Some Like It Hot

“Waiter this coffee is cold.”

“It’s a fresh pot madam.”

“Whatever. Get me a hot cup of coffee.”

I go back to the kitchen. I heat up a cup with water from the espresso machine and fill it with piping hot coffee. That usually does the trick.

“It’s still cold.”

Christ.

I return to the kitchen, grab a pair of tongs, and put the cup in the oven. After a few minutes I extract it, place it on a cold saucer, and return to the table.

Sounding like the warning on a Starbucks container I say, “Please be careful madam the cup and its contents are extremely hot.”

The customer sees the steam billowing and says, “Just the way I like it.”

As I walk away I hear the pleasant sound of her yelling “Ouch! It burns!”

My job is done.

Crack Head Caroline

It’s a frigid Wednesday night in February and we’re preparing to close early. The temperature has never inched above five degrees. Domino’s pizza delivery might be busy but we sure as hell aren’t.

Sitting around counting our meager take for the night, we hear Caroline having an animated conversation with her boyfriend on a borrowed cell phone. I know what they are talking about. Crack.

Caroline and her boyfriend, also a waiter at a nearby restaurant, are degenerate lovers of the rock. Homeless, all their possessions stored in a beat up old car, they migrate from motel to motel, one fix to another. Tonight they have a small problem. Their combined nightly earnings can get them a motel room or drugs – but not both. They face a dilemma. Motel or crack? Crack or a motel? Hit the sheets or hit the pipe?

Sayeed, the manger, offers to let her crash in our warehouse a few blocks away. It’s unheated and only locks from the outside. In so many words he tells her that for his largesse sexual favors are expected. A pretty girl, whose looks are just beginning to be ravaged, Caroline has not yet reached that bottom. She takes a pass. Tears in her eyes, she walks over to the front door and waits for her boyfriend to pick her up.

We tell Sayeed he is a pig. He just laughs us off saying, “Let her freeze.”

I walk up to the front. Caroline’s face is pressed against the window looking onto the empty street. The wind howling outside only accentuates the feeling of desolation. Thinking of my nice warm apartment I do a stupid thing. I reach into my pocket and hand her my tips. Forty bucks.

“You can’t stay in your car tonight. Get a room.” I say as the boyfriend’s heap pulls up.

“Thank you.” she whispers. I watch her drive off. She waves smally.

I would like to say that Caroline slept well and decided to turn over a new leaf but that didn’t happen. Caroline didn’t get a room with my money – she just bought more crack. Her and her boyfriend slept in their car with the engine running.

Avoiding death by carbon monoxide poisoning, Caroline returned to work the next day. Unkempt and dirty, with pinpricks for eyes, she stumbled about making a million mistakes. Her tips were nonexistent. Luckily for her, the boyfriend had a banner night; crack and clean sheets for everybody.

Then a few days later she was gone. Word on the street was Caroline ditched her old man and took a bus down South to her parents. Maybe on that cold night she had a moment of clarity. Maybe she didn’t. Odds are she’s still a crackhead. I prefer to think of her sober, married, and living behind a white picket fence. I’ll never know. Whenever it’s cold and the wind howls I think of her.

Be well Caroline.

Lord of the Flies?

It’s a beautiful summer’s day and two ladies are lunching al fresco on the patio. Everything is going swimmingly save for the insects that buzz around trying to catch a meal – or lay an egg.

It’s a slow shift. I am inside deeply engrossed in a book. The ladies rap on the window and beckon me with a finger to come outside. I am perturbed. I was getting to the good part.

“Yes ladies?” I inquire.

“Waiter please do something about these files.”

They are dining outside remember.

“I am sorry ladies but my powers of divinity have been suspended indefinitely.”

“Oh.”

I go back inside to my book. You dine al fresco you takes your chances.

Critters

This Sunday night I am walking up the aisle when I hear a commotion near the front tables. A lady is shouting unintelligibly. I soon discover why.

Perching on her table is Sciurus carolinensis – an American grey squirrel. He isn’t happy.

“Holy fucking shit!” seems the most professional response at the time.

The squirrel, frightened by the patron’s shrieks tries to jump through the plate glass window to freedom. Failing that, he bounds off her shoulder onto the floor and scurries under the hostess stand. A female customer, an obvious animal lover, runs over crying “It’s just a baby! Don’t hurt it!” and attempts a rescue.

The squirrel starts hissing malevolently. I am thinking – the lady gets bit, the lady gets rabies, the lady sues our asses off.

“Madam please let us handle this.”

“Oh I’ll get him.” she coos.

“MADAM, STEP AWAY FROM THE SQUIRREL!” I yell.

Looking hurt the woman abandons her efforts and reluctantly returns to her seat.

A busboy rushes up with a broom and we try and sweep him out the front door but the rodent dashes down the length of the bistro toward the back, horrifying all of the customers, diving underneath a four top.

I run up to the table and say, “I don’t mean to alarm you, but a squirrel has run under your table. Could you please get up?”

I will never forget the look on their faces.

“What is a squirrel doing in here?” one woman says, performing a rapid egress from the area.

“I assure you he is not on the menu.”

When we get under the table we discover that the glorified rat has crawled through a hole in the back bench and has taken up residence. We can hear him racing back and forth under the customers’ seats. He is not coming out.

With the exception of one very cool couple, the back of the bistro has to be reseated to other tables. The free shit parade is in full swing.

After dispensing drinks and desserts gratis I call the police and ask them to send an animal control officer.

“A squirrel doesn’t seem to fit the ambiance of a Tuscan bistro.” the desk sergeant says. I can hear half the department laughing in the back ground.

“No kidding.”

He gives me the number of “Critters R Us” and I call. The guy is over in twenty minutes with a trap and instructions on how to set it.

Later, when all the customers have left, I am on my hands and knees rigging the filthy device, asking the owner when animal trapping became part of my job description. Unfortunately the varmint does not come out in the dead of night and take the bait. The next morning we still have a rodent living under the back bench. We spend the whole shift waiting for him to make reappearance. I dread hearing the words, “Waiter, there is a squirrel in my soup!

That night we reset the trap and have better luck. The owner calls me at home after midnight. The squirrel set off the motion detector alarm springing the trap. When the owner entered the premises with the police our little buddy was freaking in his cage.

The next morning Critters R Us picked him up and released him in the woods. Problem solved.

Later that morning a curious customer from Sunday night popped his head in the door and asked, “Whatever became of the squirrel?

“We had him for lunch sir.”