Friday, May 27, 2005

Gristle

My friend Lana and I are enjoying cocktails at Nice Matin on West 79th. After dealing with crazed yuppies all week it’s nice to sit down and be taken care of for a change. The place serves Mediterranean French cuisine. Good. I’m sick of Italian food.

After we finish our drinks the waiter comes and takes our order. He’s very smooth and friendly. I feel a twinge of professional envy. The service here is very good. I want to order the Five Napkin Burger with sautéed onions, comte cheese, and aioli but Lana steers me towards the fish. She orders the roast cod. I get the sea bass with artichokes stewed in olive oil. We order some glasses of wine. I get the Sauvignon Blanc. This is a real change of pace for me. I’m more of a pizza and beer guy in civilian life. But hey, change is good sometimes.

I examine the contents of the wine glass carefully.

“The four ounce pour,” I say smiling, “Measured to the last drop.”

“More bang for your buck,” Lana says over her glass.

“Oh well,” I reply taking a sip. The wine is good.

Lana is studying to be an analyst. She used to wait tables with me at the Bistro years ago. We get together every once in a while to catch up on things.

“So how’s head shrinking treating you?” I ask.

“Not to bad,” she replies, “I’m talking about my ex husband in analysis.”

“Sound’s like a load of laughs.”

“Did I ever tell you what happened after my ex moved out?”

“No,” I say.

“After living in that apartment for seven years the neighbors decided to tell me that the previous tenant murdered his wife in our bathroom.”

“Oh shit,” I exclaim.

“It gets better,” Lana continues, “he chopped her up in the bathtub.”

“Now that’s love.”

“Yep.”

I’m silent for a moment.

“Honey,” I suddenly say in a falsetto voice, “Why is the tub stopped up?

Lana starts laughing.

“Oh! Wait a minute. I found the problem! How did a finger get stuck in here?”

“You’re bad," Lana says shaking her head.

“Looks like ya got gristle in your drain little lady,” I say.

“Oh God, I hate that word!” Lana shudders.

“What word?”

“Gristle.’

“Kinda sums it up doesn’t it?” I offer.

Of course the food comes at this point.

“Yum yum,” I say, “Dig in.”

We do. The food is excellent.

After the plates are cleared we order some after dinner drinks. I get Armanagc and coffee. Lana has a café au lait. The conversation is free ranging, covering a myriad of topics. I enjoy talking with Lana. She is very, very smart. Before she was a waiter her previous incarnations included being a teacher, organic chef, and new age health practitioner. Her Dad was a philosopher of some renown. She knows her shit.

“So how’s the book coming?” she asks.

“Well, I’ve been talking informally with a publisher and an agent. But nothing’s signed, nothing definite,” I say. “I’m struggling with how to write it. Sometimes I think a novel is the way to go, other times a memoir. I just don’t know.”

“Writing a book is different than writing a blog,” Lana observes.

“And how,” I say with a twinge of guilt. I’m only twenty pages into my draft.

‘Well I’ve always been a bit psychic,” Lana says,” I sense you’ll do well with it.”

“That’s not very comforting,” I reply.

“Why not?” Lana says befuddled.

“A woman was sliced and diced in the tub you took a shower in every day for seven years. Don’t you think your Jedi powers would have picked up on the psychic gristle?"

“I didn’t think of it that way,” Lana admits laughing.

“Remind me never to let you help me pick out an apartment,” I jest.

Lana may not be psychic but she’s very sensitive and intelligent. She’ll make a good analyst.

“Well in any case – good luck,” Lana offers.

“Thanks,” I say. “Besides the book thing keep an eye out. Changes are coming to the blog.”

“Like what?” she asks. I tell her.

“Very cool.” Lana says.

The bill comes. It’s astronomical. Well, you have to treat yourself every once in a while.

We say our goodbyes. I go home. I’m a bit tipsy. The laptop stares at me. Should I work on the draft? Should I go to bed? Should I post? Hmmm. Let me lie down for a minute.

Just one minute…..

I wake up the next day still in my clothes.

Sparrow

I’m standing outside. I hear a bird chirping.

I look down. It’s is a baby sparrow. His song is fearful.

A weakling, he’s been tossed out of the nest. His siblings watch from above.

“Better you than me,” they seem to be saying.

I reach down and scoop him up. He’s quiet now.

He looks at me. I look at him.

I’ve got customers. I can’t waste time with a bird.

I place him in the flower bed. Let nature do its thing.

Over the phones, past the traffic, through the glass I still hear him sing.

I go back outside.

He looks at me. I look at him.

I make a phone call. Then another. Someone’ll be right over.

I get a take out cup, something we use for soup, poke a few holes in the top, and put the bird inside.

The clock ticks. People wonder what I’ve got in the cup.

“Nothing,” I say.

The old man comes. Damaged by people he prefers little things.

“Where are you taking him?” I ask. The old man smiles and tells me not to worry.

I open the lid. I look at the bird. He looks at me.

Closing the lid, I hand the cup to the man. He drives off.

The best part of my day goes with him.

I go inside and wash my hands.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Get Out

“I love you,” the woman says dreamily.

“No, I love you more,” the man replies.

“How much more?” she giggles reaching across the table to take his hand.

“More than anything in the world,” he sighs.

