Thank you to those who've written to say you miss me - the feeling is mutual! I'll be back this week, and more frequently.
XO, and fuck off ;)
The Bitter Waiter
1. Where is Valerie?
2. I notice there's a sushi place next door. Do you all have sushi??
3. Can you or another waiter run across to Coffee Bean and get me a pumpkin spice latte?
4. What's in this vodka and soda?
5. (after being seated) So I guess you all are still open?
Oh sure, everyone looooves waiting on gay men. Of all the minorities and their restaurant-related stereotypes, we seem to be a favorite.
But not with all servers...
I have a history of not getting along with most other gay men. Maybe I'm not as gregarious or social; could be I'm too good-looking; perhaps sometimes I can be a wee bit bitchy. For what ever reason, there's rarely been an immediate bond whenever I meet a fellow gay. Especially in the context of server/patron.
Three gays around my age (i.e., anywhere from 21 to 3_ ) sauntered into my section recently. I don't immediately strive to be a monster, so I was friendly at first.
"Hello, how are you?" I asked. They were staring at a shirtless pic on Grindr, not one of them bothering to look up at me.
"Fine..." one of them said dismissively.
Oh, me? I'm fine as well, thank you for asking!
"To drink?" I inquired.
They continued staring at the phone and did not respond, so I walked off. Moments later they flagged me down, arms flailing frantically.
"Mmm?" I purred with raised eyebrows as I approached.
"Uhm, yeah?" the least cute of the three said, "You walked off? Right as we? Were about to order drinks?"
"Actually I walked off because you were staring at your phone and didn't answer when I tried to take your drink order," I said. "So. To drink?"
"We want a pitcher of margaritas," the second least cute said.
"We don't have pitchers of margaritas," I said.
"Then what DO you have pitchers of?" asked the third least cute.
"Water," I said.
They each settled on our house margarita. I explained the evening's dinner specials, knowing full well they weren't paying attention. I returned with the drinks and asked if they were ready to order.
"I don't see pasta on the menu," the second least cute hissed. "Don't you have anything with pasta???"
"Yes, we have the bolognese special I just told you about," I said.
"Oh, well, SORRY I wasn't listening," he replied. "I need a minute."
"Do you want me to wait?" I asked. "I just don't want to give the wrong impression if I walk away while you decide."
"Oh you can definitely walk away," the least cute said, mostly with head gestures.
They shared a cackle. I helped myself to a margarita much nicer and stronger than the ones I'd served them. By that point our manager had cut the floor down to closing servers, meaning I could either keep the three boys, or transfer them.
"We're ready to order," the third least cute said when I eventually returned. "And we've been ready to order for at least..."
"That's nice," I interrupted. "So sorry to say this, but we've cut down to closing servers, so Chad will be taking over shortly. Have the greatest night!"
With that, I let Chad deal with the gays. As a good-looking straight man, he was confident he could turn the tide and make lemonade out of gay lemons. I even observed him turning on the charm and eliciting a few laughs from the fellas.
However, I'm rarely wrong about my gut instinct regarding customers. So when Chad later told me they'd tipped him 10 percent, I wasn't surprised. The silver lining of the night?
"Man, those three?" Chad said. "They did NOT like you."
Despite my normally nasty tone, I'm a softy for friendly people from the Midwest. But even that levity has a limit, as I learned one recent busy Friday night.
Around 6:30 p.m., Trish and Tom, a cheery, middle-aged Minnesotan couple, asked if they could sit at one of my bigger booths, promising they were only stopping by for a quick bite. The restaurant was empty, I was fueled by three shots of mescal, they seemed nice. Sure.
I soon learned that Tom and especially Trish had the gift of gab.
"We just landed at LAX," she said in a tone usually reserved for congratulating someone on the birth of a child. "Our hotel is nearby. We could almost walk here! But we decided not to. We didn't know it would be so dang hot in L.A. in September!!! We looked up the Yelp reviews for this place. We're not all that hungry, but just so you know, we're definitely saving room for that sticky toffee cake!!! We're in town because my husband is visiting cousins he hasn't seen in nearly 30 years! We flew on Delta!!!!"
"Oh how nice," I tried. "Would you like anything to drink?"
"Yes," Tom said. I waited for him to complete that thought. But no.
"...and what would that be?" I asked.
"Water of course!!!!" he said.
When I returned with the waters, Trish and Tom were still perusing the menus.
