Archive for October, 2011

‘Well, the weather outside is frightful’ as the song goes. “Frightful” is a gross understatement of today’s wretched wintry conditions.  It is snowing, mixed with freezing rain and there are 4 inches of semi-frozen slush on the as yet unshovelled sidewalks of my neighborhood. I was brave and got dressed for a mission to resupply Fort Cockroach.  After a mere 20 minutes in the cold and slush I am happy to report mission accomplished and I am now sitting in my comfy blue bathrobe and watching god-awful Blake Edwards movie in the snug of my bedroom (or pigsty as my mother referred to it during my youth).  Like most mothers she had a vast arsenal of negative commentary on the state of my living quarters.  I vowed during our many heated exchanges during my childhood that I would live as I wanted when I grew up.  I showed her.  I now sit far too close to the TV, watching programs that will surely “rot my brain.”  I routinely spoil my appetite with junk food, and up until the infamous ‘big toe laceration and emergency room’ hyjinx of 1998, I used to run around with scissors.
The snow reminds me of my childhood in New England.  Earlier this week I had another interesting reminder of my mischievous and carefree youth. A youngster threw an egg at me.
I was riding my bicycle back from school and as I slowed down in response to a stop sign, an object whizzed by me and landed on the ground with a sound I knew all too well from my teen years.  I looked around to see what I had just missed being pelted with and then to the direction that it came from.  Sure enough, up on a roof I saw a boys head looking over a rooftop ledge to see if his projectile had reached its intended target, which in this case was a grouchy middle aged man on a bicycle.  I was instantly furious. I was fuming.  In a nanosecond my grandfather’s legendarily curmudgeonesque thought process filled my brain.  “Goddamn kids, what if I got hit by that egg, ran into a car and ended up in the hospital?  Are they going to pay my goddamn hospital bills or rent while I recover from my injuries?”  I hopped off my bike and angrily stomped over to the building where the egg had been launched.  There were men doing construction on the building and I demanded to know if the building’s superintendent was present. They weren’t terribly helpful or fluent in English, so I resorted to the burglars trick of pressing every intercom button and waiting for someone to inevitably buzz me in.  I stormed up the stairs to the roof of the building which was, of course, vacant when I arrived.  As I trudged up the stairs I imagined myself dangling the junior terrorists off the side of the roof by their ankles followed by marching them downstairs to their domicile where I would inform their parents of their chosen form of after school activities and offer corporal punishment advice.
Unsatisfied, I clomped back downstairs, told the construction foreman to inform the buildings super of the sniper situation taking place on his roof, and hopped back on my bike to continue on my journey home.  I gave one more angry yet impotent glance back up at the roof hoping to catch the little shits glancing down at me, but this was not to be.
As I pedaled back home, my angry old man’s thought process slowly transformed into a sweet nostalgia of my own youth as an egg throwing, paper bag of front porch dog crap placing arsonist and snowball marksman. I never thought about the potential accidents that could have been caused by the hundreds of projectiles I had thrown at people, cars, trucks and bicycles on a weekly if not daily basis. Back then I was too busy planning my escape routes and aiming for an open window.
By the time I arrived home I was smiling. It’s good to see the youth of today involving themselves in the same rituals of manhood that I participated in. I almost wanted to pedal back and take the wayward, egg tossing scamps out for pizza and dazzle them with stories of my youth. “See, you guys have it all wrong. Buy your eggs in August, that way they really smell by the time Halloween rolls around, and your technique is WAY off junior, you have to lead a moving target…let me show you…see that elderly lady with the walker across the street? Well, she’s perfect…slow moving, unable to give chase and hilarious to egg….”   I would regale them with the tall tales of mischief passed down from generation to generation of naughty boys. Being a fan of ancient history I have no doubts whatsoever that ancient Roman fathers told their sons about the time they toilet papered the senate, or threw eggs at the praetorian guard and ran off laughing as spears were hurled at them.
Sure, I could have very easily been hurt or been involved in a serious accident.  Except I wasn’t.  I wasn’t even hit by the egg that was thrown.  Occasionally we read about kids taking things too far resulting in unfortunate accidents.  A couple of years ago some teens stole a frozen turkey from a supermarket and tossed it out the window of a moving car causing a serious accident.  I felt bad for the injured parties of course, but I also found myself reflecting upon the possible fallout from what my friends and I had done as kids.
Western Mass, where I lived from 4th grade until late high school, was in the foothills and valleys of the Appalachian mountains.  There was plenty of snow in the winter and my friends and I knew the local forests inside and out. I have always romanticized it as a Vietnam like atmosphere in regards to the local police and our snowball or egg attack victims. Once we made it to the woods, there was little to no chance of being caught. When we did get caught it was because of boys being boys, and boys being stupid we’d return to the exact same place 20 minutes later to throw more projectiles at passing cars and pedestrians. So, the police or victimized motorists would catch us there. I don’t think my mom ever found out about the snowballs, eggs or other Halloween shenanigans which is just as well as she caught me doing literally every other thing I tried to get away with. It took me, a person with a reasonably high IQ far too long to figure out that A: My mother generally caught me at everything, and B: I was an only child, when something was broken, amiss or tampered with my mother didn’t round up the usual suspects for a full investigation. She knew I did it. Somehow this very basic logic eluded me for ages and I would stand accused and shrug my shoulders and mumble “I dunno” at my mother when I was questioned. She was like many women and the police in that she knew I did it, but she wanted the confession. I constantly held to the hope that maybe she would come up with an elaborate set of circumstances explaining everything and that all I’d have to do is agree with her theory.
Mom:  “So, I had $40 in my purse this afternoon and no one has come or gone all day. Now I have $20 and you are sitting in your room reading new comic books and dining on candy?”
Me (age 12): “It would appear so.”
Mom: “Did you take it?”
Me (looking down): “Nope”
Mom: ” I want you to be honest with me and tell me if you took it. I will be more angry if you lie to me”

