Category Archives: quarter-life crisis

Tragically hysterical.

Exquisite Cathartic Corpse


The busiest nights in a restaurant and bar can be predictable.  The holidays? Sure.  But there are some other events that coincide with a busy night.  At my restaurant, any artistic or theatrical event equates to a busy night, as do conventions.  But every so often, out of no where are we all blindsided, never having realized that what we were calling slow, was simply the calm before the storm.

It was a weekday -let’s say Wednesday- and I was walking through the back door of the kitchen.  Typically, I am greeted with half a dozen cooks prepping for the evening.  Each looks up at me to say hello while dicing, whipping, cleaving and carving the evening’s ingredients; Pantera gently blaring on the boombox beside with salamander.  I usually spout out two “what ups!” there “holas and on occasion, a ciao“.  Perhaps it’s because I am a bartender, and to the kitchen I am a walking imperial pint of beer, but I’d like to say that they are all genuinely happy to see me.

Motive notwithstanding, I look forward to entering through the back kitchen and being welcomed.  So, you can imagine how shocked I was to open the back door and be mid-hola to find that no chef was to be found.  I stepped in, slowly closing the door behind me, and for the first time found myself saying, “Hello?”

Not a soul was in sight.  I walked through the kitchen and knocked on the walk-in door to hear no knock back.  I continued down the hall, passed the office- where no one was sitting- passed the coolers and opened the bar door to find my evening manager sending two waiters home.  “We’ve got 12 couverts on the book.  Want to send your cocktail waiter home?”

“Uh, I guess so.  12?  Really?”  I asked.

“Really.  Start up a game of Exquisite Corpse- it’s going to be a long night,” replied my manager.

For the record, Exquisite Corpse is the best past time ever.  A paper is folded into thirds and each person is designated a portion of the body: head, torso and legs.  The first person draws their designated portion leaving lines for the corresponding parts ie: drawing a head and leaving necklines on the portion beneath it.  Each person is not allowed to see beyond the lines provided until the drawing is finished, revealing an Exquisite Corpse.  Leave it to Dali, Manet, Magrite and a bottle of Absinthe to invent such a game.  Also, you’re welcome.

I send home my cocktail waiter and proceed to hunt for scrap paper.

The night begins as uneventfully as it had been predicted.  I began avidly cleaning all the bottles in the bar, and like a slow wasn’t quite torture enough, no customer was drinking.  I paced about the bar, then the restaurant and popped onto the line to chat with the chefs, who had taken to making a hanging sculpture from the ceiling with every set of thong, ladle and slotted spoon in-house.

After a few minutes, I walked into the bar to find a group of five people walking in for a drink- forty percent of the restaurant customers were now in my bar.  I began shaking a few martinis and muddling some other concoction when I saw another couple come in…then another, and another.  By the time I had finished the five drinks I had to make, my bar had filled up.  I popped my head around the corner to find that the same was true for the floor.

My printer started to eject ribbons of paper with dozens, upon dozens of drink orders.  People had not only arrived all at once, but were suddenly remarkably thirsty.  Like a five-armed Hindi deity, I was slinging drinks left and right, occasionally popping into the kitchen to drop an order.

“Order in!” I yelled as I dropped a ticket in the basket.  I looked up to find that each chef was catatonic; the restaurant was now at capacity in under 20 minutes,  and my ticket was the first on the board.

“On the new-” squeaked the expo.

I zipped back into the bar to find that the printer paper had now reached the floor.  New customers were seated around my entire section, their eyes fixated on me as if to say, “Yeah, we’re ready-”

What happened next, no one can recall.  We had all just been ambushed like the Spartans, only no horse to show for it.  I’m positive I blacked out- mid-back flip- and against all odds, landed on my feet to find that it was now an hour passed closing time.  My bar looked like a crime scene: empty glasses coated in beads of condensation littered the bar top.  Napkins covered plates whose sauces had permeated the linen like blood through a sheet at a homicide scene; white straws were scattered resembling a skeleton hit by a mortar.  And dishes?  Greek weddings looked like a display at Pottery Barn in comparison to my tables.  I had my work cut out for me.

Not knowing where to begin, I turned to my iPod, put on The Smiths and tackled what was in front of me: three racks of crystal to be polished.  No matter how stark the shock of an unannounced busy night is, upon closing, a calmness transcends it all.  Rhythmically polishing, wiping, listening to the incessant hum of broken compressor -juxtaposed with  the cacophony dishwashers slamming pans through the wash- one can’t help but to be lulled into a trance.  I pour myself a stiff drink and reach a point of reflection.