It’s way past closing. The Bistro’s empty. The staff is waiting to break down the restaurant. Many of them have been here since 9 AM and want to go home. The only thing separating me from my post shift Guinness are these two saccharine love birds.

Taking a deep breath, I go over and drop the check.

“We’re not ready for the bill yet,” the man says sharply. The woman looks at me like I shot her cat.

I place the bill gently on the table saying “Whenever you’re ready sir.” (That’s waiterspeak for GET OUT.)

Of course they make no effort to pay. They continue to sit and prattle sweetly. I feel a diabetic attack coming on.

Now if you’re a waiter you’ve run into this situation countless times. What do you do when you have a late table that refuses to leave?

Well, since you asked.....

HOW TO THROW OUT A LATE TABLE
(Wait twenty minutes after table has finished dessert and coffee before implementing.)

1. Ask the table, “Can I get you anything else?” (Also waiterspeak for “GET OUT”)
2. Drop check.
3. After appropriate interval and ask, “May I take that for you sir?”

If they pay and leave - great. If they shoo you away? Well…

4. Take off your apron. A subtle hint.
5. Take off your tie. Less subtle.
6. Take oils and condiments off table for cleaning.
7. Return said condiments. (Aforementioned table leaves at this time)

Still not moving?

8. Slowly turn off house music.
9. Turn UP loud Spanish music in kitchen.
10. Count out your cash in plain sight of the table.

Still not leaving? Sigh….. time to ratchet up the pain.

11. Have the clean up crew carry garbage past offending table. I like to make sure a fish head is peeking out above the rim. A classy touch.
12. Put the chairs up.
13. Have the guys start mopping the floors. Ammonia has a lovely smell.
14. Turn up the lights.

Not budging? Bastards.

15. Put on your coat.
16. Jangle your keys impatiently.
17. If the busgirls have boyfriends or small children waiting outside – bring ‘em in!
18. If you have a pregnant server (and we do) have them clutch their stomach and say, “I feel sick. I want to go home.”
19. Mention you have to get home to your own children. Whether or not you have any is beside the point.

Still no response? – Time for “The Nuclear Options.”
20. Start drinking.
21. Loudly talk about what you did last night and to whom. Details are nice.
22. Let it slip you have a brother, “Doing time.”
23. Perform your waiter with Tourettes impersonation.
24. Talk to yourself. (I’m really good at this one.)
25. Sit and stare at offending table with homicidal gleam in your eye.
26. Hover
27. Finally, go to offending table and say, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

If they still won’t depart, lock them inside the restaurant and leave. Since they like the place so much - they won’t mind.

In all my years as a waiter I’ve never gone past tip # 19.

Feel free to use any of my suggestions.

But if you get fired don’t come crying to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Waiter Axioms

Anyone who wants a table a half hour before closing is an asshole.

If a customer never says “Please” or “thank you” during the course of the meal you’re getting 15% or less.

If a customer pays with the Discover Card – your tips probably gonna be bad.

If the customer says “You’re the best waiter I’ve ever had” – your tip is sure to be shit.

Women with fur coats seldom tip the coat check girl.

A person dining alone is the most likely to skip out on the bill.

Customers can’t tell the difference between Absolut and Grey Goose.

A customer who smells the cork is an amateur.

Serve Decaf – to everybody.

A customer who leaves the tip in cash was probably a waiter once.

The waiter who stays latest makes the most cash.

Pick new staff carefully. You can train a person to wait tables. You can’t untrain an asshole.

Never lose control of your station.

Ask for help.

If the waiters aren’t complaining then something’s wrong.

Coke head waiters work their entire shift. The Potheads always want to leave early. The Crackheads bolt as soon as they get their first cash tip.

Shift drinks are a mistake.

Never get on the bad side of the kitchen staff.

Never shortchange the bus people when you tip out.

A customer that never makes eye contact is a nutjob.

ID everyone who looks younger than you.

If a customer asks your name - it’s not because they want to be your friend.

Bitters and club soda are good for an upset stomach.

Visine does not give people the runs.

Wash your hands constantly.

Hydrate.

Tea drinkers are a pain in the ass.

"Prix-Fixe" customers are a pain in the ass.

Hostesses are a royal pain in the ass. (Not to be confused with "reservation managers")

If don’t have clean pants for work - iron your dirty ones with Febreze.

Hide a spare tie/shirt at work.

Never leave your wine opener lying around.

Remember - the customer will eventually leave.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Thank God for Aprons

“Waiter what would you recommend? The swordfish or the tuna?” the redhead on table twenty three asks me.

“The swordfish is excellent tonight,” I offer.

“How thick is the swordfish?” Red asks looking up.

Our eyes meet. There’s a spark of electricity between us. We both like what we see.

I measure a space three quarters of an inch between my thumb and forefinger. “About that thick madam,” I say.

Smiling broadly, Red mimics my gesture, “Anything a little thicker?” she says playfully.

“I can ask the kitchen,” I reply grinning.

“And how big is the filet?” Red asks, her voice dropping an octave.

“Madam?”

“Is it this big?” she says, measuring a space between her two hands.

“Oh it’s bigger,” I say making the same movement - but wider.

“Really?” Red says delightedly.

God I love when this happens.

“Really,” I say.

“I like it big,” Red says.

“I believe it will be enough to satisfy you madam.”