(Technically I had lied to her
already. My none too bright 12 year old boy’s brain was having a serious problem with logic and understanding that I had been nailed dead to rights. She was, to her credit, also very understanding when I fessed up, so really there was no reason for me to keep lying. It’s like one of those old cartoons where the good pussycat dressed like an angel appears on one side of the cats head and a bad pussycat dressed like the devil appears on the other giving conflicting advice. It would seem, in addition to the angel and devil that I had a third little Scott…a severely retarded yet highly persuasive one telling me to stick to my epically failing lie.)
This line of questioning would go on until my mother, exhausted, would finally rain some serious guilt on me…”I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” This, as most of us know, is a rough parental trip. My mother took it a step further and would decide that she was indeed mad and would hit and then ground me after a moments reconsideration.
Back to my own youth as a guerrilla snowballer and egg sniper. The night before Halloween was called “Cabbage Night” in my home town.  It’s called “Hell Night” and many other things in other parts of the country. Cabbage Night was a long anticipated holiday of sorts for little punks like me. Every August, the week before school started, one of my many partners in crime; Jeff and I would clean out his fridge and stock up on several dozen eggs for Oct 30th. We’d stash the eggs somewhere safe where they could ripen. As for the fridge, we’d take left overs and old food and deposit it into a 5 gallon pickle bucket that Jeff’s mother had brought home from her job as a lunch lady. We’d fill the bucket with various food stuffs, soft tomatoes, milk, then we’d add the secret ingredients…nightcrawlers, our own urine. We’d cover our secret sauce in the bucket with an airtight lid and let it ferment for 2 months until the big night when we’d pour it over the car or front porch of an unpopular school mate, a mean old man or best of all, a teacher or principal’s home. The smell was indescribable. It was quite possibly toxic.  Once, upon uncapping, a third associate of ours; “Booger Emerson” got violently ill from proximity and exposure to our concoction and he threw up for four blocks while running away and giggling.
Sure, I was angry with those boys for their attempted egging, and I plan to swing by that apartment building in the hopes of catching them.  However, after wringing their little necks and scaring them sufficiently, I will probably grab a dozen grade A extra larges and show them how it’s done. The only trouble is, if I get caught, my mom is going to be super pissed.

