Tag Archives: New Yorker

The Dragon Lady [PartI]

8 Oct

“Jamie? Sammy? Daaaaaaaavid? Where IS everybody? I’m here!”

Our most infamous regular had arrived. It was only 4:30pm,  the restaurant was empty. And I was the only person on the floor. It was just me, The Dragon Lady, and the bruised shadow of her Ego, secretly hiding in the dark folds of her waist-length black hair. 

“Where is everybody?,” The Dragon Lady asked again, this time with suspicion. The creature in her hair was already roused, assessing the threat, ready to attack.

I waited on Nikki, The Dragon Lady, for the first time on October 8th, 2008.  I was at my old restaurant then, a small french bistro on the Upper East Side.  Nikki struck me as so eccentric, that I held onto the waiter-pad from that night (I was thinking about TheInsideWaiter blog even then), and I wrote about her in my journal, the whole train ride home. 

The first thing I noted about Nikki was her delicious voice. She spoke like a queen, with heightened speech, and long sung vowels.  Her voice was more than “affected,” it was effective, making even the most stubborn waiter hinge at his waist. 

The Dragon Lady was a modern regal, a stunning, petite woman of  ambiguous Asian descent, and the Ex-wife to a famous New York restaurateur and club-owner. She was highly educated, and yet, there was something just plain cow-town American about her, especially when she said things like, “Awwww’ come on!,” and, “gimme’ a break!”  

Sonny, our most senior server, once told me the story of the afternoon Nikki earned her celebrated alias, The Dragon Lady.  Nikki was one sexual cat, a cougar one might say. In the summer, Nikki’s idea of “Sunday Best” was a coral silk negligee with bamboo print, that she proudly wore, without underwear, to our bistro’s brunch, every Sunday.  Nikki loved to bring her one night stands with her, usually younger men, and make-out with her Johns on the patio, after being emboldened by a few bottles of Peirre Jouet.       

One afternoon when Sonny was waiting on her outside, and her John was in the W.C., she asked Sonny, “Hey Sonny, What do you think of Brazilians?” Sonny didn’t quite understand what she meant, until she uncrossed her legs and opened her silk negligee, and said once more, “Now… what do you think of Braaaaazilians?” And so The Dragon Lady was named (After a racist-sexist stereotype, perpetuated in film and on this blog). 

Sonny once warned me, “Waiting on her is like riding a wild Bull.  If you can ride her once, she’ll remember. But if you can’t ride her, she’ll remember.” Tonight I  intended to ride her for at least 8 seconds, if not for eight courses.

And I was well prepared. This was not my first encounter with the Dragon Lady. I had waited on her many times before, but only as the back-waiter to her favorite servers, the aforementioned Jamie, Sonny and Daaaaaavid (He was as pretty as his long “a’s” implied).

I knew what to expect: In the first place, she was an eater. Secondly, there would be many questions. And most importantly, The Dragon was as indecisive as she was decisive, and the process of ordering would probably take twenty minutes, if not half an hour (Fortunately I had no other tables);  and once the kitchen got the ticket, multiple changes to the order would be made throughout the night. Things were inevitably going to be sent back: “smudged” glassware, “dry” bread, “unsippable” cocktails,  “measly” mussels, “overdressed” caesar salads… you are getting the idea.

I escorted The Dragon to table,  Table 41, her corner-booth of choice. 

“Oh. Let’s try something in the sun this afternoon. I’m cold,” she said, before assuming her throne.

She was testing me already. I knew very well that she would move from “something in the sun” to her old table 41, in a matter of five minutes; but, let the games begin.

“So where is Sonny. Where’s Daaaaaaaaaavid?” she insisted again.

I explained for the third time, that her preferred waiter toys were “off tonight.”  I watched her trying to imagine Sonny in civilian clothing –without an apron– not anticipating her entrance into the bistro. She was clearly nervous to be taking risks with a newbie like myself, but not as disappointed (or nervous) as I was.   

