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Marty’s Half Dozen: Chapter 2 — By Jill

Slow night.

Continued from Chapter 1.

Day 94

“Nothing ever changes, Jill.”

Marty’s lip trembles as he blinks to hold back his tears. I’m terrified. How could a person, so sensitive, so in touch with humanity, turn into this…monster? The bar is silent. Every single person’s eyes are fixed on me.  I have no idea what to do.

Marty breaks the silence. “I’m tired, Jill. Then he commands, “So pour me the drink.”

Day 5

It was a slow Tuesday at work. At first I was relieved as I was finally able to get comfortable behind the bar. But after about four hours I wanted to pull my hair out. There was me and a quiet and silly homeless man spending his “spare change?” money. I had nick-named him Sloppy Joe. I couldn’t help wishing Marty would come in. He and I didn’t really have a chance to talk the other night as I was perpetually in the weeds.

The front door opened and I sharply turned my head like a dog left home all day. But no Marty. Just a young couple. They immediately went to the back then started gratuitously making out. I could have gone over to them to ask them to order or get out, but when you’re working a painfully slow shift, you don’t really want to do anything. So I left them to their public privacy.

In your face!

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore and rested my head on the bar top. After what felt like seconds, I was awakened with a startling thud. Indentations in my forearms and cheek mirroring the rivets of the bar top paired with the warm apprehensive tingling sensation of the chest and neck were indicative of an ill-timed nap. I surveyed the bar. PDA couple, Sloppy Joe and…was it…could it…yes! Marty.

He was sitting in the exact same stool from a few nights ago. Black trench coat, hat resting beside him and his briefcase propped open on the bar. That explains the thud. I approached him as he sorted through his papers.

“What’ll it be stranger?”

“1/2 dozen hot buffalo wings and a club soda with lime.”

He ordered matter-of-factly, not looking up from his papers.

“Sure, you don’t want a Negroni?”

“A club soda with lime will be fine, thank you.”

Nothing. Nada. He is a customer. I am an order taker. I was a little heart broken. Maybe he had gotten drunk the other night before he came into the bar. Hell, maybe I had imagined the whole thing to begin with.

“You want those less cooked, so their not crispy, right?”

He gazed up from his papers and took a good look at me.

“And if you don’t want a drink, Can I make it a ‘Marty’s Half Dozen?”

“Why that sounds magnificent, Jill.”

He smiled and went back to his papers.

***

When his food finally came up he put his papers away and we started talking. I told him about New York and my mistakes with Mack prompting me to move back to Seattle. We were interrupted by PDA guy.

“Excuse me. Can we get some service, please?” he demanded.

“Thought you two wanted your privacy.” I quipped.

He sneered then, “Two shots of Patron.”

After dealing with him I went back to Marty. “Can you believe those two? This isn’t a motel.”

“Well, I don’t take to his rudeness, but at least you can be happy for them.”

“What? Why? It’s disgusting.”

“I guess so. But I walk through this city, riding its buses, and with the constant overcast, I find myself surrounded by so much solitude, so many grimaces, and utter contempt. It’s nice to be around someone enjoying themselves.”

“Well it doesn’t make me feel any better. It makes me feel angry. It feels unfair.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. That’s hurt. That’s loneliness. You wonder why love has been kept from you. Rationalizing that luck simply just hasn’t gotten around to you yet. But when you see two lovers there, in front of you, it’s real. Like being picked last for baseball, there’s no denying the problem is probably you. And you sink deeper.

But that breeds something dark within you, Jill. I used to have a friend. She’d  say that we should always feel the joy of others. For the longest time, I rejected that. But I’ve found that she has a point. Something magical happens when you spread the good.

“Sounds like some cheesy after-school sentiment to me.”

“Maybe it is.”

With that he left me a 20 for his wings. “Hey Marty, one thing before you go. You always do the club soda thing. You ever drink?”

“No. Never.”

“Why not?”

“Let’s just say, I lost something very very special because of it. And I’ve been wandering ever since. But that’s a story for another time.”

“And you still, ‘spread the good'”?

“Yes, I have to.”

He put on his coat, packed up his briefcase, gave me a smile, and went over to Sloppy Joe.

“Have one on me.”

Day 94

I’m still terrified, but I stick to my guns. “Marty, if you want a drink, you’re going to have to go somewhere else.”

“No Jill. You’re going to pour the drink. Or you’re next.”

And that’s when it occurred to me. That when the best of us fall, they do the most damage.

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in By Jill, Marty's Half Dozen, Restaurants

 

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Ira Glass, why do you hurt me so?! — By Jill

One of the magical and awesome things about living in New York is that you’re going to run across celebrities. And when you work in a restaurant of good reputation, there’s a decent chance you’re going to be waiting on them.  In my short year here I’ve run into or seen/served at the restaurant; Steve Martin, John Goodman, Bono, Scott Adsit, Anthony Michael Hall, Daniel Day-Lewis (three times, the last of which he was dining with Steven Spielberg,) Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from LOST and Person of Interest,) and Sharon Stone (not as high maintenance as you’d think.)

