It’s seven o’clock on Wednesday night and I’m walking down down Central Park West. I’m scheduled to interview a guy at 7:30 for my new book. Since my bus made it in from Jersey quicker than I expected, I have half an hour to kill. I decide to use my time constructively and pass out my business card to the doormen and livery drivers shivering beneath the sparkling edifices of impossible wealth lining the avenue. The temperature is seventeen degrees. The wind chill makes it feel much worse.
“Hey buddy,” I say to a doorman struggling to light a cigarette in the wind. “You work at this building?”
“Yes, sir,” the man replies. He has an accent. Pakistani perhaps.
“Listen,” I say. “I’m a writer. I wrote a book about being a waiter. Now I’m writing a book about tipping.”
“You’re a writer?”
“Then what are you doing out in this cold?”
“I’m suffering for my art?”
“I’d like to talk to you about your job,” I continue. “What’s it like to be a doorman? How do the residents treat you? Do they tip well?”
“You want to talk to me?” the doorman says incredulously.
“I’ll buy you a drink, you stay completely anonymous – how about it?” In the back of my mind I wonder how I’m going to expense out all the alcoholic bribes I’ve been distributing. Oh well. I’ll let my accountant figure that one out.
“I don’t know,” the doormen says, looking at me like I’m from Mars. “You could be anybody. Why should I talk to you?” Time to do something I’m loathe to do – brag.
“Well my first book was a New York Times Bestseller. I was on Oprah, The Today Show. So I’m for real. I’m not a nut.”
“You were on Oprah?” the doorman asks.
“And The Today Show?”
“Yes, I talked to Matt Lauer.”
“Was Meredith Viera very pretty?”
“Just call the number on the card if you’re interested,” I say.
The doormen’s wind chapped face breaks into a smile. “This could be fun!”
“I hope you call me,” I say. “But in any case, try and stay warm.”
“I will, sir,” the doorman says, touching his right hand to his cap. “Have a nice evening, sir.”
I leave the doorman to his cigarette and head down Central Park West to Columbus Circle. All around me stylish but woefully under dressed people scurry along the pavement looking for cabs, limos or other forms of mobile shelter. I, on the other hand, am impervious to the cold. Before leaving for the city I prepared for Arctic Armageddon by donning a pair of long underwear, (What the marketing wags now euphemistically call a “base layer.”) heavy wool socks, jeans, a sweater, a heavy hooded sweatshirt, hat, and a pair of thick gloves. On the bus ride over I was so well insulated that I suffered a mild heat stroke and needed two cold bottles of water when I arrived at Port Authority to stave off brain damage. Outside in the polar chill, however, I feel invincible. So what if I look ridiculous? I’d rather look foolish and be warm than be stylish and hypothermic.
When I reach Columbus Circle I wait for the light to change so I can cross over to Central Park South. As I’m waiting a police car races up to the corner. A tiny female cop dressed in her winter uniform emerges from the driver’s side and walks around to the rear door on the passenger side. The officer opens the door and hauls a rather large man in an expensive suit out of the backseat. The man’s hands are manacled behind him. He’s dressed in an expensive blue suit. He’s not wearing a coat.
I watch as the brisk wind ruffles the collar points of the man’s open collared silk shirt. He has an immensely sad, “How did this happen to me?” look on his face. I notice the man’s not shivering in the extreme cold. Maybe his internal preoccupations are overriding the temperature sensors in his skin. I was handcuffed once, and, to be honest, I don’t remember registering the temperature either. I watch as the female cop moves the big man down the street to another patrol car. She’s not being rough. In fact she’s being gentle. I remember a cop once telling me that he felt sorry for every person he ever arrested. I wonder if this young cop feels the same way. When policewoman and her prisoner arrive at the second patrol car the young woman opens the door, puts her hand on the back of the big man’s head, and gingerly pushes him down inside the backseat. I idly wonder what that man did to deserve arrest. Did he try to beat a cab fare? Did he try to beat his wife? Maybe he’s one of the countless finance guys that got laid off and he had a nervous breakdown on the street. Maybe he tried to steal a car or buy drugs. Maybe he’s a murderer. Maybe he spat on the sidewalk. Who knows?