Whatever; I’m hungry,” she said whimsically, pretending that it didn’t matter. “Oh, I haaaaaave to eat. I am FAMISHED. Just FAMISHED!,” and then she began laughing at herself, with those delicious low tones. “I have a new trainer. I can hardly moooove, but feel these abs, feeeeeeeel them. Go head. Feeeel them!,” she demanded.

“Just say NO,” right? Easier said than done.  It would have been more awkward not to touch her, than to touch her, so I petted the cat’s belly.

“Can you believe I’m forty-seven. Forty-seven! Aaaaaaaah!,” and she screamed like a party girl. “And I have five kids. FIVE. Feel that stomach.”

Nice. You have kids?,” I asked.

“Oh my god, yes, they are with him tonight. Thank God,” she said. “Do I want a cocktail? What do you think I want?”

She asked the most dangerous question a customer, let alone a Dragon, could ask: What-do-you-think-I-want? Ohhhh, She was bold, buttering me up like that with her abs, her kids, and then hitting me in the face with a question like that.

“Well— I hate these sweet cocktails. What would you get?,” she queried.

The time had come to ride the bull.

“Honestly, right now,” I said. “I’m craving a dirty, dry, Plymouth martini up.” I thought she’d never go for it, but hey, tell the truth.

“Oooh. I like how you said that! I’ve never had a gin martini. I must have one.”

Bombs were going off in my head. Never had a gin martin? She was a forty-seven-year-old Manhattan socialite, the divorcee of a prestigious bar owner. How could you avoid a gin martini?

“What does it taste like?,” she asked, now concerned by her hastiness.

My God, this was like asking, “what do eggs taste like? What does the sky taste like,” It tastes like eggs, the sky; but still, I tried to muster up some description.

“Well, there’s definitely juniper berries, and herbaceous notes on the gin, with hint of pine. And… the olive juice adds a bit of saltiness? You have to try one.”

“If you think so,” she dared.

“Yes, lets,” I countered. She smiled at my boldness. I turned to place the drink order, before she stopped me.

“What’s your name?,” she asked with a smirk.

“TheInsideWaiter,” I said.

“Well InsideWaiter,” she said, “Do you happen to know what TIPS stand for?”

“Uuuugh— no,” I said.

“To-Insure-Proper-Service. TIPSsssssssss,” and she slid a tightly folded piece of paper into my hand, while looking directly into my eyes.

Indeed, she was a dragon. In the server station, I opened my hand and unfolded the bills. That’s why Sonny was so protective of her, that’s why he worked himself into conniptions over her entrees; he was just insuring proper service. By the end of this dinner date, I would insure that she was my regular, not for the money, but for the material . . . [Pt.2]

 

 

 

The Devil Under Table “4”

12 Sep

Call me superstitious, but sometimes tables just can’t shake-off the bad energy, of the last pair who sat there. 

Certain  tables, on the right nights, that are just plain liabilities. In my restaurant for example, table “25”  is called “The Devil’s Lair,” some call it “The Arm Pit.” And on Satuday nights, “25”  is infamous for unruly parties (i.e. A group of projectile vomiting women, and most recently, Spaniards.)

This evening I’m in section 5, which is three deuces, a five top and an eight top.  It’s an easy section, but I’m concerned about  Table “4.”  You see, I’ve noticed that  Table “4”  is turning into one of those tables like “25,” that seems to  attract one shipwreck of New Yorker negativity after another.

Enter my first couple, Bitch Number One and her little balding-dog-of-a-man (We’ll call him Roni).  Bitch Number One had every idea, but no idea, about what she wanted to drink. She had similar ideas about what to wear. Roni had no idea, at all.

Let the scene begin:

“A cocktail, but I hate bubbles, the fizz you know. And I like sweet, but not too sweet… (She asks Roni  what she should drink in her native tongue -perhaps Russian-, he suggests something, and she, happy that he falls for this trap of confidence, belittles him for even thinking she might drink such a liqueur.) I don’t know. What do you think?”