Never taking her eyes off me Red purrs, “I’m sure it will.”

Red’s companions, including her husband, are oblivious to the subtext of our culinary discussion.

“Then swordfish it is,” I say.

Order in hand I go over to the POS computer. As I’m entering the entrees Red gets up and walks towards me.

I look at her. She looks at me. She smiles. I smile back.

Now beautiful women in my business are a dime a dozen. But Red is different. She has something. A quality that is rare and wonderful.

Red has smolder.

“I’m know I’m going to like the swordfish,” Red whispers as she wiggles past me on her way to the ladies room.

A palpable heat radiates off of her. I’m afraid loose paper objects might spontaneously combust.

“Indeed you will,” I reply.

Wow.

A short while later I deliver the order and the table tucks into it with gusto. After an appropriate interval I return and ask how everything is.

“Great, great,” Red’s husband says between mouthfuls.

“And Madam how is your swordfish?” I ask.

Red spears a small piece of fish and brings it too her mouth. Lips closing around the fork she looks up at me. Sliding the utensil out languorously - she smiles.

I wait for her to swallow.

“Delicious,” she replies huskily.

Goddamn. I love this job.

“I’m glad you like it,” I say

Red is married. Nothing will happen. But there’s no law against looking at the menu is there?

“So good,” Red says winking. I feel like I need a cigarette.

“Waiter, can I get a martini?” another table beckons interrupting my fun.

“Right away sir,” I say reluctantly.

Departing the table to fetch the man’s drink I transmit a “high five” to the Creator for making women like Red.

But as I’m walk the length of the restaurant towards the bar I become aware I’m should be grateful for something else.

I utter a silent prayer…..

Thank God I’m wearing an apron.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Call me Elton

“Waiter, has any one ever told you that you look like Elton John?”

“No sir,” I say looking down my nose at the customer.

“I mean a young Elton John,” the man adds quickly, realizing I’m not flattered by the comparison.

“That’s a new one on me sir,” I reply icily.

“I meant it as a compliment,” the man says nervously.

“If you said I looked like Brad Pitt that would be better,” I counter.

The man suddenly looks uncomfortable.

“You should never upset the person who’s handling your food sir,” I say with a faint smile.

The man’s wife laughs. “Oh boy Marv you’re in trouble now!

“You can spit in his food. We won’t mind,” his other friend cackles.

I’m enjoying watching Marvin squirm but I should let him off the hook. He’s here to enjoy himself after all.

“I’ll take it as a compliment. Sir Elton is a very talented and philanthropic individual,” I say.

“Yes. It’s a compliment waiter,” Marvin says.

“I’ve been told I look like Nathan Lane a few times so don’t sweat it sir,” I offer.

“Really?”

"Whenever I get a haircut people tell me that.” I was at the barber this morning.

“Nathan Lane! Another talented individual!” Marvin says beaming.

“Yes sir,” I demur, injecting just enough servility in my voice to make Marv think he’s back in control of the situation.

“You’re a good sport waiter.”

“Thank you sir.”

Marvin feels better. I take the table’s order and head into the kitchen. Louis is there making espressos.

“Louis, do I look like Nathan Lane or Elton John?”

Louis looks me up and down.

“No honey. You don’t.”

“So what’s with all the comparisons to fat gay men?” I ask.

“Well, you are a bit pudgy,” Louis offers laughing.

“Thanks a lot Louis,”

“You asked,” Louis crows exiting the kitchen.

I look at myself in the bar mirror. Time to go back to the gym. Ever since I broke up with my girlfriend I’ve gained a few pounds.

Sigh.

And I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Milk Hormones

Gerald and I are conversing by the coffee station at the start of shift.

“My friend’s daughter’s ten and she’s already menstruating,” he says.

“Ten?” I gasp in surprise, “isn’t that a little early?”

“Unbelievable ain’t it?”

“Man, girls are hitting puberty younger and younger,” I say shaking my head. “When I was a kid girls didn’t start till twelve or thirteen.”

“I read somewhere that all the hormones injected into meat and dairy products have something to do with it,” Gerald replies.

“Ten is too young.”

“They think that in twenty years the onset of menstruation could be around six years old.”

My stomach turns. Children should be allowed to be children. What’s this world coming to?

“And you know some six year old will get pregnant.” I say sadly. “When I worked in health care I saw girls knocked up at twelve.”

“Boggles the mind,” Gerald says dryly.

“At least when I have daughters there’ll be some microchip technology so I can track them,” I say.

“You hope.”

“The second some boy tries something the chip calls my cell phone and delivers him a 10,000 volt shock,” I fantasize.

Think I’m twisted? Talk to any guy who has daughters. They’d install one in a second.

“Good thing they didn’t have that back when you were a teenager,” Gerald laughs.

“Yeah,” I say ruefully, “but back then the girls were teenagers too.”

“True.”

Mercifully the door chimes, ending our conversation. I walk up to the hostess stand.

Waiting in the entrance is one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen.

“Hi,’ she says brightly, “Are you looking to hire a hostess?”

Sometimes a girl is so lovely a guy becomes stupid.

“I certainly hope so,” I reply.

The girl smiles winsomely. A trim brunette, dressed in a professional but sexy outfit, she has a face that could launch a thousand ships. She looks to be about twenty two.

