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.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Episode 99: How to Dress for a Costume Party

It's almost September! You know what that means! You should have your Halloween costume completely finished and wrapped in tissue and kept in a fireproof box in case your house burns down. Because nothing is more important than winning the costume contest at Halloween. You can rebuild your house from smoldering embers, but you cannot - repeat, cannot - earn a trophy and a free oil change at Jiffy Lube if you don't show up in an outfit and win the contest on Halloween.

There used to be a big summer event here that benefitted the local film festival. Every year there was a theme - Science Fiction, Fellini, etc. - and one year there was a James Bond theme. I of course wore a ladies' bathing suit and a scuba mask and won the contest; I was Ursula Andress. But I have a friend who went wrapped simply in a bedsheet, wearing a velvet choker. She looked like every single morning-after James Bond conquest and it was a much better concept than me stuffed into a bathing suit, looking like a can of biscuits had just exploded. In hindsight, she probably should have won. But she can have my trophy when I die. Otherwise, what would sit on my mantle in the interim?

Anyway, this year's concept isn't quite clear to me yet. In this Era of Reality Television, there are a lot of options. Snooki feels a little last year. Any of the Real Housewives would be good but it's a little niche; if you have to explain the joke, then it isn't a good costume. The ladies of The View is always a good idea - as long as I can be Joy. But I'm not quite sure yet. Maybe I'll just stay home. Halloween this year falls on a Sunday. That's Mad Men night. Ohhhhh, waaaaaait.......

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Episode 98: How to Get into Trouble

Okay so this one time I was living with my mom outside of Atlanta; I was in the five-year-old department. We lived in a nice apartment complex called Tanglewood; I remember it very clearly, had little fake timbers like we were living in Robin Hood's refugee camp. Anyway. We were the last apartment on the end of one of the buildings and if you walked across the parking lot and down a little slope, there was a swimming pool.

My uncle - who must have lived nearby; this part is fuzzy - once threw me in that pool to teach me to swim. It was barbaric, but it worked. I mean...I'm here aren't I? My uncle also had a maid named Sally who looked after me in the afternoon. One day, while Sally was watching me, I sneaked (snuck?) away and walked down the hill and jumped in the pool and swam around until I looked like a really white raisin. The problem was I did not tell Sally I was going to the pool and she lost her ever-lovin' mind looking for me. I was finally located by her laser-beam eyes and thrown into the back of a pickup truck, whereupon I was delivered to my uncle, who was building a restaurant at the time (I remember! I was called Mrs Boomer's! What Georgia town was this? Athens? Marietta? Kennesaw? one of them, I'm sure). I sat in the back of the truck in the parking lot and waited and waited and waited for hours. Or maybe it was five know how things are when you're a kid and you know the hammer's about to come down.

And then my uncle walked across the parking lot, dropped the tailgate and spanked the hell out of me. Don't worry, wasn't abusive; it was instructive. To this day, I do what I am told and people named Sally terrify me. They should just load up a plane full of Sallys and let them loose in Afghanistan because when you see a big ol' Sally wearing an apron headed your way waving a rolling pin, you put up your hands and surrender. I can't even watch The Sally Field program with the grown kids and the problems, whatever it's called. Because in addition to her Sallyness, she also has brittle bones and I always worry that she hasn't taken her Boniva.

I think my uncle also spanked me once because I refused to eat a tomato. But maybe that's something I should share with my therapist.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Episode 97: How to Bust Up a Crack Deal

So I've been volunteering at a local cultural event-type thing and it's fun and exciting and I get to be outside for a couple of hours a night but you know what else? Other people are outside too and by other people, I do not mean the pinot-noir-sipping types who are attending the event. No, I mean there are people who make their living outside. And I do not mean squirrels, though they also ply their trade in the out-of-doors, generally. Also I have discovered that I do not like to talk to people. Well, close: I do not mind talking to people, I just do not like them to talk back. When I am done with my spiel, I am done with my spiel. Take your little sticker and go sit the fuck down, buddy.

La la la, so there I was with my donation bucket and a drunken lady person came up to me and asked for money. I said no and explained that maybe she didn't really get the general concept of which direction the money was supposed to be going so then she went and leaned against a tree where a few minutes later a gentleman in a Tommy Bahama-style ensemble approached her and handed her a little bag and then he left. And then a few minutes later there was a very distinct smell that does not smell like anything you can buy at Bath and Body Works because they last time I went there, they did not have a candle scent called "Hot Tin Foil."

So I ambled over in her general direction (I was nervous that there were so many kids running around - look at me caring!) and clanked my metal donation bucket ominously and the lady staggered off and fell over a curb and hauled herself back up and disappeared into the night.

And that lady was....Tanya Tucker! No, no, not really. I shouldn't say that, she is a nice lady. My mother once made a stained glass window for her bathroom and it was very exciting when Tanya Tucker called the house to discuss the details and I answered. I almost asked her if she was putting the stained glass window in her mansion in the sky but I chickened out.