No, no, no. Minor, not miner . . . oh, forget it!

I’m trying. I am really trying to be positive, upbeat, productive and to get and keep my life on track. Of course, in life there are roadblocks.  I wish there weren’t.  Scratch that.  I wish there weren’t so many roadblocks on our journey. No roadblocks in life makes for a boring existence. We need the assholes to appreciate the good guys.  Lately I have been encountering more than my fair share of malarkey from people who I have poor chemistry with. There are a couple of  people at work who took an irrational and snotty disliking to me.  I wish I knew why.  Somehow it annoys me more when someone dislikes me for seemingly no reason.  Before you say “You’re being too sensitive”.  Yes, you’re probably right. The co-workers in question routinely come into work, smile, hug and kiss my other co-workers and don’t say a word to me.  if I’d had a heated argument with them I’d understand, but we’ve barely exchanged 10 words.  I haven’t given them nasty looks or attitude. I don’t leave work behind for them. I’m nice. I smile. I say “hi”. I ask how they’re doing. (I don’t care, but I ask.)  Last time I checked it wasn’t socially acceptable to grab people of this sort by the collar and scream “What’s your goddamn problem with me, huh?”  It’s frustrating to say the least.
I’m 41 years old and still trying to figure this type of thing out. People sometimes fantasize about going back in time and doing things differently (i.e. better) in life given the wisdom they hopefully possess now.  For me, maybe Jr. High wouldn’t have been the 2 year nightmare it was, filled with all of my insecurities and uncertainties. Sure, I still would have been shorter than most of the girls in my class, but I would have been more well adjusted about it. There are so many things I would have said and done. I’d have gotten better grades. I’d probably still have been a wise ass. I once got slammed into a row of lockers for asking a crusty old science teacher “Hey Mr Conz, how big is Uranus?”  I wasn’t so funny back then, but it was a good warm up for the legendary wit that I eventually grew into.

I know, George . . . it's hard to believe, but it's true.

Today I got a C in my American Film class. 76% on a paper. Essentially, this is the first grade equivalent of a red or green star sticker on your spelling test instead of the coveted silver or gold. It is taking the bronze in the Special Olympics, Ms Congeniality. The assignment was to write a “critique and review” about a film we had seen in class.  It was a silent film that held about as much interest for me as the latest Fast and Furious atrocity.  I understood why it was an important film.  If the CP signal lit up the skies over Gotham, I would have thrown on my tweed jacket, grabbed my pipe and transformed into one of my many alter egos; Captain Pretentious and dazzled boring people at a film discussion party. I could have held a solid conversation about the film, and had all the correct observations. Suffice to say I got it. I didn’t like it, but I got it. 
My teacher wrote all over my paper in her illegible scrawl. How is it that a person gets to teach at a college level when their handwriting resembles that of a low IQ 8 year old writing with their feet?  Apparently there was no thesis in my piece. She punctuated this point in the most annoying way possible by underlining various lines throughout the paper and scribbling “Is this your thesis? Yeah, yeah Mrs. Orsen Spielberg. I get it, OK? 
To be fair to her, yes a paper requires a thesis.  To be fair to me (who is generally the person I am more interested in being fair to) her assignment said “write a review and critique.”  If I read a review of a CD, movie, book, painting, or restaurant, I don’t generally see a thesis in it. 

"In the cut throat world of corporate death food, KFC stands alone and I intend to prove this with the following criteria...."

No, the reviews I have read and written tend to be composed of a synopsis/overall view, the strengths, the weaknesses, comparisons and a final analysis. I covered all these bases. The assignment called for 5-7 pages. I wrote 9. I explained and pointed out the various innovations of the film and why they were important.  I expounded on the strong and weak points of the film with various examples. I made relevant comparisons to other films both well and lesser known. I turned in a paper every bit as good as the 8 or 9 that I’ve purchased in the past!