I realize that I’m staring.

“Let me get you an application,” I say yanking myself out of my reverie.

“Thanks.”

I leave the girl to fill out the paperwork and grab some more coffee.

“Wow!” I say refilling my cup, “She’s cute.”

“Si, si muy bonita,” Maria, the busgirl, says smiling. She knows I’m a happy guy.

Cup in hand, I waltz back over to the hostess stand to see if the girl needs any help.

“All done,” the girl says handing me the form.

“That was fast,” I say looking over the application.

“I’m seventeen. Is that going to be a problem?” the girl asks.

Suddenly I feel some kind of internal portcullis come crashing down.

“You’re how old?” I ask.

“Seventeen. I just graduated high school.”

“High school?” I blurt.

“I’m worried I can’t work in a place that serves liquor until I’m eighteen.”

I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Seventeen? I was TWENTY when this girl was born.

My face betraying nothing I say, “If you’re only a hostess it’s ok. You just can’t serve alcohol.”

“Oh good,” the girl replies.

We chat a few minutes. She’s looking for a small job before she starts UConn in the fall. I tell her the owner will call her if he has something available.

He won’t. She’s too young for the rough and tumble of our bistro. It would be cruel.

The girl thanks me and departs. Normally I cast an appreciative look when a beautiful woman walks out the door.

Not today.

She’s seventeen for Christ’s sake.

Walking dejectedly back into the kitchen I announce,

“That girl was only seventeen!”

“Really?” Gerald says surprised.

“Really.”

“Must be the hormones in the milk,” he observes.

“Hey - you a dirty old man or what?” Maria adds laughing.

I slowly beat my head against the wall. “Seventeen, seventeen,” I groan.

“I hope her Dad had her microchiped,” Gerald quips.

“Thank a lot New Guy,” I reply.

I just turned thirty seven. I feel old. It’s a sensation I’m experiencing more and more.

Something tells me it’s only going to get worse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Coffee, Feng Shui, & Hope


It’s a slow lunch. Too kill time, Gwen, the lunch waitress is doing a Feng Shui analysis of my apartment.

“You see here,” Gwen says pointing to my clumsily doodled floor plan, “your creativity corner is strong. But your money and love energies are going out the window.”

“Sounds like the story of my life,” I chuckle.

“You actually don’t even have a love corner in your apartment,” Gwen notes.

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Maybe you could put a mirror in that corner to reflect the energy back. Hmmmm,” Gwen ruminates.

“How about a mirror over the bed?” I say winking.

“In Feng Shui that’s a bad idea. Not to mention tacky,”

“Oh well,” I sigh.

The door chimes. The coffee guy is making his delivery. I get up from the table and help the guys unload the truck. When I return, Gwen is laughing.

“The coffee guy asked me out,” she giggles,

Christ. Mr. Coffee’s at it again - propositioning girls wherever he makes deliveries.

“Is that a good thing?” I ask cautiously.

“Nope, I’m not attracted to him.”

“Well, I hope he takes rejection well,” I say.

“Actually I gave him my phone number,” Gwen says.

“Why did you do that?” I ask.

“Well I didn’t want to lie and say I have a boyfriend when I don’t.”

“So you get the guys hopes up and then what – not answer the phone?”

“I know, I know. I’m really at bad just telling guys no,” Gwen fusses.

“Trust me, being direct is the best thing to do,” I reply.

“What am I going to do when he calls?”

“Just tell him thanks but no thanks.”

“But I gave him my number!”

Women are socialized to be nice to guys. When faced with an unwanted suitor they’re sometimes accommodating just to shine them off. It’s a defensive move. I understand. Women have more experience with unwanted attention.

“Tell him you get nervous in those situations and you hate making people feel bad. Then say no thanks,” I instruct.

“Won’t he get mad?” Gwen wonders

“Let me tell you about Mr. Coffee. He hits on every girl in every restaurant.”

“Really?”

“Before my ex and I hooked up he took her on a date once,” I say.

“How’d it go?”

“He tried to stick his tongue down her throat.”

“On the first date?” Gwen asks.

“Try on the first hour.”

“Yuck,” she says making a face.

“What I’m saying is your rejection ain’t gonna faze him. He’s think he’s a “playa.”"

“Sounds like an asshole,” Gwen muses.

“You’re dodging a bullet,” I conclude.

We’re silent for a minute.

“You know what’s funny?” Gwen says.

“What?”

“I just put an attractor crystal in the love corner of my house.”

“Seems to kinda work,” I offer.

“Not well enough,” Gwen whispers eyes downcast.

Gwen is a beautiful girl with charms of her own. She doesn’t need to rely on trinkets.

“Don’t worry. Your prince will come.” I say.

“I guess.”

“Just get over that saying yes when you mean no thing.”

“I’ll try,” Gwen says smiling.

The next day I’m walking through my neighborhood when I pass by the local New Age store. It’s run by some Wiccan Hippie Chick. I buy my incense there. Impulsively - I go in.

I exit holding a small bag. When I get home I pull a hammer and nail out of the toolbox and get to work.

Finished, I step back and admire my newest decoration.

A love amulet.

If placed it right it’s hanging in the “love corner” of my room.

I don’t exactly believe in all this Feng Shui stuff. Perhaps there are no magical energies. Maybe I just wasted ten bucks.

