Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Common Day at the Cafe

I’ve seen way to much old person genitalia lately. These clowns won’t lock a bathroom door behind them and EVERY time I swing it open forcefully, they are in there standing with half of their clothes off or hiked up over their head or god knows what and then they stammer at you in their weak, barely audible, ancient voices to “knock next time!”

That’s when I fly off the handle and tell them to “lock the goddamn door!” then slam it on them. Seriously, if your regular trip to the bathroom involves becoming undressed because you’re wearing knickers or short-alls or a diaper, LOCK THE DOOR!

So better yet, this happens to me on a weekly basis at the vegan restaurant I work at on NYC’s Upper East Side. Some very fine, fancy, special people come into my restaurant and on an especially lucky day, they will all come in at once to ensure that circus-like antics abound.

Now some of you know, my restaurant (and the UES in general) caters to people with food allergies, eating disorders, vegans, vegetarians, kosher individuals, celebrities, and hypochondriac control freaks with OCD.

The other day, a mother son duo came in and I immediately knew they were going to be trouble. The mother was wearing what could only be described as loose sacks, with a trench coat piled on top and she had her weird tuft of long, white hair knotted on top of her head like a swirl of vanilla soft serve. Everything was “too hot” “too cold” “too bright” and “too expensive”. She drove these points home with an audible, continuous whimpering throughout the entirety of the meal. Her son was completely disengaged from her and listlessly sat at the table reading a crime novel. He clearly had learned a long time ago that disconnecting from mother was his only defense.

Suddenly out of nowhere, small tupperware dishes, viles, pills and liquids started appearing on their table from god knows where and I watched as the mother strenuously concocted a weird potion and then suckled it from a little plastic bottle like a baby lamb. Apparently, this mad scientist had an apothecary tucked away in the recesses of her cavernous trench coat and I had to stop what I was doing to properly take it all in and cast a withering look at her. Her son, of course, was oblivious.

When her soup arrived, she started adding her own seasonings and special ingredients from her collection of spices brought from home. I decided then, that I hated her. When the main dish arrived “Soft Serve” flew into what can only be described as a feeding frenzy. More empty Tupperware kept appearing on the table as she simultaneously shoveled food into her mouth and into the plastic dishes at a furious pace. She couldn’t get it into her puckered, withered pie hole fast enough and abandoned her fork all together and started eating her sauteed greens and rice with her fingers. One fistful for the pie hole, one fistful for the tupperware. One fistful for the pie hole, one fistful for the tupperware. Her son just stared down at his plate, again ignoring the wildly inappropriate dining habits of the gargoyle sitting next to him.

I was full of rage by now but it instantly dissipated as I went back up to the front of the restaurant and who should enter right at that moment? Common. Holy god, what a glorious piece of manhood if I ever saw one. I felt my knees go weak. He was perfect in every way, taller than I imagined, more thin and toned than I dreamed, dressed so perfectly casual without betraying a shred of the utter urban cool he possessed. And then he spoke—“Hey, how’s your day? Yeah, what’s your best protein shake?” I couldn’t see straight. Common! Talking to me about my day! The voice that speaks my favorite hip hop rhymes and rhythms asking my opinion about which kind of protein shake he should have. He’s married to Erykah Badu, for goddsakes! Too much!

I was elated and excused myself to go to the bathroom to splash water on my face, swung open the door and there of course was the goddamn soft serve, mad scientist standing in the bathroom, lights blazing down on her half-naked body doing god knows what but it certainly was not peeing.

She yelped out “Excuuuuuse me!” in a shrill, panicked voice and I shot back, “Lock the door!” Shocked and disgusted I went to the bathroom next to it, luckily vacated. A moment passed when from inside I heard the door swing open in the other bathroom again and her stupid shrill voice yell out, “Excuuuuuse me!”

I finished my business and washed my hands as the sign demanded me to do and exited. Of course the person waiting in line for the restroom was Common, who looked like he’d just seen a ghost, or worse yet, ancient, creepy old lady vagina. He scurried into my bathroom and I went back out onto the floor to help my tables.

When Common returned to the front to pick up his Chocolate Supreme Protein shake, he no longer expressed any interest in conversing with me. He looked distant and confused as he distractedly handed over his $7 and got the hell out of dodge. I couldn’t even tell him how wonderful I thought he was because clearly he had just been scarred for life from seeing the crypt keeper’s nether regions.

I wanted to tell him that I had seen it too, that we should maybe meet up later in the park and talk about the trauma we had both just suffered, that somehow through this tragedy, a strong bond could form between us. Somewhere down the line, he would come see me crushing at The Apollo telling jokes about old white lady poontang and his next album, “I’ve Seen the Devil’s Pussy” would be dedicated to me. I would be invited over to dinner with him and Erykah and we would eat vegan soul food and they could make fun of how square I was. I wouldn’t care. Just to be in their presence would somehow elevate me to a higher, more cosmic plane of existence that although did not equal theirs, would inspire my friends to whisper and gossip that I had been enlightened.

But instead, I would spend the next 30 minutes being glared at by Soft Serve who was visibly weeping and clutching her vacant son’s hand across the table as though she had just been the victim of some unspeakable crime and I of course was implicated in it. As you can imagine, there was a big goose egg where the tip should have been and the mad scientist and her son ferreted out of the café with viles, bottles and tupperware stashed on their person.

Such are my days at the Candle Café. It never gets less frustrating, embarrassing or blood boiling. I repeat my mantra in my head all day long, “kill them with kindness” unfortunately with the emphasis on “kill them” but I do try and establish a positive, casual repertoire with my tables. In my mind, the sunnier and more upbeat I act, the more they look like petty, needy assholes who live under a rock. And it is my mission to make them look that way because, well, they are.

So in the meantime, I hang out and wait for the celebrity drop-ins so I can at least see someone who represents what I want to do with my life-- Sandra Bernhard, George Carlin, Paul Giamatti, to name a few. I try desperately to have a burning, artsy intensity in my eyes that will set me apart from my co-workers and customers so that celebrities will feel they can talk to me, because I understand what they’re going through, also being a performer. But I never get to casually speak to them because some Upper East Side bag of botox is shrieking at me for more dressing.

It makes me wonder how much longer this will all go on. When does the shift happen? When do I make enough money off of comedy to scrape by in NYC? When do I get to sit down with my peers and order tofu from a young, hopeful waitress? Will I be 30, 40, 70???? I know in my heart that it will happen for me and there will be a lot of reminiscing about the old, hard days when I was struggling to make it. I believe I will remain humble and appreciative and maintain an air of grace even well into old age. But most importantly, when I go to the bathroom, I will lock the goddamn door.

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