Being a tremendously well adjusted and mature adult, I am now starting to think that my teacher, Mrs. Cecil B. Douchebag, and I don’t have good chemistry. I think she dislikes me, and I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same way about her.  I think she is accustomed to younger students she can more easily impress with her extensive film knowledge. I am not one of these type of students  I happen to know a fair amount about film myself.  I enjoy reading about films, viewing them, analyzing, writing about and discussing them.

She once stopped me after class to ask that I take a seat near the door so I wont interrupt the films that she shows during class. I had gotten up a whopping 2 times that day during the four and a half hour class to leave the room. The fact of the matter is that the only person disturbed by this was her. I don’t think 2 breaks in that span of time is excessive. I got up quietly and slinked out of the room. To listen to her, you’d have thought I prefaced my exit with noisy and unnecessary laps around the classroom making ‘choo choo’ and other Tourettes like sounds. She also admitted that her son and husband wont go to movies with her anymore as she embarrasses them with her cinema-nazi behavior. (I thought I was bad, hissing at my poor mother to “shut the fuck up” when she asks me questions during movies.)  I’m 41 Professor Loews. I stopped asking to go potty well over 2 years ago.

I am, for the most part, an A student.  My GPA is 3.87 which means all A’s save for one B- and two A-‘s.  I have never gotten a C in any of my classes.  At least the ones I didn’t withdraw from in a snit of algebraic frustration. 
After getting my paper back, I stuffed it angrily into my back pack and sulked and sneered at her while,   throwing my cough drop wrappers on her desk until she handed out our second “open book test”. I finished the test before anyone else, furiously scribbling the various multiple guess answers on my exam and then tossed it in front of her with an exaggerated ‘choke on this bitch” gesture and stomped out of the room. I was too angry and disgusted to be a good little student today.  Back in Jr. High I used to draw the teachers I disliked being lynched, or buried up to their necks and urinated on by the offensive line of the Denver Broncos. Some of these art therapy pieces were found and I had to go to the school counselor. I was just a misunderstood 14 year old artist with anger issues. Geeeez.

No one ever pays attention until it's too late. ("The Ring", "The Sixth Sense", "Cocoon")

I did not return for the second part of class, so she will mark me absent for that. My school has a kindergartenesque attendance policy and if you have too many absences you can fail or get a lower grade regardless of your academic performance. Dr. Francis Ford Cuntilla will not, under any circumstances excuse any student from any class for any reason. Just so we’re clear, If a student misses more than 4 classes or 16 hours, they fail. Got in a car accident?  Your mother died?  Food Poisoning? Meteor hit your house? Stormed out rather than beating the teacher half to death with a 9 page review and critique? Tough titty friends and neighbors.  You fail.
So now what do I do?  I can’t drop the class, so I have to try and salvage what I can out of this woman’s chamber of cinematic torture. Friends with cooler heads have suggested I go back and explain nicely that I misunderstood the assignment and ask if I can do it over, which is a good idea I suppose with the exception of having to speak to Professor Siskel Von Ebert.  Given her truly zen stance on absenteeism I suspect that I will only become more angry and frustrated after the encounter. I’ve noticed that there is a type of teacher who delight in their rigid stances, like it is some virtuous form of academic tough love.
Maybe I should just accept the inevitable C from this woman and torment her in and out of class. I once drove a teacher in high school to muscle relaxant addiction. Maybe I should start handing in lengthy extra credit pieces about the cinematic brilliance of Vin Diesel, or the Post-Expressionist motifs in the Clint Eastwood “Any Which Way…” film series and how the orangutan co-star was an analogy for the futility of modern man. I could raise my hand and demand or beg her to read them to the class. The next time she scribbles all over one of my assignments, I will go up to her and ask “Professor, what is this word?”  After she tells me, I will go back to my desk and then return to ask again, “How about this word?”  Repeat until she is visibly flustered.

Brilliant Story! Click me!

Maybe I will do better as a nuisance than a student in this particular class.  If she hates any type of interruption during the screening of the precious films she shows…I could bring in noisy snack pack bags of potato chips for the whole class. Those new biodegradable bags make a sound like fingernails down a chalkboard. I know it would be blasphemy to my fellow cinephiles, but belching or farting during Citizen Kane would really get her goat.

