Sometimes, when a day starts out perfectly, I should take it as a harbinger of irritation soon to come. And I mean irritation worthy of a serious wrist slashing.
Before going to work yesterday I stopped off at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore where I purchased the screamingly hilarious “The Alphabet of Manliness” and a terrific book on the making of 2001: A SPACE ODDYSSEY, after which I found two HERCULOIDS toys that I had been searching for for the past three years in a seventh avenue comic book shop for about fifty dollars less than they would have cost on eBay. Plus, they had a sale on horror DVDs — I picked up the much beloved MOTHER’S DAY — and I also snagged a black t-shirt with a pentagram on it that read “Blessed Be.” A good start to the day, no?
So I get to the restaurant around 1:30 PM, changed into my new shirt, and found my boss and Jeff the bartender entertaining two of our regulars; one of these guys is a sixty-year-old, nearly homeless neighborhood rummy, while the other is a guy of a little more than half his age who has an almost superhuman capacity for dumping alcohol into his system for hours on end. The younger guy had been in during the previous night and was quite visibly soused by the time that I left, and here he was again, already pretty bombed because, by his own admission, he had begun drinking again at 9AM. No big deal really, since he’s a very nice guy, but he was a bit more fubar — “fucked up beyond all recognition” — than usual and he kept traveling back and forth between our bar and that of the chic, newer eatery next door.
After about an hour or so of this he staggered back in from the torrential rain outside, only minus his shoes. Clutching a Budweiser in hand, he attempted to engage me in conversation, but I stopped him dead and told him that he had to go get his shoes. “But, they’re next doooooor, “ he whined drunkenly, like a petulant four-year-old. Nonetheless, I told him to go and get his footwear, after which he wobbled out and headed next door.
About ten minutes later he returned, still without shoes, and as he was about to retake his seat at the bar I stuck my head out of the kitchen and demanded in no uncertain terms that he get off his ass and get his goddamned shoes or else I would personally eject him from the premises. He pulled a face that reminded me of a scolded puppy, picked up his beer and attempted to enter the kitchen in an attempt to get me to let him stay at the bar, his unshod, stinking feet proudly nekkid. Needless to say, I wasn’t having it, him barefoot in a restaurant, to say nothing of him having the nerve, drunk or not, to attempt to enter the kitchen with bare wet feet.
“Aw, c’mon, Bunche, my shoes are next door” he said again, but I cut him off and told him that I didn’t care if his shoes were on the fucking moon; this was a restaurant, and while he may have been perfectly comfortable, the department of health would definitely take issue with his lack of footwear and hit us with a stiff fine, so unless he was willing to fork over his hard-earned shekels to cover it, he’d better get moving. My point finally penetrated his booze-addled brain, and he soon returned, sandals and all, after which all was well.
Before I arrived yesterday, Jeff the bartender fielded a call from an annoying woman who wanted to know if we had any drink specials going, and she subsequently had Jeff go through our entire drink menu and explain in detail exactly what was what. This particular annoying bit of customer behavior usually happens regarding the kitchen menu, so to those of you who seek to grill us in detail, please check out the website or I will fucking kill you.
Anyway, a couple soon showed up and took up residence at the bar; the pair consisted of a blonde guy with a ponytail, and a somewhat Rubenesque redhead in a black t-shirt depicting an apple core that read “Hard Core.” I thought nothing of them since they were innocuous at first glance, but then the woman began playing with the precocious son of a pair of our regulars.
At this point I would like to clearly state my position on children in restaurants once and for all: kids are for the most part not responsible for their behavior, their parents or guardians are, and they had fucking well better be on the ball enough to keep their little darlings from hurting themselves, causing damage to the restaurant, and/or annoying the other patrons (and assorted bartenders, wait staff or mocha kitchen despots). We constantly get kids at the place and for the most part they are quite well behaved and even genuinely charming — a big shout out to my man, Pascha!!! — but those kids are a reflection of the parenting provided to them. When kids get out of hand, they drive me mad and I want to kick the living shit out of their uncaring progenitors — a big “I hope you die!!!” to Dickhead Dad and his horrid spawn.
Anyway, I soon noticed the Rubenesque woman attempting to keep the child of the regulars entertained; bear in mind that she had previously never met this family before, and her overeager interest in the boy would have set off some alarms in my head if I were his folks. The lady proceeded to teach the kid the art of taking the wrappers off of the bar straws and firing them as missiles, essentially training the lad in the skill of peashooters and spitballs.
