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Job #13: Manager at a Putt-Putt Golf

Today is World AIDS Day. As some of you may know, I have been working on a second book called “108 Jobs and Counting.” It’s a series of stories about every job I have had over the course of my entire life. While this story has nothing to do with the restaurant industry, it does have something to do with AIDS and the love I have for my Uncle who dies in 1991. I hope you will read it.   -BW

Job #13: Manager at a Putt-Putt Golf

Stepping back on the greens this summer, there is a sense of confidence that wasn’t there last season. Having the title of manager bestowed upon me and maintaining my ability to soar through either of the two courses with an average score of ten under par makes me feel like Denver’s own Chi-Chi Rodriguez. Papo ‘dosa would be proud. On top of that, the 49% pay raise has ballooned my salary up to $5.00 an hour. Surveying my kingdom of 36 holes of prime miniature golfing opportunities, there is an increased sense of pride in the way the course looks today. The water traps have a fresh coat of light blue paint, the petunias have been plucked of dead blooms, the bathrooms have been scrubbed, and the green felt carpets have all been swept clean of leaves and debris. Sometimes, I like to imagine that this Putt-Putt golf course is my own personal Disneyland and I want it to be as special as it can be for the guests, but today, my Uncle Rene and his friend Kent will be showing up during my shift, on a trip from Houston to visit the Mile High City and see his nephew.

It took me years to realize that Kent wasn’t just Rene’s friend. Even going to their perfectly-decorated townhouse at Christmastime once as kid and seeing all the beautiful handblown glass decorations on their white flocked Christmas tree and watching them dote on their two miniature schnauzers wasn’t enough to clue me in that they were a couple. Kent had never been introduced to me as anyone other than Rene’s friend, so I took that at face value. I’m eager to see them both this weekend and not just because they’ll take me out to dinner, offering me a brief respite from tuna sandwiches or spaghetti with a can of tomato sauce that was on sale at King Soopers, four for a dollar. I’ve always wanted to grow up and be just like Rene. He has a convertible, lives in a beautiful apartment, travels to exotic locales like Key West and San Francisco and in his spare time he edits home movies that he shoots with his video recorder. As excited as I am to see him I’m also worried that he’s going to have some bad news to share. For several months, he has been fighting an illness that no one in my family is talking about. In the same way that no one has ever said out loud that Rene is gay, no one is saying out loud that he has AIDS.

It’s a hot July Saturday and my focus is to move the water sprinkler every thirty minutes to a different spot in the course so that the actual grass can stay as close to the same color of the green felt on all the holes. I don’t know what time Rene and Kent will show up, so the shift goes on just like every other one, giving away coupons for holes in one and praising the accomplishment on the loudspeaker. As I am dragging the water sprinkler from hole #13 to hole #5, desperately trying to keep the spray of water from dousing myself or any customers, my feet get entwined in the hose and I lose my balance, almost stepping into the water trap of hole #7. Recovering with very little grace, I look up to see Uncle Rene, his video camera pointing directly at me.

“Oh my god, how long have you been filming me?”

“Long enough and it was perfect.”

Immediately I know that a clip of me tangled up in a water hose will turn up in one of his highly edited home movie compilations of their vacations, probably accompanied with the theme song to Looney Tunes. After giving them the grand tour of all 36 holes, Rene and Kent tell me they will go check into their hotel and then meet me at my apartment later to take me to dinner.

The next day, I am a tourist in my own city, visiting the state capitol, the Denver Mint and the infamous Molly Brown House. I only know who she is because of the movie musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” so the house is a bit disappointing to me when I see absolutely nothing about Debbie Reynolds who starred in the film or Tammy Grimes who originated the role on Broadway. Rene and Kent are over the moon about the moldings on the ceilings and all the antique furniture and china, but I’m just looking forward to our lunch at a bar-b-q place called Oink’s. When we say our goodbyes, I hug both of them front of my apartment and as they drive off I wonder why he never told me what illness he has. If it’s AIDS, why wouldn’t he tell me? Does he think it would make me stop loving him? Nothing would ever make that happen.

