The Hot(el) Files: La Quinceañera


Pardon?  What’s that you say?  I’m sorry, I cannot hear you.  You see, I catered a Quinceañera the other night and don’t remember if it was the Ranchero band’s trumpet player, or the lime green-ostrich leather elfin cowboy boot (with matching belt) that punctured my right ear drum.  I also sustained serious psychological trauma, so please, speak loudly through the glass and into my left ear.  Thank you.

***CAUTION:  The following content is of crude and wanton nature.  Please be seated, have parental/spousal supervision and keep a stiff drink beside you.  Reader discretion is advised.***

My therapist says I should always start from the beginning:

My restaurant recently agreed to help out another business in town with a little predicament: loss of a liquor license.  It’s not an indefinite dilemma, simply the result of faulty paperwork resulting in a period of time whereby this particular establishment, has no liquor license.  To assist in such a pinch, my boss- a kind-hearted and good willed man- loaned his picnic liquor license to the cause.  This means that at least one of our bartenders must be present at all times.  I was one of the lucky ones to help out in this act of philanthropy.

What did I get in return?  Physical tourrettes, inexplicable crying fits, jaw-drop (prompted by a visual cue), borderline schizofrenic-paranoia, and I have chewed through my finger and toe nails.  The worst part?  This wasn’t just a one time deal.  I have worked three of these and there are (hopefully only) 5 more to go.  I’ve started to pull out my hair and can’t seem to get my eyes to stop bulging.

Ready or not, here we WHORE! I mean, go:

I never know what kind of event I am catering, until I arrive at the establishment.  On this particular occasion, it happened to be a Quinceañera.  Having lived for quite some time in Latin America, I attended many a Quinceañera.  That being said, I was quite excited about bartending for this event.

For those of you unfamiliar with a Quinceañera, it is essentially the Latin American version of a debutant ball.  A girl, on her 15th birthday, becomes a lady and is introduced to a society of potential suitors.  There’s food, drink, dance and a special dance for the Quinceañera with a few the hand selected prospects.  A classy affair…typically.

I walked into the grand ballroom and stopped dead in my tracks, nearly certain that I had mistakenly walked into Barney’s colon.  It was wall to wall and ceiling to floor, purple.  Not even different hues of purple, but Barney the goddamn dinosaur, purple. Everywhere.

The manager of the establishment snapped me out of my catatonia and led me to the bar.  I slowly set up the bar as I watched the ballroom somehow accumulate more purple decor.  A purple stenciled light shown on the dance floor with the Quinceañera’s
initials.  A projector screen adjusted the focus of a photo, with a purple-flowered border.  Purple cocktail napkins with a photo of the Quinceañera’s face and birth date, were handed to me.  Purple feather boas wired into hearts were placed as centerpieces on the already purple satin table cloths, and in the corner, a purple spotlight shown on the band doing their sound checks.  Short of serving “purple drink” as the signature cocktail, I was certain that the Quinceañera was Violet Beauregarde, from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The Quinceañera arrived and to my complete and utter disappointment, she was just a girl from the south valley.

Traditionally, the Quinceañera wears a white dress; a sort of audition for a wedding dress.  She wore a white-ruffled cream puff lined with purple satin and carried the theme of the room on her upper eyelids, electric purple (to set off the color of royal purple no doubt). Her eyebrows were painted on and her (with at least a foot of extensions) was nearly scotch-guarded in perfect curls, revealing the evident use of a single-barrel curling iron.  Corset in place, her premature b-cup cleavage was over-shadowed by the slump of her shoulders.  Clearly, the poor girl had never shown that much skin before and was uncomfortable exposing it.

To my surprise, the guests were arriving quickly and the band was still doing sound checks.  Given their attire- tight white cargo pants, white cowboy shirts, purple cowboy hats (as per the Quinceañera I’m sure) and punctuated with rhinestone belts and cowboy boots- I gathered that a Ranchero band was hired for the evening.  The band posed and adjusted the spotlights to ensure that the glimmer of the rhinestones was maximized.  When the light was just right, they stood in Magnum PI fashion and had one of the servers take a photo.  “Aye si huevon!  I’m putting it ahora directo en el Facebook. No mames, guey!”