But you never know. As the Bard once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies.”

Besides – I need all the help I can get.

The amulet swings slightly, stirred about by the cool spring breeze

Maybe the talisman is just a symbol of hope I think to myself. A reminder that things get better.

Yes. That’s it. Perhaps it’s all about hope.

I smile.

That’s good enough.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Doomed

“Fluvio wants you,” Maria, the busgirl, shouts.

“Tell him I didn’t do it whatever it is,” I shout over the din, frantically trying to assemble ten cappuccinos.

“He wants to know why your table outside’s pissed off,” Maria continues.

“What?”

“They said you’re a horrible waiter,” Maria giggles. She loves seeing me in trouble.

“Christ. What now?” I moan heading towards the front.

“Boloni you screwed up the table,” Fluvio barks as I arrive at the hostess stand.

“What happened?” I ask.

“The man wanted a chocolate torte and you gave him an apple pie.”

“My bad,” I say, “I’m so busy I had a busgirl run the dessert out. I must’ve handed her the wrong plate.”

In my peripheral vision I see my ten top wondering where their cappuccinos have disappeared to.

“The guy says you’ve been screwing up his table all night,” Fluvio presses.

“That’s bullshit.”

“His date wanted a half order of pasta and you gave her a full order!”

“She ordered a full portion.”

“She says no.”

“It’s right here on the pad man,” I say showing Fluvio my ticket book.

“Whatever. We’ll charge her for a half portion anyway,” Fluvio grunts.

“Fine.”

I head out onto the veranda to smooth things over. When I get to the table the lady starts in on me immediately.

“I ordered a half portion,” she says.

“I’m sorry madam. I must’ve misheard you,” I reply.

“Didn’t you write it down?” she sniffs.

“Yes, I wrote down what I heard,” I say politely.

“Well I’m right and you’re wrong,” she bitches reaching for her fourth chardonnay.

This lady’s a semi regular customer. She’s a well known attorney. Being right all the time is part of her DNA. It’s a shame aging gracefully isn’t. I’ve being watching this woman slowly disintegrate for years. She used to be pretty. But the demons of drink and a high powered lifestyle have exacted their Faustian toll.

“My apologies madam,” I say.

“Whatever,” she sighs dismissively.

Not to be outdone her date, another attorney says, “And my espresso’s cold!” This guy’s had five scotch and sodas.

“Let me get you another sir.”

“And why did you send me an apple pie when I wanted chocolate cake?” he asks. I feel like I’m on the witness stand.

“A simple mistake sir. Easily fixed,” I say soothingly.

“You’re incompetent.”

The real incompetent is the doctor who did this guy’s hair transplant. I decide to keep that observation to myself.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat for the umpteenth time.

“You’ve ruined my entire evening,” Bad Hair pouts.

I’m a little waiter in a little bistro. I wrecked this high powered lawyer’s night. I never realized I wielded such power.

“Desserts on us,” I say. I need to shut these guys down. I have other table waiting.

“Take this,” Bad Hair says shoving his espresso towards me.

“Yes sir.”

I run inside and make the man another espresso. My ten top yells. “Where are our cappuccinos?”

“Coming right up!” I shout back.

I place Bad Hair’s demitasse on the table. He pretends not too see me.

I’m pissed. I don’t like being called incompetent. My mind races with devilish schemes of revenge. But then I look at Bad Hair. His face is pockmarked and the flesh of his nose is starting to spider with busted capillaries. I don’t need to do a thing.

Life’s punishing him far better than I ever could.

I bang out my ten top’s caps and try and catch up on my tables. Through the window I see Bad Hair signaling for his check.

When I deliver the bill he hands me two credit cards. “Spilt it,” he says.

Way to go studly. Make the lady pay for her share.

At the credit card terminal Louis is busying processing a mound of checks.

“Those assholes giving you a hard time?” he asks.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” I reply.

“They’re quite a pair,” he observes.

“They deserve each other.”

“I guess.”

“Those two have been dating for years but they always split the check. What’s that about?” I wonder aloud.

“They split the check so they can submit the charges as a business expense,” Louis says.

“So they’ve been eating here, for years, on the company dime?” I reply.

“Well – they are lawyers.”

“True.”

I return to the outside table. They sign the receipts and get up to leave. I sneak a peek at the checkbook. 16%. It could’ve been worse.

As the legal eagles start walking down the street the woman looks at me over her shoulder.

“I was right about the pasta,” she says drunkenly.

She just can't let it go. Maybe that's why she's such a good lawyer. Maybe it's why she seems so miserable. A person's greatest strength is always their greatest weakness.

Silence seems the best response.

I watch the couple walk down the avenue. I notice they don’t hold hands. They keep a healthy distance between each other. The woman’s heel catches a crack on the pavement and she stumbles slightly. Her date makes no effort to steady her.

I shake my head and go back inside the bistro.

Those two are doomed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

No Mas

I'm standing on the shore of a tropical island when a beautiful blonde, in a skimpy white bikini, emerges from the surf like Venus Rising from the sea. I admire her long legs as she sashays suggestively towards me.

"Hi," she says breathlessly.

"Hello."

"Aren't you that guy from the Waiter Rant blog?" she asks, beads of water glistening on her ripe full breasts like diamonds.

