A retired Vegas Showgirl walks into a bar…….

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Five women were huddled together in a booth over lemon water, iced tea and low calories lunch specials.  Gossip was the centripetal force behind their proximity.  The occasional peal of outrageous laughter might temporarily blow the five away and against their seatbacks until another juicy tidbit sucked them back in like an imploding 1950’s Vegas casino.
Nine of them were seated adjacently.  They were talking amongst themselves but kept one eye and half of their attention on the 5 women in the nearby booth.  The nine of them occupied two brewhouse tables pushed together that not only accommodated the nine of them but offered comfortable seating for 16: nine + five and then some.  One of the nine might have mentioned that to one of the five.  I watched several of the nine intermittently rise and cross the aisle to speak to the party of five.  Each time they were politely dismissed.
The table of nine was getting no where with the party of five so their actions became more brash and bold.  They talked louder and louder but despite the volume, could not attract the attention of the party of five.  There actions were demonstrative and wanting of attention from the ladies they hoped to go home with, but alas, they were invisible to the party of five.
The lack of acknowledgment from the five suddenly made me the unwanted center of attention.  The women were engrossed in their ‘girl time’ and I was to suffer the abuse from the neglected.  Requests for more drinks were made even though they didn’t need more than what was already in front of them.  Selfish tendencies surfaced quickly: they were rude and demanding and disruptive and they had no regard for my other tables or even others in the restaurant; they wanted my undivided attention because the five women had failed to give them theirs.
It was obvious the five women did not know of my abuse, if they did I’m sure it might have been reflected in my tip.  No, they were aware of nothing but the sisterhood that held them together.  Nothing came between them: not even their nine children they were supposed to sit with but opted not to.


There are two types of people in the world: 
    People who will pick at their plate,
        even though they have had enough,
            and are no longer hungry,
                but perhaps feel a bit of guilt because those cold fries are going to waste,
                    and there are starving children in China,
    So with cat-like movements they continously extend an arm,
        to snatch a cold fry,
            or a lonely slice of pickle,
                or pick at the edible garnish
                    just because the plate still sits in front of them.
Then there are
    People who are specifically women in their early 20’s,
         who dine together,
            and have an unspoken contest,
                to see who can eat the least amount of food on their plate. 
    To go boxes? Never!
I’m in the first group.

Turning Around

My last party for the night was seated at 11:20pm.  Well, part of the party was there anyway; the other three I was told, were on there way.  They eventually filed in sometime before 11:30.  At 11:40 I had everyone paired up with their rightful cocktails and had just sent off their food order via computer terminal.  Ten minutes later I placed their main courses in front of them and simultaneously announced, “The kitchen is closing in ten minutes, is there anything else you might need?”  I marched to the back of house and began my server closing duties. 
I was finally able to clock out early the next day.  Okay, only 30 minutes into the next day but still.  I pulled into my garage just before 1:00am.  Claude pushed through the cat door and greeted me as he does nightly: by leaping atop of my car and headbutting me from the convertable rooftop.  I affectionately scrubbed his furry ears and gathered him up along with my apron.  I walked into the house with a mission: to wind down as quickly as possible.  I had just closed the brewhouse and I had only so many hours before I had to turn around and open it.
It’s ironic.  I clocked back in the same day I previously clocked out, and I prepared to undo all the work I did to close the restaurant.  Or perhaps saying, I did all the things I undid the night before would be more accurate.  I stripped the protective plastic wrap from the drinking straw holders and spoon containers I careful covered just hours earlier.  I reassembled all the components of the soda machine I took apart and had cleaned.  I refilled the empty sugar caddies I previously emptied.  I rebuilt the salad station I broke down.
I am well aware that the main reason everything is covered with plastic wrap or stored away or broken apart is for cleaning purposes.  We clean what we can and what we do not is cleaned by another company that shows up after the brewhouse regulars are long gone for the night. 
I am less accepting of that reason after only four hours of sleep.