Yippee, I finally have a job!  I am working at a new pub/restaurant as a waiter.  I had originally applied to be a bartender, but those coveted positions were filled before I even dropped off my resume. (That’ll teach me to sleep ’til the crack of noon every day.) The owner said that bartending might be in the cards for me in the future, and in the meantime I have a job.  I am once again a productive member of society, which sadly isn’t all it is cracked up to be. 

Over the years I have been employed in literally every aspect of restaurant and bar work.  Naturally, I have the least amount of experience in serving.  I am looking at this position as a stepping stone.  The place is brand spanking new so there are many kinks to iron out and the dining room hasn’t been busy enough for one to earn a living.  This is coupled with the owners over staffing for the first 2 or 3 weeks.  It doesn’t take an MIT mathematics professor to figure out 5-6 parties over the course of an 8 hour shift split up by three servers and 2 of those parties are elderly ladies… well the formula goes something like this  A+ BC(x) multiplied by the average dinner check with tax and an above average gratuity = I’m still fucking broke.  

I am broke.  I am unable to pay the people I owe money to and the people who owe money to me seem to be in the same boat. (Little, crowded lifeboats with HMS Titanic scrawled on the sides, filled only with women, children and the occasional cross dresser.) Of course, I am working hard, struggling and juggling while my mind imagines the elaborate and decadent weekends in Atlantic City being enjoyed by those who owe me money.  This is the thought process when you’re an overall negative person with a vivid imagination who can’t afford cigarettes.

While the bitch ball is still in my court I will add that I have to wear a uniform of sorts for this job.  Black dress shirt, Black Pants (Not jeans) Black Shoes (Not sneakers) and a Dress Belt (this does Not include my No Fat Chicks belt buckle).  All of the ‘nots’ were stressed emphatically by the owner.  I hate shoes.  I hate pants,  I hate tucking in my shirt. But I like wearing black. It’s slimming and attracts the ladies who have No Fat Dudes belt buckles. I’m batting 2 out of 5 which is about what I have come to expect in life being the bitter and miserable little turnip than I am. 

I have faith in the new job.  Things are already picking up a little bit and the shifts are not so overstaffed as some people have been let go or quit.  I had expected to go 6-8 weeks without making any real money.  The owners are paying me well (allow me to clarify. I am being paid well for a waiter. . . I am in a truly sad place when I think $5 an hour is being paid “well”) and I get a nice meal every time I work along with a cocktail at the end of my shift. I generally like my co-workers.  The two owners have been pleasant and encouraging.  I suppose it is best for me to start off slowly so I can get used to the restaurants computer system and have the time to give exceptionally attentive service to the few customers I have had.
For the most part, my customers have been nice, friendly and reasonably low maintenance people. The tips I have received average a little over 20%. I am trying my best to be pleasant, patient, engaging and hospitable. I think I’m doing OK. Of course, as you may have gathered by the title of this piece, there have been some notable exceptions.
I thought I’d take a few minutes to write about these exceptions. As annoying, rude or petty as they may be, these encounters usually make for entertaining and comedic tales.  Let me begin by saying; before anyone who may read this decides to comment on my attitude, tell me what my job is, or offer up suggestions on how to be a better server… save it.  Anyone who has waited tables for more than a month will relate and empathize, and those who take issue with service industry workers grievances have generally never spent an hour of their life serving the general public and are usually the very kind of rude, petty, trifling and high maintenance assholes that this piece is about.  Here are a few of my Negative Nancy observations on my less than favorite customers to date.

Ladies who lunch?

