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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

May I Clear Your Plate, Sir?

It was a black-pantsed and white-shirted Saturday evening.

“Honey! Honey! Could you grab me another plate from the back? I need a second salad plate.”

Could I? But of course! There are, after all, four of us working this room of 160 people. Who wouldn’t want to get you a second plate? People so often forget to fill up a second or third salad plate…

“Do not listen to this man,” the man sitting next to him says. He smiles at me, handsome with his black eyes and white teeth. “Do you speak Arabic?”

I admit that I do not.

A phrase using sounds not found in my own language rolls off his tongue. He says it again, perhaps hoping I will attempt it. Sadly, there is nothing for me to latch on to, no words I have heard before. I start laughing. Smiling, he translates: “He can stay at the table but he will not get a plate!”

Now there’s a phrase I could use in all languages.

Not that I mind running back to the kitchen for another plate, another fork. That’s what I’m paid for, and they are reasonable requests for the banquet hall of a church, after all, even if you require a second and third plate because you’ve used all the other crockery in order to offer those at your table plates of shrimp, of cheese and crackers, of grapes and strawberries.

Others may wish they had taken a few more shrimp, but not the folks at your table!

As an aside, do you know how hard it is not to pluck the succulent pink and white shrimp from those plates, how difficult it is to scrape them into the garbage pail back by the dishwasher? Almost as hard as it is not to run your finger along the edge of the dessert plate, where someone has scraped off the chocolate ganache…

Don’t think the dishwasher doesn’t see you eying those leftovers.

Michelle, the boss, is in the kitchen. “Hey, you ever talk to T anymore?”

“Sure. He’s working in a kitchen in Bradenton Beach, Florida now.”

“Next time you talk to him, tell him I’m gonna send him a picture of that bruschetta he asked for.”

“What’s that?”

“He wanted to see my bruschetta. Tell him I’ll send photos after work.”

Hmm. Photos of bruschetta? I think that may be code for something. Sounds dirty. But what are you gonna do? She’s the boss.

“I’ll let him know.”

It was a marathon of an evening, clearing tables and running from one end of the hall to the other and by the end of it, when your spine has been compressed and you are three inches shorter than you were when you started, when your legs are threatening to cede from the body union, and specifically, when there’s cash, what do you do?

You go out.

Time to relax.

Erin, Minh, and I went to the Spring for, and I quote, “a drink”.

And three women wearing the same outfit and a collective pony-tail-holder indent in their hair turned one drink into, um, five.

Envision, if you will:
Three women, after the second drink, flashing their “You been served, baby!” gang signs (the palms-up, invisible-drink-tray posture of the International Serving Class).
Three women, heads together, sharing alternately shouted and whispered stories of sex, fashion, intrigue, and politics.
Three women, solving the world’s problems and once again failing to take notes.
Three women, tipping heavily.

It was the night you hope you’ll have but cannot plan for: we came, we saw, and in the words of Erin: We killed it, man; we really killed it.

You been served, baby.


savannah said...

you got grit, sugar! xoxox

Pearl said...

I got an aching back, too! :-) ... and cash...

Simply Suthern said...

Tis the season for serving I spose. .... and cash... LOL

My side work is in a little building all alone cranking handles and making chips all weekend. It does make the ole dogs bark.

You are a tough ole girl.

Pearl said...

Aw, thanks, Simply! I was raised to be a contributor to society.

Oilfield Trash said...

Beer and a hot bath often helps my bad back.

Eva Gallant said...

Glad you were able to let loose and relax!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Love those gang signs. How big is that gang during this season, do you think? Could ya take on the rival cookers gang? "Rumble at 11 in da back alley-bring yer trays-they'll have da spatulas-watch out for der cookin forks!"
Maybe there is a gang task force to fight that societal menace......
You just get my creative mind going-thanks!
And put your feet up, please!

Douglas said...

I want to know which stories were shouted and which were whispered. And then I want details on the whispered ones.

Roses said...

My feet ache with the memory of waitressing and bar work.

So good you had an excellent evening after, even if none of you knew the difference between 1 and 5. :-)

The Vegetable Assassin said...

"He wants to see my bruschetta" should be someone's email signature. It's gloriously dirty and quite cute at the same time. I may have to work it into today's conversation somewhere just for the hell of it. Hee!

And yeah, all that wasted succulent food you could be noshing on. Damn.

Chantel said...

So I'm collecting titles for a contest idea. A gang of writing pals, short story, and the title is fixed--just the title. I'm kinda tempted to go with "Pass the lube please" but now, NOW I think, "He wanted to see my bruschetta" is in the running...

Leenie said...

Working with people is always an adventure. Sounds like you had a good one. And having friends like that to share stories and drinks is a plus, plus. Hope you have a fun way to spend some of those funds.

Fragrant Liar said...

Now I kinda wanna see her bruschetta.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

I can almost HEAR you, that's how good you are. Dang.

bruce said...

*and once again failing to take notes.*

the story of my life...the best stories, answers and stuff, slip thru my mind like a grey goose martini, dirty, very dry, 3 olives, neat...

mebbe it IS time for me to consider a sober life?
nah, then i would solve the worlds problems...
and have nothing to write about!!!

great post a usual. i almost felt i was there...

stupid stuff i see and hear
bruce johnson jadip

Lazarus said...

So many spot-on phrases in there that resonate with anyone who has worked in foodservice. The only thing missing was spitting on a plate, wiping it clean and then giving it to the guy who wanted seconds (worst I ever did was pour excess sugar into a guy's coffee.) Great imagery, great post!

Symdaddy said...


You took me back to my teenage days when I would spend my evenings slopping food onto tables, splashing gravy over the guests and knocking over wine glasses.

I learned ALL of the swear word that I use now in those 'greasy spoon' dives.

Sweet memories!

Lynne H. said...

Ah I remember my days as a bartender/waitress..
gotta admit, some of my best one-liners came from those days..

Keep on serving girl..you da bomb!!!

Andrea said...

You've been served.

I wonder if I could get away with saying that to my kids...

Fred Miller said...

I used to bar mitzvahs in a rich suburb of Kansas City. The "bonus" was to have lunch after the job was done. I learned what Billy Crystal meant about "the tastelessness of kosher food."

Tom G. said...

I thank God every day that I don't have to work in the restaurant/bar/catering business. My Big Bruddah did it for years, and I have seen the toll it took on his body. He's 52 and on permanent disability. I hate my soul sucking corporate job, but me knees and back luv my comfy chair, and florescent office.