Now, I wish I didn’t have to fall for the trap like Roni, because I know she’s not going to pick anything I mention; she will undoubtedly remember some drink she used to order in the nineties, but still, I must play, for it is my job. I must wait.

-Perhaps a vodka gimlet up?

-What’s that?

-Lime juice, vodka…

-No vodka. Ew!

Ah yes, so it begins, the long road to nothing. Time is of the essence. There are drinks to be run, orders to be taken, and I cannot forget the candle on that birthday cake, table thirty-four, seat three, the underage girl with unruly hair. And here comes the hostess , scouting out new territory. She spies my empty section, with hungry eyes to report back to the Maitre D’. It’s just a matter of time before she will navigate a school of people through the dining room, to colonize my entire section. One table at a time.

Bitch Number One must decide. Decide Bitch, decide. But no, it’s not about her decision. It’s about the charade of deciding.  She has no other profession or joy in life, but to decide; and she decides like a pro: the scalloped edge or the smooth… the turquoise or the teal… Cherry Hill or Upstate?  There must be a satisfactory number of options offered before the game can end.

And so I desperately throw suggestions in the air, until the quota is met.

-Uhm. What about a mojito without soda water?

-What is that?

-It’s mint, lime, lite rum shaken…

-No mint. I can’t tolerate mint.

-A light glass of reisling, perhaps a pinot grigio?

-Nooooo. Nooooo. A red. Something good.

-I have a beautiful pinot noir by the glass from Oregon.

-Not california?

-Not by the glass, no.

-Welllll.

Throw me a bone bitchThrow me a bone. After seven minutes of performing “What Drink Am I?,” Bitch Number One settles on a Bellini, despite her vow against “the fizz.”

And Roni, gets a Heineken Light. I pour the Heineken Light table-side for Roni. He lets me pour it; he drinks it, and then tells me he would prefer it in the bottle.

-No problem.

I bring a new Heineken, and Bitch Number One asks if she can “move the table.”

-Can I move the table?

-Uhm, like, move it over?

-Can I move the table up there (she points to the second floor seating)?

-Oh. Unfortunately, no.

I say this with enough confidence that the issue is properly dropped. And I go without incident for the whole meal, order, apps and check back, until Roni gets to the last three bits of his filet-MediumWell. He flags me over, points to three small, cuts of filet on his plate, and asks if I can add some more heat to them. Well, what am I going to say?

No, sir. It’s impossible to grill three pieces of meat this small, as they will fall through the cracks on the grill, and if I bring these three pieces of meat back to the chef, in the heat of service at 9pm, when he is trying to push out two hundred covers,  he is going to tell me to go fuck myself.

-No problem.

Fortunately chef said, “Fuck me! Fuck me!,” when he saw the three pieces of meat, and not, “Fuck you.” After the morsels were burnished brown, with a hand held blow torch from the pastry department, I ran them back to Roni, but neglected to bring him his original steak sauce.

-Where is the sauce? There is a sauce, no?

Roni found it highly amusing that I didn’t bring his sauce, it was as if I had poured wine on the table, without there being a glass to pour it into.

Hang on here. We both know the reason you are laughing at my alleged stupidity right now, is because you are uncomfortable that you just had me refire your dainty scraps of meat, and the bussers are looking at you for the fool that you are.

-Oh, I’m so sorry. Let me get that for you.

End scene.

Needless to say, there is difficulty turning this table –deliberations over desert, sent back espressos, and continued requests to “move the table–; but, I make sure that within twelve minutes of Roni finishing his meat-morsels, the only hint of this man and his Bitch is a signed check, on table “4.”

Within seconds, the table is reset and the newly seated pair –two women– situate themselves.  I approach the thirty-somethings, who appear to be  dressed for a rehearsal of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Not the human part, the monster part.) And my deep suspicions about table “4” becoming a problem table are confirmed.

-Hello, ladies. How are you?

-Not so good, considering we waited half an hour for this shitty table.