Please Don’t Ask Me To Come Back

 

An essay about job mismatch.

 

I don’t like drinking and I don’t like drunks. So it’s rather incredible that I’ve allowed myself to get talked into this stupid job, which I already hate, a mere three hours into it. I must be the only twenty-three year old on the planet who hates alcohol.  I’d applied here for a weekend receptionist position in order to supplement my salary as a bottom dweller in corporate America, but instead, I’m donning the ‘required’ uniform of a cocktail waitress for the Wilshire Country Club, feeling like a total dork in my khaki colored golf pants and black polo shirt, complete with the fancy embroidered ‘WCC’ in gold thread on the breast pocket. Clearly, the manager didn’t give a hoot when I’d told him “I have zero experience at waitressing.  In fact, I can’t carry my own dinner plate without dropping the utensils, let alone a tray full of drinks in a room full of drunks”.

Staring hard at me, he’d said “Look, we need a weekend receptionist, but we are desperate for tonight.  We’re short on help and you’ll get a split on the bar tips to boot”.

Bar tips? Cash talk got the better of me.

So, here I am.  Honestly, could I look any dorkier?  And these stupid borrowed waitress shoes are killing me. They’re a half size too small, and the laces are constantly flopping because they’re too slick to stay tied.

I take a quick glance at my watch. It’s only 9:08. Damn! Four more hours to go. The cigarette haze hangs in the air like smog, and it irritates my contacts. Breathing deeply, I feel borderline nausea quietly threatening to get the better of me.

With heightened energy that only liquor can invoke, the mass of partiers mingles about the room like frenzied lab rats. From the corner of my eye, I notice some guy is waving wildly to get my attention, gesturing for me to walk his way.  Fine. As I approach, it becomes clear that he and his buddies are all watching me with drunken smiles as I squeeze my way through the hordes of animated up-scale party people between us. They’re in snazzy dresses and tailored suits, while I’m in nerdware given to me by the club manager.  “Men’s large is all we got.  Tuck it in”.  I feel like Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Rosannadanna character on an old re-run of Saturday Night Live.

After much yelling and hand gesturing, like charades, I take down my umpteenth drink order from people who seem unable to stand still. My cryptic abbreviations are illegible. I make mental notes on their attire, reverse myself, and push back into the crowd in the direction of the bar.  I start mumbling in an effort to remember my clues.

“Wing tips, plaid sports coat; loafers with tacky tie”.

“Wing tips, plaid sports coat; loafers with tacky tie”.

“Wing tips, plaid sports coat; loafers with tacky tie”.

I sound like an idiot, talking to myself as I make my way through the crowded room over to the bar.  Two bartenders are behind the counter, each of them busier than one-armed paper hangers.  One is pouring liquor into a stainless steel shaker with great dramatic flair.  As he tosses the liquor bottle into the air, like a bowling pin, it summersaults full tilt before he catches it and puts it back on the glass shelf behind him.  He looks my way and winks.

I’m so busy trying to remember the identifying footwear and clothing particulars that I panic momentarily, trying to recall the actual drink orders.  He keeps glancing in my direction, and when he catches my eye, he lifts his chin and raises his eyebrows…the silent signal for “What d’ya need, Babe?

“Gin and Tonic, Scotch on the rocks, a Black Russian, and a Budweiser”, I yell over the noise emanating from the live band playing behind me.  He nods and as I stand by to wait, Sherry, one of the other cocktail waitresses and just now my new best friend, elbows me. “You look dazed”, she says.

“That’s because I am dazed”, I tell her.  “I applied for a receptionist job.  I only agreed to be a cocktail waitress because the manager was so damn pushy.  I told him I had no experience at this.  I didn’t hire on to work an over-hyped mob of people who can’t stay in one place long enough for me to deliver their stupid drinks”.

Clearly, the Wilshire Country Club, with its stately grounds and oh-so-suave golf course, seems to be where the ‘it’ crowd is tonight. Just my luck; first night on the job and the party of all parties becomes my personal nightmare. This place sure knows how to crank it up for their members. There’s a revolving disco ball, with a strobe light that’s encouraging my headache to slip out from behind my temples so it can throb with a heartier intensity.

“It’s not usually this kind of night”, Sherry says.  “Hell, half the time, this place is so quiet we play ping-pong with the lemon wedges”.

“Really? Well, if I make it through tonight, I’ll look forward to that…I’m an ace at ping-pong”, I tell her.

As I turn around, I can see that my order is already behind me waiting on a round tray. The drinks are absolutely loaded to the brim, and once again I have to figure a way to get them through the mob and into the hands of the people that actually ordered them.  Ohhh so carefully, I lift the tray with both hands, trying not to tilt it…and begin to slowly wedge my way back into the herd.  Trying to balance carefully to ensure these drinks will remain standing upright, I already know that odds are against it.

With my shoelaces dangling dangerously below the cuffs of my golf pants, I step carefully.  My black shirt already shows the remnants of drinks spilled from prior treks.  Using my elbows to help pave the way, I don’t get far.  In fact, someone taps my shoulder and uses an exaggerated hand signal to insist I glance behind me.  It’s awkward, but I manage.

