Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Glow of a Neon Martini, Part I

Your alarm clock won't do its job for another twenty-two minutes, but you are already awake. You try to pull the sheets over your head to shield yourself from the bright afternoon sun shining through the nicotine-stained slats of your shitty window blinds. But even that doesn't work. It’s 2:38 and there is only a vague recollection of details from the night before. But the details aren’t important; it will be the same tonight as it was last night.

For the better part of fifteen minutes, you switch back and forth between sitting on the edge of your bed and aimlessly shuffling around your one bedroom apartment while you try to decide what to do with yourself for the two hours before your next shift begins. The apartment is quiet and cluttered with chores that haven’t been done in at least a week. Probably two. Priorities, they’re all relative. And you think to yourself “God, I need to get some laundry done. I can only wear that pair of black slacks to work one more time before coworkers and customers notice how truly filthy they are.”

There’s a low-level pounding in your head and a total lack of energy. So you make a cup of instant coffee and turn on the TV. The thought of food makes you feel sicker than you already are. But Folgers is a pacifier.

The next hour is spent watching Cops with hollow interest. You have the aching need to just sit and do nothing but smoke a few cigarettes for a while.
As 5:00 ticks closer, you start rushing around to get ready for work. How is it possible to be running late? You ask yourself this same question every day but there’s never an answer.

You quickly iron a white tuxedo shirt, wipe off your black apron with a wet washcloth, pull on a clean pair of white athletic socks and then pull a pair of dirty black dress socks over the top of the tube socks. Thin dress socks just don’t have the support you will need to stand on your feet and perform for a live audience for the next seven hours. You make the same mental note that you make every day: buy thicker black socks.

As you climb into your fifteen-year-old Honda, you hope that you have enough gas to get to work. No time to stop, you can’t be late again.

As you dart through the door at 4:59, you are greeted by familiar sounds and smells. This feels more like home than home does. You start to feel alive.

You say hello to several regulars as you make your way through the dining room on your way to the bar. You stop, shake hands and make small talk that is filled with witty remarks. You are the only one who realizes that each remark you make is practiced and unoriginal. They think you are charming.

You know you are not.

“What did you order?” you ask a middle-aged couple sitting at table 12.

“We’re splitting the Zuppa di Mare and Pappardelle with Saffron,” the gentleman replies.

“You’re making me jealous,” you tease. “Those are my two favorite things on the menu. You’re going to love them. Come by the bar and give me a report when you’re finished with dinner.”

You hurry into the lounge and find Katie, the daytime bartender visiting with one of the busboys. You look around and can immediately see that she hasn’t cleaned or restocked anything. The place is a disaster. There’s a list that she has taped to the side of the cash register.

friday - day shift.

1. Theres alot of water in the bottom of the refridg.
2. Need more Kettel 1
3. Out of olives.

Good thing she’s pretty.

When Katie started working at Giuseppe’s, she said she had experience, but you highly doubt it. The
owner, Giuseppe DiGregorio probably hired her for her big fake tits. He’s an idiot.

Gently persuading Katie to restock and clean before clocking out never works. You’ve learned that you have to be direct. You have to treat her like a child. Sometimes you have to be flat-out rude. What’s her deal? You wonder what type of abuse she suffered from daddy, or mommy’s boyfriend that would make her more likely respond to abuse. Who the fuck cares? She won’t be around long. You’ve seen it before. Giuseppe will get tired of looking at her and will get rid of her.

No, he won’t actually fire her. He’s too much of a pussy to do that. Instead, he will start cutting her shifts down to the point where she can’t afford to stay here. This is the way it always happens.

***** 

There they are. The same three regulars that show up at the beginning of your shift. You spend at least two hours with them every night, yet you know very little about them.

There’s Craig. He’s in his late-forties or early-fifties. You have no idea where he works, but you can tell by looking at him that his job doesn’t require him to do anything physical; he’s pasty and soft. He’s not married and you’re pretty sure that he has never been married. Hell, you’re pretty certain that he’s never gotten laid. He just can’t grasp what it takes to be charming and appealing to women. He can’t seem to NOT act creepy when it comes to chatting up the ladies. You are embarrassed for him.

Then there’s Annie. She’s probably about 40. She’s attractive and fit and works in some office that’s close by. She usually only has one or two drinks before heading on to whatever she does. But sometimes she gets carried away and has several more and ends up sticking around for most of the evening. You like "that" Annie the best. She can be funny and sexy when she gets a little loaded.
Finally, there’s Roger. He’s an attorney and a friend of Giuseppe. He never pays for anything and you're fairly certain Giuseppe owes him money - probably for one of his divorces. He’s nice enough, but tends to be demanding when he wants a drink.

The bar has fourteen comfortably-upholstered stools, two booths and two two-top tables. At the other side of the room, there's a baby grand piano. Arthur, a tall, skinny 40-year-old guy with a toilet-seat hair-line and a shitty black suit is sitting at the keys playing "Somewhere My Love", the theme from Dr. Zhivago. Most of the songs that Arthur plays are from the same era, which makes you wonder about his background. Perhaps he was taught by an overbearing mother who made him play the songs from her youth? He reminds you of a balding Norman Bates.

For the next hour, you simultaneously restock the glassware, keep an eye on the server station, and make small talk with Craig, Annie and Roger. Although the orders are steadily coming in from the dining room, they are still the only customers at the bar. This is the way it is where you work. The early crowd aren't big drinkers. You won't get really busy until at least 7:30.

Read Part II >

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