And the novelty was nice, but I honestly got sick of it pretty fast. Great, there’s a big shot who doesn’t want to be bothered in the first place, why should I piss myself with excitement? I don’t want to wait on them because of all the extra attention I’m going have to give to make sure everything’s perfect. And I can’t blow them off like I would another high maintenance customer. Actually the very idea of celebrity kinda pisses me off.  So when one of the other servers run up, squeeling with joy, exclaiming “OMG! so-and-so celebrity is on table 42! ” I just role my eyes and continue getting my drinks for the guests I do care about. It’s even worse when another guest recognizes the celebrity and then starts probing me with questions about them. “No, I don’t know what they’re eating.” “No, they don’t come in at a usual time on a usual day.” “For fuck’s sake, I don’t have time to take your picture and angle it so they’re in the back ground.”

So imagine my surprise when this man tapped me on the shoulder asking for the bathroom…

Now most of you probably won’t recognize a radio celebrity. Especially not a National Public Radio one.  But this is Ira Glass host of my favorite thing ever This American Life. At least I was pretty sure it was Ira Glass. I’m used to seeing pictures of him looking like this…

…clean shaven, scrawny, short Jewish man. The man who had tapped me on the shoulder was tall, at least like 6 feet, and he had a beard (like the top pic.) Also my associations with him aren’t visual, they’re from his distinguished voice. Oh and he’s one of my personal heroes. If you’re not familiar with This American Life. Scroll up and click on the link and start listening to it right now. There. I made another link so you don’t even have to scroll up. It’s a documentary style NPR show about very personal stories of Americans (and sometimes not Americans) and their lives. It  has stories of love, living during a recession, there was one about a teenager that hit accidentally a girl with his car (but she might have committed suicide) and all the guilt he has to carry with his life. The episode “The Giant Pool of Money” explains how the housing crisis happened but in a very accessible and entertaining way. And they did it in May of ’08. That’s MONTHS before the recession happened.  If you can’t stand radio, there’s a Showtime version of if they did 2 seasons of. The show has changed my life.  The point is I was pretty sure it was him, but not 100%. And while all this is hitting me and I’m still trying to figure out if it’s him or not, he’s waiting for me to tell him where the restroom is.

Finally I snap out of my trance and tell him to follow me (I never do that, I usually say, “It’s down the hall and to the right.”) I immediately run to my friend Alice who I got addicted to TAL, and I can barely speak. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Jill?” And I’m all like, “I think Ira Glass is here.” To which she shrugs and says, “Oh. Cool.” Blasphemy. I hope she moves away to Los Angeles.

I spent the next hour or so  periodically walking by the table intently listening to his voice trying to make 90% surety, 100%. TAL is Chicago public radio. Why would he be in New York? On vacation? But last weeks episode was new. And so is this week’s. Maybe TAL is done from New York after all.  I begged the server to let me clear his table when they were done.  Finally when the check was down. The credit card would tell all. When Tony snatchs up the check, I was right behind him. And there it was in embossed silver. IRA GLASS.

Now restaurant policy is that you never approach celebrities in any personal capacity. I feel it appropriate. But to just go up to the guy and say. “Sir, you do amazing work and it has changed my life. Thank you and don’t stop.” What would be the harm in that? But at the same time, he’s with his kids and his wife, and he’s probably pretty busy. He doesn’t need some nutty girl badgering him. Fuck it. I decide this is probably the only time I will ever see him. He’s not just some celebrity…he’s created something that touches me on a personal level and he does it every week.

The plan. Wait for him to get up from the table, as he exits say “Have a good day.” He will look up and say “Thank you.” As he smiles and waves, I’ll say “Excuse me, Mr. Glass…” and the rest will follow. Short, sweet, done.

But then Alice flags me down. She’s got this 7 top that ordered a bunch of cocktails (at lunch there’s no bartender, so we have to make them ourselves) and they are demanding to order food despite the fact that she’s making the drinks they just ordered. “But Alice…Ira!” Then I shut up and go to the table. I look over my shoulder. Ira’s still sitting. I’ve got time. The 7 top starts asking me all these stupid questions. “What type of rice is in the risotto?” “Where’s the salmon from?” “Can I substitute the spinach for a side of pasta?” “What’s your favorite thing on the menu?” Ira’s getting up.  Fuck. I start bullshitting the table. Making up answers left and right. Finally they actually start ordering. I get it and Ira’s behind me on his iPhone.

I spin around and blurt out a “Have a nice day.”

He doesn’t even look up from his iPhone.

My heart is beating like crazy.

I take a few steps parallel to him and try again. ” I hope you enjoyed everything…”

Nothing. My hero walks out the door.

I go over to Alice. “Here’s the order. Position 3 has a gluten allergy.”