Hey, CLUELESS!  Ya gotta DRESS the drinks!”  Winky is screaming at me from behind the bar.  Dress the drinks?  I have no idea what he’s talking about, but since he’s looking directly at ME with the ‘Helllooooo????’ expression, I return to ‘dress the drinks’.  Very carefully, I lower the tray back onto the bar. Raising my eyebrows, I look pointedly at Winky. In a grand gesture, he sweeps his arm toward the stainless steel bowls down at the far end of the counter.  There are several of them.  One has lime wedges, one has lemon wedges, one has orange wedges, one has green olives, one has plastic swords the size of toothpicks, and one has straws too small to sip through.  Oh man.  The only thing I know for sure is that beer requires no dressing…it can go nude.  However, that leaves the other three drinks, and I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m supposed to put into what.  So, I decide that the Black Russian could use a contrast color and put an orange wedge into it.  The gin and tonic takes a lemon wedge, and the scotch gets the olive.  Everything gets a sword…I might even use one to shove people out of my way as I squeeze through the packed, incredibly pulsating room.

The band is rockin’ and rollin’ as the lead singer grips the microphone with both hands, singing with his head tilted, and his eyes shut“Jeremiah was a bullfrog!! He was no friend of mine!”…    No shit, Sherlock.

The room is throbbing. I can’t hear myself think.  And now I’ve forgotten my clues.  All I remember is that these people were somewhere over in the far corner.  Working my way through the masses, someone shoves me hard from the left, but my agility is astounding because the drinks have remained upright.  That’s the good news.  The bad news: all that sloshing around has left a substantial puddle on my tray.  Damn.  Now they will be wet and messy to serve, and I forgot to bring napkins.  I press on, trying to remember ANY of my mumbled clues…something about the shoes…shoes…LOAFERS!!  YES!  One guy had LOAFERS!

Now I’m on a mission. I stop watching where I’m going, and promptly begin looking at everyone’s feet.  High heels, topsiders, espadrilles, lace-ups, pumps, wing-tips, sling-backs……WAIT.  Wing tips…ONE GUY HAD THOSE WING TIPS!  I quickly look up to see if these wing-tips belong to MY guy.

Jackpot.  Plaid coat.  And double bingo, because here’s the other guy with the tacky tie and, yes, there they are…the infamous loafers.

I hand Wingtips his scotch, and he looks at me like I’ve just asked him to sing the alphabet in Pig-Latin.  “What the hell is this?” he wants to know.  I can’t hear him, but I can read his lips.

I play dumb and he yells into my left ear as loud as he can.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?”

“EXCUSE ME?”

“THIS!  IN MY SCOTCH?”

“THAT WOULD BE AN OLIVE, LOOKING FOR A HOME.  YOUR NAKED SCOTCH SEEMED LIKE THE PLACE IT NEEDED TO BE”. 

I have to yell so loud, it hurts my throat.  Without waiting for a reply, I immediately hand the beer to the other guy with the tacky tie.  As he plucks the sword from the bottom of the frosted beer glass, he holds it up for inspection.

“BLACK RUSSIAN?” I yell.  I hand it to the woman who extends her hand with a smirky smile on her face.   She seems entertained to see an orange wedge in her drink, but not sure what exactly to do about it.   As I hand off the gin and tonic, I detect a snide remark coming in my direction, but over the noise of the band, I can’t quite make out what’s said.  I ignore it anyhow, and turn away. No sooner do I slip by Wingtips, someone else taps me on my shoulder and says they want me to bring them two glasses of white wine.  I nod in acknowledgement, thrilled to know these need no adornment, and make note of his green golf tie. Working my way back across the room, it’s only moments before two more partiers stop me to yell in their orders. Vodka Gimlet, Whiskey Sour. Sounds like a contrast dress rehearsal to me…as I begin to envision orange wedges and lime slices skewered with toothpick swords.

Soon I’m mumbling again.

“Green golf tie.  Blue strappy heels.  Tan sweater”.

“Green golf tie.  Blue strappy heels.  Tan sweater”.

“Green golf tie.  Blue strappy heels.  Tan sweater”.

The crowd is now singing along.  ‘JOYYY TO THE WORLD….ALLLLL THE BOYS AND GIRLSSS.  JOY TO THE FISHIES IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA, JOY TO YOU AND MEEEEE…’

I wedge my way back over to the bar, where Winky is watching me.  And history repeats itself.

An hour after midnight, the place is finally cleared out. Damn those fishies in the deep blue sea, because I’m exhausted, and thrilled beyond belief that the band has stopped.  Now my ears actually hurt from the silence.

Winky is cleaning up behind the bar, emptying a dishwasher loaded with steaming hot glassware. The other bartender is sweeping up.  He never so much as glanced my way all night.  Sherry is rubbing her feet.

“How many nights a week will you be working here?” she asks.

“Zero”, I tell her.  Sherry gives me her ‘deer in the headlights’ look, feigning surprise. I steal a glance at Winky. Without looking up from behind the bar, he’s subtly nodding his head and smiling to himself, like it’s a private joke.

I can’t get out of there fast enough, but I stop by the manager’s office as I leave the club.  “Are you the nitwit putting swords in everyone’s drinks?” he asks.

“Yes, I am”, I tell him.  “I know it’s catchy, but please don’t ask me to come back.  I’ve dressed the drinks and my designer career has come to an end.”

“Good”, he says.  “I won’t beg”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s