Sieg Heil!

I am waiting on a table of Europeans, Germans to be exact, and they’re busy trashing the good old US of A.

When you wait tables you might as well be wearing an invisibility cloak because customers talk like you’re not even there. These guys didn’t care I’m standing right next to them. What’s worse, they’re not trashing our political figures, who I think are fair game; they are dissing the American people. The more they talk the angrier I get.

“They are uneducated.”

“Culturally illiterate.”

“Lazy.”

“Addicted to TV.” (Well he has a point there)

“Selfish”

My blood is boiling. I wonder how this scene would play out if the situation was reversed. Imagine me telling a waiter in the Potzdammer Platz that Germans are nice people but don’t piss them off – they can’t stop once they get going. That would go over like the Hindenburg.

So I smile and try to be professional. You have to deal with all kinds in this business. I start thinking of a beautiful German girl I spent a July Fourth weekend with, my German friend at the cigar shop, Porsche 911’s, Wagner, and Dab Ale in order to remind myself these jerks were not representative of all the Deutsch.

Then they just had to fuck with me.

Uber patron asks me if I’ve ever traveled abroad. I suspect he is wearing lederhosen under his pants.

“No sir I have only been to Canada.” (Sad but true)

The man throws up his hands and laughs. He speaks in rapid fire German to the others. They laugh. I don’t understand the words but I can gauge the meaning.

Sometimes when you wait tables people can make you feel very small. When that happens I get angry. I lose my professional reserve.

“Well my uncles went to Germany once.” I say.

“Oh yes? Where did they go? he says still laughing.

“They took the grand tour of the country in 1944 and 1945.”

The laughing stopped. I played the ultimate American redneck card. We might be illiterate, lazy, and uneducated – but we put your country to the fucking torch and don’t you ever fucking forget it.

I shock myself. I’ve crossed the line. Unemployment is imminent. I brace myself for the blitzkrieg

Then they shock me.

“We are a little drunk. We are guests in your country. I apologize.” Uber patron says.

“No sir I am sorry I was way out of line.”

“Don’t worry about it.” he reassures me.

They finish dinner, tip well, and tell the owner I am a good waiter on the way out. My faith in humanity, for today at least, is restored.

Shaken up I tell Rizzo, the head waiter, about the whole incident.

His face breaking out into a broad smile he walks away humming “Deutschland über Alles”

I love Germans now more than ever.

Auf Wiedersehen baby!

Yeah I put in a tip jar

Some of you are looking at that PayPal donation button and thinking, “Great, another sellout.”

What the hell else did you expect? I’m a waiter. I live on tips.

If you throw me a buck that would be great. If you don’t that’s fine too. I will keep writing regardless.

If, however, you stiffed a waiter in the past and feel like you need to balance out your karma – well let me help you.

Holy Shit it’s Alec Baldwin!

You know celebrity is an interesting thing. Why are we so interested in their lives, what they wear, who they sleep with? What gives them their “power?” I mean you have to admit we live in a celebrity obsessed culture. Just look at the J-Lo/Affleck shitstorm.

John Cleese posited an explanation in his television special The Human Face. Basically he said we are designed by evolution to live in small groups, numbering five hundred or so. In our not too distant insular agrarian past we knew every one around us. Famous people in the village were those that had accomplished something. They were warriors, healers, prophets, and kings. Everyone knew their face.

Now we live in megalopolises numbering tens of millions of people. The endless procession of faces we see everyday are, for the most part, anonymous, with out a name or story attached to them. We feel a profound lack of connection to the swirl of humanity that besets us.

But we all know who Brad Pitt is.

He is just a guy who works in the movies but many of us know more about him than about our next door neighbor. We may not know squat about the guy sitting next to us on the subway but we will both know who Brad is. That, in a funny way, connects us. Cleese is basically saying that celebrities, by the virtue of their being seen in the media, fulfill a basic human longing for connection in the global village. We all know them and, by that, they connect us to each other. They cut through the anonymity. That’s what gives them power.

Of course that perceived power is all out of whack when compared against reality. A celebrity, if he or she is smart, realizes that people recognize their persona, their act, and not them. They realize fame is fickle and try and stay grounded in the real day to day experience we all inhabit. They know they are not warriors, prophets and kings – just people whose job puts their faces on the screen. Those who believe their own PR end up in trouble. Think Elvis. Think Michael Jackson. Think, gulp! – OJ.