The food was placed in chafing dishes and the guests were lining up.  They lined up, sat down, ate and served themselves thirds before the band was through sound checking.  No one seemed to mind, but I couldn’t help mentally reiterating the amount the event cost: $14,000.  For a band that was sound-checking throughout dinner and a cash bar?  No, thank you.

The band finally started as the buffet was broken down.  For the amount of time it took them to set up, I assumed I was in for a real treat.  An import of Grammy caliber Ranchero straight from Guadalajara!  Again, to my disappointment, they were from the south valley too.  Their trumpets began, and the keyboardist started pounding on the keys like a toddler.  How horrible they were wasn’t nearly as shocking as how loud they were.  My hair was originally straight and down, and somehow was now in a wind tunnel, blown straight back.  The saxophonist picked up his instrument, played about 5 notes and set it down.  What happened next is arguably the tap-root to my current diagnosable situation.

My eyes squinted as I tried to watch the band.  I struggled with a glaring light that I couldn’t seem to avoid.  The bartender I was working with that night pinpointed the source at the same time I did, and both of our jaws, dropped.  The saxophonist  had pulled his pants up making the bulge of his pants, more noticeable.  He was jumping up and down while hyper air-humping and grinding upon a stuffed-animal horse.  Sweating profusely, he reached for a towel and wiped his sexually generated sweat off his face.   The saxophonist then picked up a glass of what was sure to be cocaine-infused spanish fly, drank it all, and continued molesting the stuffed-animal horse.

I was snapped out of my disgust by a dozen boys asking for “eshirley tamples”.  As I poured out half a bottle of grenadine into six glasses, I observed the youth’s attire.  At first, I thought that they too were with the band.  They all wore elaborately embroidered cowboy shirts with jeans so tight, they could be considered jeggings.  For those wearing cowboy hats, they always matched their belts and cowboy boots.  Mostly ostrich leather in naturally occurring colors like neon pink, sky blue and lime green.

But these cowboy boots weren’t made for walking, but skiing.  Their toes must have only reached the first third of the boot, and the remaining two-thirds resembled an elfin-shoe designer line, jetting out and curling back over the foot.  Short of the bell dangling from the tip, I was certain that these were Mexican elves.

The saxophonists visual raping subsided and they announced the Quinceañera’s dance.  Brassy Mexican ballads thundered out of the speakers as the purple cream puff was escorted by six boys in (you guessed it) purple zoot suits.  The chains from their belts clinked together as they each awkwardly danced the Quinceañera around the dance floor.  Suddenly, the music stopped and the Quinceañera ripped off her dress, revealing a glorified negligee as a dozen men rushed the floor breaking into a choreographed dance number to “Lean Like a Cholo”.

I couldn’t believe how sexual a 15th birthday party was becoming.  No one would believe me- I needed witnesses.  I quickly text my fiance and one of my best friends and urged that they rush down here, sign the guest book and crash this Quinceañera.  I sent the text shortly before I dropped my phone in sheer horror.

They were entering by the dozens.  Escorts.  I didn’t think that this was part of the tradition, but perhaps a family touch?  Dozens of these escorts in mini skirts and tiny shirts, fish net stalkings and red faux-suede platform ankle boots, were making their way in.  The unmistakable reek of cheap perfume flooded the room with notes of Aquanet radiating from their bump-it hairdos.  I took a step back as one approached my bar.  She leaned in and asked for a “eshirley tample”.  It was only then, did my horror evolve into atrocity when I realized that these weren’t escorts, but 14-15 year old girls.

I looked around to find that they were all linked up with the elfin cowboys; some their fathers, others their crushes and nearly certain that in some cases, both.  The microphone fed-back a nasty shrill, accompanied by an accordion to grasp the attention of the now 300 person audience.  The spanish cowboy jumped about the stage as the rest of the band searched for the Quinceañera
for “algo especial”.  They placed a chair (yes, a purple one), in the center of the dance floor as the band members surrounded her.

The sexually charged band member jumped off the stage and air-humped his way over to the Quinceañera. He signaled for the DJ to play a song, and before I knew it he had his cowboy heels on her shoulders, thrusting his junk closer and closer to her face. He did a flip and stepped to the side to let the next band member put his member directly on her chest, as the other two band members dipped the chair backward.  Just in time to share my trauma, my fiance and best friend showed up stopping dead in their tracks.