Three Old Ladies Having Brunch:  This happened last Sunday.  It was my karmic backlash for an incident in the prior week.  As things have not been busy the servers have been rotating the customers that come in.  It’s a catch as catch can gamble, but it’s the fairest system at the moment.  It was my turn for the next table and I noticed one of the owners helping an elderly woman up the stairs. He was also calling over to my co-worker to please wait on her.  I was saved!  The old bag didn’t disappoint. She complained about everything (including the other customers. “Are they old enough to drink?” she asked, pointing at some young people watching football and having a nice brunch) She took forever to order, to eat, to vacate the table, and of course she inquired as to senior citizen discounts and what she might get for free or at a reduced price and then for an encore she tipped terribly. Having averted waiting on that week’s coffin dodger I teased my unfortunate co-worker over the course of the day.  But, as we all know by now, the universe often has a way of evening things out.  The very next week, it was my turn again when the witches from Macbeth came hobbling in, looking to ruin some server’s afternoon, and that server was me. 

I seated the trio and brought them menus, which at our restaurant are large, wood framed and heavy.  That got the complaint avalanche started for the afternoon.

“These are so heavy.” they clucked.

 “Would you like something from the bar?” I asked smiling. 

(I thought maybe a mix of alcohol, coffee and whatever 60 plus medications they were taking might loosen them up, or cause a heart attack and then. I’d get some hard drinking, heavy tipping EMTs in there to raise my tip average a bit.)

“We get a drink with this brunch.”  they informed me  

AND coffee or tea.” 

Old ladies seem to feel a need to let others know what they have coming to them. Often with old age, comes pettiness, and with pettiness comes demanding behavior.  (I know you get you get a drink you dried up old crone.) They ordered Bloody Marys which, as I suggested to the restaurants owners, we make ‘a la carte’ especially for Saturday and Sunday brunch.  Make a standard Blood Mary mix and then doctor it to the customer’s specs, more spicy, less spicy, more horseradish etc…  I asked how they would like their drinks.

“Not too spicy.” barked one of them. 
“Mine either.” echoed another. 

The third one was older than the other two and I had to repeat everything I said to her 5 times, with her friends echoing what I said from the third time on.   I brought their drinks and of course they weren’t ready to order. (Old ladies don’t just order.  They must preface with questions, dietary concerns and other commentary.)

“Do you have sugar free syrup?” 
“No, I’m sorry we don’t.” 
“Well you should. Why don’t you?” 

(“Well  Ma’am, just last week I was saying to the owners that if we raised prices and got rid of the sugar free syrup we’d have fewer annoying, old Depends Commandos coming in and he thought that was a capital idea” I thought to myself.) 

The elderly also seem to have a running contest of seeing how many times they can get a server to return to their table, and the Golden Girls were going for the record with me.   I brought one her Challah French Toast. 

“I didn’t order fruit on it!” she snapped at me, while pointing at her plate with exaggerated disgust, as if I had just served her a dish of cat turds garnished with dead flies.  The menu clearly states that it comes with strawberry and banana slices. 

“Would you like me to bring it back?” I asked. 

“I didn’t order fruit on it.”  She snapped again. 

“I understand that miss.” I replied. 

“What would you like me to do?  “You can take the little pieces of strawberry off, or I can get you a new order.  What would you like me to do?” 

“But, I didn’t order fruit. I ordered bacon!” 

Old people are also a suspicious lot.  “That’s how they get ya.” was a favorite expression of my grandparents when explaining to their grandson the many tricks of evil sales people and waitresses bulking up a bill 25 cents at a time.  “They try to pour bottled water before you can say ‘no’. That’s how they get ya”.  (I’m not trying to “get ya” granny, I’m trying to get ya out of here in the hopes that customers bellow the century mark might occupy this table instead.)

Now her friends started to translate for her. In fairness I should say that one of the old dust bags was rolling her eyes at her friend.  I guessed the one arguing with me didn’t play well with others at the home, and that I wasn’t the only instance of nit picking that the other two had endured from Grandma Strawberry. 

“How long is it going to take?” she barked.

