It’s Saturday night and the Bistro’s jamming. I’m heading to the men’s room when Beth, a fellow waiter, intercepts me.
“I need help,” she squeaks, “I’m going into the weeds.”
“Whatcha need?” I offer gallantly. My piss can wait a minute.
“Do you know how to make a Sidecar?” Beth asks, “That would really help me out.”
I head over to the bar and rim a frosted martini glass with sugar. I throw ice into a Boston shaker, measure in some brandy, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and shake the ingredients together vigorously. I pour the concoction into the glass, place a corkscrew lemon twirl on the rim, and admire my handiwork. Sidecars, and other drinks popular in Dashiell Hammett’s day, appear to be having a renaissance. I’ve sort of become the Bistro’s old and odd drink specialist. Maybe I should switch to bartending.
“Sidecar up!” I yell over the din.
Beth races in and grabs the drink. “Thanks,” she says.
“Don’t spill it,” I call after her.
I head over to the men’s room and pull on the door. Locked. Sigh. I head back onto the floor.
“Waiter,” a voice calls out, “I need another drink.”
A large woman wearing too much foundation makeup waves her glass in the air. It’s not my table but I go over anyway. That’s me. Mister Customer Service.
“What were you drinking Madam?” I ask, taking the empty glass out of her hand.
“A whiskey Old Fashioned,” she says.
What’s up with the old timer drinks tonight? Next thing you know William Powell and Myrna Loy are gonna sashay through the front door.
“Right away Madam.”
This lady’s in Saroya’s section but she’s busy repeating the specials to some deaf oldsters on table 17. They look like they voted for Hoover. I’ll bet they’d know who Myrna Loy was. I cast a glance at my section. I’ve got time. Everyone’s on apps and entrees.
I head back to the bar, throw a piece of orange into a whisky glass, add sugar, two dashes of bitters, and muddle the whole thing together with the back of a teaspoon. I should really use a muddling spoon but we don’t have one. One day I’m gonna go to Chef Central and get the all bar tools we need.
I throw ice on top of the muddled fruit, grab a bottle of Canadian Club, pour the requisite amount, and stir the mixture thoroughly. I garnish the glass with an orange slice, drop in a cherry, and run the drink over to the customer.
“Your drink Madam,” I say, placing it in front of her.
The woman makes no effort to thank me. Oh well. I run back to the men’s room. Still locked. Damn. This is rapidly becoming a problem.
I head back to my section. My little window of inactivity’s drawing to a close. Soon I’ll be bringing out entrees, making cappuccinos, and ringing up checks. If I don’t piss now I won’t get another chance. My bladder’s aching like it’s just seen a “NEXT REST STOP 25 MILES” sign after wrestling with a Super Big Gulp for an hour. I wonder if pinching my urethra shut in public would look undignified. Something tells me it might.
I decide my customers are gonna have to wait. I run to the men’s room. The door’s still locked.
near the men’s room says.
“I wonder if he’s all right,” I wonder aloud.
The patron shrugs and returns to his rack of lamb. This is a conversation he doesn’t want to have.
I rap gently on the men’s room door. “Everything all right in there?”
“I’m gonna be here a while,” a strained voice replies.
I’ll have to use the ladies room. If that’s occupied there’s always the alley.
Luckily the little girl’s room’s unoccupied. But, out of the corner of my eye, I see Old Fashioned drink lady struggling down the aisle, her hammy arms outstretched as she tries to balance her inebriated frame, a wild drunken smile opening up the fault lines in her pancake makeup.
I should do the right thing. I should let Old Fashioned go to the can first. But it’s survival of the fittest time and I’m not getting voted of the Island.
I duck into the ladies room and throw the lock. As soon as my pants drop I’ve got a steady stream going. My knees almost buckle in relief.
“Thank God,” I whisper.