My co-worker, fiance, best friend and I stood in silence.  What we were witnessing resembled a show in Vegas for a bachelorette more so than an adolescent birthday party.  Our jaws dropped in complete shock and to our horror, were the parents of Quinceañera clapping and laughing.  Where were we?  Surely there were candid cameras in the corners, but where?  In the purple chandelier?  Or perhaps the band’s rhinestone belts were actually micro cameras because this couldn’t be real.

The band got louder, the attendees got younger and the girls’ dresses got tighter and mysteriously shorter.  I looked around the room to find that there were now 8 security guards.  One of them was standing next to me at the bar and was radioed a message.  He quickly abandoned his station and bolted to the kitchen returning with latex gloves, two security guards following suit.  They dashed out the side door and I popped my head out to see what all the commotion was about.  The door opened up to the side of the building where the band’s massive tour bus was parked (it too adorned with rhinestone accessories), and in the distance I saw what looked like low flying shooting stars, jetting across the parking lot.

“What’s going on over there?” I asked a security guard standing at the side door.

“Panties, all kinds-” he responded.

“Panties?  As in under ware?” I asked.

“Yup.  Mad panties being thrown over there.”

Dios. Fucking. Mio.  Fourteen and 15-year-old girls were taking off their panties and flinging them across the parking lot!  One security came running towards us, his hands full with glittery thongs.

I popped back inside to find the band was still molesting the stuffed animal horse, and decided it was time to break down.  About 20 minutes premature, but after being visually accosted, psychologically degraded and throughly shocked to my core, it wasn’t for a few more “eshirley tamples” and a collective $10 in tips, that was going to make our night worthwhile.  My fiance and best friend left (encountering their own cultural experience upon their exit) and my coworker and I closed down the bar single-handedly; one hand plugging an ear and the other packing up bottles.

My vision began to blur as the bass got louder, the reek of Aquanet got stronger and the tension of brimming adolescent sexuality flooded the room.  I loaded up a cart full of boxes and made my way through the teenage crowd trying not to accidentally catch a glimpse at a butt cheek pouring out a skirt, or an elfin cowboy boot in the eye.  After signing off on inventory, I walked to my car and sat in silence for a solid 20 minutes.  My hands were white from how tightly I was holding myself and the leather seats creaked with my uncontrollable rocking.  I couldn’t hear anything but the yips and cries of the band, and the thumping bass that I am sure my heart now erratically beats to (furthering my current anxiety).

All I could think about was reenacting Jim Carrey’s shower scene in Ace Ventura: burning my uniform whilst taking a hot shower (in acetone) desperately plunging at my eyes, for they have seen too much.  I felt fragile, vulnerable and just putrid.  That night, I lost part of my soul.

I drove away in deep thought, wondering what the same group of girls might be expecting 9 months from now.

For a musical understanding of the demographic I was up against, watch:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ttqjhBijI8

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The Hot(el) Files


My Fellow Readers,

To your advantage and my potential demise, has a complete gem fallen into my hands.  Recently, a chain hotel in my town has temporarily lost its liquor license.  No juicy gossip, simply faulty paperwork on their lawyer’s behalf while changing ownership.  How does this apply to the bartendress?  My ever-helpful boss has negotiated a temporary situation, in which we use our catering license so that previously booked events (weddings, conventions, etc…), could still have a bar rather than either explaining that their event is now a dry one, or losing the business all together.  This hotel chain may consider cannonizing my boss into sainthood, for he has saved its ASS.

How is this advantageous to you?  I have been assigned to work these caters.  How might this kill me?  Read and find out.

With no further ado, I present to thee a series of stories based on these hotel caters: The Hot(el) Files.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the (shit) show.

 

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Is That Locally Grown?


At my place of employment, we strive to promote the culinary philosophy spearheaded by the likes of Michael Pollan, Joe Salatin, John Jeavons and of course, Alice Waters.  This philosophy is none other than the Farm-to-Table movement.  The basis of this philosophy is that one’s food should reflect one’s surroundings and be provided (to a maximum) by local farmers and proveyors.  Food, therefore, becomes an educative forum in which the presenter (chef or server), can inform the consumer (diner), exactly where their food came from, and the benefits that come with supporting local farmers.  A philosophy intended to fully use the pun: Consumable Education.

