Friday, October 23, 2009

A Waiter Knows Best

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Having worked in the restaurant business for twelve years back when I had longer hair and all the Eurythmics albums, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the beauty and wonder of humanity at its hungriest. Disclaimer: this blog post will contain language from adults waiting to be fed. Seriously, there will be language inappropriate for children.

Fill in the blank. Hair stylists are to priests as waiters are to _______________.

A priest has to keep your filthy secrets, but please don’t tell a waiter a secret. If he doesn’t bark it to all the guests in the dining room, he’ll certainly organize a huddle in the kitchen. No, waiters are more like psychologists. You, the guest, think you can say just about anything to him when you’re hungry.

I was training a woman—let’s call her Wanda—and we were taking an order from two women in their mid-forties.

“We’ll have the pasta primavera,” said one of the women.
“But we’re not lesbians,” said the other.
I wrote down the order: “Pasta primavera. Split. Not lesbians.”
Wanda, who I think was indeed a lesbian, ran to the kitchen to organize a huddle. She was a natural.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I should have become a psychologist. Even now, people in restaurants still gravitate toward me. “Look at that guy over there. Doesn’t he have the most adorable ears? Let’s fill them.”

Rio de Janeiro. Traditional restaurant. Evening.

Two adorable men, ME and HORST, in their thirties—although the shorter, cuter one looks ten years younger—sit down at a quiet table and begin poring over the menu. Loud New Yorkers, MARGE and ROY, take the table next to the adorable yum-yums.

Me (the shorter one)
I can’t wait to have a moqueca.

Horst
You and your moqueca.

Marge
(sitting down at the next table and shouting
loud enough to be heard in Uruguay)
Brazilian food! How neat!
(shouting directly at Me)
This place comes highly
recommended!!

Me
(assuming loud NYers are deaf)
Try the moqueca!!

Horst sticks his nose deeper into his menu.

Roy
Goddammit.

Marge
Pay no attention to Roy. He’s hungry.

Roy
Goddammit.

Horst climbs into his menu. Me, familiar with the beast, turns his full attention to the show called humanity.

Marge
We’re visiting a friend—

Roy
Goddammit. They don’t wanna hear you.

Marge
But she wasn’t here when we—

Roy
Goddammit. Where’s the waiter?

Marge
--arrived, so we’ve just been shopping.

Roy
Would you shut your fucking trap?

Marge
I was thinking of getting the caruru.
The guidebook here says it’s excellent.

Me
I’d get the moqueca.

WAITER comes to Roy and Marge’s table. They order two carurus despite the more than adequate advice from Me to order a moqueca. Approximately thirty minutes goes by, in which the following information is imparted: Roy and Marge are from Midtown, Manhattan, Marge’s friend paid 200 thousand American dollars for her house in Sao Paolo—a steal. Roy drinks milk to help his heartburn. They decided to come to Rio because the rest of the world is dangerous. Marge has “a big, fucking mouth and won’t shut the fuck up.” Finally their dinner arrives: two heaping bowls of pureed manioc and dried shrimp, a dish that looks like Papa Bear should be complaining about it—something like, “My porridge is too goopy.”


Roy
(looking at his food)
Goddamn slop. I can’t eat this.

Roy storms out of the restaurant, leaving Marge to pay the bill and apologize. During her apology to the waiter, the following information is imparted: Roy has hemorrhoids, which is not an excuse for his behavior, but simply a contributing factor. Roy likes meat or food that has the shape of meat. Roy doesn’t normally eat out of a bowl. Dogs eat out of bowls. Oh, no-no-no, she didn’t mean to imply that Brazilians are dogs . . .

Roy
(outside the restaurant)
Would you shut your fucking trap in there!

I felt sorry for Marge and Roy, but I’m also grateful to them for the free show.

Moqueca de peixe is a traditional Brazilian fish stew made with coconut milk and cilantro, among other tasty ingredients. Listen to your psychologist: get the moqueca.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.