Serendipity

I’m eating a ritzy brunch on the outdoor patio of a ritzy restaurant in a ritzy town. The cars gliding down the ritzy street are all new and expensive and the ladies at the next table are wearing ritzy shoes that cost more than what regular folks make in a month. Even my Eggs Benedict are ritzy. I don’t know whether to feel ritzy myself or economically inadequate to the point of suicide.

“How’s your food?” my date, a classy brunette, asks.

“Expensive,” I mumble through a piece of egg sodden brioche.

“It’s such a lovely day,” she says, stretching languidly while looking up at the flawless blue sky. “Don’t you think?” Even the weather here is ritzy.

As my date and I aimlessly chat about the weather a woman driving a battleship grey Audi TT pulls into a parking spot in front of the restaurant. I also notice that she’s taken up one and a half parking spots. Munching on my expensive Canadian bacon I see the woman start reading a book. And as she turns the pages she’s oblivious to the black Mercedes trying to squeeze in behind her. But since Audi Lady is hogging up so much space the task is beyond the capability of even the most skilled parallel parker.

After a few minutes of trying to make two pieces of matter occupy the same space at the same time, a visibly annoyed man jumps out of the Mercedes and tries directing his companion into the spot. After she tries and fails several times the man’s face flushes red with anger. “Look,” I say to my date. “This shit’s starting to get good.”

““Why can’t that Audi move up and let them in?”

“I think the driver’s on another planet.”

By this point the Mercedes is blocking traffic and cars are clogging the street. Not to be deterred, the man walks over to the Audi and taps on the window. Audi Lady looks at him sweetly and makes a “Sorry. I’m not leaving motion.” Apoplectic, the man throws his hands up in the air, storms back to his car and the couple drives away.

“Why go through all that frustration?” I say to my date. “There’s a perfectly good parking lot across the street with plenty of space.”

“Serendipity,” she says.

“Huh?”

“In this town everyone’s rich. So when everyone’s equal serendipity becomes a status symbol.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Have you ever found a parking space right in front of the place you want to go?”

“Yeah. That’s killer.”

“Well the guy in that Mercedes wanted that experience. He wanted to pull up with no muss or fuss and be on his way. But when he couldn’t get that experience he flipped out.”

“Why not park in the lot?”

“Probably beneath him or something. That’s why he spent five minutes all worked up trying to get that spot.”

I never though of serendipity being a status symbol. But when I think back to my waiter days my date’s insight makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times people came in off the street with no reservation and asked for the best table in the house. Sometimes I was able to give it to them, sometimes not. Most people were gracious, accepted the fact it wasn’t their lucky day and sat elsewhere. But some customers, just like that man in the Mercedes, flipped out. It was as if they thought the table belonged to them by divine right. Maybe telling them “no” trashed their delusion that life should just be one series of effortless moments after another.

“That guy in the Mercedes is in for a world of hurt,” I say.

“Why do you say that?”

“Serendipity’s a happy experience because it doesn’t happen all the time. Not getting it is what gives it meaning. If he doesn’t grasp that he’s fucked.”

As we finish up our meal I look at the woman in the Audi again. But she’s not reading anymore. She’s drinking Grey Goose straight from the bottle.

“Jesus,” I say, shaking my head. Would you look at that?”

“Oh my God,” my date says. She’s not on another planet. She’s hammered.”

Audi Lady takes one more immense guzzle from her bottle before stowing it under her seat. Then she gets out of the car, grabs what looks like a couple of rolled up paintings from the trunk and stumbles onto the sidewalk. She’s emaciated, pale and shaking. I worked with alcoholics for years. This lady’s drinking far more than she’s eating. I have no idea why’s she’s a drunk but it doesn’t matter. She may have a nice car and a great parking spot but if she doesn’t get help she’ll die within the year – beyond serendipity’s cool touch forever.

Suddenly this town doesn’t feel ritzy anymore.


Comments

Serendipity — 36 Comments

  1. Good to have you back.

    Having had personal family experience with alcoholics, I learnt that it pretty much destroys everything else from the inside out. However, theres always those who realise they’re better with what they got and manage to stop drinking. Here’s hoping that women’s one of them.