The beauty of Farm-to-Table dining is that depending on your locale, food varies.  In the high deserts of New Mexico, local produce provides the following bounty: corn, squash, beans, chili, peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, onions, carrots, beets, apples, raspberries etc…

As I mentioned before, the restaurant I work in prides itself on supporting this philosophy.  We as servers and bartenders, are educated thoroughly in the origins of the ingredients we serve, and inform our diners every chance we get.  This brings us to my story.

(Thank you for your patience.  Although, the prefacing is necessary for some.)

It was an ordinary lunch shift; 30 couverts on the books (to finish with 120), the kitchen chopping their prep to the tempo heavy metal, the servers polishing their stations while drinking coffee while I set up the bar.  One of the cooks paged the waitstaff and we all convened at the kitchen line to note the day’s specials.

“Alright, today’s soup is going to be a green chili and chicken chowder garnished with tortilla strips- the chilis are local,” began the cook, “today’s catch is going to be grilled King salmon over a cumin seed rice, topped with local, organic bell peppers and squash and finished with a poblano-pineapple vinaigrette.”

After jotting the final ingredients, one server confirmed that the poblanos in the vinaigrette were indeed local.

“Where else do you suppose they grow poblanos, huh?” the cook smirked as he turned to blare the heavy metal and continued chopping.  Service started and I was seated a six-top.  I waked over to greet my diners and went about my usual five-part routine: greet, drink, specials, questions, order.  I zipped over to the wait station and poured six iced teas and returned to the table.

As I was set each iced tea before each guest, I began part three, reciting the specials.  “So, we have a few specials to complicate your decision today-” I began, always provoking a giggle.  I breezed through our soup du jour and our crepe du jour and was well into the catch of the day.

“Grilled King salmon over a cumin seed rice, served with local, organic squash and bell peppers and a poblano-pineapple vinaigrette.  I’ll let you all mentally digest the specials and be right back to take your orders.”

The table spoke amongst themselves for a few minutes, as the do, and when the last menu shut, I walked over to instate part four of my routine: questions.  “Do we have any questions on the menu?” I asked, assuming that there wouldn’t be any as the specials weren’t terribly complicated today.  But, there was one question.

“Yes, I have one.  On the catch of the day, the vinaigrette- is that locally grown?” he asked.  Assuming that he was referencing the poblanos, I responded.

“Oh, goodness!  I forgot to highlight that too.  Indeed, the poblanos are locally grown, in the north valley area,” I responded.

“Right, I figured that.  But the other part of it-” he inquired, “Is it local?”

“What, the pineapple?” I asked, confused.

“Yeah, is it?” he inquired.  Assuming he was absolutely joking, I started to giggle and looked at the other diners, waiting for them to join me.

They didn’t.

They were all looking at me like second graders, wide-eyed and eagerly awaiting the answer.  My giggle devolved into an awkward chuckle when I realized, holy shit- this guy is serious.

“The pineapple?” I squeaked.

“Is it local, too? he asked, again.  There I was, once again, giggling away.  I looked outside to see the chamisa bushes and aspen trees; pure evidence that we are not in the tropics and not even Monsanto could engineer such a thing.  This only made containing my laughter harder.  Yet, clearly this guy had no idea.  He must think that pineapples grow on pine trees.  I looked at the man whose eyes were still as curious.  I decided to have a little fun.

I answered, deadpan, “Why, yes.  Yes they are.”

 

“Oh, sure!  The pineapple is also New Mexico’s state flower, Governor, bird and motto: “Pineapple.”  

 -Fellow Server.

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Are You an Actress?


With the amount of drama that occurs in any given restaurant, it’s only fitting that so many waiters are aspiring actors.  Not so many in my restaurant, per se, but it is a general observation of the industry.  Yet the more I think about it, I realize that we servers and tenders of the bar aren’t aspiring actors as much as we are actors.  A particular evening is what brought this observation to my undivided attention.

Lights, camera, ACTION!  Enter Bartendress.

What night it was, is erroneous in this tale.  However, it is to be noted that as a bartender, one is constantly on stage.  Where a waiter has a wait-station to adjourn to, a bartender has no escape.  From the moment I set foot in the bar, I am in the spotlight.  In fact, it is absolutely impossible to not be in my case, as even with my back toward the customer would the mirrors reflect my expressions.  I must remain in character until the last customer leaves.  Constant acting.