I don't know who the crack lady really was, but I'm sure it was someone. Lorrie Morgan ain't doing anything.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Episode 96: How to Clean the Gutters

Ok, I confess I have no idea how to clean the gutters. It's one of those things like laundry where once you start doing it, you're never really done with it so why start in the first place, right?

I live in a two-story house with a basement that's on a slope so when you look at it from the back, it's a three-story house. We hired this company to come clean the gutters on the backside of the house because I only have a twelve-foot-ladder and while I'm no Stephen Hawking, I am pretty sure three stories is higher than twelve feet. This guy - who was on his first day of work with this company - showed up and stretched out his big-ass ladder and he shimmied up it and hopped out onto the top of the house and then promptly slipped and fell. He bounced down onto the second floor roof, taking the third-story gutter with him. Then he bounced onto the first-floor roof and yanked the second floor gutter with him. Then he fell off into the oblivion that should have ended in the back yard but he accidentally grabbed the power line that led into the house and that electrocuted him, which certainly didn't come in handy when he fell on the metal stairs leading to the pantry door which he then bounced down, one at a time, denting each one. Then he was relieved to be over with it until he landed on the concrete patio and smashed his head wide open. Oh, and no one was home so he laid there for an hour.

But don't worry! Everything ends happily! ... we got new gutters.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Episode 95: How to Shop at the Liquor Store

Yeah so, I have a god-daughter. Can you imagine? Someone said: "hey DG, I would like to entrust my daughter's spiritual education to you in case I die in a lawnmower accident or am accidentally poisoned like that guy on 'Big Love.'" I mean: really? On whose list am I even in the top ten thousand when it comes to spiritual development? Even my dog kneels and prays and then when she's done, she looks at me reproachfully as if to say "I ain't bringing any tennis balls to HELL, so you better get your SHIT together..."

One day, my close friend (let's say) Shmoozy* took god-daughter (hmm, ok, let's say) Shamille* on a series of errands. One of the errands involved going to Wal-Mart, one involved visiting a hair salon called Hair It Is and one involved going to the liquor store. Luckily for Shmoozy*, this particular liquor store had a child-friendly play area, presumably provided to give the ladies of the local metropolis enough time to peruse the aisles to select a poison to dull their particular sorrow. Not that Shmoozy* would need such a thing! No,no, she ain't no Real Housewife! She knows how to do it already! Anyway, it was the usual sort of play area: a pit of colored balls, a rocking horse, a mobile made of rusty nails and insulin needles. But Shmoozy* plopped my god-daughter into the little plastic-fenced-off area and went on her merry way, looking at the "pinots" and the "cabs" and the "whathaveyous" that are available here in our little corner of America. In other words: jars of moonshine.

So after a few minutes of browsing the new release section, Shmoozy* made her choices, checked her five cases of liquor out and then tried to retrieve Shamille* from the play area, whereupon Shamille* threw a hissy fit and screamed I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE THE LIQUOR STORE...I LOVE IT HERE.

Which explains my godfather position in a nutshell, if you ask me....

*not their actual names. Suzy and Camille are their actual names.

Episode 94: How to Deal With Snakes

I don't have an overarching morality tale for this one, just a series of snake-related anecdotes of varying terrifying degrees:

1. I have been terrified of snakes ever since I saw Rikki Tikki Tavi and spent several nights wide awake, keenly aware of the nest of cobras under my bed.

2. There was a movie called "Ssssss" that had a scene where a woman was in her bathtub and the drain thing popped off and a bunch of snakes slithered into her bathtub. Not since Janet Leigh took a shower at the Bates Motel has there been such a frightening bathtub-related psychological trauma. I don't take a bath or a shower: I just rub an ice cube around.

3. My mom won't even say the word "snake." She says "you-know-what." "Your father killed a you-know-what in the side yard today." "Your father ran over a you-know-what on our camping trip. Wouldn't it be funny if "you-know-what" turned out to be something other than snakes? Like Belgian people, maybe? And my father was some sort of person who had a problem with Belgians? Ha ha, yes, that would be funny.

4. I went on a series of hikes in lovely parks around the state and on every hike, I saw a snake. In every instance but one, the snake was coming across the trail from the right to the left. So now I basically hike sideways, facing the right.

5. I have a friend who defends snakes and says they eat fifty pounds of mosquitoes a day or ten mice or something. I stop paying attention when I hear "snake" and just run in the opposite direction in general. Plus, he is clearly lying, in that way people who say "oh, this habanero won't burn!" and "oh, I'm sure there are no rusty, tetanus-loaded car bodies just beneath the surface of this brown quarry water!" are always lying.

6. I was planning a trip to the lovely, dark and swampy Congaree National Park. Then I ran across an FAQ for it and the first question on the list was "what are those snakes that keep falling from the trees into the boat?" Now I am going to Mammoth Cave.