******

As the summer winds down and the owner of the Putt-Putt continuously refuses to give me the necessary time off to audition for musicals that surely will catapult me to my rightful place in the spotlight, the job becomes less and less important. On Sunday morning when we are scheduled to open at noon, I arrive at the course at 11:58 ready to put in my two-minutes notice. After unlocking the padlock on the clubhouse, I slip inside to make sure everything is in place, neatly stacking the coupons and straightening the clubs. I put the key to the lock inside the cash register drawer and then retrieve a quarter from my pocket to make one final call from the pay phone. My fingers are trembling as I dial the number to the owner’s house. His wife picks up on the other end.

“Dorothy?” I ask. My shaky voice is betraying me and eroding he confidence I want to have.

“Yes, who’s calling?”

“It’s Darron from the golf course. I quit.”

And with that, I hang up the phone, close the drawer to the cash register with the keys inside, slip back out of the clubhouse, lock the padlock and get in my car to drive away. When I get back to my apartment, my answering machine is flashing its red light and I know who it is.

“Darron, this is Dallas and that’s the god damndest thing I’ve ever heard of. I’m gonna find out who your new employer is and call them to tell them what kind of person you you are.”

The joke’s on him though, because I don’t have a new employer, only auditions.

******

Two years have passed by and now I’m living in Houston, Texas. Uncle Rene is in hospice and his boyfriend Kent died just two weeks earlier. I’ve been putting off going to visit Rene because I’m too scared of what to say or how to act, so maybe Rene was right to never tell me what he was sick with. It’s only been the last few weeks that anyone in my family actually said out loud it’s AIDS. When I finally go to see him, I am shocked at his appearance. Gone is the joy in his face and the light in his eyes. He’s so thin and his wrist looks like a twig on the branch of a sad, tiny tree. He isn’t able to say hello to me; all he can do is look. The whites of his eyes are anything but white and they look scared and alone. “Does he even know that Kent died?” I wonder.

“Hi!” I tell him. The crack in my throat belies the forced cheerfulness, not unlike the shakiness of my voice when I quit my job at Putt-Putt two years ago. “You look great,” I lie. “I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to visit, I’ve just been so busy,” I lie again.

He reaches out to me with his withered hand and I hold it, instantly feeling guilty for not being there more often. The twin bed and all the decor in this room is like nothing he would normally be around. There are no antiques or stylish artwork on the walls. It’s a place where people go to die and that’s exactly what it looks like. Small talk continues between me and my Dad while Uncle Rene lays in bed watching us and eventually I tell him, “I’ll come back and see you tomorrow.”

My fear of seeing him again and not being able to pretend that I’m not one step away from completely losing it means that the last thing I ever say to my uncle is a lie. I never go back to see him and he dies two days after I tell him I’ll come back to see him. Later on at his apartment, as my Dad and I start to pack away his things there are two things I know I want to find: one is his generous stash of weed and the other is the VHS tape of his trip to Denver. After some digging, both of them go into my bag, along with a pink glass ashtray. When I get back to my apartment, I smoke a joint using his marijuana and his ashtray and I pop the VHS tape into my VCR and there it is: video of me at Putt-Putt, all tangled up in a water hose and almost falling over into a water pit. And over that is a track of cartoon music, just as I expected there would be. Now, more than ever, I want to grow to be just like him someday.

Job #13: April 16, 1989 to September 3, 1989

4 Things Your Server Wants You to Know About Dining Out During Covid

Cruising into our seventh month of living through a pandemic, everyone is still adjusting to the new normal and wondering if we will ever have the old normal back again. Each day brings more adjustments we all have to deal with, but there are few things restaurant workers would like everyone to know before they go out to eat during these COVID days.

1.  We’re over it too. As much as you wish you didn’t have to wear a mask when you enter the restaurant, we wish we it even harder since we’re wearing it for our entire shift. We know how disappointed you are at not being allowed to have 15 of your closest friends celebrate your birthday with you. We too are disappointed that we no longer get to serve big parties in our section to help increase our check averages and make bigger tips. You’re tired of having your temperature checked before you’re allowed to eat indoors? Well, we’re tired of taking your temperature because we’re restaurant employees, not healthcare workers. You don’t need to tell us that you’re “over it” because everyone in the whole entire world feels the exact same way.