The two of them ran around the whole restaurant, hiding behind furniture and firing round after round at one another, and fortunately there were very few other customers in the place at the time, because the woman was encouraging the kid to treat the place like a playground, and his parents did nothing to curtail this behavior. If it had been me doing this as a child, my parents would have taken me away from the chick and given me a stern warning at the very least, but then that’s old school black parenting for you…
As this went on, I silently grew more and more irritated by these shenanigans, a fact noted by the kid’s dad who announced that it was time to stop shooting the paper missiles. Undeterred by the father’s ruling, the woman stopped the kid and told him that they would now play “soap bubbles,” and then instructed him to go into the bathroom and take our bottles of soap outside so they could play with them.
That’s when I said, “No.”
The woman looked at me like I’d just kicked her in the box and stammered, “No? Whaddaya mean, ‘No?’” I politely — I have witnesses! — explained to her that her peashooter stunt was already a bit much, but it was not cool for her to take our bathroom supplies outside for the kid to use as a toy. And then I stated that this was a restaurant, not Chuck E. Cheese. NOTE: for my foreign readers, Chuck E. Cheese is a chain of pizza joints aimed at kids, wherein kids are allowed to pretty much run rampant, and every parent I know who has ever been to one describes it as not too far off from being the ninth circle of Hell. Let it suffice to say that it is offensive to treat an actual sit-down eatery in such a fashion, and, once again, I ain’t having it.
The woman attempted to sway me, but when the kid looked at her and said, “I don’t think I want to do this,” she sat back down with a look on her face like she could not comprehend why I had put a stop to her fun.
I soon ended up in the kitchen filling orders with my kitchen mate, Scott, when the woman suddenly stuck her head in the doorway and asked if she could speak to me. I said sure, and she bluntly told me, “You said some very hurtful things, and I figured since you were wearing that shirt, you’d be okay. I was just trying to keep a child entertained.” I responded with the fact that this was a restaurant and not a playground, but she didn’t get it and countered with, “It’s not fair to bring kids to a restaurant! I was just trying to keep him entertained! I lost two children!!! Is that just a cool shirt to you, or do you believe in it?”
Great, just what I needed to deal with: a delusional Wiccan chick, unbalanced by the loss of her kids.
I took a deep breath, found my inner “Happy Place,” and told her that I am a non-Christian pantheist and I wouldn’t wear it if I didn’t believe in it — hey, even when rocking a Superman shirt I believe in what it stands for, goddammit!! —, but that had nothing to do with my coming down on her. She kept trying to interrupt me, but I firmly and flatly stated that I was sorry if she couldn’t understand my objection to her behavior, but the bottom line was that the restaurant was a place of business and not a Gymboree. She turned away in huff and blurted, “Well then, you shouldn’t be wearing the shirt.” It took every ounce of restraint that I could muster to not add, “And you should try living in the real world for a while, you fucking wacko!” She then rejoined her long-ignored pony tailed companion and began a litany about what an insensitive asshole I was, which prompted her date to say, “No, he was right.” She obviously didn’t like that, and the two of them commenced to loudly fight for the next two hours, in between her going in and out of the joint to yack on her omnipresent cell phone.
When I finished taking orders, I sat down at the bar and attempted to read one of my new books, but I found myself paying attention to the loony woman’s arguments and phone conversations, all of which revealed a squirrelly, barely-contained insanity; apparently she had called a few friends to tell them about the ogre in the kitchen, and every one of them basically called her out for her idiotic actions. Then she started a conversation with a friend that I would have loved to hear in its entirety because of the moment when she told the person on the other end of the line, “Well, it’s not like I NEED to embezzle money anymore!” What the fuck???
During all of this, her date got more and more exasperated, taking many ciggie breaks on his own, during one of which the loony woman approached Jeff while furtively looking around and asked him, “Do you have a back door?” Jeff looked at her like she had grown a second head and told her, “No,” to which she asked, “Are you sure?” Jeff assured her that we had no back door, but not one to be daunted, the woman inquired about — I swear to God — a basement exit or a window she could crawl out of so she could ditch her date. When told that she was shit out of luck for her brilliant escape plan, she hid to one side of the front door, and when her date walked back in and didn’t see her, she did a runner. The surprised date scratched his head when he realized that she had split, but was relieved to find out that she had paid the check in full.
After that, the rest of the day settled into the relative normalcy of a typical night at the barbecue joint, and I put away the razor sharp hawk’s beak knife, having thought better of slashing my wrists out of sheer aggravation.