Saturday, August 28, 2010

Episode 100: How to Act at a Restaurant

This entry could have many many different accompanying stories; it was hard to narrow it down to just one that encapsulates the working-in-a-restaurant-or bar experience. I could tell about the time my friend Suzy put lit firecrackers in the tampon machine in the ladies' room of a favorite bar. I could tell about the time my own sister poured a pitcher of ice water into the lap of a drunk Vanderbilt girl (I know, that's redundant) who wouldn't leave a lit candle alone. But those are their stories to tell so I will tell you one about myself instead.

Easter Sunday brunch is the absolute worst shift a restaurant employee can work. Well, maybe Mother's Day wins by a nose, but either way, you have to deal with a million people who are having a meal with people that they as a rule cannot stand. I was working for some friends at a restaurant they had recently opened and this was the first Easter Sunday they had weathered. I was helping at the front door and by ten o'clock, there were fifty parties milling around outside on the sidewalk. I drank my Bloody Mary and opened the doors. We didn't have a real system for dealing with the wait list, so we had a yellow legal pad and a pencil. We also didn't have a way of calling you when your name came up, so I would write down brief, coded descriptions to help me find them when I needed. "Flipflops" meant "the filthy hipster with dirty feet." "Lily Pulitzer" meant "look for the idiot in pink and green." "Christian" meant "gaaaaaay."

The next four hours unfolded predictably. That is to say, disastrously. Like a Hurricane Katrina-style disaster and that is not an exaggeration. People wept when they heard that the wait would be two hours. They wheedled and bribed and begged and used their crying baby-type-children-things as props. A woman made her own mother pretend to limp so I would move them up the list. The healed acted sick and the sick acted dead. At two o'clock, when we were set to close, I still had forty names on the list and I had lost ten pounds, despite my constant Bloody Mary consumption over the course of the day. My mood had soured considerably and I had run out of mood-neutral nicknames for people on the list and I was extremely unhappy at the supposed reappearance of Jesus and resolved to take it up with him later and ask why he bothered to come back and save all these bitches who wanted their crab cakes and WANTED THEM NOW. You know why it took him three days to get up and push the rock door open? Because his table was finally ready.

Anyway. I cleaned off a table and returned to my post at the door where, much to my dismay, a dressed-up church lady was holding my yellow legal pad and fixing me with a beady glare. "So," she hissed. "I need to know: am I 'Fat Pants' or am I 'Bitchface'?" You could practically hear the theme from "Jaws" shuddering under the scene as I weighed my options. "Um, well. The bad news is that you are indeed, um, 'Fat Pants.' The good news is that your table is ready."

This was a risky could have gone either way: she could have slapped me or she could have laughed and shrugged it off. There was a long pause as she mulled over these options and took my full measure from head to toe and back again. "'Fat Pants' it is," she intoned. "I'm starving."

And I led her to her table in triumph, with crowds cheering and streamers and glitter showering me from above.


Titus said...

"Happy Birthday "Tits"

Sound so much like the awesome bakery next to my college that misspelled my name and my friends thought it was so funny they let it ride.

There's a reason when folks have a problem with my name and I'm feeling a tad Deege-ish I tell them it's TITS with a U before the S.

Happy 100th post!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Hundredth, indeed! And a great anniversary piece. Cordel