"What's GOOD?" Trish asked me. Before I could answer, she continued, "I see you have lobster. Do you know if it's as good as the lobster at [restaurant I've never heard of] on the Cape? We had fresh lobster there last summer. Oh boy, it was..." [Trish pantomimes dying and going to Heaven] "....Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, you have to try it sometime if you're ever out there. We'd never been to the Cape before, but let me tell ya, we're big fans now. Some of my family recently moved out there and it was our first time visiting them and..."
I started to tune out Trish, losing a little of the good will I initially felt. Unless you are Henry Cavill on bended knee about to put a ring on it, I can't fathom listening to more than 10 syllables from you at a time.
Eventually they ordered, opting to split a sirloin steak. Their tab wasn't going to break the bank, but I was counting on her promise to be gone soon. After they ordered, Trish kept babbling on about Cape Cod, or warm weather, or quilts or some shit I couldn't have given two wet fucks about. The table next to them was seated, and I was eager to leave this chat to greet my new guests. I tried stepping away, using all manner of body language to imply that I needed to trot off, but she and Tom both kept yapping. I all but waived my arms in the air as if on a sinking ship, and they still didn't pick up on the cues.
"Excuse me..." I interrupted, "but I have to greet this table, I'll be right back." Trish kept talking as I walked off.
After their lone steak arrived, the food runner told me Trish requested me.
"Is everything great over here?" I asked.
Mouth full of meat, Trish replied, "Oh yes...this steak is great! I had the bus boy send you over because I forgot to tell you, our son is a server!!!!"
"Oh how nice..." I started.
"Yeah he's in college," she continued, "and he works three shifts a week at an Italian restaurant. Wait. Was it three shifts, Tom? Or four shifts? Anyway, he loves it, yeah. He really likes those tips!!!!"
"So glad," I said. "If you'll excuse me," I said as I sprinted away, desperately in search of more mescal.
Cut to long after the steak was devoured (around 8 p.m.), and the restaurant was on a wait. Six-top after six-top and five-top after five-top went to someone else's section. Tom and Trish sat like bumps on a log, not ordering anything else - except more water.
Finally, about an hour after that, our wait died down and the manager cut down to closing servers. I was done for the night. I told Trish and Tom I'd need to transfer them, as I was ready to leave, but they insisted on paying me.
"No one else is getting this tip for such great service!!!!!" Tom said. "We'll settle up with you."
They paid in cash. I had to recount it four times to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me - they left me a 10 percent tip. If I could have found a way to tell on them to their son, believe, I would.
1. Do you sing happy birthday? Or do we have to?
2. Has my mom been in yet?
3. The hostess said you don't serve brunch. Do you serve brunch?
4. Do you work here?
5. Can you tell how long I've been parked at my meter?
Don't ever tell me you're easy to wait on. I won't believe you. People who are easy to wait on don't have to advertise, just as people who aren't assholes don't have to constantly remind everyone they're not assholes. If you tell me you're easy to wait on, I know the next hour or so is going to have me reaching for my Midol martini (crushed Midol + Chopin vodka, it's divine, you should try it).
Recently, three polite people waited in my section for their fourth to arrive. They waited, and waited, and waited. They apologized for the delay. Finally, the tardy Matthew arrived with all the positive energy and warmth of Ann Coulter at a Black Lives Matter rally. Matthew was a studio executive of some sort, no doubt the kind who relishes telling 30-something actresses they're going to shrivel up and die alone without a single credit because of their old age.
"Could everyone please scoot over?" he asked in tone saturated in fake warmth. "Sorry...I just can't deal with sitting on the far right, the sun can shine directly into someone else's face."
"Oh boy," I said. "May I bring you anything to drink?"
"What's the sodium level of your sparkling water?" he asked.
"I have no idea," I said.
"Well can you go get an idea from a manager?" he asked.
"Oh sure," I said.
I walked back to the kitchen, grabbed a french fry, drank an Arnold Palmer, chatted up the hot pastry chef, posted something on Facebook, waited two minutes, didn't get any likes so I deleted the Facebook post, then circled back to Matthew and his poor captives.
"No one knows the sodium level," I said.
"What? Oh, I don't want sparkling water anymore anyway," he said. "I'll try your fresh-squeezed lemonade."
"Our lemonade isn't fresh-sq....I'll be right back with that fresh-squeezed lemonade," I said.
"Great, thanks," he said. "I promise I'm not fussy; I'm actually super easy to wait on!!!"
With my head cocked to the side and a non-smile on my lips, I stared at him then walked off to fetch the freshly squeezed lemonade from its container of concentrate.