So what does all this have to do with waiting tables? I’ll tell you why.

In our boffo box office culture, normal everyday folks are so caught up in celebrity obsession they start feeling entitled to star treatment. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in a restaurant.

I cannot tell you how many times patrons walk in on a busy Saturday night without a reservation and demand the best table. When they don’t get it I hear the most tired of protestations, “Do you know who I am?” Usually they’re a minor so and so with an equally minor company. They are part of the great huddled masses. Just like me.

Let’s not mention the outrageous food requests, finger snapping, obnoxious comments and other sundry bad behaviors here. I’ll save those stories for later. Suffice to say people who are not famous like to make the wait staff think they are.

So how do real movie stars act when they go out to eat?

One busy Monday night we are crazy busy. The door chimes, I look up and Alec Baldwin is standing in the doorway. Holy Shit.

He is with his brother Steven Baldwin, significant others in tow. First off let me tell you Alec really is a handsome devil. It’s a cliché, I know, but he is a lot taller in person than on screen. Alas, we have only one table; between the ladies room and the kitchen next to the register. It’s the worst table in the house. Alec, ever polite, takes it happily. He orders off the menu, says please and thank you, tips well, and thanks the kitchen staff on the way out. He is a perfect gentleman. This guy has his head on straight.

I also have had the pleasure of waiting on: Rich Little, Rosie O’Donnell, Bjork, Meryl Streep, William Hurt., Larry Mullen (from U2), Ellen Burstyn, Barry Bostwick, Alan Ruck, Joseph Bologna, Jack Klugman, Toni Morrison, William Baldwin, Judith Regan, and a bunch of notables whose names escape me.

You know what? Not one of them acted like an asshole. They were all well mannered, polite, and didn’t put on airs. I know other waiters have celebrity horror stories but not me.

So basically my long winded post comes down to this. If these “famous people” can eat in my restaurant without being an entitled obnoxious prick why can’t you? Don’t get caught up in the seduction of celebrity. It’s an illusion. Just be happy to be you.

Now shut the fuck up and eat your food.

God I hope OJ doesn’t read this.

Angels and Getting My Swerve On

If you work in a restaurant and can’t get laid you have a problem.

Think about it. You are surrounded by young, mostly unattached people, in a high stress close contact situation where alcohol is plentiful. Hooking up is not only inevitable – it’s endemic to the profession.

Hostesses bang the owners. Waiters bang other waiters, customers, bartenders, and anything else that moves. The entire restaurant is a cauldron of lust. You had better knock before you enter the linen closet unless you want a free show. It can be that crazy.

Such was the situation that greeted me when I left the business world and began my first waiter gig at Amici’s in the Jersey burbs. Corporate America, with its puritanical work place dating rules, girls following the time old pattern of marrying economically appropriate boring men, combining with office politics, made my sex life there, well, almost non existent. Amici’s was a shock. It was like being in college all over again. Except this time I had a car and my own apartment. I took to it like a fish to water.

Regan, twenty years old, looking like a younger and cuter version of Soledad O’Brien, is crazy about me. She works at the liquor store attached to the bistro. Being twelve years older I hesitate to take up her offer of a drink after work but who am I kidding? Her cute face, firm ass and pert breasts are too compelling to resist. After shift we go over to TGI Fridays for a beer.

Soon we are pounding back Bass Ale, laughing, touching under the table and having a good time. We talk about art, politics, music and all the other things people talk about while figuring out how to get into one another’s pants. Just when things are looking up, the good angel alights on my right shoulder and begins whispering in my ear,

“She’s too young. This is not right. Give her a peck on the cheek and take her home.”

Not to be outdone the bad angel also appears. His advice is more direct,

“Close the deal! Get some!”

While this eschatological conflict is raging we pay the bill and leave. Outside Regan pulls me into a side alley. Pressed up against the wall, kissing wildly, hands fumbling under clothes, I think we are going to do the deed there and then.

After a few minutes, Regan looks up at me wide eyed and says throatily, “Take me to your place and fuck me.”

The bad angel reaches over and decapitates the good angel, spinning him of into the aether. I break every speed limit driving home.

