I blog by day and wait tables by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy!
It was one of my first nights hostessing at the fancy, stuffy restaurant where I worked for more than a year. Our clientele happened to be predominately over the age of sixty.
In no time, I would apprehend the immeasurable import of flats. (A revelation!) But that night, I still insisted on sporting beautiful shoes with the highest of heels.
I did know that we were always to walk our customers all the way through the dining room to the restrooms. Simply pointing was unacceptable, never mind that the route was as straightforward as could be. One of the reasons for this, my boss explained, was for us hostesses to act as bodyguards, lest a distracted runner crash into a diner with a hot plate of liquefied foie-filled chicken.
So I escorted a tiny, snazzily dressed, ancient-looking man from the front of the restaurant to the back. He was hunched over and walked with a cane. I’m tall, and with me perched atop my heels, his head scarcely reached my boob height. He shuffled along incredibly slowly. This meant we had time to strike up a conversation on the short bathroom journey.
It came up that I was a student. “Where do you go to school?” he inquired.
“What a fine institution!”
“Yes,” I said, “I’m lucky. It is a great school.”
“What are you studying?”
“Anthropology and creative writing.”
“Oh dear,” he seemed upset. “Anthropology and creative writing? Did I hear right?” We were nearing our destination.
“What ever do you plan on doing with that?” He asked, genuinely distressed.
“I’m not sure,” it was perhaps a disappointing answer, but also the truth.
“Well, well, well.” He shook his head, mumbled something under his breath. We were now standing by the bathroom. “Best of luck to you.”
After his bathroom excursion, the man dined with his similarly petite and impeccably dressed wife at a table in the back. During the busy night, I pretty much forgot our exchange. I (wo)manned my station at the door, bidding countless hellos and goodnights.
“Thank you! Goodbye!” I said as the short couple made their way slowly and deliberately out of the restaurant. I remembered to smile, still carefully following every detail of my boss’s instructions.
The man approached me. What did he want? To shake my hand! He balanced with one hand on his cane and reached the other up and out, towards my own. And into my palm, he deposited what I later realized was a twenty.
“Good luck with monkeys,” he said, “you’ll need this.
I managed to stifle my laughter until they made it out of the heavy wooden door. As it swung shut, I unabashedly cracked up.
Three Years Later
A few nights ago, I worked behind the bar at my place. I poured a couple aglianico, and we got to talking. They were from Tennessee, enthusiastic cheese fans, and incredibly nice.
We talked about New York, the trendiness of wine bars, and how the coolest, cheapest jewelry can be found on the street. Then, they asked about me. I told them my story: how I am in my last year at Columbia. How I study anthropology because I am fascinated by people, and culture, and the whole anthropological approach meshes with my way of seeing the world. And creative writing because, well, I love to write.
"That makes so much sense!" they said. It does, to me, but it's a sentiment I am totally unaccustomed to hearing.
I sent them goat cheese hazelnut truffles, and topped off their wine. They paid with a credit card, and left a super generous tip.
My place is tiny, and the closest thing to a waiter station is where the computer is stationed, behind our gorgeous cheese case. I was standing behind the cheese case, punching someone’s order into the computer, when the man-half of the couple tapped me on the shoulder.
“I wanted to thank you,” he said. “Everything was really great.”
Then, he reached to shake my hand. "Good luck with everything,” he said, and smiled. He didn’t mention anthro, or poetry, or monkeys. But he did slip a twenty into my hand.