Behind me the doorknob rattles furiously. It’s gotta be Old Fashioned Lady. Too bad. I’m gonna be here a few minutes. It’s axiomatic that, when squeezed for time, your urine stream flows for an eternity. A good three minutes passes.
I finally finish, shake, flush, zip, kick the lid down, and wash my hands thoroughly. I towel off my hands and open the door to find Old Fashioned Lady glaring at me.
“This is the ladies room,” she says, slurring her words.
I decide to skip the witty comeback and mumble a sincere, “Sorry.”
“Harrumph,” the woman says, blustering past me.
I head back to my section. All my tables need something. I dive in.
Twenty minutes later everything’s under control and I feel two quarts lighter. I stop to get a cup of coffee, think better of it, and grab a glass of water instead. I lean against the service bar and take a deep breath. Beth sticks her head in.
“Hey Waiter,” she says, “Could you make me another Sidecar?”
That friggin Sidecar. That’s how I angered my bladder in the first place.
“Is this customer ninety-two?” I ask irritably.
“No, He’s a young guy. Why?”
“Tell him the 30’s called. Nick and Nora Charles want their cocktails back.”
“Huh?” Beth says, staring at me like I have two heads.
“Forget it Beth,” I say, knowing my sense of humor is often only understood by myself, “I’ll make the drink.”
I grab a Boston shaker and start mixing up a Sidecar. I wonder if I’d make a good bartender.
Nicky, Nicky! Take Asta with you while you sleuth. He’ll keep you out of trouble.
Oh, it sounds to me like you’d make an awesome bartender.
I think you’d make an excellent bartender.
Bartending is something I’m tempted to take up as a second job.
Hmmmmm…might have to study up and become a specialist. Good thing you stuck to writing. 😉
Any port in a storm, eh?
I was the only server at the last restaurant I worked at who had experience as a barback and a barista (I took any job I could in my college days), I can totally sympathize with this story. There were times I wound up making every drink in the place, especially once someone saw how nicely I made pina coladas (I refuse to use the nasty mix, so they were all from scratch). For the record, I officially HATE blended drinks.
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Doesn’t it always seem when you have to pee the worst is when your the busiest. When you finally get to pee the bathroom is full! Sometimes i swear my bladder will explode!
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Hey there… I came upon your blog.. and I’ve already read your book.. which I found hilarious and a great read! It sounds to me like you’d make a great bartender.. you seem to know your way around a bar quite well. I have a bartending blog if you’d like to check it out it’s tipsfrombb.blogspot.com. Come on by!
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Lotsa spam down here, Waiter! Also, the text of this entry is corrupted, look for “The door’s still locked. near the men’s room says.”
Loving this trip down memory lane. Thank goodness for archives!
I concur. Just read your book over Christmas, now making my way through your archives, little by little. You’d think the last thing i’d want to fill my head with after hours of slinging beer and fish & chips would be industry-related anecdotes… But it’s actually quite a nice post-shift decompression.
PS– Despite the pain in the ass involved in concocting those “old-timer” cocktails, especially when i was slammed, i honestly took pleasure in the ritual and methodology they entailed. So few people ever ordered them, it was kind of a fun change of pace to dust off my chops, and appreciate the tinge of romance and character i associate with those old-school beverages. Not to mention…While Jack&cokes and cosmos may be quick & brainless to make, they’re usually just as thoughtlessly consumed. Whereas one who orders an old-fashioned or a perfect manhattan on the rocks, is generally going to savor every sip 🙂
I just want to applaud your wonderful references to Hammitt, Nick and Nora/Powell and Loy. I love the Thin Man movies and the book was awesome too. I’m getting married in a few months and I’m hoping that my fiancee and I will be as awesome as Nick and Nora Charles after we’re married.
I’m at work in a gift shop, and I laughed outloud at “they looked like they voted for hoover”.
Well done good sir
Mina Loy was a fascinating lady, Waiter. I’m always surprised by the things I come across in your entries.
What a shame. I’m only 25 and I know who Nick and Nora are!