“I honestly don’t know.” I answered with saccharine sweetness while silently calculating… 5-10 minutes for the chef to prepare new French Toast (sans fruit) and another two minutes for me to take the order to the basement, sneeze and/or fart on it, laugh, regain my composure and bring it to Frau Bag apologizing profusely

Eventually she opted to move the dreaded strawberries off the French Toast and on to the side of her plate and then she dismissed me with a wave of her hand. I loathe that gesture.  (“Oh, were you finished with me Ma’am? Perhaps I can polish your walker while you dine.”)  It occurred to me that her bitching took 5 times longer than it did to flick the bits of fruit off of the bread and this seemed like terrible time management for such a prime candidate for a stroke.  With my luck she’d have the stroke just before paying for her meal and under tipping me.  I’ve seen them pull that before.  That’s how they get ya. 

The rest of their meal went smoothly and one of the old biddies even said she loved her strawberry pancakes.  They tipped reasonably well for elderly women (maybe a hint over 15%)  The brunches are not expensive ($9-$12 including coffee and a drink) so the tips aren’t amazing.  The best hope is to get a group in to watch a good and close football game and order lots of beer and appetizers, in addition to a quick turnover of the cheapy brunch customers. One always tries for a mix. 

My next adventure in serving was on a Tuesday morning

Fried . . . . Really Fried

Crazy White Wine Swilling Alcoholic With Brown Teeth:  The restaurant opens at 11 am for lunch and a slightly crazy woman with brown teeth came in and ordered white wine.  She asked for a menu, looked it over, and then gave it back to me.  She ordered another wine, (It was now 11:05 am) asked to see a menu again, looked it over again and then asked about some of the menu items. 

“How are the crab cakes?” she asked. 

“They’re OK.” I replied.   

Honestly I thought they were a bit pricey given the portions;  2 tiny crab cakes with lots of avocado garnish. I suggested the house favorite, spicy fried calamari. 

“Where does it say that”?  She asked.

I pointed to “Spicy Fried Calamari” on the menu. 

“OK, I’ll have that…and another glass of wine.” 

I put in her order and brought it over to her when it was ready.  A couple minutes later I returned to check on her progress.  She had picked at the calamari, but wasn’t really putting it away.  I asked if something was wrong. 

“It’s just really fried” she said.

“Yes, it says ‘Spicy Fried Calamari’ on the menu; did you not want it fried?”  I asked. 

“Well, not this fried.  This is really fried”

She couldn’t seem to stop herself from repeating and enunciating this is R-e-e-eallly, Fri-i-i-ied

“OK” I said “but it does say ‘Spicy Fried Calamari’ on the menu, how did you want it?” 

“I’m used to it almost raw” she said, “This is really fried”  

“Do you mean it’s over done?” I suggested?

“No… yes… I mean… it’s just really fried” 

‘Really Fried’ I thought to myself…a bit like your brain after your 625th acid trip?’  I couldn’t take her saying “really fried” again, so I asked if she’d like something else.  She said she’d like the chili.  I went to the owner and asked him to remove the (fried, r-e-e-e-eally fr-i-i-ied) calamari from her bill.  He glanced over to her and saw that she was now eating the calamari. “What’s wrong with it?” He asked me.  I imitated her voice “It’s just really fried” The owner I was speaking to is from Ireland. “It sez fowkin ‘fried’ on the fowkin menya!”  I shrugged as if to say. “What can you do?”  He went onto the computer system to remove the calamari and said “Teek the pleat aweefromer”.  As I went over to get the plate, she changed her mind and said she’d like it to go.  I told her it had been removed from the bill. 

“Oh, well you can put it back on the bill and I’ll take it home.” She said. 

“Are you sure?” I asked her. 

“Oh yes.  I don’t mean to be a pain.” she explained.

“You’re not being a pain; I just want to be certain that you get what you want”. 

