There is a new full length graphic novel out there called OVER EASY by Mimi Pond and it all takes place in a California restaurant in the 1970’s. It’s basically like a big long comic strip so it’s easy to read, especially for people like me who have the attention span of a three-day old drunk rabbit. You know I love anything that has to do with restaurant life so it caught my eye right away. Thanks to Twitter, I was introduced to Mimi’s work by one of my favorite actresses ever, Harriet Harris (Bebe on Frasier and Felicia on Desperate Housewives). You should follow them both on Twitter right now: Mimi Pond and Harriet Harris Tell them I sent you…
I reached out to Mimi to learn more and I wanted to interview her about her time served as a waitress. Here is what I learned: Mimi Pond is fucking cool. She wrote the pilot for The Simpsons as well as wrote for Designing Women and Peewee’s Playhouse. Umm, hello? She wrote words for Marge Simpson, Julia Sugarbaker and Peewee Herman? It does not get cooler than that.
You can buy OVER EASY by clicking here. And in case you’re wondering, this is NOT a paid post. I just like supporting great work by people who have done their time in an apron.
I sent Mimi seven questions and she was kind enough to respond. It may have been a while since she has held the order pad, but she proves what I have long suspected: once a server, always a server! Thank you, Mimi Pond.
- How long did you wait tables and when was the last time you did it? I waited tables for about 3 and 1/2 years, from 1978-1982. The last time I waited tables was December of 1981! I still have CBD- Compulsive Bussing Disorder, which means that any time I am at a table where plates have sat more than 5 minutes after people are finished eating, I HAVE to clear it. I do belong to a CBD support group…but that just means there are no tables in the room where we meet, and no food or beverages served. It hasn’t been all that helpful.
- What was your least favorite bit of side work? I really didn’t mind the side work so much because, at the end of the day, for most of it, I could be sitting down. It was tricky re-filling the glass ketchup bottles. This was before someone invented a plastic collar- which, I believe, someone at my restaurant nicknamed a “dildo”- to invert the almost-empty bottle into a fuller bottle. But you also had to sweep up your area and wipe down tables. That was a drag.
- Did a customer ever leave a lasting positive impression on you; something that you can think back to and it still makes you smile? I had a customer who was a failed actor-turned-cabdriver. He was sort of Humphrey Bogart-ish- grizzled, world-weary. I had a crush on him. I informed him of my dream of leaving waitressing to move to New York to make it as a cartoonist and illustrator. He said he’d lived there 10 years, that it was a tough town. He told me he didn’t think I could handle it. That was all I needed. I thought, WATCH ME, ASSHOLE. Also, when I was pregnant and about to have an abortion, my customer who worked for Planned Parenthood was very supportive. That was huge. Another customer was an African-American lawyer who did important work for women’s rights, quite a role model. The important thing was to have customers who became friends, who saw you beyond your role as a waitress. I had a customer who worked in a record store who became a huge part of my music education by stealing records for me! Thanks, Gary Lambert!
- Are you still friends with anyone that you ever met while working in a restaurant together? I am still very good friends with about 90% of the people I worked with at Mama’s Royal Cafe in Oakland, Ca. It was such a unique experience that we all formed a very tight bond. It was a strange time. A number of people who worked there fell down the rabbit hole of drug and alcohol abuse for many years. Some never made it back, but the ones who did, even after all that suffering, in reminiscing about our crazy time then, always said, “Yeah…but wasn’t it FUN?” I think we also shared this bond because we related so strongly to the subversive attitude held by our fearless leader, whom, in my book is named Lazlo Merengue, but whom in real life was a brilliant latin scholar and poet named John Veglia, whose nom de plume was Nestor Marzipan. What made the difference in our experience there was his firm belief that what we were doing was not really restaurant work, but a form of theater, and that we were all geniuses. My first reading of “Over Easy” was back at Mama’s Royal Cafe last week. It was also a very emotional time for everyone. The woman who inspired the character of “Martha” in “Over Easy” had worked at Mama’s for something like 37 years, and 12 days prior to the reading, passed away very unexpectedly. The reading became not only a reunion for everyone but also a default memorial. I may have bigger readings in bigger cities, but I will NEVER feel the love I felt in this room from the people who experienced that time and place with me.
- What is the one thing you do not miss about waiting tables? It’s exhausting work, both physically and emotionally. It’s a form of improv theater. You’re constantly reading people to try to understand what they require of you. If you do it full-time, it can really suck you dry. I also don’t miss WAITRESS NIGHTMARES – those ones where you’re the only waitress working, you’ve got 17 tables to manage and you’ve lost everyone’s tickets.
- What is the one thing you miss about it? If you approach it the right way, it can be about being the hostess of the most fabulous party ever, one that you’re throwing. On a good day, it’s a symphonic groove, with sexy customers and amazing tips!
- If you eat in a restaurant and the bill is $75.45 and your service was good, what would you leave for a tip? This is a trick question! $150, of course! (That’s after all these restaurant servers buy my book and I can afford to tip like a drunken lord.)