"Why yes - yes I am," I reply suavely.

"I think bloggers are so sexy," she teases playfully.

I'm at a loss for words.

Leaning forward Venus says, "Come here. I want to tell you something."

I move closer. The girl's eyes hint at mischief and delights beyond.

"You know what?" she whispers, her breath hot on my ear.

"What?" I reply, my voice getting hoarse.

"CAN I HAVE MORE MAPLE SYRUP PLEASE!"

What?

Suddenly I'm yanked off Fantasy Island and thrown back into reality.

I’m working in a restaurant on Mother's Day.

"Excuse me madam?" I say to the overly made up octogenarian on table twelve.

"MORE SYRUP!" she sputters testily.

What a quantum shift from imaginary bikini vixens.

"Right away madam," I blurt.

After I deliver Granny her syrup I walk over to the hostess stand where a throng of people has gathered.

"How may I help you?" I ask - fake smile firmly in place.

"Eight people please," a well dressed woman says.

"Do you have a reservation?"

"No. Do I need one?" She looks surprised.

"Madam, it's Mother's Day."

"You need to find me a table."

"I'm sorry madam but we have nothing available 'til nine o'clock.”

"That's nine hours from now!" the woman gasps.

"I'm sorry.”

"I want a table."

"I'm afraid I cannot accommodate your request," I say

"Well, that's what we need to do," she counters.

I'll bet she learned that phrase in assertiveness training.

"What 'we' need is a reservation," I say with strained politeness.

The woman stares at me icily.

"Might I suggest the French restaurant down the street? They may have space available," I offer.

The woman exits without saying a word. Oh well. If she loved her mother she'd have made a reservation.

I walk back down the aisle surveying the customers. Young mothers, celebrating their first Mother's Day, laugh and pose for pictures with their newborns. The mothers of the teenagers, however, look like they'd rather be someplace else.

On table fourteen a middle aged woman is crying softly. I know the story. Her husband died last week. It's her first Mother's Day without him. Her twenty year old son gently tries to comfort her. He's the man of the house now.

Suddenly a customer, a bald man, grabs me by the elbow.

"Gimme another Heinken," he barks.

Normally being grabbed would elicit a withering stare. But since it's Mother's Day I've braced myself for amateur hour antics.

"But of course sir," I say smiling; my cheeks beginning to hurt.

I return with the beer, the man's sixth, and pour it into his glass. I mentally note that he has a really hairy chest. I also notice he’s not wearing an undershirt. How can I tell? His shirt is unbuttoned to his waist. Classy guy.

(Why do bald men always have so much hair everywhere else? One of life's little cruelties I guess.)

"Excuse me. May I have more champagne?" Hairy's hundred year old mother asks sweetly.

"Right away Miss," I say.

"I'm an old lady. Don't call me Miss," the old mother says winking.

"Why Miss you don't look a day over fifty," I tease. It's a lie. She knows it's a lie. She eats it up anyway.

"Oh thank you," she gushes.

This woman's really old. It might be her last Mother's Day. Next year her son’s carnation may change from red to white.

"Have a lovely Mother's Day. You deserve it," I whisper pouring the bubbly.

"Thank you young man," she says. Savoring her champagne she looks upon her brood and smiles. Maybe she knows something I don't.

Fourteen hours and 250 customers later it's all over. The staff did a tremendous job. We get through the day with no major fuckups.

As I walk down the street, my knees aching, I bypass the Irish pub. I'm gonna treat myself. Tonight I'm heading over to Alain's.

Alain's is the French restaurant down the street. Fluvio and Henri, the owner of Alain's, can't stand each other. But their mutual dislike never stopped the staff from getting along. They serve fresh homemade potato chips instead of pretzels and they have Fischer beer on draft. I like Fischer beer.

"So how was YOUR day," I say mockingly as I sidle up to the copper sheathed bar.

Manny, the Egyptian born barman shakes his head and slides a schooner of beer towards me.

"The worst," he says.

Robert, my opposite number at Alain's, comes and sits next to me. He looks drunk.

"How'd it go?" he asks.

"Did you ever read Heart of Darkness?" I reply.

"No."

"Did you see Apocalypse Now?"

"Yes," Robert says breaking into a smile.

"The horror. The horror!" I moan.

"That good huh?” Robert asks.

"Thank God it’s over," I exhale.

"Say, you didn't send that bitch with the eight top my way this afternoon?"

"Moi?" I reply grinning, "Certainly not."

"Asshole," Robert says without rancor. He'd do the same thing to me.

We stare into our drinks silently for a few minutes.

Suddenly a resolution sparks within me.

"This is the last Mother's Day I'm ever gonna work," I announce.

"You said that last year," Robert laughs.

"Yeah, I know."

"And the year before that."

"I mean it this time," I say.

"Sure."

"Well gentleman," Manny interjects, "we have 365 days to find new jobs."

"Oh God," Robert says pounding his head on the bar. I feel like joining him.

Taking a sip of my beer I catch the reflection of an exhausted waiter in the barroom mirror. He's not old looking - but not quite so young anymore.

"No more Mother's Days," I whisper into my beer

No mas.

I mean it this time.

Really.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

New Guy Continued.....


Fluvio and I are eating lunch at change of shift. It’s payday. The lunch waitress happily counts the day’s take as the dinner staff trickles in.