 
 

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Restaurant Etiquette — By Jill

If you’ve never worked as a server, there’s probably a good chance you might be doing things that piss the wait staff off. His is a general list of faux pas;

I”ll get the big one out of they way. We’re hoping for 20% and that includes alcohol. Why wouldn’t it? I got you the bottle, the glasses, kept your glasses full while you drank it. 15% is still acceptable but unless I fucked up on your table, c’mon don’t be stingy. What you may not realize is that I actually have to tip out the support staff from my tips. That means the bussers, runners, bartenders, coffee person, host, and wine sommelier are getting a chunk of my tips. One place I worked based that number on my sales. So if your check was 100 bucks, regardless of what you tipped me 5-7 bucks was getting tipped out. So $20 yea! $10, crap, I’m only walking with 3-5 bucks. Don’t give me the “verbal tip” by telling me I was the best server you’ve ever had then leaving me 12% and don’t tell me I was so good I deserve a raise, that’s what the tips for. Also, tell the manager, not me. I know I’m good. The managers don’t always. You might get me in a better section tomorrow night or out of the dog house if one of the managers don’t like me.  Generally, tips don’t get to me. I usually get good tips and if I do get a shitty tip, it balances with really good one. So let’s move on to…

“One Timing.” One timing is the process of sending me to get your table something on multiple trips almost immediately. Remember I have 3-6 other tables I’m waiting on. I have a laundry list of things I need to get done with dozens of obstacles in the way. Multi-tasking and consolidating my steps is essential to my success. So when I bring you your refill of diet coke, then you ask me for some more dressing, I go and get it. Then your friend decided she wants extra dressing too, I go and get it. Now your boy friend wants a cup of ice to put in his Cab (I don’t know why, but someone did ask me for that this week,) you’ve just sent me one 4 trips when I could have done it in one, and now I am behind with all my tables. Oh and adding when you get a chance! doesn’t help. It doesn’t let me know “you’re on my side and that you understand.” If I got you the extra parmesan “when I had the chance” your salad would be done, you’d have finished that 1/2 portion of chicken you’re sharing with your girlfriend, and you’d be drinking your skim milk cappuccino. And for fuck’s sake don’t ask me to take your picture! It’s one thing if you see me calmly walking around or chatting with my other servers. No problem. But if you see me clearing tables or with a tray full of drinks or perhaps you notice that all the tables around you are getting sat with customers at the exact same moment, this is not the time for you to ask me to drop everything and shove a digital camera in my face. Then don’t give me 2 or 3 other fucking cameras. We live in the digital age. Email it while I get that cappuccino “when I have the chance.” Lastly, don’t tell me “it’s the button on the right.” I know how to work a fucking camera.

Cash and split the rest on the cards. You got the bill, you give me some cash and two credit cards. You want me to keep the cash and put the remaining amount on the cards. This in and of itself isn’t a problem. Here’s what is: $200 check. You’ve given me $100 bucks cash and two credit cards. I give you back to credit cards with $50 bucks on each one. You then leave $10  for each card. You and your buddies just left me a 10 percent tip. No customer ever seems to get this concept. Just because you left me cash for half the bill doesn’t make the tip go away. Or rather, I guess it does.  The only thing you could do to piss me off more is take both copies of the receipt. When you do that we get nothing. And in the case of the restaurant where we tip out based on sales, I just lost money taking your table. Thanks!

Here’s the next one. It’s 11:55 pm. You’re hungry and for some damn reason you don’t go to a bar that’s open till 4 am. No, let’s go to this restaurant that is almost completely empty and closes in 5 minutes! Now because of your hungry drunk ass; a server (or all closing servers,) 2-3 bussers, at least one cook, a bartender, a dessert guy, and a manager wait for you to get your appetizer, entree, dessert, coffee while you admire how beautiful a night it is!

Two women sat in my section last night for 5 hours. They were my first table and my last one. Here’s something to be aware of, by sitting at a table for a prolonged period of time, you’re stopping me from getting another table. So if you order another drink or two, that’s nice, but in your place, I could get a 4 top that is ordering appetizers and entrees and possibly a bottle of wine. For the most part I don’t really care that much. For some servers, money is their primary goal. Sell you the most expensive items, get you out, get the next table. For me, I genuinely do care about your experience. I want you to leave happy. So if you’re sitting there talking to your buddy, I can focus on my other tables and give them that experience.

However, I want to get the fuck out of there. Servers don’t have a time we get off. Based on how busy the restaurant is, a manager will look around the restaurant and decide if they need all the servers currently staffed. Once they feel business has died down, they will “make cuts.” Certain servers will be told they are “cut,” meaning that any new tables sat in their section will go to other servers and they just need to wait till their current customers have paid out. Let me say that again, I stay until you have paid your check. So if you find yourself in a restaurant, it’s pretty late, and you maybe notice that your server is not talking to any surrounding tables and every 10 minutes or so is asking if you need anything (or perhaps glaring at your from down the hall) there’s a good chance you are keeping them from going home. You don’t need to leave, you can keep chatting away with your friend, just ask for the check, pay, and sign the damn thing.  Those two ladies I mentioned earlier, they sat with their check for 30+ minutes. When I came to take the payment, their reply was “hahaha, we haven’t even looked at it.” They came in, ordered their drinks at 6:05 pm, I gave them their check at 10:47 pm. Even after I ran the card they took 10 minutes to sign.  I finished my paper work, changed and they were still sitting there as I left. Oh and for 5 hours + at my table they only left me 15%.

—Doesn’t believe how oblivious some people are.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in By Jill, Restaurants

 

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