But it’s more than simply acting; it’s improv.  Although my script may start the same each shift, the plot is always different and there is never just one.  Where a server may have a six table section and interactions with the bar and the kitchen- giving them a total of eight plots- I have an eight table section in addition to a 12 person capacity at the bar and interactions with both servers and the kitchen.  Do the math.

On this particular night, one plot did not thicken until the dessert course.

I had been waiting on two men and a woman at the bar all evening. It started with just the two men who were pleasant as can be.  They were from the midwest and were in town on business.

“We’re waiting on a third, but I don’t think she’ll be coming until later,” one man announced.

“Very well then.  Are we waiting for her to have a drink or dine?” I asked.

“Oh goodness no, we’re starving!” exclaimed the other man.

I proceed to take their drink and dinner orders and submit them to the kitchen.  As I dropped my order in the basket I caught a conversation occuring behind the line.

“Hey, Bartendress!” yelled the saute cook.  “Bartendress” being my Christian name as far as the kitchen is concerned.  “Did you see that episode of ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ last night?”

Acting like I knew what they were talking about, I nodded and smiled and walked back into the bar to find that a couple had sat beside the two mid-westerners.  I greeted them with the same opening dialogue, chatting briefly with them about the weather.  Once again, acting like it had deviated from dry and sunny in the past 300 days.  Lovely as the weather was did they keep to themselves most of the night, watching me.

Time went on and new tables came and left.  My mid-westerners had finished their entrees when the woman they had been waiting for, arrived.

Enter the villain.

I scanned the bar and found a vacant bar stool.  Walking around the bend of the bar, I could here them talking.

“You guys already ate? Way to wait for me,” she complained.

“Well, yeah- it’s nearly 9:30p.m.,” replied one man.

“Yeah, we were starvin’! But the kitchen is still open- I’ll bet you could order somethin’ if yer hungry,” offered the other.

I walked up behind the woman with a bar stool in hand.  As she turned, I smiled and picked up the bar stool offering her a seat.

“Would you like to sit down, ma’am?” I asked.

She whipped around and looked at the stool, then looked right through me.  She turned back around to the two men.

“Don’t you want to move to a table?” she groaned.

The two men looked at each other, then looked at their nightcaps, looked at me and then looked at her.

“Well, we’re pretty comfortable right here-” said one.

“Fine,” she sighed and with0ut turning her head, reached her hands backward and pulled the bar stool out of my hands.

You’re welcome, began my soliliquy.

I walked back around the bar to find that my quiet, observant couple was still watching me.  Reaching for a dinner menu, I turned and looked at the woman who had jimmied her way between the two men like a meat cleaver between two shanks.  As I leaned in to hand her the menu, she jerked her hand up in the most condesending, dismissive way.

The two men looked at me, their cheeks flushed with embarassment.

“So, I understand you are traveling with these two gentleman on business?” I started the conversation.

“Yeah,” she huffed.

“Yeah, we’re all traveling together.  We’ve got meetings with some developers this week,” elaborated one man.

“This week?” I asked, emphasizing the amount of time: a week. “A full week?”

“Yup, we’re here all week together on business,” concluded the other.  Poor bastards I thought to myself.  I smiled and looked to the woman.

“May I offer you something to drink?” assuming that she would follow the suit of her co-workers and have a nightcap.  Instead, she proceeded to add a metric ton of cornstarch to an already thickened plot.  Let it be noted that what she proceeded to order, I would proceed to write down as there was no way I’d ever remember such an obtuse combination of words.  My memory is at capacity for bullshit drinks such as an “Incredible Hulk” or a “Scooby Snack”.  But this drink order did not contain any sort of spirit, so it was notably foreign to me.  The villain opened her mouth, and as I thought she would proceed to order what came naturally to her- a pint of blood from an innocent child- she instead ordered this:

“Yes, a skinny-dry-zebra-cappuccino-” she blurted in a staccato fashion.

“Sounds delicious!  What is that?” I ask, bewildered.

“What do you mean ‘what is that?’ ” she snarled.  The two men’s cheeks now red with embarassment.

This woman is as pleasant as a bludgeoning-  I thought.

“I didn’t understand a word you said, other than the word ‘dry’ and ‘cappuccino’,” I replied.

“Really?  Isn’t this a restaurant?!” she laughed while seeking humor approval from the two men.  They laughed nervously realizing they were traveling with that person…all week.