  2. Hmm I don’t blame the guy, I’d be pissed too if someone took up more than one parking spot, and if I saw them sitting in the car I’d probably have done the same thing.

  3. “Suddenly this town doesn’t feel ritzy anymore.”

    First impressions are often inaccurate, and people obsessed with looking good often have something to hide.

  4. I work with drunks all the time- they get completely wasted during
    coctail hour and then keep up with the drink orders all night. I always try to water down their drinks if it starts to get ridiculous- cuz drunk does not
    always mean a good tip- rich or not. I had the damned newly elected mayor throw a bitch fit because no alcohol was available (for the party was well over). Hm- guess people will always give in to something- no matter who they are otlr what they risk.

  5. Good to see you back in the blogging saddle Steve.
    I would have flipped out – not because of not getting the parking spot – but the sheer selfishness of someone taking up two parking spots. One of my many bugbears.
    I know you’re too much of a gentleman to tell but I hope the date went well.

  6. Gee Wilhelm, do you have a contract with Waiter for X amount of posts a year or something? It is what it is dude, when Waiter starts asking for paid membership then you can bitch.

    Nice story Waiter. Always a nice surprise to see something new

  7. Glad to see you are back – and still insightful. While I wouldn’t call my town “ritzy”, I would (and do) notice that everyone is special. You just have to look ate the cars parked in the fire lane outside the grocery store, or in the handicapped spaces outside the gym to see that (and why are there so many handicapped spaces outside the gym, for heaven’s sake?) The Serendipity Theory is a good way to explain what I see – although my parents have always called getting the space by the door “Doing a Paul”.

  8. I’ve enjoyed WAITER’s writing for years. I filled all my friends Christmas stockings with his first book.
    My comment was intended as a kick in the rear for him to remember that “WRITERS WRITE!” and that he has gotten remiss since his commercial success.

  9. Wilhelm has gone and provided us with the perfect illustration of what Waiter is saying. We pay nothing to read this blog, whereas it takes Waiter probably at least a few hours work to write it and post it. Don’t know if he has to pay for this server space or not, but with the popularity of this blog (not to mention the domain name) I bet he does.

    Since there is no set schedule for his postings, it is serendipitous to click on the link here and find a new post.

    Wilhelm has shown the same frustration of a person who feels entitled to serendipitous moments all the time.

    Well done, Wilhelm! I got what you were trying to do.

    ………. At any rate, I enjoy your posts, Waiter. I, too, wish they could come more often, but being a blogger myself, I understand why they do not.

    I’m still wondering why a counselor would become a waiter. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe you’ll write a blog on that someday – or maybe it is in your book that I have not been able to buy yet on my meager income. (Maybe I’ll check the library for it – could be a serendipitous experience.)

  10. Welcome back.I use to clean for wealthy.If anyone copped a “better than me” attitude, I’m gone.Were ALL people 1st.

  11. Thanks for the post Waiter! I think I probably would have provided the Audi Lady with a future moment of Serendipity by reporting her to the local police. She would not have appreciated the gesture at that moment, but MAY have recognized it later when she realized you may have possibly saved her life, as well as that of some innocent bystander.

  12. As for Audi lady, I’d definitely have been calling her in – she’s a potentially lethal driver. Thanks for another good read, Waiter. Sure it’d be great to see more posts – but I’ll opt for quality over quantity anytime.

  13. I waited tables at Alice’s Restaurant in the late 70s. One night a gentleman dining alone in my section had too much to drink, refused to pay, refused to leave. Alice came down from her upstairs apartment, grabbed the drunk by the sport coat, extracted his wallet, extracted a credit card, tossd the credit card to the deskette to ring up, and then threw him out.

    Serendipity for me that night. You didn’t mess with Alice.

  14. First, this needs another quotation mark:
    “Oh my God,” my date says. She’s not on another planet. She’s hammered.”

