I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when. Folsom Prison Blues, by the Immortal Johnny Cash.
No, I didn'to go to jail, I was just at work, from open to close, and it felt like jail at times. I am now off for two whole days, and man am I tired. These extended periods of time where there isn't any time to be off, the time that you do have off, you tend to sleep. The creative juices just don't flow. My single day off in the past two weeks had been requested off weeks ago, to use it watching the Patriots defense get spanked last Monday. I guess that I fared it pretty well, though. The good things about working this hard is that there is always a pocket bulging with cash every night, so the rewards are immediate. We have been a bad combination for most restaurants, and that is busy and short-staffed. We are so short-staffed that I have become a trainer already! I have been working there less than two months and am already training new employees. That doesn't really bode very well for the place. I am good at this sort of thing, but still find myself asking questions and being corrected by the cooks about my ordering procedures. I guess that since much of the staff is either burnt out or otherwise scatter-brained, I was a logical choice. So, I am not dead or in jail, just busy as hell and tired.
Since a lot of my business these days has been retirees, I will dedicate this post to them. I will tell you about a few of our elderly people that were regulars. All of these people are absolutely real people that I knew tons about, but I am just telling you the basics. I am sure that a few must be dead right now, and others may still very well be doing what they have been doing for years...
I guess that I will start with Ken. Ken had a "condition." He was very well kept and groomed, even though he was likely 80 years old. He always dined alone, ate the same thing and drank the same thing every time. Noah and I loved the guy dearly, and he loved us. He had the fried oysters with a Grey Goose martini with olives. Noah and I poured that thing to absolutely near overflowing, and charged him for the "Skol" house vodka martini. His hands trembled and shook as he tried to drink or eat anything. He always seemed to be wearing medical bracelets and often had fresh IV type scars/cuts on his arms and hands. He LOVED it when we were dead and we had time to chat, but he also loved the "scene" when we were busy. We would absolutely fall over each other to find him a seat at the bar if he came out on a Friday or Saturday, pushing aside people to find him three feet of open space and a stool. He loved to chat with us and loved to sit near the "well." When the oysters came, he would drink a small lite beer (which we never charged him for,) and then pay his check and tip us $10. This went on for nearly two years, and we watched him waste away to almost nothing. We figured him for gay and dying of AIDS, but any inquiries were shot down immediately by him and considered rude, not that it mattered to us the way that he tipped. One day the place had a female bartender fill in for one of us and poor Ken nearly flipped out! The next time we saw him he was pretty upset. He felt that bartenders should be men, and the waitresses should be women. He was very adamant about this, going so far as to say that only the DAY bartender should be a woman, and that the night barstaff should all be men, with attractive females waiting tables in the lounge, and that was the successful formula. We saw him two to three times a week for nearly two years, and then one day he stopped coming in. We were sad, and figured that he was likely not going to come in ever again. He was the best type of regular to have.
Jean was another type. Another "regular" who always had the same drink. Jean was a retired Air Force officer, and was a ladies man. He was likely 70, drove a massive Caddilac Escalade, and was usually loaded 24/7. He always had a massive grin, like this was his preferred life that he expressly wanted to live. His white hair was so white that it was silver and was always well groomed. His clothes were purchased at Brooks Brothers in the casual section, his watch was Tag/Heuer, and his shoes were Ferragamo. The women who would accompany him were usually dripping with jewelry and in their 40's or 50's. In his bizarro alcoholic retiree world, here is how Jean spent his day. He had a condo there in Alexandria, VA next to the Shirley Highway. He would drive down Duke street, into Old Town and start his day. Southside 815, Bombay Bicycle club, even Bennigans. He stopped at them all. Anyplace along Duke Street. Every Day. ONE drink at each place, always charged for his drink, always left $2 as a tip, and then on to the next place. He was known at each place by all of the regualrs, used first names only, remembering everyone after the first introduction. He always had a giant grin, always made people laugh, and left after one drink in his Caddy. Eventually he would be back to his "home base" (his condo) and his "sortie" was over.