“You are absolutely right, this is a restaurant!” I replied with great enthusiasm.

“Well someone should have trained you better,” she chuckled, “but how much could she know?  Those who can’t do, serve!”  This time, her laugh was not accompanied by the two men as they had now sunken into their seats.  My observers fell silent as they were now eavesdropping.

The villain was not only rude, but condesending, inconsiderate, insatiable and I’ll say it- a total bitch.  I felt terrible for the two men whom clearly had no idea what they had signed up for.  A business trip thousands of miles from home, with no place to hide for the next week.  I could see their minds racing with how to avoid dining with this woman.  One man looked at me like a puppy who had just pissed on a Persian rug.  A look that said, “I’m so sorry.  I’m just a puppy, I don’t have control over these kids of things.”

The other man’s flushed face had evolved from embarassed to angry, clearly biting his tongue to prevent himself from escorting her out by the ear like a Sicilian grandmother.  They had just discovered that they were traveling with a menace to all things pleasant.  My observations came to a screeching halt when I was literally snapped out of it.

Ladies and gentleman, we have a snapper.

Yes, mein fuhrer? I thought, as I looked at her with a smile plastered on to my face.

The sound of her snap caused every conversation to cease, every head to turn, every utensil to drop and somehow even managed to unplug the ipod from its auxilary chord.  The bar was silent and all eyes were on me.  I have a patience rivaled only by Ghandi’s, until someone snaps at me.  Realizing that the two men had to deal with this not only all week, but back at the office too- I decided to give them a bit of a show.  I looked at her, smiled and leaned in.

“I am a bartender, not a barista.  So, if you explain to me how an emaciated African equine mammal from the Serengheti, plays into an Italian espresso drink with foamed milk- I’d be more than happy to merge Zoology and caffeine culture into a mug for you, ma’am.”

Her pupils narrowed into vertical slits at the exact moment that her tongue forked behind her now very apparent long canines.  She adjusted her posture which only made her preexisting cobra hood-like hair, more ominous.  Proceeding to hiss, I mean explain, to me that her four-legged cappuccino was in fact a dry cappuccino (exclusively espresso with foam on top), made with non-fat milk and equal parts dark chocolate and vanilla syrup.

When did coffee get so complicated?  Consider me, enlightened.

I nodded to her explanation, and proceeded to tell her that out of this opus of all things superfluous, I could only arrange for a traditional dry cappuccino made with organic whole milk.

“How does a restaurant not have non-fat milk?” she barked, as she was now a barking cobra.

“Well, we’re just a restaurant and I’m only a server, ma’am, so what I can offer you is what we have.  What we have is organic whole milk and wonderful locally roasted espresso.  Unfortunately, that is all I can offer,” I responded with a big smile. “And you know, the difference between whole milk and skimmed is a mere 3%.  You could indulge this once, perhaps?”

The two men sitting beside her trembled as they tried to contain their laughter.  My eavesdroppers began chatting so as to not be so obviously giggling.

“Yeah, live on the wild side!” suggested one man.

“We’ll just take the check,” she hissed, a bit softer this time.

I turned to the computer to print their check and was halted by the other man.

“Actually, I’m not done yet- I’d like to stay,” he said.

“Yeah, me too.  I want to finish my drink and then go back to the hotel,” agreed the other.

“Well, I’m leaving,” announced the woman, uncoiling and slithering out of her bar stool.

“Would you like me to call you a cab, ma’am?  I’d be more than happy to,” I offered, descrating her with kindness.

“I’ll walk,” she replied her cheeks now the ones rosied with embarrassment.

The two men waved as she exited the bar.  They clinked their glasses to a wild week ahead and apologized for her behavior.  Eventually, they finished their drinks and I called them a cab.  I waved goodbye and assured them that I had endured far worse in the past.  They promised to come in before they left under the condition that the woman behaved herself.  I smiled and wished them luck on their week.

I made my rounds to the other plots brewing about the bar, when I was flagged down by my eavesdroppers.

“Are you an actress?” asked one of them.

Surprised at the question, I giggled and responded.  “What makes you say that?”

“You were just so quick witted with that woman!  Any other server I know would have just freezed up,” explained the other.

Once again, all eyes were on me as so many others clearly had the same question.  I looked at my full bar looking back at me, the waiter in the well awaiting their drink order and four curious eyes from the appetizer station in the kitchen, peering over.  The limelight was on me, and had been since I clocked in.  I looked back at my eavesdroppers who were anxiously awaiting an answer.