I set the drink in front of him. He stared at it as if I'd just placed a racially insensitive figurine on the table.
"Could you try this again but with maybe just, like, two ice cubes?" he asked with disdain. "I want to be able to actually savor the lemonade..."
"Oh sure," I said."
I refilled the lemonade and added a scant two ice cubes with my bare hand. I returned to the table, dreading Matthew's lunch order. His colleagues' orders were easy and brief, which meant there'd be fresh Hell with his.
"I'm not really in love with your menu, this place was NOT my first choice," he said pointedly, "What I really want is four of your sides instead of an entree. But I'd like three of them on the same plate and one of them on a side dish. Oh, and I want the cauliflower prepared like the broccoli, and the broccoli prepared like the cauliflower. Are the sweet potato fries gluten free? And I know this isn't a Mexican restaurant but can you do a chicken quesadilla, preferably on a gluten free tortilla?"
My soul left my body, flames filled my face, my neck started to shake my head around maniacally. I just laughed, walked off, downed a shot of rubbing alcohol and turned in the complicated order.
The food arrived.
"This...isn't quite what I pictured," he said. "Like, these just look like four sides, not a meal."
CONGRATULATIONS, you've correctly identified exactly what you ordered! Your prize is a life of everyone hating you!
"So, do you want something else?" I asked.
"I don't know......." he said with great pause. His companions weren't certain whether or not they should dig in yet, so we were all at a stand-still. "I'll just grab a salad back at the commissary. It's......fine......." he said, not fine.
"Would you like to try my cobb salad?" one of his co-workers asked timidly. "You might like it!"
He took a bite, a slow, slow bite. He swayed his head side to side. He tapped his fingers. He was going to dissect, diagnose and deliberate on that small morsel.
"You know, I actually think I like this salad!!" he told me. "I'll take one as well."
"Oh sure," I said, and started to walk off.
"But wait," he said, "I need to modify it just a bit..."
I walked up to Wanda (and friend), unmoved by the frown on her face. If she wanted to play "Whose mood is worse," she came to the wrong place. I was hungover, tired from a sad hook-up in a stranger's bed, and taking naps in the private party room between customers. She might as well have been sex with Andy Dick, because I WASN'T HAVING IT.
"Hi, may I bring you anything to drink?" I asked.
"No," she snarled, "but you may tell me why you don't have fried chicken tonight."
"Because that's an occasional special and not something permanently on our menu," I said.
"Well I want fried chicken," she replied.
Yeah? Well I want to wake up and be best friends with Madonna but life hands us curveballs so what the flying fuck do you want to eat instead, you entitled blob?
"We don't have it," I announced in the thick of a big yawn. "Something else?"
"Nope," Wanda said.
"Wanda...." her friend protested. "You have to eat something."
Oh she does?
"Nnnnnope," she repeated, this time folding her arms. "I'll just wait to have something at the movie."
"Cool cool and for you?" I asked her friend, who ordered a pepperoni flatbread.
Once the pithy appetizer arrived, Wanda waived me over and requested a plate.
"Well it's not friend chicken...." she started.
"Good observation!" I commended.
"...but I guess I'll eat some of it," she said.
Get out of town...
"The fried chicken is the only good thing here, by the way," she added, perhaps fearing she hadn't yet put too fine a point on the matter.
"Good to know!" I said before prancing off to another 30-second nap.
Once they finished the flatbread, I asked if they wanted to see a dessert menu.
"What's this week's bread pudding?" Wanda asked.
"Fried chicken," I said, joking.
Interested in neither dessert nor my jokes, Wanda and friend asked for the bill. Fortunately her friend paid and tipped well. As they were leaving, Wanda said pointedly, "You shouldn't have tipped that much," as her friend smiled into space. I smirked and stole away for another nap.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you again, bitch.
When I first met Sally, I thought she was a classy, friendly, well put-together lady of old Los Angeles money. She dressed as though she were having tea with Jackie Kennedy. She smiled and laughed generously, and I truly enjoyed our time together.
And then, after hours of compliments, good manners, and even her wine-driven declaration, "You've really lifted me up on a bad day," she left me $4 on a $53 tab. My. Jaw. Dropped. I didn't have the chance to register my displeasure in front of her personally because she and her companion skedaddled before I picked up the credit card slip.
Time moved on, I moved on, and I'd forgotten about Sally until this week. She reappeared, this time with two uptight, patronizing, pig-fat-to-the-face stricken fossils with Sally's style but none of her fake charm.
