Tonight I could not get the married, middle-aged, British woman at table 48 to stop hugging me. She was holding on to me drunk, tight, and desperate.
“You’re sooooo fabulous. I’m going to have to introduce you to George Clark. You know George? Oh, you know him don’t you? He used to dance with what’s her name Margot, at ABT. Fontayne. Yes! You know George? Yes! He’s my friend. What are you doing for brunch Sunday? I’m going out with my designer friends. You know Zeda Ramir? The Zeda. You don’t know Zeda? Oh, she’s a sensation; she’ll love you. After brunch we can go shopping and then… then… do you go to the Boom Boom Room? My fashion friends will lo-o-o-ve you. You look so European. Oh, you’re just like my son, except he’s not gay.” (If her son is anything like me, he is most certainly gay).
When I was a younger waiter, I used to like this type of attention from a table. Back then, I had inserted myself into a narrative of victimhood: educated young artist waits tables to survive. “Poor me!” And every now and then, a gushing guest would come by, reminding me that indeed, I was truly fabulous.
Waiting tables is less personal these days. I’m quite grateful for my job, and the money I make. And tonight, I wanted nothing more than to get the British “clinger” off my arm. She simpy would not let go, and her big-ass diamond ring was literally grating into my underarm.
A “clinger” is an insecure, unstable restaurant guest, whose singular intention is to make you -the server- their best friend, but just for the night.
Clingers are usually very wealthy people, who like to make friends with the hired help, immediately endearing themselves to us, through any means necessary, and assuming a false sense of familiarity -calling us by our first names, insisting we sit down with them, and touching us like animals in a petting zoo-. Clingers have a fetish for YFBWs (young, fabulous, broke-waiters); they have romantic notions about poverty, and what it means to be “real.” Clingers love to take on charity cases, dangling empty promises (connections, jobs, financial backing, trips to their time shares, hot dates with their celebrity friends) in order to win us over.
My British clinger insisted that I give her “my card,” like I had a professional waiter card that I handed out to people. “Give me your number then, we must meet up,” she insisted. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to spend my afternoon with a washed up trophy-wife, as she strolled her four kids down fifth avenue. It didn’t matter how many drinks she was buying. And besides, I knew very well that she had no intention of calling in the morning; she just wanted to collect numbers, like a Chelsea chorus-boy on a bender at Barracuda.
If I was a younger lad, this British lady would have certainly fooled me. I would have sent out dessert wine to their table, and removed the mandatory 20% gratuity on their party, in order to not insult them. Whatever.
Now I know better. Five years ago, in another city, I had a real stage-one clinger: the Heir to the Virgin Records empire. He was a total Playboy, with all his bunnies seated around him. And for some reason he loved me. He wanted to add me to his entourage, inviting me on his personal jet to cross the pond, that very night. It would be the Heir, me, and a lot of titties. Atleast, that’s what he was promising.
At one point he offered to pay my rent for six months, if I could answer a riddle. In return I was to comp the entire meal, if I could not answer the riddle. Of course, I declined the offer. Regardless, he buddied up to me, and was so determined to invert the master/servant relationship, that he insisted that I “ride” him piggy-back style, around the restaurant. I definitely did not think it was a good idea, but, seeing as his bill was over $8,000, my manager also insisted that I ride on his back, atleast until another bottle of Dom was sold.
By the end of the night my manager was perfectly fine with me giving up my post, and sitting down with him at the table to drink that bottle of Dom. Little did I know, that the night would end with me running out the restaurant door with an unsigned check in my hand, sprinting down a limousine through one, two, three lights, pounding on the limo door, and demanding a signature. How fabulous am I now?
No, no, no. Tonight I would not be fooled. Once the clinger had relinquished my arm, and I was able to deflect her drunken gaze, I added the twenty-percent gratuity. When I returned with the check and she demanded that I give her my number for our Sunday brunch date, I simply said, “Oh, I’d love to see you Sunday. Come in. I’ll be here. Working.”