Restaurant Algebra, or The Funny Stuff People Do When Splitting a Tab

Some days in the bar are easy. Some days it’s like every high maintenance person in a ten-block radius decided they needed your help and attention all at once. Yesterday was one of those days.

I had a pretty busy happy hour in the bar, which was fine, though a clogged printer in the kitchen meant that a lot of my food came up late, and it all came out at once, which always makes things exciting. And then there were the two ladies at the bar, one of whom wanted to know all about our absinthe selection, and which ones had wormwood, and then what I could make with it, while the other needed to know which menu items were both gluten-free and did not contain sesame (avoiding sesame oil in a Vietnamese restaurant is not as easy as you might think).

But the real cake-takers were the six-top of ladies in the middle of the room.

Now, as a general rule we do not split tabs at the restaurant, but we do run multiple cards. Most of the time when people split tabs that way, the math is relatively simple. Even splits, or this much on this card, this much on that card. Basic arithmetic. These ladies turned it into algebra.

The six of them gave me five cards, and instructions so convoluted I had to go and get pen and paper to keep it all straight. One menu item went on the first card. The second card was for two menu items and a pot of tea. The rest of the bill was to be split into four parts, two parts of which would go on the third card and one part each on the fourth and fifth.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine did, a little. Just glad I was only moderately busy.

Anyway, in the end it was fine, and by an hour later I was loling and telling the story to my co-workers. And hey, being accomodating is part of the job. It’s just funny sometimes, the things people do, and that even after more years in the Industry than I care to recount I can still be surprised by the twists and turns. One of the ladies even wrote me a nice note on her credit card slip, thanking me for the trouble I went to.

Of course, one of the others failed to leave her signed copy, so if she intended to tip me I didn’t get it. But really, what else could I expect?

Fourteen Years After

I wanted to write something about 9/11 today, even though most anything worth saying has been said and said again many times over the years. I think in the end my hero Charlie Pierce got it right when he wrote that “the sad, lasting legacy of that day 14 years ago today, and of all the different things that have been made of it since then, is that it is the day that America finally went mad.”

It’s hard to refute that, from where I sit. Like a nose-punched bully, we ran rampant, and the damage we did to ourselves and the world will take a very long time to repair. We are now an America that’s tortured, that’s executed our own citizens by drone strike without due process of law. We spent a trillion dollars to go to war with a nation that didn’t have anything to do with the attack (and continued our strong alliance with the nation most of the hijackers were actually from), and made room for the Islamic State to come into being when we left at the behest of the government we installed. Domestically, we went from a proto-fascist state where folks with the wrong t-shirts were escorted away from political rallies to a failing state whose political process has been hijacked by a faction who doesn’t believe government should be allowed to govern. And those are just the highlights.

Despite the patriotic memes in my facebook feed, I don’t want to remember 9/11. I don’t want to remember the fear and the pain and the determination to exact vengeance.

No, I want to remember the days and weeks after, when the divisions between us fell away. When we weren’t Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives but Americans united by grief, shocked out of our petty disputes and tribalism by this unthinkable enormity. I want to remember how we all came together, how the world was ready to rally behind us. I want to remember the moment when it seemed possible we could make something good out of this horrible tragedy, when our common humanity united us and we were kinder and more real with each other.

A lot has happened in the fourteen years since then, and those days when what united us was stronger than what divided us seem very far away now. But it’s important we remember them. It’s vital to our well-being, both as a nation and as individual human beings. Because we’re all in this together, whether we remember it or not.

No, You May Not Use My Image for Commercial Purposes Without Compensating Me

So an interesting thing happened to me when I went into work yesterday at my new job tending bar at Monsoon.

I came in, put away my bag, chatted a bit with the manager, and started doing the things you do to open a bar. I decided a cup of coffee sounded like a good idea, as it often does at the beginning of a shift, so I went over to the dining room, where the coffee is. I saw one of the daytime servers behind the counter, with a weirded-out look on her face, folding napkins and taking direction from a photographer set up in the middle of the dining room. I thought “Hm. Must be some new promo thing for the restaurant,” and I waited respectfully while the photog snapped away (the coffee was at the far end of the counter). When a free moment popped up, I crossed behind the girl folding napkins to get coffee.

“What’s this all about?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“It’s for Discover,” said the man directing the photo shoot, a fifty-something fellow with unruly hair and glasses and, for lack of a better term, kind of a seedy air about him (I hate to judge people on instinct, but it’s a skill I’ve had to develop to survive almost twenty years behind the bar).

“So, are you paying her?” I asked as I passed him by on my way back out to the bar with my coffee.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “You can’t even count the zeroes. There’s a bag full of money outside.” Then he went back to telling the day server, who looked decidedly uncomfortable, what to do, how to hold her head and whatever, and I went back over to the bar. Continue reading “No, You May Not Use My Image for Commercial Purposes Without Compensating Me”