The silver haired gentleman on table 37 is celebrating his fiftieth birthday. His wife, possessing a funereal sense of humor, has decorated the eight top with black helium balloons, black streamers, and a black tablecloth. As I’m trying to take the dessert order the birthday boy, obviously tipsy on Brunello, grabs one of the helium balloons and sucks every cubic inch of gas out of it.
“Hey waiter,” the man says, sounding like Donald Duck, “Have you ever seen a customer do this?”
“Only at kiddie parties, sir,” I reply, deadpan. The man’s friends chuckle softly.
The birthday boy, loving the sound of his vocal cords vibrating in the less dense air, says, “Yeah, but you’ve just got to love this helium stuff.”
“I hope you don’t work with nitrous oxide or anything,” I counter “You’d be hitting that stuff all the time.”
The table explodes into laughter. The birthday boy flushes red.
“Holy shit!” the man’s wife squeals delightedly, “He’s an oral surgeon!”
“How did you know?” one of his friends gleefully shouts, “How did you know?”
I shrug modestly.
“No seriously,” Birthday Boy asks as the laughter dies down, “How did you know about the nitrous oxide thing?”
I want to say that I used to work in a drug rehab and saw my share of impaired physicians. Disclosing that factoid, however, could but a damper on the table’s humorous mood. I decide to employ levity instead.
“I’m psychic, sir,” I reply. “I see dead people and dentists.”
“You must be,” Birthday Boy says, shaking his head in amazement.
“In any case sir” I say, pointing to my dessert cart laden with tooth decaying goodies, “Do you want to help me drum up some business for yourself? Or would you like a tank of laughing gas instead?”
The table laughs again. I’m a hit. They all order dessert and coffee, leave a massive tip, tell the owner what a funny waiter I am, and leave. They were nice people.
But if I’m ever in the dentist chair and I see Birthday Boy coming at me with a drill – I’m running for my life.