2.  We don’t make the rules. Servers are literally at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to creating restaurant policy, so please don’t take out your COVID frustrations on us if you’re unhappy with a new rule or regulation. Yelling at an 18-year-old waitress who is trying to serve you steak au poivre and scalloped potatoes isn’t going to change a mandate that came from a restaurant manager, a district manager, or the governor of your state. Empty tables in a restaurant doesn’t mean you can be seated right away if the restaurant is only at 25% capacity. Believe me, it’s not our rule and 25% capacity means we’re taking a substantial pay cut. It also helps keep us safe, but don’t be mad at us for enforcing rules we didn’t come up with. We are but the messengers, so please don’t shoot us when we ask you to put your mask on as you walk to the restroom. No, really, please don’t shoot us.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here. 

When Your Regulars Become Your Friends

When you wait tables at the same restaurant for almost ten years like I have, you eventually develop a relationship with some of the customers and they become your regulars. Over the years, after sharing stories about each of your lives, one day you realize they are no longer just a customer. They’re your friends.

John and Mildred come into the restaurant pretty much every Thursday for date night. If they know they won’t be there, it’s not uncommon for Mildred to send me a text message giving me a heads up so I won’t worry. I know about their jobs, their vacations, their families and they know all the same things about me. One night, John called Mildred his betrothed and then looked at me for my reaction?

“Are you guys engaged?” I asked, full of excitement.

“Finally,” Mildred told me.

“When’s the wedding?” I wanted to know.

John held his hand up, palm facing outward. “Let’s not rush it or anything.”

This was easily two years ago and the date of their wedding has been a running joke ever since. The only thing more consistent than their order, (Caesar salad to share, a burger, medium-rare with goat cheese and bacon for John and the grilled salmon with no couscous and sub green beans for Mildred with a side of sweet chili sauce for her and a side of mayo and Tabasco for him), is there difference of opinion on when and how the actual wedding would take place.

It’s been four months since I’ve waited on them (thanks, COVID), but since we live in the same neighborhood, we bump into each other hear and there. It’s always nice to see them and I especially love when Mildred sends me a text on a Thursday night to say hello. A few weeks ago, I made burgers at home and decided to have goat cheese and bacon on mine which merited a text message to Mildred to tell John how delicious it was. A few weeks ago, another text message from Mildred pinged on my phone asking for my email address. They wanted to send me a link to their Zoom wedding! I guess with nothing else to do during the pandemic, John finally gave in to a date.

Yesterday, I sat in my bedroom with my laptop and watched my two regulars get married in a backyard in upstate New York. As John sang a song a accompanying himself on guitar, Mildred made her way onto my computer screen and into their life as husband and wife. Tears welled up in my eyes because after years of seeing them almost every night, I know how perfect they are for one another. They make each other laugh, she calls him “mi amour” ever since their trip to Paris, he encourages her to continue her ballroom dancing classes and they truly love each other. When they were officially announced as husband and wife, I threw confetti at my laptop and wiped another tear from my face.

As a server, I feel lucky to call so many of my customers friends. It makes me proud that Mildred and John thought enough of me to allow me to be a part of their big day. Congratulations to them! I look forward to when I can put on my apron again and bring John a beer (21st Amendment, Brew Free or Die! unless there’s a beer special that also has a 7% alcohol content) and Mildred a cocktail (only one though, because it’s a school night). Waiting tables can be a mixed bag, but when you get to wait on people you care about and who care about you, it hardly feels like work at all.

Don’t Be Like David

I have never participated in dating apps because I’ve been married for almost thirty years. When I was dating back in the mid to late 80s, we had this thing called personal ads in the newspaper and you had to literally read the ad, write a letter, put a stamp on it and then see if they ever wrote back to you.  My most memorable date was when the guy showed up to my apartment wearing acid washed jeans and jacket along with white leather fringe cowboy boots and he took me to Taco Bell, but that’s another blog post. These days, you have to create the perfect profile picture along with a carefully crafted bio and then let people swipe left or right based on a split second decision. If your profile says that you are a server/bartender, that shouldn’t determine whether you’re dateable or not. In the case of Tara, she was told by David, a complete and random starter, that it did make a difference:

While you are drop dead gorgeous a bsrtender [sic]/server drops you to an 8-9. You wanna be a 10 you’re gonna have to step up your game. There are women out there as gorgeous as you sporting engineering degrees and JDs. Just sayin’. But I would still date you.