Reflecting the evening havoc, reflecting my place within it and my place in general.  I’m 28, with a strong curriculum vitae, I’m trilingual and yet here I am cleaning restaurant shrapnel.  Time and again I am looked at with such curious eyes asking, “what on Earth are you doing here?” Oh, I don’t know- I think to myself- something about an economy crippling recession…ever heard of it?  As if the question had never crossed my mind or I am simply to lazy to attempt the contrary.  Other times, I’m hardly addressed at all- a waiter is clearly subhuman.  Waiting tables may not be a real career, per se, but it is certainly a real job.  Just ask the hundreds of thousands currently collecting unemployment.

I sip on my drink and begin to breakdown the bar.  The reek of Windex and ammonia coupled with continuous humming of the compressor -and the now blaring ranchero music from the dish pit- bring me deeper into a state of tranquility.  In this moment, harsh chemicals and what I consider Mexican sonic pollution,  has the effect of being rocked to sleep by my mother.

The staff begins to congregates at my bar, sharing stories of complaint and triumph.

“Did you see that absolute harlot on table 42?  Yeah, she’s the one who had all those fucking substitutions,” groaned one of the servers as two others grunt in commiseration.

I begin to pour drinks for the kitchen staff whose uniforms are tie-died with a combination of butter, wine, vinaigrette and sweat.

“Are you talking about the Veal Scallopini Carbonara, sub salmon for veal, olive oil for carbonara, no onions, no dairy?” asked the saute chef.

“That’s the one!  She was sitting right at 42, did you see her?” asked the server.

“Did it ever occur to her to order the Catch?” whose description that night was exactly that.

Bantering about the evening continues and I proceed to drink and clean in silence, listening to the conversation taking place.  Back of house staff surfaces, as do the cooks who were called in to work.  I pour more drinks as each staff member sits down at the bar.  Venting evolves into laughter and glasses clink together in cheers and truce.  The kitchen and floor staff apologize to one another and for a few moments, pipe dreams like world peace suddenly seem possible.

“Hey, Katix- how was your night?” asks my sous chef.

I look up to find that my bar top is filled with some of my favorite people on this planet.  Taking a moment, I relish in the cathartic relief bourbon has on physical exhaustion and mental strain.

“Couldn’t tell you.  I blacked out around 6:30p.m.,” I reply while rediscovering the game of Exquisite Corpse I had started earlier. “Do you want to draw the head?”

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Filed under Humor, quarter-life crisis, Restaurant

Lady Mercier Wants YOU!


My Fellow Readers,

I, Lady Mercier, want YOU.  In attempts to achieve the unthinkable, to dream the impossible dream, this little bartendress needs your help.  The mission?  Please be seated.

Having had an unexpected (and encouraging) response to this virtual rag- coupled with a Scotch induced revelation- I have decided to set the bar a bit beyond my reach.  Remember Pluto?  The bar resides just beyond its previous residence.

The Mission:

1) Compile a collection of short stories.

2) Apply my collegiate degree and actually edit the stories.

3) Pitch the now edited rag to a publisher and come out with a…

4)  Book. Remember those?

However, this mission cannot commence without YOU.  I want YOU to choose your top stories (however many you may have), and email them to me.  The best way to communicate your vote to me, is to comment on the actual story.  There are two benefits to this method: 1) I can keep track of which stories are getting the most votes and 2) the more traffic is recorded on my site, the more exposure I potentially get on search engines.

It’s a long shot and I’ve got nothing to lose.  If Justin Bieber can confirm an appointment with the Prime Minister of Israel, and if Snookie can not only make the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and be praised- but publish the editorial equivalent of Fukushima recounting her philosophical love affair with skate shoe slippers- than I, Lady Mercier can sure as hell try to publish a book! Or a Kindle equivalent.

There is a 99.99% chance that you think the bar’s new setting, is a fucking joke.  In which case I say to you, “Shut up and humor me.”

I look forward to announcing and editing the finalists.

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Filed under Humor, quarter-life crisis

Shaken, Not Stirred.


Dearest Readers,

Lady Mercier has decided to undergo a slight change. Having originally titled the blog Lady Mercier vs _______ , out of complete lack of creativity and total enthusiasm to write, it is time to change it. Call it Spring cleaning.  I’ve conducted surveys and friendly polls, but am still not truly sold on any of the new possibilities.  But, I’m getting close.