“Yes, I am an actress,” I responded.  Their eyes grew wide with excitement.  “I act tonight, tomorrow night…” and proceeded to list off my entire schedule.  The bar exploded into laughter.

 

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The Mimosa Effect


Brunch is my favorite sport.  My closest girlfriends and I are self-proclaimed Olympians.  Typically, one of us hosts and we all contribute to the cause.  One will be appointed to procuring uncured bacon for our ever-famous bacon bouquet.  The other will empty out their vegetable drawer for fritatta fixings and the other will assure that the guest of honor will be present: mimosas.

We’ve done everything from a civilized proper brunch with numerous courses paired with mimosas (and eventual straight champagne), to guerilla-style brunch en route; enjoying canapes and hand-held burritos with a cortado.

Be jealous.

This isn’t to say that we always play at home, if you will.  We do play away and grace a restaurant with our presence.  Time and again we join the novice brunchers but seldom participate as:

a) I am a wheat-tard (my self-coined colloquialism for “gluten-intolerant”), and eating out tends to be a hassle.

b) The blood of Christ, is no hair of the dog.  Catholic church-goers are awful to dine around that early in the morning.  They’re hungry and hungover; an apocolyptic combination.

c) Our waiter would probably cut us off of mimosas, which would lead to an inevitable coup against the establishment.

So really, we default to making brunch so we can make something that I can eat, while getting completely marinated without judgement.  My personal preference to stay in, is that I work in the bloody industry and cannot help but to empathize with every poor bastard working.

My restaurant does not serve brunch- hare friggin’ Krishna- but it doesn’t mean that we didn’t try it once.  Once is all it took.

Sure, as a restauranteur you make a fortune off of eggs.  But is it worth the aneurism-inducing conditions?  The first diabolical element of brunch, is the time.  If the waitstaff has to show up at 7a.m. to simply polish up the sections and await the masses-imagine what time the kitchen staff must arrive to prep.

[For those of you who cannot fathom the time, it’s 4 a.m.]

So immediately upon setting foot in the establishment, you aren’t greeted with a “Good morning!” as much as you are walking into a rendition of Shock and Awe.  I could banter on and on about the industry side of the madness, so let us get straight to the underbelly: the people.

It is known throughout the waitstaff in my restaurant, that Cthuhlu is a mere Precious Moment figurine in comparison to my morning wrath.  If I haven’t had a sufficient amount of coffee, do not speak to me.  This same phenomena occurs when the brunch crowd arrives.  Chances are, they haven’t had any coffee or worse, have had too much and nothing to eat.  Hyper-famine, it’s scary.  So in addition to the usual slave-driver demeanor of the average diner, nothing is fast enough.  Notably, coffee and mimosas.

On this once-in-a-fucking-lifetime brunch my restaurant offered, it was none other than Mother’s Day.  A day when mimosas run more rampant than water.  When contrasting emotions of puberty, adolescence and menopause thicken the air with feminine tension; one seen, but never spoken of.  A day that mirrors a debacle in British Parliament whereby a white glove is drawn, but only contains one finger.

In other words, it’s another holiday by which families go out into public so as to avoid a potential scene in their own home.  Mind you, this isn’t fact for every table’s dynamic in the restaurant…just mine.

I had a table of eight women who clearly had too much coffee before arriving.  They needed a round of antivenin, fast.

“Eight mimosas,” blurted one woman, her left eye twitching nervously.

I didn’t bother introducing myself or offering the specials.  It was clear that mimosas were needed before anything could be accomplished.  Empathizing all too well- as we the waitstaff were now jacked-up on coffee resembling a pack of methamphetamine addicts- did I dash to the bar to tend to their order.  Only there was one problem; the at-capacity restaurant had also ordered mimosas with the same pressing urgency.

Maniacally tending to the decorative ribbon of drink orders at the bar, could I feel the eyes of eight mini Cthulu’s wondering where their antivenin was; one in particular.  I cranked out half of the restaurant orders and darted back to my section to take orders and apologize for the wait.  Walking up to my table of eight, did the eye twitcher bark at me.