So I wanna just understand David’s thought process. He’s aimlessly swiping left or right trying to decide if she should either find a date or just spend yet another evening with a bottle of lube, a glass of cheap whiskey and PornHub. Tara’s profile shows up on his screen and even though he finds her attractive enough to date, he still feels the need to disparage her occupation. He doesn’t bother to tell Tara what his occupation is and he doesn’t even feel it necessary to check for any spelling errors. He just sends the message because he’s a man and surely a pretty blond woman like Tara would welcome the helpful feedback, right?

Wrong. Tara wrote him write back:

Wow, now I see COMPLETELY WHY you are 56 years old and single. Having the audacity to say that someone’s occupation defines their value makes it 100% OBVIOUS what a disgusting human being you are. “But you would still date me,” huh?!? Well guess what, I wouldn’t date you, or that mega mole on the side of your OVER INFLATED HEAD!!!!! It’s sad, really; you’re old enough to be my dad and yet you have the mental capacity of a six year old. I could shovel 💩 for a living and would still be a better person than your sorry self. Having a degree don’t make anyone better than anyone else!!! Again, you’re disgusting! 😘

I couldn’t have said it better myself, Tara.

If someone is reading this who is considering what their online dating profile should say, please know that you can put whatever you want. Anyone who judges you for your profession doesn’t deserve to be with you, okay? Maybe people are more apt to swipe a certain way if you say you’re doctor or an attorney, but if seeing that you work in food service makes hem swipe away, you dodged a bullet with that one. Don’t be a David. Be a Tara.

4/19/20 EDIT: A few people have reached out to me to say that David is married. And then someone who claims to be his wife commented wanting to know more information. All i know is what i wrote. I wasn’t trying to dissolve a marriage here. I was just calling someone out for trying to make a server feel bad about being a server. I have removed the larger photo of him, but will leave his original post along with his small profile photo. Damn, this got messy…

Grandma Showers Are a Thing Now

Most of us who work in restaurants have had the extreme pleasure of serving for a baby shower. Baby showers usually happen in the home of the mom-to-be or one of her friend’s, but on occasion, it ends up happening in a restaurant because no one is willing to have a gaggle of women invade their living room so they can play “the candy bar in the diaper” game and serve lame ass mock-tails like Virgin Peach Bellinis and Mother’s Milkshakes. When these unfortunate events do take place in a restaurant, the server is left with a pile of wrapping paper, plastic trinkets that fell out of the goody bag and a measly tip. Well, prepare yourselves, because it has come to my attention that there is now something called a Grandma Shower.

At first, I assumed this was similar to a Baby Shower where women would gather to bring gifts to the future Grandma so she is prepared for her new role. You know, things like bags of caramels and those horrible strawberry candies. Or maybe extra Kleenex that she can stuff up her sleeve for snot emergencies and probably a sweatshirt that says “If Mom Says No, Go Ask Grandma.” Instead of the partygoers cutting a ribbon to guess the girth of a pregnant belly, they would cut one to guess the size of a swollen cankle. But then I had a realization that a Grandma Shower might not be at all what I first assumed it was.

Picture this: A Grandma decides to have a party at Olive Garden, but not just any Olive Garden like that skanky one out by the mall next door to Outback, but the the nice Olive Garden that’s across town near the Super Target.

“Yes, I’d like to make a reservation for fifteen people. I’d like a table toward the back of the restaurant if possible,” Grandma says to the hostess. “And I would suggest you place a sheet of plastic on the carpet if you can.”

“Oh?” asked the hostess. “Will there be a lot of children in this party? Do you need highchairs?”

“No, no children, but it might get a little messy. And I’m gonna need at least ten carafes of water too. I want my guests to stay hydrated. Bye bye, dear.”

Two days later, Grandma shows up to Olive Garden, eager with anticipation for her Grandma Shower. She is disappointed to discover there is not plastic sheet on the carpet. “Oh, well,” she thinks to herself. “You can’t say I didn’t warn them.” She eyes the carafes of water and her skin tingles with excitement at the possibilities if all that liquid.

Moments later, her guests begin to arrive. Most of them are older gentlemen with gray hair and paunchy bellies, one with a walker and two with canes. There is one man who is about 25 years old who saw an ad for this Grandma Shower on craigslist and decided to give it a go. Also in the mix are two women dressed in black leather and holding whips. Grandma can tell this is going to be the best Grandma Shower she has ever hosted. They all find themselves a seat at the table.