"Hello." I said icily as I met the new bitches' glares with a glare. "Drink?"
"Oh hi!" Sally chirped.
"To drink?" I asked, eyebrow raised.
"I'd like a coffee please," Sally said.
The other two made vague face and finger gestures that, if I wanted to be easy, I could have just read as "I'd like a coffee as well, please." But I didn't feel so easy.
"Does that mean you also want a coffee?" I asked wide-eyed as if I were playing restaurant with a small child.
I returned with three coffees, and the ladies put their menus to the side collectively, the universal sign for "We're ready to order."
"What may I get for you?" I asked.
"A few more minutes, that's what!" Bitch 1 snarled.
"Until we meet again," I said, also with a snarl.
Thirty minutes later, I checked back in, and Bitch 2 shoo'd me away.
Thirty minutes after that, as I was mid-sentence with the ladies' much nicer neighbors, Bitch 1 waived me down as if I was a departing fireman who'd overlooked her. I shot her a dark glare, flashed her my one-minute finger, rolled my eyes, and continued my sentence.
"Uh huh?" I said once I sauntered over.
"We NEED to order!" Bitch 2 said, agitated. "We have a movie to get to!"
"Yeah? And I have eight other tables who also need my attention," I said, agitated, "and you didn't tell me an hour ago when you arrived that you had a movie to get to so why don't you go ahead and order?"
They pursed their lips, shot downward glances at one another, and ordered their simple salads. The food later arrived without incident, and the ladies needed nothing else. When the bills -- the SEPARATE bills, of course -- arrived, Bitches 1 and 2 each tipped 18%; not great, but not bad. Sally, however, tipped $2 on her $21 tab.
This time I made sure to gather the signed receipts before the ladies left. I approached shortly after collecting the slips, a visit that was met with three raised eyebrows.
"Thanks again," I said chipperly. "Oh," I smiled and stared straight at Sally, "...and I just wanted to say, you've really lifted me up on a bad day."
It made no sense to anyone, not even Sally, who clearly didn't catch the reference. But I felt victorious as I pranced off to my concealed cocktail.
1. Didn't you used to be taller?
2. What kind of soup is "soup du jour?"
3. Will this booth fit my cousin?
4. Does this soup look too soupy to you?
5. Is there a buffet? I don't see one.
An old, cranky, obnoxiously suited man sat in my section with a younger-but-still-old hooker. She looked like a man dressed as Grace Jones, and he looked like a corpse dressed as an old man. He was dismissive, rude, and impatient. I was alive with venom.
"Hello, how are..." I started.
"Blended margarita," he interrupted with a snap of his fingers. "She wants a blended margarita, right away, and I want uhm.....uh uh uh..."
"Let me race you to the end of that thought," I interrupted, "We don't do blended drinks."
"We don't have a blender," I replied.
"Why not?" he asked again.
"Because we don't do blended drinks."
Finally they settled on two glasses of wine.
"What's your finest appetizer, and not the most expensive?" he asked.
"The oysters," I replied, "they're the most expensive."
"Bring one of your finest appetizers, but not the damn oysters," he said. "She deserves the finest, got it?"
After enjoying the potato skins I selected, he decided on the pasta special. For her, he ordered a burger, extra well done, thrice-repeating the request for burger and bun only, not a damned thing else. Eventually the food arrived, and I was summoned to their table immediately and frantically as if I had information on their missing child.
"She hates this burger," he tells me.
"Yeah it's BORING!"
"I mean," she continued, searching, "...there's nothing even on it!!!!"
"Correct," I said, "because that's how he ordered it for you."
They asked for everything that normally comes on the burger on the side. Even after the condiments and toppings arrived, both their entrees remained untouched.
"We decided we probably shouldn't eat too much right now, ha ha ha ha..." he said with a nasty, pervy smile as he grabbed her hand and shifted in his seat. "You can box these up and find a homeless person, it will be the only nice thing they ever eat." They both laughed; poor people are so funny, LOL!
I dropped the bill.
"Did you give us happy hour prices?" he asked.
"Nope," I replied. "We don't do happy hour."
"Well you should," he replied. "I'd come back more often."
"I'll definitely note that," I said.
He paid, and they left to test his Viagra. On a $100 bill, he tipped me five goddamn dollars. She accidentally left her Louis Vuitton sunglasses, and I pocketed them for safe-keeping.
Shortly thereafter, I left the restaurant. I walked outside to a homeless man who was digging around our Dumpster.
I handed him the woman's sunglasses, and bid him a good afternoon.