It’s Saturday night and the Bistro’s packed. I’m managing to keep my tables under control but Saroya, whose section’s just been triple sat, isn’t so lucky.
“Can you help me?” Saroya pleads, “I’m going into the weeds.”
“Whatcha need?” I ask.
“Can you tell table 23 the specials and get their drinks?”
I glance at my section. My customers are squared away. I’ve got time to spare.
“Sure,” I reply. “No problem.”
I walk over to table 23. Seated are two couples about my age. The women are pretty – in that cookie cutter soccer mom gym devotee kind of way. Wearing identical sleeveless dresses with plunging necklines, I can’t help admiring their dedication to fitness and plastic surgery.
The men, both bodybuilder wannabes, are anxiously looking for someone to bring them a drink. Wearing the standard uniform of polo shirt and khaki pants they look like yuppie twins. Both couples look like they’ve been ordered out of a catalog.
“Hello and welcome to The Bistro,” I say, introducing myself to the table. “Can I get anyone something from the bar?”
“Absolut and cranberry,” one of the men, a red faced bald fellow, grunts.
“Me too,” his friend says. I guess these boys never heard the expression “ladies first.”
“Right away gentleman,” I say. “And something for the ladies?”
“Two cosmopolitans,” one of the wives barks without looking up.
OK, so maybe they aren’t exactly ladies.
“Let me get your drinks,” I say with faux cheeriness, “And when I return I’ll tell you about our specials.”
Silence is their reply. How nice.
I go to the bar, mix the drinks, and return to the table. After they clink glasses I go through the specials. It’s an extensive list.
“Does anyone have any questions?” I ask after I finish.
“Could you give us some time please?” one of the ladies says testily.
“Of course madam,” I reply, “Saroya will be your waitress tonight. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
The ladies grace me with pained veneered smiles. The men stare stonily at the floor. There’s an awkward silence. I depart, grateful I don’t have to deal with these people anymore.
Or so I thought.
A few minutes later Saroya tugs on my sleeve.
“What did you do to my customers?” she asks laughing.
“What customers?” I reply.
“The ones you told the specials too.”
“What about them?”
“The man asked me to repeat the specials,” Saroya says. “He said he couldn’t understand you.”
“Why? Was I speaking softly?”
“No,” Saroya says, “He said you sounded too gay.”
“I sounded what?”
“He said he couldn’t understand you because you sounded gay.”
“Which guy was it?” I ask.
“The bald one.”
I stick my head out of the kitchen and glance at Baldy’s table.
“What a jerk,” I mutter, “What does he mean, ’sound too gay’?’”
Saroya’s cracking up. She thinks this is hilarious. Louis walks into the kitchen.
“What’s so funny?” Louis asks. I fill him in.
“I’ve been way gay for 25 years,” Louis says, “And I’ve never heard that one.”
“That’s guy’s suffering from a handicap,” I say.
“How so?” Louis asks.
“What’s the percentage of waiters around here who are gay?”
“Over 50%,” Louis says.
“So how can this guy order a meal in the tri-state area?”
Louis laughs. “I wonder if they make handicapped plates for that.”
“I don’t think they make special plates for assholes,” I say.
“The state couldn’t keep up with the demand.”
“Well,” Louis says, “We’re a tad angry aren’t we?”
“I’m not angry he thinks I’m gay,” I say, “That doesn’t bother me.”
“So what are you angry at?” Louis asks.
“I’m angry at the ‘can’t understand someone who sounds gay’ part,” I reply. “What’s that about?”
“Guy’s probably got issues,” Louis says.
“You think he’s looking at naked fireman videos when his wife’s not home?”
“Could be,” Louis chuckles, “Maybe he’s uncomfortable because he’s attracted to you.”
“And he can’t admit it to himself?”
“That dynamic’s been known to happen,” Louis says.
I shake my head. “You might be right.”
The night drags on. Louis and I meet up again at the POS computer.
“So you still upset over what that guy said?” Louis asks, punching in an order.
I glance over at Baldy’s table. They’re eating their entrees. I notice Baldy’s wine glass is empty.
“Louis my friend,” I say, “I’m going to go test your hypothesis.”
“Whatcha gonna do?” Louis asks, looking worried.
I walk over to Baldy’s table. I grip the wine bottle, wait a beat, then pick it up and start refilling his wine glass.
Baldy looks up at me. His face is flushed. I notice what are going to be the first of many busted capillaries in his nose. As I pour the wine I gaze deeply into his bloodshot eyes.
“Sir,” I say softly, “Is everything to your satisfaction?”
“Uh huh,” he croaks.
“Very good sir,” I say, twisting the bottle as I finish my pour. “Have a nice evening.”
Baldy looks at me uncomfortably. I put the bottle down and walk away, resisting the urge to wiggle my hips. Nah, it wouldn’t be right to torture him with my fabulousness.
I go over to Louis.
Louis laughs. “That was subtle.”
“The bottle thing?”
“You see the look on his face?”
“You’re right,” Louis says, “He’s definitely watching fireman videos.”
“What did I tell you?”
“When you’re right you’re right.”
The night wears on. Baldy’s party leaves. He doesn’t leave his phone number on a napkin. I’m not surprised.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if Baldy thought I was gay. I’m a waiter after all. It’s a common enough stereotype. People have made that mistake before. Besides, I don’t care what most people think of me. Baldy’s comment pissed me off because it was angry, immature, and stupid. Lot’s of people, gay and straight, are conflicted about their sexuality. Some aren’t. That doesn’t surprise me. Sexuality can be a very complicated thing. It can also be a very simple thing. But Baldy needs to keep the stupid comments to himself.
And he better hide those videos where his wife will never find them.