux pas I ever committed.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Requiscat in Pace Ioannes Paulus PP.II

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