She wasn’t being a pain.  She had passed being a pain half an hour ago and was now firmly in annoying psychosis territory. I went and put the spicy (really fried) calamari back on her bill and brought her chili which is served with tortilla chips.  The chips caused a bit of a dilemma for her, and we discussed whether or not she wanted them for ten minutes with even more explanations that she “didn’t want to be a pain”.  She was also now on her fifth glass of wine that morning. Her only other request was for some sour cream to go with her chili which she mixed in and then didn’t eat. I was dreading her calling me back over and whining to me that “This sour cream is really sour.” I was a good little waiter and asked if there was anything wrong with the chili, and mercifully she didn’t complain or send it back, she just asked to have it wrapped up along with her other dish.  She then made several calls on her cell and I can only assume that she fervently tried not to be a pain to whomever she was speaking.  I brought her check and she tipped me extravagantly (60%)  I thought later that although this was very generous (or crazy) of her, I would have rather not gone through the ordeal and made less money.  I found out later she pulled this Marx Brothers routine again on two other waiters over the next week.  The theory among the staff is that she either has emotional problems or suffers from seizures (she had a black eye supposedly from falling down the next time she came in, although I can’t help but wonder if she got it from a less than patient waiter or waitress). 

As I said earlier, I have had some great customers too.  One older lady ordered a glass of wine while she was waiting for her friends who were celebrating a birthday.  She gave me $20 and told me to keep the change ($13) with a smile and a wink.  Later her friends joined her and they were all sweet and brassy old broads.  The birthday girl reminded me a bit of my godmother and Aunt Helen who doesn’t wear makeup, dresses and styles her hair on the mannish side, but is a very sweet person.

The Jerk

Rude Salesman Having Lunch With A Colleague: I also had one of the guys from the opticians office across the street come in twice in one afternoon.  The first time, he had lunch with clients. He was really friendly and tipped over 20%.  The second time, he joined two guys who had just finished lunch. They only had coffee and water in the dining room while they discussed business.  Their bill came to a whopping $4, which he paid and then gave me $15 and a pat on the back.  The two who had just finished lunch ordered chili and filet mignon steak tips. The chili comes garnished with tomato, onion and cilantro salsa…a very small amount. 
“Whut’s dis shit?” one of the men asked me, pointing at the garnish when I brought their food. 

“Whut’s dis shit?”   Really?  REALLY?  You address people like that? 

His companion apologized for him saying “He doesn’t like anything with any flavor.”  I smiled and said subserviently “Well, he’s a grown man, he just wants what he wants.”  Inwardly I was wondering if this man had to apologize for his companion’s antics at every business lunch they went to.  I’d seen it before; one person in a group whose behavior is almost always an embarrassment to the others.  This rude creep is the sort who thinks he is better than anyone who’s services he employs; waiters, bartenders, dry cleaners, baristas, hotel maids, etc.  Of course this is easy to do when one has the prestigious career of selling contact lenses. Keep reaching for the sky Skippy. 

Miserable Grouch: There is another semi regular that comes in for drinks a few times a week.  He ordered food once, ate all of it, and when I asked how his burger was he snarled

“Well, it wasn’t the best burger I ever had.” 

I asked what the problem was. (I didn’t really care, but I think I’m supposed to pretend that I do.)  He spent an inordinate amount of time telling me how every single aspect of his burger and fries wasn’t up to par, after eating the entire thing.  He now comes back fairly often so that he can tell anyone who will listen about the burger nightmare that has apparently scarred him for life.

 My final, recent pet peeve is when people come in, and I greet them with a big smile and a “Hi, how are you doing today?”  They look directly at me, make a slightly snotty facial expression and don’t reply.  Maybe someone can explain this to me as it has happened several times and not just to me, but to my fellow servers and bartenders as well.  I have heard some people complain that being greeted by retail or service workers seems insincere to them. In all honesty I’m just trying to start things off on a positive note.  I figure you’re spending your money to have a pleasant experience. In addition to this I want to have as pleasant an experience as possible serving you.  If a person wishes to be left alone, there are polite and obvious ways to make that understood.  Here’s a notion. Don’t acknowledge me if you have no intention of replying. Pretend you didn’t hear me. Save your snotty looks for your friends and family who are more accustomed to your chronic assholery.
Oh well. As I keep saying, most of my customers are very pleasant and I suppose dealing with the public, especially in the hopes of getting a tip, one has to develop a thick skin.  My friend Gow used to be a server and told me horror stories of hordes of church goers coming for breakfast, running the servers ragged and then leaving “prayer cards” in lieu of a tip.  At least I’m not dealing with that kind of malarkey.