Calling Dr. Lagasse

After hanging around a cold garage waiting for my car’s diagnostic check, I caught quite a chill.  I self medicated with teas and vitamin C and zinc the moment I felt the first tickle in my throat.  I was able to dodge the flu season bullet, but with a compromised immune system and job that requires lots and lots of verbal communication I now sound like Kathleen Turner.
“I’m not really bad, I’m just drawn that way.”
It’s sexy but because I work around objects that people put into their mouths I at least want to sound as healthy as I feel.
I found this recipe from Emeril Lagasse’s.  I bought all the ingredients tonight.  Tomorrow I will sleep late and then I will make soup before my dinner shift at the brewhouse.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
Adapted from Dr. E.’s Get-Well Chicken Vegetable Soup from Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking
One of my good friends in New Orleans is Derby Gisclair, one of the last true gentle men in the world.  One day Derby’s wife, Claire, called to cancel their dinner reservation because Derby wasn’t feeling well.  What does a friend do at a time like this?  I whipped up a batch of double strength chicken soup and sent it to the Gisclairs, with instructions from “Dr. E.” to bring the soup to a boil and eat it as hot as possible.  The next day showed up for lunch at the restaurant, fit as a fiddle.  Well, word got around, friends and relatives were putting in orders for “The Cure,” and soon I realized these people weren’t even sick.  Good thing; I didn’t want to get busted for practicing medicine without a license.
You’ll enjoy this soup even if you’re not ailing, but when you prepare it, freeze a couple individual portions, just in case.  One more hint: This is better if it’s made a day ahead and reheated.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs chicken meat, diced
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 turns freshly ground pepper
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon (altogether) creole seasonings such as paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder
pinch dried thyme
pinch dried oregano
2 cups assorted chopped vegetables such as green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage
1 cup torn spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 quarts chicken stock
2 cups cooked noodles
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over high heat.  When the oil is hot add chicken, salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes or meat browns.  Add the onion, celery, carrots, green onions, garlic, parsley, basil, bay leaves and creole seasonings and saute, stirring once or twice for about four minutes.  Add the chopped vegetables, spinach and crushed red pepper and saute for 1 minute.
Add the stock to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes.  Add the noodles, bring back to boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Unless you’re too ill to wait, the soup will taste even better if you refrigerate it overnight.  The next day, remove and discard any congealed fat on the top  and reheat the soup over medium-low heat. 

Gimme an “H”!

A man was sporting a football jersey of a team that did rather well in Sunday’s playoff games.  As he was leaving the brewhouse I congratulated him and said I believed his team could be the next Superbowl champs.
He said he was less concerned with the Superbowl and more concerned about next week’s championship game because his favorite team was playing his least favorite team.  For added emphasis he said, “I’d rather have a sister in a whorehouse, than ‘that’ team playing in the Superbowl”.
I was a little taken aback.  Not so much by the phrase but rather how comfortable he was to use it in front of a complete stranger, a female one at that.  A female that could possibly be a mom or maybe someone’s sister. 
I didn’t laugh it off.  I didn’t want him thinking I found him charming and thus encourage him to use the phrase again.  I said politely with a genuine smile, “I can appreciate your loyalty, though I can’t necessarily say the same for the language”.
“Why, are you a fan of ‘that team’?”
“Oh, do you mean the “H” word?  Sorry.”
Blogger’s note:  All quotes have been paraphrased to protect the identity of the sports teams in question.  Fans of ‘that other’ city should not be made to look idiots just because this guy made himself look like one.