I turn to a fellow onlooker surveying the scene. “That guy,” I say, “Is having a very bad day.”
“The worst,” the onlooker replies.
“I hope he had fun doing what got him into so much trouble.”
“Yeah,” the onlooker says, laughing. “Be a shame if he didn’t.”
The young cop and the big man drive away. The light turns green and I cross over to Central Park. Shapely joggers dressed in black tights dart out of the park’s entrance, their bellowing lungs pushing clouds of vapor skyward. One of them, a beautiful girl wearing an orange hat, makes eye contact with me and smiles. I smile back. I notice a homeless man leaning against the Maine Monument, his possessions in a plastic bag at his feet and the the cup of coffee in his hands his only source of warmth. I turn around and look at the glamour and glitz of the Time Warner Center. A little less than six months ago my book came out and my identity was “revealed” in that very building. So much has changed since that night. I wonder how things are changing for that man being whisked to Central Booking. I wonder how life’s changing for that doorman, the homeless guy, and the girl with the orange hat who whisked past me like an athletic dream. Who knows?
I press on to my destination. Impervious to the cold.
Times are tough and tough times are tougher when it’s cold.
Two posts in one week! Waiter, you are going to spoil us. If you come to Seattle to study barista tipping, let everyone know so we come buy coffee from you. It would be outstanding.
It is great to have you blogging (almost) regularly again!
Thanks for another great story!
I look ridiculous in the cold. I’m a cute girl and like fashion as much as anyone… but thermals and mass layering are my friend!
It’s 15 degrees in Memphis right now! Coldest it’s been here in 5 years they say.
Wow, I got busy and stopped reading blogs for about 6 months. Now I am back and it seems the tone of the blog posts here are a lot different now. Before, they seemed so sad, but not now, much more confident. Congrats. You are doing well and you deserve it. Too bad everyone who deserves it doesn’t get it, but it’s nice to see at least a few make it.
I think your writing is elegant.
Waiter – are you saving the juicy info on tipping solely for the book?
I can’t blame you but can’t we at least have a little taste?
Ohh I love the cold, but only because it provides the marvelous opportunity to stay completely and comfortably toasty 😀
Great post, makes me want hot cocoa 😀
Oh thank you for yet another super post! Just love your take on life.
Middle of summer here – don’t envy you the cold! 🙂
It was 60-odd degrees here last weekend. Today it was 40. By the weekend, it’s supposed to be back in the 60s. If you get tired of long underwear, come to Texas. You stay inside until the weather changes, then ignore the fact that you are wearing short sleeves in the middle of January.
I’d rather look foolish and be warm than be stylish and hypothermic.
I’m Alaskan…and this exact thought occurs to me multiple times a day, nearly every day, all winter long every winter. It in particular reminds me of this time I was standing at a bus stop early in the morning a few years ago. It was probably right around 0 degrees out, maybe a little below… I was well bundled, with all the appropriate layers, hats, scarves etc.
This dude walks up to me and says “New here?” to which I reply “Nope, born and raised.” He laughed and said something disparaging along the lines of “You sure do look silly.”
My reply was to look at him, bouncing around and visibly shivering and ask “Are you cold?”
He replied “Shit yeah!”
To which I replied casually (and honestly) back “I’m not” with a great big smile on my face. He didn’t say anything else to me. But I always feel that way.
People complain like mad about the cold, but refuse to dress properly for it. It’s all just a little silly!
This was a beautiful (and warm) thing to read in the beginning of the morning.
You could have at least given that man your gloves or a scarf since you were impervious.
“I was handcuffed once, and, to be honest, I don’t remember registering the temperature either.” – Please elaborate?
Once again, this is a brilliant observation of everyday people and everyday life. In the same vein, why don’t people tip very well? I’ve always over tipped my servers and have gotten excellent service. Even when the service was relatively poor, I still left a decent tip because I had an idea of how poorly the servers are usually paid. I would love to know how many times or percentages do servers get “stiffed” due to kitchen error, or management inaction? And, how do servers explain it to their customers when the situation is so far out of their control? One last story. It was below zero here in Columbus, Ohio last night. I had ordered a pizza delivered from a national chain. They charge a $ 2.00 delivery “fee”. I assumed that this went to the driver. Well after having my eyes opened by the WAITER, I asked about the “fee” and was advised that the driver only got 90 cents out of the $ 2.00 fee. If people assume that this is a sort of “tip”, then the driver gets royally stiffed at the hands of the company. ALWAYS check to see what these fees are for!