We get out of my car and the clothes start coming off before we get into the house. (I find her blouse in the bushes the next morning.) We stumble to the door, I fumble with my keys, it opens, and we tumble in.

Soon we are almost naked, kissing passionately, hands roaming all over each others bodies, preparing for, ahem, sexual congress, when Regan looks up at me, with wide brown eyes in which a man could lose himself forever, and says……

“I think I am going to be sick.”

……and proceeds to do a Linda Blair all over me.

I spin her around into the bathroom and place her face over the toilet, holding back her hair while she pukes up her body weight in vomit. Bass Ale recycled; she slumps to the ground, finding relief by pressing her cheek against the cold tile floor. She is crying softly.

The good angel materializes, reattaches his head, hurls the bad angel back to the nether regions, and resumes his litany.

“What are you doing? Think about it. She is too young. Look at the poor thing.”

Sometimes I really hate that good angel.

I clean Regan up and put her in my bed. I place a bucket on the floor in the event of a relapse. I take the couch. The next morning we wake up early. I throw coffee and toast down her throat.

“I have to get home before my Dad wonders where I’ve been.” she says looking very hungover.

That’s just great.

We get in the car and head out. I feel like a dad taking his daughter to school. Driving up her block I have a terrifying vision of a wrathful father peering at me through a telescopic sight muttering, “A little closer motherfucker, just a little closer….” his finger taking up the slack on the trigger.

I stop a few houses away.

Opening the door to leave, Regan turns around and asks me anxiously,

“Did anything happen last night?”

“Not a thing.”

“You’re a very nice man.”

“Not really.” I say watching her slink back into her house.

Driving away I realize I have dodged a bullet.

Later at work I am telling Rizzo about my little experience. He just laughs saying,

“When you’re too old to pick up a girl at her father’s house my man, well you’ve turned a corner, haven’t you?” How true.

I am not saying this experience turned me into a saint. Far from it, but I learned a valuable lesson that night. To quote the novelist Ross MacDonald,

“When a man gets older, if he’s smart, he likes his women older too. “

Its only a flesh wound!

It’s Friday night and I’m waiting on some real assholes. Two middle aged couples, so busy bad mouthing absent friends, I wonder what they say about one another in private. So animated is this little hate fest that I’m shooed away every time I approach the table. After half an hour I finally get the wine order. It’s the cheapest white we sell.

I open the bottle, go though the tasting ritual, and pour the swill into the glasses. I begin parroting the specials when one of the men looks alarmed and says,

“Waiter you’re bleeding.”

I look down. I must have nicked my finger on the foil opening the bottle. There is a small bit of blood on my finger.

“Oh dear.” I say

The man looks like he is about to jump out of his seat. He is really freaked.

“I am a doctor. I insist you put a band aid on that finger NOW!”

I want to say my case of Ebola is in remission; but before I can say anything a drop of blood slides off my finger.

The entire table tracks the path of my hemoglobin as it plummets down, down, PLOP! into one of the bitch’s wine glasses.

I have tuned chardonnay into rose blush. Voila!

The ladies look like they are about to faint. Marcus Welby is out of his seat.

“Take this wine away; get a new bottle, and GET A BAND AID!!!!!!!!!!”

The busboy removes the offending glasses and bottle. I run into the kitchen, wash out the wound with vodka, get a bandage and return to the table with a fresh bottle of vino cheapo.

The entire table looks like they are about to throw up. The doctor tells me to skip opening the bottle.

“We have lost our appetite. We’re leaving.” He says shaking his head disgustedly.

“Sir I am very sorry for what happened. This bottle is on the house.” I say trying to rescue the situation.

“No we’re going. You are a terrible waiter. We are never coming back here again.”

All this fuss over a simple accident. Now I’m pissed. As the couples walk past me I inject a Scottish burr in my voice and pay a small homage to Monthy Python,

“But sir it’s only a flesh wound!”

“You’re an asshole” the doctor counters.

Oh, THANK YOU SIR! Have a wonderful evening.” I reply obsequiously.

The couples storm out the front door. The owner gives me a “What the fuck?” look. I shrug. He shrugs. A new table takes the assholes’ place in under a minute,

Here’s the kicker. The new table’s bill came close to a thousand bucks. I got a $200 tip.

If you prick me do I not bleed?

Cheap wine would have tasted better with my blood in it anyway.