Dream State

Yesterday around 5 am I needed to bring a table that was eating beef stew and drinking a Newcastle-like-beer, another Newcastle-like-beer.  I was distracted when a cat brushed up against me.  The cat made me realize that my bedroom curtains were not fully shut and that I needed to pee.  I immediately fixed the curtains on my way to the toilet.   
The brewhouse does not serve beef stew nor is it operational at 5am.  I was dreaming about work.  Again.
I hate waitressing dreams.  They are far worse than the performance dreams.
Many moons ago when I was regularly employed by the Las Vegas entertainment industry, I would have performance nightmares.  I would be at  the show and just as I would hear the first notes of my musical intro, I realize I am standing in the back row of the audience out of costume.  The dream is horrible and awful and despite my efforts to rectify all that is wrong, I fail. 
I would wake upset because I was passionate about the job.
Waitressing dreams are a completely different type of nightmare.  Someone needs a diet coke refill, someone received the wrong meal, and I have to oversee the service of 20 tables though the only table I’m able to visit is the one eating the entree we don’t actually serve.
I wake, upset because I realize I’m loosing sleep over a job I’m not passionate about. 
The brewhouse is a difficult place to work during my waking hours and instead of relaxing during my time outside the workplace, I am forced to relive all the horrible aspects of it in my dreams.  
I lay back down and a cat settles down atop of me.  I remind myself somewhere between barely awake and peripheral dream state that I am not needed at the brewhouse until my next dinner shift and that I should just try to get another solid 4 hours of heavy, healing, relaxing sleep.  That thought is fleeting however.  I am distracted by the table with the beef stew, they are demanding their Newcastle-like-beer.

The Rise and Fall

A few months back I was reprimanded for a server technicality: a lunch check should have sitting on the table two minutes after the guests received their meal and it was not.

 I admit I was at fault, afterall I did not put it there. My manager said the guests were looking around for me waiting to leave and could not pay. The check instead was preset in my apron pocket waiting for the luncheon guests approval and nod that signifies the end of their dining experience.  I was stuck in the back of the kitchen for longer than I wanted putting out a small fire, a metaphoric one.  Despite the unexpected flames, I should not have made my guests wait to pay while I rectified a problem for another guest.  My manager was right, the check should have been on the table, but am still not a fan of esuggesting payment when the guest is only two bites into their meal.

 I have always worked in establishments that do not want to ‘turn and burn’ instead they want the guest to languish over a good steak and a beautifully paired cabernet.  I became especially wary of early check dropping when them same practice happened to myself and a date.  The check hit the table before our plates were cleared and my date  felt rushed.  I’ll never forget his reaction.  It was, “Well, that tip just got lower.”

Since I was ‘called to the linoleum’ about the late check presentation I have thought about the matter from both sides. Why should I feel guilty for an ‘upfront’ payment?  Grocery stores don’t wait for the food one carries out of stores to be consumed before the request for financial compensation. Music concerts and theatrical performances do not have patrons pay as they exit the theatre. Dining and haircuts are alone is that category.

I have come to terms with the fact that I am not able to find employment at a higher end restaurant at this time. Vegas is still crawling out of the recession much slower than older cities. I work for an establishment that offers cheap lunch specials thus the main reason to get them in and get them out.  I can’t be insulting too many guests with cheap behavior if they frequent an establishment for a cheap meal.

I was mid lunch rush.  I had a tray of drinks for my table in one hand and an appetizer for another in the other.  I just starting to pass by table 501 when my manager stopped me in my tracks and asked, “Do you have table 501’s check?” His lower jaw was so tense I could have cracked walnuts in it. He was a deeper shade of red than normal, between embarrassment and day at the beach without sunscreen.

 “Yes, it’s in my apron,” I said. The only reason steam did not come out of his ears was because we were both directly in front of my table.  He took the appetizer plate from me so I could pull the bill from my apron pocket and hand it to him.  I was initially uncertain as to why he was so distressed.  Then I realized.  While I was in the kitchen, he probably walked by my table 501.  He noticed they were done with there meal and had no awaiting check presenter.  He might have even asked my table if they needed anything else and if so I am certain the table answered, “We’re just waiting for the check.”  A common answer.  It is alot easier to say that than, “we’re just waiting for our credit card to be accepted.” which it was.

 “Yes, it’s in my apron,” I said, “It’s just been processed”. he opened the check presenter I handed him to see the check, the visa card, and the receipts waiting to be signed.  His face resumed it’s normal color and his jaw muscles relaxed a bit.  He had thought I had ignored his demand to drop the check early, I had not.  The check had been sitting on the table two minutes after they received their meal and sat atop the table until they wedged a credit card between the folds.

 As he delivered the check and visa card to it’s rightful owners I thought about how many times a day my manager gets upset; over things that go wrong or things he believes have more likely than not go wrong.

 I hope he exercises regularly and abstains from artery clogging cheeses.