Monday, April 30, 2007

check please!!!

As a waitress, there are a myriad of ways that I communicate with my tables that are as reliant upon body language as they are upon actual words. When I'm trying to take an order, for example, and have no idea what the customers at table 51 are actually saying to me due to the explosive horns in the salsa song blaring from the speakers right above us. Or when any sound made at a normal decible is rendered inaudible by the jubilant shrieks of the ten girls at table 20, as they pass the porron and spill cava everywhere in honor of "Kelly's Birthday

These are instances when I find myself reading lips, wiggling my eyebrows up and down a lot, and nodding or shaking my head emphatically at my customers to determine what they need and how to best provide it for them. My brainy roommate Marissa, who studies international cultural relations, calls this "nonverbal gesture based communication." I call it silly, and I feel silly participating in it. I mean, imagine if all you normal desk-job people suddenly found yourselves pretending to type at an imaginary keyboard every time you told someone you'd email them? I bet you'd feel pretty silly, wouldn't you?

My favorite silly restaurant gesture is the universal symbol for "check, please!" You know, the one where people pretend to be holding a pen in one hand, and wiggle it up and down ever so slightly as they simultaneously move it from left to right. I can only guess that these people are pretending to write something in invisible ink with a fake pen on the air in front of them when they make this gesture...but really, when I think about it, I can't be sure. I mean, what is that? What exactly are you doing when you make the universal symbol for check?

Are you pretending, quite literally, to sign an invisible check? Why would that make any sense in a country where people rarely accept personal checks for any form of payment anymore, especially in food service establishments?

Are you mimicking the signature you will leave on your credit card slip after I swipe your AmEx? Okay, but how can that makes sense, when I'm fairly certain this gesture pre-dates the ubiquity of credit card machines in all retail establishments?

Or are you literally pretending to draw an invisible check mark on the sky, one short mark down followed by a swift, long mark up? This is my favorite theory, as it is absolutely absurd.

I have seen people from all over the world request the check like this, French, American, East Asian, Italian, in both America and in Italy. Somehow, everyone in the world seems to know that this is how to get your waitress to bring you the bill. But why?

And if you're like me, do you ever catch yourself in the midst of making this gesture--or as is more often the case, for me, responding to this gesture--and feel totally and utterly ridiculous?

If you don't, you should. And you should laugh about it. Out loud. No matter who accompanies you at the table.

And, fellow waitresses, next time you have a really annoying customer, someone you've really hated having to wait on, who has chapped your ass all night long request the check from you this way, I encourage you to think twice about this body language and smile. Because no matter how much power this person has yielded over your mood for the duration of his dinner, no matter how rude, or picky, or patronizing this person has been to you, right now he is asking you for his check, and he is doing so by drawing an enormous, invisible check mark in the air, for al the world to see. And there is no way for him to not look just plain silly in this moment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I miss my goldie locks

For several weeks, the brunette thing has really had me going. I've enjoyed my dark haired status and have really gown into the role of the brunette--an intelligent, sultry, slightly more intimidating, no bullshit brown-haired version of myself.

But now, with 80 degree days upon us, my brown hair feels out of place on top of my head. This weekend, the Mathematician and I took a special trip to Newport, where we sat in the sun on a patio enjoying seafood & bloody mary's, made out on the beach we visited on our first date, and had a curious dinner at the most peculiar yet enchanting restaurant in Newport, Elizabeth's Cafe on Thames Street. The weather was glorious, the day was perfect, and I couldn't have ordered up a more perfect Saturday. There was just one small problem: I didn't feel entirely myself, and it was entirely because I am a brunette.

As a blondie I felt natural in the sun. Long before I started this bleaching business, I looked forward to the natural bleaching effect of sunlight on my brunette hair. Long summer days spent lounging at the beach always cooked my locks up to a lovely golden hue, and a week on vacation usually left me with at least a few wispy streaks of real, live, naturally blonde hair. As a brunette now, in the midst of all the sunshine, and the sparkling preview of warm summer weather, I felt strange.

We stole a few moments in the shade while waiting for a table for lunch. The Mathematician looked at a map and tried to determine how we should be spend our day, while I sat and stared wordlessly at myself in the tiny compact mirror that I carry in my purse. A brunette woman stared back at me in that tiny little square of mirror. Her skin looked paler than usual, and the small wrinkles that have begun to crease the space between her eyebrows and her nose more pronounced.

I've come to love and accept that brunette since my initial deblonding in December, and I appreciate everything she has offered me since that fateful day. She has allowed me to be such a different woman than I was as a blonde, and I am forever grateful to her for showing me the vastly different ways that I could be me with just a deeper shade of brown. But as I stared in that tiny little compact mirror, I knew--the brunette looking back at me wasn't the real me.

It is official. I want my blonde locks back.

Monday, April 16, 2007

my big, gay mistake

I live in the South End, a.k.a. Boston's gayborhood (though, as the hilarious SouthEnder attests and I agree, it's rapidly becoming the pretentious-yuppie-borhood...but, what can you do?) I've lived here for a while now, and have worked in restaurants here for even longer, which means that here in the gayborhood, I feel quite at home. The gayness of it all is, by now, intricately woven into the fabric of my daily life. As such, I have developed a problematic habit:

I tend to automatically assume that all the men that I meet are gay. Period. And I am especially apt to assume this with men that I meet in the South End.

This has come back to bite me in the ass on several occasions, and it is always embarrassing. How exactly are you supposed to hide your shock when you learn that the harmless Mary who you thought loved you for your great fashion sense actually loves you for your body? How are you supposed to respond when he asks you for your phone number and whether you'd like to have dinner sometime? No matter how hard I try, I still can't think of a polite way to say, "I'm afraid I've given you the wrong idea. I thought you were gay. I was confused by the Dolce & Gabanna belt and the Gaultier cologne. Are you sure you aren't gay? I seem to have made a big, gay mistake."