Mary and Barry, in their late 60's and still spry were another story. How we hated these people. They would arrive around 3 every Sunday, rain or shine. Mary would order a diet coke and then not drink a drop. The ice in that thing wouldn't even melt she was so cold. Barry would drink Mirassou Chardonnay, and lots of it. We never knew how much that he would drink, and for some reason or another we would just pour it and pour it and when it was all over would charge for either one bottle or two. They NEVER tipped very well, and Barry would get more and more belligerent as he read the Sunday NY Times, The Nation, or The New Republic. This was all during the Clinton years, and even then he would harrumph about the sad state of our Nation, and otherwise gripe about how high the literacy rate in North Korea was, or about the "free" medical care in Cuba. Then Barry would go to sleep, (literally pass out and sleep on the bar) and Mary would not shut the fuck up. Everything was all about web design, and about how hard her job was keeping up with a nutrtional information website, and how good she was at her job, how many pages there were, what info the Gobm't keeps from us peons, etc. Now when Noah and I started this gig, we inherited these regulars. We hated them. If they ever ate something (never happened,) we would have spit in it. If I was married to a shrew like that, I would be a drunk too. There were many other regulars there too, and they all tolerated her for some reason. Around 7pm, the football games would be over (Barry was a Bronco's fanatic, and I will NEVER forget how drunk he got when Elway lost to the Jaguars in the second round of the playoffs in 1997!) and they would walk to their million dollar condo around the corner. This happened every Sunday that I ever worked there. After I left, like two years later I heard through the grapevine that Barry went to rehab and Mary came in many times by herself and then when he got out they stopped coming in altogether.
One of my favorite regulars that wasn't mine was this tiny little old lady. She would come in every weekday (where she was on the weekends I have no idea) and request the same waitress. This waitress was a TOTAL grouch/biatch named Susan, ready to quit the business altogether after having been working in it for almost 15 years. The hours were too much, she didn't want to work at night anymore, she hated waiting on people, blah, blah, blah. She sucked, and she had pissed off management horribly with all of her complaining, etc. and then she and the little old lady "clicked" together like a frickin' lego. Who was this lady? I have no idea, but she had MONEY. She looked oh so sophisticated, and would show up with a different lady EVERY weekday at lunch, request Susan to wait on her and would order the same thing every time. She would usually have another little old lady with her that would sit and order the tea service (there was an extensive fine dining tea service there, complete with a dozen choices of fresh ground tea and a heated iron kettle to pour your own) and something meager off of the menu. Every once in a while, the lady accompanying the regular would have a lobster, but never more than the 1 1/2 lb one. Susan's regular on the other hand would always order a bottle of Dom Pergignon, and then the Arctic Char, lightly cajuned with the light lemon butter sauce (a staff favorite, and Susan's connection. She told the little old lady that the staff loved their Char, and how we ate it. The lady tried it and freaked, and ate it every weekday after. In her defense, have you ever eaten Artic Char with a light cajun seasoning and a lemon butter sauce? It is incredible. To eat it every day I imagine that she is dead of a heart attack by now, but still. For a treat, I rate it up there with a Ruth's Chris N.Y. Strip served mid-rare"Pittsburgh" Style with a Caesar Salad and some mashed potatoes. [Here is a Homer Simpson "Doughnuts!" drooooollll...]) and then she ate the profiteroles for dessert. She would tip Susan $50. Every weekday. We had a VERY brisk lunch business anyways, with most servers making between $50 and $80 for working from 10:30 to 2:30 and then working again at 5 for the dinner shift. Susan would stay on as the "mid" with another server that changed every day, but since the little old lady Dom gravy train wouldn't be waited on by anyone else except Susan, she was one of the "automatic" mid servers of the weekdays. Mid servers would make between $125 and $150. Susan made that plus the $50 from her little old lady. $800-1000 bucks a week on 10:30 to 5pm schedule, totally chilled out times. All of a sudden, Susan loved her job again, started to have other regualrs, and would actually smile....Funny how it works...