Still not completely sold on the new title, it is the first step in re-branding this blog site.  Suggestions are much appreciated and will be taken into consideration.

Apologies for the inconsistencies and any confusion, my identity will soon be found. Until then, Lady Mercier presents Shaken, Not Stirred: Capricious Chronicles of a Bartendress.

Cheers!

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Filed under Humor, quarter-life crisis, Restaurant, Uncategorized

Just Waiting.


I was waiting on a middle-aged gentleman at my bar the other day for lunch, when he asked me a question regarding my boss. Not knowing how to answer this particularly personal question, I simply responded, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m just a waiter.”

My response then prompted him- in some effort of great wisdom- to reply, “You don’t just do anything. Never say that you’re just a waiter-“ smiled and signaled for his bill as he took a sip of his iced tea.

I knew what this man was trying to say, and I couldn’t agree more- don’t sell yourself short.  But this was clearly a comment made by a man whose sole affiliation with a restaurant has been as a patron, not a waiter. What resulted from this well-intended comment was serious inner thought.  For had this man ever worked in a restaurant, he too would then know that yes, most of us are just waiting.

Being a waiter at any establishment enables certain luxuries: discount on food, fast cash and most of all flexible scheduling. The scheduling aspect of the job is ideal for many walks of life from starving artist to ambitious student; from vagabond to just plane party animal. Regardless of life outside the workplace, everyone inside workplace is just waiting.

One with two brain cells will have noticed the double entendre in the previous sentence: “just waiting.” Yes, we in the wait staff world are in fact, just waiting. Waiting not only on insatiable god-forsaken patrons- but worse, waiting on ourselves where time can be an infernal madhouse.

In my restaurant, what the staff is just waiting for can be divided into three simple categories:

1) GRE scores, acceptance letters from schools and graduation.

2) An interview for the dream job.

3) Closing time to hit the bars and hit up a dealer.

Motives in other restaurants of course, may vary. As I sit on a patio for lunch in Los Angeles, the wait staff is seemingly just waiting to get that audition, be discovered, get their follow-up appointment at the “doctor” (L.A-speak for a plastic surgeon), or pay the hostess to seat the “it” person in their section, so as to casually present both their bill and demo/script in their lap.

“I swear, if it gets picked up- I’ll cast you as hot barista #2.”

My observational findings in smaller towns is far more simple, but of equal magnitude. Waiters are just waiting to have their baby, get promoted or eagerly anticipating a siting of a rumored flying saucer- all life changing experiences.

What remains the same in the industry of waiting, no matter where you are in the world, are two thematic tendencies: the incessant declaration of confidence that one could run “this place” better than those who do; alongside the epic sexual conquering of fellow co-workers in a subtly comparable to that of the Spanish Inquisition.

Those who pursue the latter never seem to refer to the 1st and 2nd Restaurant Commandments:

“Thou Shall Not Shit Where Thy Sleeps” and

“Thou Mustn’t Mention That Thine Has Shat Where Thine Sleeps.”

Regardless of the demographic, what remains the same is that we are all just waiting for life to happen or happen again. My particular case is truly maddening as I waited all through college, graduated at the top of my class, got the dream internship and moved across the country, landed an office only to get laid off within a year…corporate protocol. Ain’t that a bitch?

Luckily, returning to where I had left from greeted me with familiar faces, love and warmth. I wouldn’t change it for the world.  However, what remains is the fact that I waited, and am now just waiting again.

Time and again I’ll wait on Power Lunch tables where seated, are a few people who are my age.  Those who slid right under the frigid closing gates of the new-hire freeze.  I fill their waters with extra lemon while hearing their meek inputs in their meetings.  I grasp a plate in efforts to not do so to their throat and have thier lunch meeting become a scene from This Is England.

“HOW DID YOU GET THIS JOB AND KEEP IT!?”

But then again, what’s worse?  Waiting on tables or being an enslaved monkey in a cubical?  Each I suppose has it’s drawbacks, for that couldn’t possibly be their last stop, could it?

However in the pursuit of waiting, one thing must be said about the difficulty waiting on tables versus waiting in a cubicle.  Somewhere along the way in the arguable devolution of humankind, it was unofficially stated that waiters are your slave- not a working employee.

I clearly did not receive this memo.