I made a big, gay mistake at my waitressing job on Friday night. Now, before I even started working at Toro I understood that the crowd there was mostly straight, comprised for the most part of folks from the Back Bay or Weston or Newton who've come to the trendy South End to dine, or new-to-the-neighborhood Megans and Seans (to borrow a catchphrase from the SouthEnder) who recently relocated to the neighborhood because of it's trendy, artsy appeal. However, as with any metropolitan restaurant environment, the crowd is sufficiently mixed at Toro that I still wait on my share fair of gays each week. I am always relieved when they sit gay men in my section--it makes me feel right at home, and brings me back to my days as a waitress at Tremont 647/Sister Sorrel.

So, Friday night, around 10 o'clock, a very attractive guy and girl about my age sit in my section. They are friendly, cool, and well dressed in the casual version of designer clothes (the just-going-out-for-a-quick-bite-Diesels, not the I'm-going-to-dance-my-ass-off-at-Rise ones). The guy in particular is very well mannered and gentlemanly, and takes control of ordering and figuring out the very large menu for his female guest. As usual, I instantly assume, that he is gay, and imagine that he's out for dinner and to catch up with his best, girlfriend, who is pretty and fabulous and fun to shop with. Plus, he looks kind of familiar to me...maybe I used to wait on him at Sister Sorrel? In any case, the table orders fairly well, which indicates that they know something about food and that always makes me happy, and when they finish their cocktails, they share a very nice, delicious, and expensive bottle of wine that he picks out all by himself. I am charmed to see them treating themselves on their night out together, and think the girl is very lucky to have such a wonderful gay boyfriend to dine with when she's sick of her real boyfriend.

After their table has been cleared, I walk over to drop dessert menus and to pour off their wine. I have no intention of actually engaging my customers at this time, and am staring off into space like some sort of waitron-zombie as I pour for them. I am busy thinking about how hungry I am, how I wish this night would end already since I've been up since 6 a.m., and about the new play I am promoting, CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY, which opens next week. Suddenly I realize the girl is talking to me: "I mean, what do you think about that?" she asks, sharply.

"Um, I'm sorry," I snap to attention. "What was the question?"

"What do you think about someone checking their blackberry every five seconds when you're out with them? When it's not for work, I mean? Don't you think that's just...rude???"

"Oh yeah, terrible," I say, without missing a beat. "I HATE that. Seriously. It's rude."

"I mean, how am I supposed to feel? You're sitting there, trying to have a nice dinner with your boyfriend, and every five seconds, he's typing away..."

"Ech, I'd be pissed!" I say. "I'd be SO pissed. I just think it's inappropriate behavior for the dinner table. In my house, dinner hour was a time you respected. There was no TV, no phone calls. I absolutely hate bad cell phone ettiquette! I think it's just plain rude. You know?" I say, turning to the gay friend. I expect to find him nodding, ready to chime in and say something affirmative & positive about his best girl friend, possibly that she deserves better from any man that is lucky enough to get to take her on a date...but he just looks up at me, sheepishly.

"Oh GOD," I say, "Is that you???" He just smiles a very uncomfortable, very sheepish smile. No, I think, It can't be you. You're her GAY boyfriend. She's talking about her straight boyfriend. But he is speechless, glancing back and forth between the two of us, wild-eyed, as though he fears he is about to be attacked from on all sides by an army of slighted, irritated girlfriends. Uh-oh. She is talking about him.

"I just feel totally overwhelmed by communication sometimes," I mumble, a feeble attempt at deflecting her anger, and restoring the neutrality of the conversation. The couple just stares at me, and I take this as my cue to walk away.

OOOOPS. He is NOT her gay boyfriend, he is her for real boyfriend. And now she is pissed, and I only made things worse. I can hear her going off on a rant, on a tirade even as I slink away, back towards the bathrooms, then run to the kitchen to hide. Oh man, did I just throw that guy under the bus.

I consider my situation for a moment from the safety of the kitchen. I'd love to try to right things for this lovely couple whom I've enjoyed waiting on so much. But what can I say? "I'm so sorry for the mix-up, sir! I really thought you were gay!" or "Sweetie, when you were complaining about your boyfriend, I didn't know you were referring to this guy, right here! He's gay! Let the blackberry thing go, honey, you've got bigger fish to fry!!!"

So, basically, I stayed as far away from that table as possible for the remainder of their dinner. And really, I felt awful. The gay-seeming-straight was such a nice guy: he obviously had money, but was not a pretentious prick about it like so many guys who have money. He was a real pleasure to have in my section, and their bill was fairly high for two-top. And in the end, he still left me a really big tip, despite the fact that I so obviously fanned the flames of his girlfriend's anger, and that there was no way he'd be let off the hook for this tonight. I even saw the poor girl wiping tears from the corners of her eyes as she left the restaurant!!! It just sucked. I wanted to give her a big hug, and tell her that I agreed with her and that it was wrong of her boyfriend to make her feel unappreciated by checking his blackberry every five minutes during their dinner, but that I was also pretty sure that he is a good guy who didn't mean to hurt her, and that it is obvious that he loves her very much...

Even if he is a little bit gay.

Monday, April 09, 2007

flattery will get you everywhere...

Today, I discovered thru technorati that my blog had been reviewed on somebody else's blog--and favorably, no less!

I was frightened when I first found the link, fearing that it might contain more hateful drivel a la the scary Aryan nation comments posted to my poor, defenseless little blonde blog by that Blond from Birth lady. But actually, it's a very well rendered, complimentary review. For anyone who wants to check it out:

Chick on the Road reviews Undercover Blonde

And Happy Monday to you all, too!