NYC, Media, Service and Myths

Posted: June 26, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life
Tags: , ,
I am approaching my 20th year of living in NYC.  I am a New Yorker now.  I may move when I get old, but who can say.  My ex girlfriend and I moved to Miami for one winter after I had spent my first Autumn in NYC.  After spending only a few short months there I found myself missing NYC…the food, the people, the attitude.  People in Miami had an attitude, but it was totally unjustified in my opinion. Miami in 1994 had just gone through a brief stint as a models Mecca, and no one told the flock of overly confident beautiful people that it was over as quick as it had begun.  Suffice to say everyone in Miami was bar tending or waiting tables simply to pass the time until Gianni Versace saw them opening a beer and signed them to an exclusive contract.People with these kinds of attitudes do not make good hospitality employees. I remember going to the 11th St Diner in Miami and the waitress getting every single aspect of her job wrong…painfully wrong.  We were seated at a filthy table.  We sat there for a while before the “waitress” came and took our order. Then she immediately disappeared to the bathroom to gaze upon her loveliness and it was another 20 minutes before the busboy (another aspiring model) cleared our table.  A few more minutes passed before I saw our “waitress” off in the distance and I called her over to ask if we could have some water and could I please have an ashtray.  She rolled her eyes and flounced off. 10 minutes later, no water, no ashtray. I asked again if I could have an ashtray. She rolled her eyes again and heaved a sigh before reaching over to another filthy table, grabbing a half full ashtray and slamming it down on our table.  Everyone got served at different times, and everyone’s order was wrong. The bill was wrong and they added a 20% gratuity to it.  This was common practice in Miami due to the number of European tourists. It also meant that there was little to no incentive for the servers to be pleasant or to do their job with an ounce of professionalism. I wanted to sit the waitress down and explain a few things to her in the manner of a parent telling their child for the third time not to stick a fork in the electrical outlet.   “Honey, I know you think you’re Kate Moss, but in reality, you’re Flo . You work at a diner. And a shitty diner at that!”

Back in NYC you’d get a fun, brassy mother of 3 at a diner who called you “toots” or “hon” and told you to “hold your water”, but not in a mean way.  The food was fast, and good.  Make no mistake, waiting tables is hard work and often many factors are beyond a waitress’ control.  I appreciate and applaud servers, bartenders, taxi drivers, and anyone who has to depend on the general public for how they earn a living.  They earn every cent, and there is a toughness there that is to be admired.
I got to thinking about this while watching the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail on cable today.  I honestly couldn’t make it all the way through the film. It is about a young man (Cruise) fresh out of the army who comes to NYC to make a fortune on Wall ST (It was the 80s)  After he is told that he needs an education he enrolls in school and while passing by a TGI Fridays notices a “Help Wanted” sign. He applies and gets a job where his mentor (Bryan Brown) teaches him about bartending, women and doles out cutesy pearls of wisdom found only in Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts films. 30 seconds later Tom and Bryan are throwing bottles up in the air and pouring unbelievably weak drinks as the ever so patient NYC barflies cheer and applaud because it’s so entertaining to watch and surely the beer they want opened and placed in front of them can take another 20 minutes. Tom and Bryan have the time to throw bottles because they never actually ring up any of the drinks into the cash register. The clientele are amazingly attractive, successful and witty for a TGI Frdays and one day a man sitting at the bar says “I run the hottest saloon in town and I want you guys workin’ for me!!!”  Whoever wrote that bit of dialogue must have been the apple of their screenwriting teachers eye.  So Tom and Bryan go to work for the “Hottest Saloon In NYC” which is called “The Cell Block”.   Believe it or not, there are no men in butt-less leather chaps and handlebar mustaches at the Cell Block. Amazingly, the clientele at the Cell Block is equally enthralled with Tom and Bryan’s throwing bottles around and making approximately one drink every 45 minutes. I changed the channel to a Spanish language soap opera when Tom hopped on the bar, the music stopped and people came out of the bathrooms and abandoned their cocaine to listen to him recite poetry.
It made me think of other myths about NYC that people see on TV or in movies and then move here thinking that’s the way it’s going to be, when we, the residents, delight in smashing their not-so-realistic Sex And The City, Friends, or Cocktail fantasies. You want a realistic portrayal of NYC?  Watch Taxi Driver. Seinfeld is pretty on point too. Even if you do happen to become successful and famous, you will still have annoying neighbors, neurotic friends and live in a small, one bedroom apartment frequently eating cereal.
Sex And The City did the most damage in terms of skewing reality. All those cosmos, all those men, all that sex and not a single case of herpes, identity theft or date rape. The only accurate bit in SATC are the bitchy gay male friends who give appallingly bad but funny advice.  That is very true. Every New Yorker has at least one. It’s the law.
So by all means, please move to NYC.  We like to keep things vibrant and fresh despite the efforts of the last two mayors. Just don’t expect to live like Carrie or Samantha.  Expect to live like Ralph and Alice Kramden.
  1. Ah you’re a Seinfeld guy too. You can always trust a Seinfeld watcher 😉


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