    Anyway, loved this one! I like how you can tie up several observations into one succinct lesson :)

  15. Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

  16. This is a comment about tipping.
    Having lived in NYC for nine years and knowing that my daughter depended on tips as a waitress to earn her degree, I have given this matter a lot of thought.
    I should add that in my profession it is considered bad form to solicit tips, but I can accept tips gladly when offered. I should also state that my hourly rate is far above average so if I do not get a tip I am not worried about paying the rent at the end of the month, although I do have to work a good part of the month to do so.
    I have come to the conclusion that waiters should be paid an equitable wage by their bosses. Whether a tip is involved or not, waiters, like people in any other line of work, should be professional, courteous and diligent in performing their duties. If they are slackers they should be fired, like in any other line of work.
    Anyone who can afford to pay upwards of a certain amount for dinner, let’s say $30 per person (which doesn’t go far in a city like NY) just for the sake of argument, should find 20% automatically added to the bill by restaurant owners, and this extra should go entirely to the waiter. In deluxe establishments, the percentage added to the bill could be even higher.
    So I am not against waiters or workers being paid equitably, but I think that the tipping system, in its present form in the US, should be changed.
    Maybe there should be a different rule for staff in low-end establishments, but every working person should be paid equitably according to the kind of work they do. The practice of working for less than the minimum wage should be abolished.
    Best wishes and keep on writing!

  17. Brilliant observation… the ironic thing is that serendipity doesn’t actually have anything to do with money. Somebody without a penny to their name could get that parking space.

  18. Vincent, well said. Steve, welcome back. We’ve missed you but we know you’ve got deadlines and your head is probably also full of what you want to write next beyond the whole life thing. Just know your fans miss you.

  19. Hmmph. They’ve got all the money in the world, and now they want the universe to love them more than other people. Typical.

    Serendipity — real serendipity — does happen. But it happens in its own time and doesn’t always look like what it is.

    Great blog entry, glad I checked back in. Sounds like life remains interesting for you.

  20. About time!
    When we climbed the mountain to share your Zen we sort of got used to it. Coming back day after day and seeing the same old post is hard on our serenity! I know it is hard to spout wisdom day after day, and I know comedians can’t be told “OK be funny for me, right now!”
    So lets just say, keep your cool and WE DO APPRECIATE your humble offerings!
    And Yeah, another excellent post! Duh!

  21. Hey!

    I have something to run by you- I’ve read you for years but don’t think I’ve done much posting…

    I’m a waitress and I work in a very small Bistro where plates are about 35.00 an entree. We have limited space (9 two seat tables and 7 seats at a bar) and we turn each table 3x a night between 4pm and 10pm. We don’t have a hostess or bussers. We do it ALL. Our chef is also the owner. Our little Bistro gets a lot of attention and we are packed almost every night.

    That said~

    The owner has been taking 3% of ALL sales out of the pooled tip share (to cover credit card sales), then takes 25% off the top and gives it to the house. The remaining 72% is then divided between the wait-staff. There are always two on a shift each night.

    On a night where sales are $4000.00 and I made well over 20% in tips, I ended up taking home $217.

    NOW. My question is… what to do? The last waitress to approach her on this was her very good friend… there was a huge blow up and she quit or got fired over this very issue.

    I like my job, but I like my tips better… Is it fair to approach her? If so, how?

    Having my own little RANTRUM~
    Up North

  22. Stacy,
    Join the lawsuit. Batali has a class action law suit against him. If this is not a Mario Batali establishment then find the article about the suit. Print the article for the owner and leave it on his desk. He will get the message.

  23. Stacy, I think you’ve answered your own question. If the owner’s friend couldn’t get something like that changed, consider your own odds. I’m not sure if in similiar restaurants the chef (when not the owner) would be included in the tip pool, but in this case she probably has a very powerful emotional reason for doing this (if it isn’t just a money thing, but money can be very emotional as well). Perhaps she got stiffed when working in a previous job and this is to make her feel better about it.

    When it comes down to it, if you’re not happy with the pay you’re getting for the work you’re putting in, I guess it comes down to asking your boss to change the pay, or changing jobs. You probably have a few options as to How you ask your boss, perhaps get someone else to broach the problem? Or come at it sideways, ask her about where she used to work, perhaps you can find a key to the situation in an owner mistreating her at a past job.

    Of course there could be some other restaurant-business people on here with a more insightful take, hopefully they can give you some more advice.

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