“Uh, ma’am- where are our drinks?” she drawled, right eye now bulging as her left continued to twitch.  I began to apologize and heard the other women at the table try to explain that I was the only bartender, as well as their server.

“Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I’m thirsty-” she griped.

“I’ll get right on it.  So sorry for the wait ladies,” I replied and ran full speed to the bar.

As Murphy’s Law should have it, the bar was now low on orange juice and my barback must have dropped the case of prosecco as each bottle geysered upon opening.  Consequently, I had to hand-squeeze oranges for my eight mimosas while threatening my co-worker’s life if they didn’t surrender their tray to me.  I strategically placed eight champagne glasses on my commandeered tray, and proceeded to gently pour each glass with prosecco.

FACT: THERE IS NO FAST WAY TO POUR CHAMPAGNE OR PROSECCO.

It is a test of time and patience- one rewarded with celestial bubbles that dance across the palate whose reaction is, a smile.  This elixir of the gods was now en route to my table of eight.  The musical score from Jaws inevitably entered my mind, and synced itself with every pace I took closer to the table.  I made it table-side without compromising a drop.

The social climate evolved from tumultuous to content  for all but one woman; the eye twitcher.  She was to my immediate right, and I was serving from the left.  Quickly did she calculate that she’d be the last to have a mimosa in hand.  I picked up the first mimosa and was sure to chose the opposing second to evenly distribute weight on the tray.  I could feel the eye twitcher’s blood pressure sky-rocket with impatience.  And then, the inevitable happened.

Trying to mask her zeal to drink, she announced, “Oh, let me help you-” and grabbed a mimosa off the tray, only prompting the entire tray to land in her lap.  Gasps detonated a cacophony of laughter at the table.  Realizing that she must have been as pleasant to the others as she had been to me, I amended the notion of karma to instant karma.

I bit my tongue to prevent myself from laughing.  “Oh the tribulations of gravity,” I said offering the linens I had pulled from an unset table.

She was most compliant for the remainder of their stay.

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The Highly Tolerable Lactose Intolerant.


Every restaurant receives phone calls for to go orders.  Some people have a bit more tact than others when placing an order.  How, you ask?  By calling either before or after the obvious rush between 6p.m. and 8p.m..  By also having the order ready in efforts to not have the server recite the entire bloody menu over the phone.  Minor details.

This particular woman called at an appropriate time and knew exactly what she wanted; granting her immediate respect on my behalf.  How considerate of her, I thought to myself.  See, not everyone is a complete dunce- there is hope!  

I spoke too soon.

I proceeded to take her order in a leisurely fashion as I had time to do so.  She started the order with a pear and cheese salad, no cheese.

“I’m lactose intolerant,” she explained.

“Oh, not a worry.  I have a wheat allergy so you can imagine how silly I sound ordering a sandwich-” I responded.

She giggled and proceeded to order the clams and veal- both of which are bombarded with butter- which not only raised a red flag, but an air horn and flare gun as well.  I personally have two of my dearest friends who are severely allergic to lactose, and when exposed to it, undergo gastrointestinal rendition of Mt. Etna.  So, I intervened.

“Sounds great.  Although, are the clams and veal for someone else?” I asked.

“No, they’re for me,” she responded.

“Oh dear.  Well, I hate to say it but you may want to reconsider your order.  Both of those dishes are laden with butter!”

“Oh…” she trailed off.

I was so pleased with myself in that moment.  I had saved her a night of complete an utter misery.  Having a nasty allergy myself, I so much appreciate it when a server knows their menu, and can steer me away from any hidden allergen I may not have caught.  Awaiting her extreme gratitude to come gushing through the phone receiver, I began listing a few other options.

“That being said, you could do-”

“-well, it should be ok,” she cut in, ” the salad will counteract the clams and veal.”

Counteract the clams and veal?  I thought.  Does she have any fucking clue what will happen to her?  Perhaps I should clarify.

“Sure.  But, there is a significant amount of dairy in both of those dishes.  I don’t know how much lettuce will counteract anything in this scenario,” I explained, “I’d just hate for you to become ill.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine.  I’m not that lactose intolerant,” she responded.

(Insert jaw-drop here).

“Very well then.  The pear and cheese salad- no cheese- the clams and the veal.  To go,” I read back.

“Sounds great.  Could I also get some bread and butter with that?”

“Absolutely, miss.”

Somewhere in town, a fecal massacre ensues…

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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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