When did the world of hospitality become a venue for purging life issues and complexities by assuming the role of Ramses II?  When did people become so and entitled and so venomous?  How does degrading and yelling at a person make them work faster or tend to you in a more friendly matter? And when, WHEN was it publicly stated that those who can’t do teach, and those who are complete and utter idiot-masochists, wait on you.

Both are fictitious.

As a waiter, you approach the table to meet your customers not your maker.  Prepared to make your evening pleasant and memorable, it’s a seemingly growing trend that customers are insisting that the memory be a negative one, rather than a positive one.  Heaven forbid one should spend an evening dining and enjoying company whilst waiting on dishes being prepared specially for you, as you’ve decided to be “creative” with the menu.

But no.  Instead, whips are cracked in demand for faster service.  Words aren’t spoken, but hissed as tongues split and eyes darken drawing thin as the shadow of a hood appears behind their necks, fangs lowering and just before striking they bellow, “WHERE IS OUR FOOD!?”   All the while assuming that a waiter couldn’t possibly know up from down, right from wrong nor white from red when they were the ones who asked for a cabernet sauvignon…blanc?

Not to say that all tables are awful.  On the contrary, I have tables I look forward to waiting on.  Those who who make you laugh, who always have a story to tell, who compliment you, who want to know how you as a person are doing, how life beyond the confines of the bar-top is treating you, who are eager to see what you’ll become, who offer the stepping stone into a position to see you shine.  You know, the tables who consider you a human.

I’ve met with many regulars outside of work and shared meals, attended parties and other occasions.  I’ve enjoyed learning from my tables, conversing, suggesting must-sees around town and around the world.  The gentleman who prompted this very entry was lovely, just a touch oblivious is all.  When the day comes, when life happens and  I am offered the next phase in my life, I’ll look back and miss them.  I’ll miss those who made it worthwhile, who contributed to my confidence and solidarity.

But until then, for those of you non-waiters reading this; be patient and tip.  We’re just trying to get by, just waiting.  And for the record the rumors are true, we’re paid $2.13 and hour and rely on you to make ends meet.  So look around and assess the atmosphere and situation before striking.  You’d be surprised how a nice tone make our evening and yours a better one, and how easily a negative tone will make us walk right out the door.

For my fellow waiters, keep calm and drink it off.  What we’re waiting for will soon be here.

 

 

 

 

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On The Marquee, “Moi!”


I laugh nervously as I type the first words about myself, because in doing so I am officially “one of them.” With a background in Journalism, endless classes were spent debating about “those people” saturating the editorial world with…well, ANYTHING. Fallacies, cruelties, immoralities, inequalities and just plain bullshit. So here I am (two years after graduation) fueling the subject matter of today’s journalism classes, becoming part of “them.” But you know what? Fuck it. Cream rises, right?

You now know that I am a college graduate and am now in the classic place we mid-twenties people like to call a “quarter-life crisis.”  This sounds a lot more dramatic than it really is.  This “crisis” is what just about everyone my age goes through shortly after college, only the class of 2008 got an extra heavy dose…in our commencement speech:

“Graduates of 2008, you have many challenges ahead of you.  The biggest one is not only finding a job, but in this ever-failing economy.  We are merely on the brink of what will be this generations’ depression.”

I, nor any of the other graduates in the endless rows of bleachers, could tell you what was uttered afterward.  I’m sure it went on to say encouraging words like, “chin-up” and “anything worthwhile takes hard work.”  What they really should of told us was the truth.  We had all, been officially labeled “over-qualified.”

So this “quarter-life crisis” of mine consists mostly of my absolutely frustratingly agonizing pursuit of landing a “big girl” job.  I have two Bachelor’s degrees, a hefty resume under my belt featuring trilingual fluency, published photographer, a prized internship at National Geographic- and where I am now? Behind a bar, five times a week.

This “web log” (that’s where the word “blog” comes from you know) will consist of myself, Lady Mercier, vs…well, ANYTHING.  Mostly rants and anecdotes about life as a bartender- but rest assured, there will be other material too.  I am at that pivotal age where we start becoming adults and get married and have kids and buy houses.  Although I shake cocktails for a living, don’t think for a moment I am not having one myself as I update you on all of the greater Metro Albuquerque restaurant patrons.  Some I love, others I loathe, and some just make me wonder.

Welcome, and stay tuned.

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Filed under Humor, quarter-life crisis, Restaurant, Uncategorized