“Hey Arlene, how was lunch?” Louis asks in greeting.

“$200!” Arlene chirps merrily. She had a great shift.

“Not bad…” Louis murmurs appreciatively.

“Maybe I should grab some lunch shifts,” I interject.

“Don’t even think about it.” Arlene growls.

I laugh softly. Lunch is Arlene’s kingdom.

New Guy walks in the door. Wearing his black and whites, apron rolled tightly in his hands, he looks pensive.

“Can I get my money?” he blurts. No “hello” or “how is everyone?”

“Can’t you see I’m eating?” Fluvio says.

Unfazed New Guy continues, “I need to deposit my check today.”

Mistake. One of the cardinal rules of the bistro is never bother Fluvio while he’s eating. It’s like taking food from a Doberman.

“Wait,” Fluvio mumbles through a mouthful of pasta.

New Guy exhales loudly, “I really need the money.”

Arlene and I exchange glances. We know from experience that a new waiter desperate for cash is trouble.

“Goddammit,” Fluvio says getting up from the table. He goes downstairs to the office to retrieve the checks. When he returns he thrusts them angrily at me.

‘Hand ‘em out.”

I pass out the checks. I get to New Guy, sadistically, last.

New Guy opens his check. He looks disappointed.

“Is this it?” he huffs.

“You only worked a couple of training shifts. Next week you’ll be on the floor and making money,” I reply. He’s lucky. Not every restaurant pays a training wage.

New Guy keeps staring at the check hoping it will suddenly be worth more.

I sigh inwardly. Being a waiter in training sucks. Paired with a veteran, you do all the work and keep none of the tips. Basically you’re my slave for a week.

“Am I taking tables tonight?” New Guy asks.

“Fluvio, how’s New Guy on the floor?” I say.

Fluvio just shrugs.

“We’ll give you a few tables tonight and see how you do,” I reply.

“Will I work Saturday night?” he presses.

I don’t like this guy. “Saturday shifts are assigned by seniority,” I say evenly.

New Guy stares dumbly at me. “Can I go to the bank and deposit my check?”

“Sure.”

After he walks out the door Fluvio says, “He’s not coming back.”

“You think?”

Fluvio pantomimes a junkie mainlining smack. “He’s off to get a fix.”

“Wouldn’t be the first drug addict we’ve come across.”

An hour passes. Sure enough - New Guy doesn’t come back.

“Where do you think he went?” Louis asks.

“He’s probably passed out in an alley with a needle in his arm.” I say.

“That’s mean,” Louis laughs.

“Check the alley. I’ll bet he’s there.”

Louis and I think about that for a moment.

“Well, we thought he wasn’t gonna work out,” Louis says.

Trainees are a pain in the ass. Hungry for money, often to fuel one addiction or another, they want the best shifts irrespective of seniority. Working their way up the totem pole is an alien concept.

“Fuck him.” I reply.

New Guy was an asshole. Good riddance. Yet, another green recruit who stepped on a land mine.

I’m glad I never learned his name.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Toss Your Cookies

It has come to my attention that WaiterRant’s site statistics are less than transparent. To remedy that situation I have decided to make those statistics public. Click on the StatCounter “counter.” Type “reader” into both the username and password fields and your in!

My reasons for doing this are as follows:

1. Many blogs have easily readable site statistics. Why not mine?

2. I want to give a big shout out to the team at StatCounter for making, what I think, is a superior product.

3. Many people link to WaiterRant and I can't always reciprocate in kind. However, with StatCounter, if you go to the “Came From” page you can see all the great blogs that have referred to me. Please visit them in return.

If any one cares - my counter is set to record a unique visitor at 6 hour intervals. That means you can come to WaiterRant a hundred times in a day but the software will only register you as a unique visitor four times. Interesting huh? Yawn!

If anyone knows how to go straight to the site stats without typing in a password and user name let me know! I am a newbie with this stuff so bear with me!

Pray for me. Mother's Day is coming.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Five Inches

The service bar in my bistro is a cramped cluttered affair - jammed into a corner next to the coffee machine. Ten varieties of vodka compete with gin and wine bottles for space. Whenever you grab the tequila you risk knocking several bottles to the floor.

I’m making a Cosmopolitan so I’m scrounging for the triple sec. Goddamn it. No one ever puts it back in the same place twice. Spying it in the last row I make a grab for it. My sleeve catches on the pourer of a bottle of Grey Goose, hurtling it to the ground. The $50 bottle bounces off the rubber floor mats and spins into the dining room.

“Fuck!” I yelp chasing after it.

“I hate when that happens,” Louis observes, his arms laden with trays of food.

Frustrated, I ignore him and study the service bar. If it was only a little bigger, a half foot wider, it would solve all our problems.

“What I wouldn’t give for five more inches,” I think aloud.

Louis cracks up.

“Try Extenze brother. It might help you.”

I realize how my statement might have been misconstrued.

“Five more inches would make me a circus freak,” I reply dryly.

“I’ve always liked that young man on the flying trapeze” Louis chuckles.

“I think you mean the flaming trapeze,” I retort.

“Aren’t we bitchy today?” Louis laughs exiting the kitchen.

“Don’t get me started.”

I finish making the Cosmo. Suddenly one of the waitresses sidles up to me.