“Wow, no plastic sheet,” says a man with a droopy eye and a colostomy bag. Nice.”

In walks their server. “Hi, my name is Alyssa and I’ll be taking care of you today. Can I start anyone off with something to drink?”

“Water,” says the entire party in unison.

“I’ve already set your table with water for everyone-oh… “ she trails off as she notices that all fifteen glasses are already empty. “I’ll refill all your glasses in just a minute. And is anyone in the mood for a never-ending salad?” she asks.

Grandma, sitting at the head of the table laughs. “Oh, there’s about to be plenty of tossed salad, but we don’t need it from the kitchen, dear.” Everyone laughs. “Just bring us some breadsticks for now. And then five orders of Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells, ten orders of Stuffed Ziti Fritta and one Spaghetti and Meatballs, hold the spaghetti but with extra balls.” More laughter.

Alyssa steps out of the room, excited about the automatic gratuity that will be added to the check.

Grandma stands up to greet her guests, arms extended and chin help high. “Welcome to my Grandma Shower. I see you’ve already downed your first glass of water, so well done, my friends, well done.” She gestures to the carafes of water sitting on another table against the wall. “Please, fill yourself up as needed.”

The man with the colostomy bag lifts it high over his head indicating it’s already full.

“Let’s get this shower started!” shouts Grandma.

She gently lowers herself to the ground, careful to not injure her hip, as the men and women gather around her in a circle, walkers and canes included. One by one, the men begin to unzip their pants readying themselves to release fresh streams of warm urine upon their hostess.

Alyssa walks back into the room holding a large oval tray full of warm breadsticks. “Oh my god, what the heck is happening here?” she cries out.

Grandma, lying on her back  with the colostomy bag nestled between her naked breasts, looks over at her. “It’s a Grandma Shower, dear, I told you to lay a plastic sheet down, didn’t I?”

“Face Mask Exempt Cards” Are Not a Thing

There are plenty of cities and states around the country that have made it a requirement to wear a mask or face covering in public as a prevention to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Somehow, the act of taking a precautionary measure has turned political. While I can fully attest that covering my mouth and nose with a piece of fabric is not the most comfortable thing to do in 90° weather, I’m certain that it’s better than being on a ventilator.

You may have seen the above image floating around on the Internet of a “Face Mask Exempt Card” that some stunt queens are undoubtedly trying to use to get out of being a caring, empathetic human being. It’s bullshit and it’s not a legal card. If your restaurant requires customers to wear a mask when entering and someone pulls this laminated piece of shit from their tired ass Ocean Pacific velcro wallet, you can call them out on it. The Department of Justice has released a statement announcing that the cards are fraudulent, as if the misspelling of the word “poses” wasn’t a big enough clue. The card is supposedly from an organization called the Freedom to Breathe Agency, but when you go to their website, it’s basically under construction. When you click any of their social media tabs, it takes to you to the webpage of a website building company, so it’s real official. They claim to be “an extensive group of attorneys, doctors, health practitioners, educators, business owners, CEOs, moms and dads who value their freedom and personal liberty under the Constitution of the United States of America,” but I’m pretty sure it’s just an asshole who Googled how to build a website and then bought a domain name.

Look, if you truly have a medical condition that keeps you from wearing a mask, then by all means don’t wear one. But if you don’t want to wear one because you feel like your civil liberties are being taken away from you, just know that you’re being a selfish, entitled prick. Wearing a mask isn’t going to hurt you and it might even help you. Here in New York City, where hundreds of people a day were dying a few weeks ago, most people are wearing them and you know what? Yesterday, only 13 people in the whole state died. So maybe, just maybe, the masks are helping. Meanwhile in Texas, where my family lives, they are seeing a spike in cases every single day. Houston may be next epicenter even though we in New York have been begging our loved ones in Texas take this more seriously. They didn’t and now they are as scared as we were back in April.

If someone shows up to your restaurant refusing to wear a mask even though they are required to do so, remind them that they also have to wear shoes and shirts and pants to come inside. A restaurant is a private business and they have a right to refuse service to anyone who doesn’t want to abide by the restaurant’s policy. And also ask them why they feel they have a right to jeopardize the health of other people. If I can do my daily run of four miles in the heat of summer while wearing a mask, they can certainly handle wearing one from the hostess stand to the fucking booth they want slide into. If they show you this card, tell them to fuck right off.