“Louis says you’re feeling a little inadequate today,” she whispers slyly.

I groan inwardly. Touché Louis.

I’m never gonna live this one down.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Burying the Dead

I’m sitting in the Irish pub after work hoisting a few pints with my fellow server Beth. You remember her. She’s the one that was still wearing Underoo’s when I graduated college. The beer and the conversation flow freely.

“When I was in the third grade I was mauled by a dog,” she says matter-of-factly.

“Wow,” I say surprised.

“Yeah, he ripped off my eyelid and damaged my eye socket. My eyeball was like exposed,” Beth continues.

I peer closely at her face. There’s no sign of trauma.

“You’d never know it happened,” I say.

Beth smiles, “I had a good plastic surgeon. It took three surgeries to repair the damage.”

Beth is a very pretty girl. She almost wasn’t. The surgeon was very talented.

“Amazing,” I murmur.

“That wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she says taking a pull on her beer.

“What was?”

“My best friend Alice was killed in a car accident when I was nineteen,” Beth says.

“I’m sorry.”

“She lived right across the street from me. We grew up together, went through school together. She was so beautiful that she could’ve been a model.”

“I lost a good friend once,” I say mostly to myself.

When I turned eighteen she showed up to my birthday party in her prom dress and sprinkled me with confetti,” she continues.

I smile

“She was my birthday fairy.”

“She sounded like a wonderful person,” I say.

“After she died her parents asked me to pick out her clothes for the funeral. They knew I knew her best - what she’d like to be wearing.”

“Wow,” I reply.

“And then I did her makeup at the funeral home.”

My heart skips a beat.

“Really?” I say in wonderment.

“Alice’s face was bruised from the accident. The mortician had to fix that part but I did the rest. She looked the way she would’ve wanted to look. I even used the sparkles she liked so much. "

My response was honest and totally wrong.

“I don’t know. If you were my daughter I'd be so uncomfortable letting you do that.”

“I know it sounds a bit strange. But you know what? I was honored to do it. I loved her very much.” Beth says.

There’s no sadness in her face – just a kind of serenity.

All of a sudden I’m ashamed of myself. Images flood into my minds eye.

I see my father kissing his mother before her coffin closed forever….

My cousin singing “Ave Maria” in the ER as her mother died….

A couple gently stroking the hair of their dead child while I watch wordlessly from the corner of an intensive care unit a long time ago…

The Pieta….

Sometimes our tenderness is the last gift we can give the departed. I’ve forgotten my catechism. It’s a work of mercy to bury the dead.

“You should be honored,” I say finally, “That was a tremendously kind thing to do.”

“Thanks.”

We’re quiet for a few moments.

“You know what’s strange?” Beth says.

“What?” I say.

“It sounds weird but Alice’s death changed me for the better.”

“It’s probably the truth,” I say.

“After she died I realized what a gift it was to be alive. I can’t waste time with bullshit anymore.”

I take a long look at Beth. She is very young, very courageous, and very wise.

“I’m thirty seven and I still haven’t learned that lesson.” I say.

Beth smiles gently and drinks some more of her beer. “Remind me to show you a picture of her one day,” she says.

“I’d like that.”

An hour later we say our goodbyes and I walk to my car, humbled by the fact that someone younger knows something about life than I don’t.

I fumble with my keys and open the door. Turning the ignition I remember the philosopher’s words, “Ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.”

Despite my “wise daddy shtick,” my experience and background, I don’t know a whole hell of a lot. Beth reminded of me that.

I just hope the seeds of my ignorance blossom into wisdom. Maybe someday.

I drive off into night thinking about tenderness and burying the dead.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Pale Moon Rising

The woman on table sixteen is a forty year old, slightly drunk, voluptuous peroxide blond.

And her ass is halfway out of her pants.

Leaning forward in animated conversation she’s oblivious that her backside is sliding out of her jeans. I can’t help but notice it’s a nice ass.

I also notice she’s not wearing any underwear.

“Shouldn’t one of you girls go over and say something to her?” I ask my comrade Arlene.

“Why don’t you do it?”

“Cause I’m a guy. I’ll look like a pervert.”

“Listen, it’s her own damn fault she’s looking skanky. Let her deal with it.” Arlene says.

“Man you girls are cold,” I mutter.

Every male waiter, including myself, makes several unnecessary trips down the aisle to sneak a peek. Women at other tables are giggling. Their husbands, faces flushed with effort, are trying not to look. With every passing moment Blondie’s butt is slipping over the horizon.

“Fluvio,” I say to my boss, “Please go tell that woman what’s happening.”

“Me?”

“You’re the owner.”

“Forget it.”

Taking a deep breath I start to walk over to the lady’s table. Chivalry not being completely dead I decide to clue the woman in on her predicament.

As I approach Blondie says, “I have to use the ladies room,” and starts to get up. Oh no.

“Miss......!"

Too late.

Her jeans hit the floor.

“BRAVO!” a male voice shouts.

“Eeeek!” Blondie cries quickly pulling up her pants.

I pretend I don’t see a thing and continue walking.

“Oh my God,” the woman groans, face buried in her hands.

Another table waves me over. They’re laughing hysterically.

“Oh man did you see that?” one of the patrons asks.

Waiter sangfroid firmly in place I reply,

“Must be a full moon tonight.”

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