Justmy two cents today!
I prepared for Arctic Armageddon by donning a pair of long underwear, (What the marketing wags now euphemistically call a “base layer.”)
You want the comma after your parantheticals…
I was always tip more for delivery and such in the winter than in warm weather…I’m just THAT much more grateful I don’t have to go out in minus 2 degree weather!
The best thing to do about cold is to learn to love it. I haven’t turned on my heat in four years and I don’t suffer a bit because of it. Granted I live in Atlanta but, hell, it was fourteen degrees last night.
Americans have let themselves become too removed from the elements. A chill and a sweat now and again makes you more in touch with and more prepared to deal with the world.
Just always have a hat, a nice winter cap. If you can keep your head at the right temperature, everything else is easy.
I live in the Northeast and due to a boiler that decided to malfunction in the middle of the night, I woke up with no heat on Sunday morning.
I did not feel the need to become less removed from the elements when the house was in the low 50s and I had to get it fixed quickly in order to keep the pipes from freezing.
A fine piece. Your powers of observation were at their peak.
It’s been awhile since I read your posts, got back only recently. Am happy for your success as a writer. I guess you no longer wait on tables now.
Those mundane stories were really wonderful. Gave such an insight into your world as a waiter. Used to work as a part time waitress whilst studying in the States. My experiences were not as colorful as yours though. 🙂
Nice post, Waiter. I like this as one of those, “not much going on” posts that show the color of every day life.
A lot of times it seems those are the stories that are more interesting than big events.
Two things – Waiter, as a fan of Las Vegas, can’t wait for the chapter(s) you’ll surely do on the citywide tip jar.
Also, I’ve lived in Seattle forever and remember when we had just ONE coffee stand in the whole of downtown. If you search for a barista gig, I highly recommend Vivace. It was founded 21 years ago and its owner drank coffee all over Seattle and then cherry-picked the best (quality drink + customer service) baristas and lured them over with lots of pay and perks. One of my good friends was its first employee. Twenty plus years on and Vivace is still known for its consistently fine quality.
80 degrees here right now in SoCal. One of the most beautiful days of the winter so far…roses are pruned, plumeria is recovering…come on down, peeps, we don’t bite!
Waiter, you are as lovely as ever. Thank you.
that is cold!!! folks out here is the LA area flip out if it goes down to 32. and heaven forbid if it rains for more that one day. If it rains more than two days,on the second day folks are running to their doctors for the prozac. no sunshine and folks get the blues.:)
love this post.:)
It was 17 degrees in New York? It was 17 below zero in Chicago this morning. And it’s heading your way.
Keep bundled up.
Thank you for the post. I have learned that a hat always helps.
Since you are researching a book about tipping, and since this post included that, I thought this might be an appropriate place to post this question: I had my eyebrows and face threaded at a kiosk in the middle of the mall today. I don’t know what the deal is for tipping for this. It wasn’t really a salon and there was no space on the charge slip I signed for a tip, as there is in some salons. I did not notice any other cues either,like a tip jar, so I didn’t. Now I think I was supposed to, and I feel bad. Do I tip for this service, and how, if I’m charging it?
your beautiful writing and crisp, faithful perspective on life in the centre of new york never fails transport me back there.
to be honest i love your non-waiter non-fiction more than your tales from the restaurants. may the next book just be more of this!
You got me thinking… While you’re out there doing research and all, could you let me know if I’m supposed to tip my Milkman? How about the garbage dudes or the guys that mow the lawn? I live in the suburbs and have never even SEEN a real-live doorman. Maybe you could include a brief chapter for those of us out here in Middle America.
Всегда можно найти компромиссы и прийти к общему решению. Если вам что-нибудь не нравится попробуйте что-нибудь другое.
Waiter, love the way you contrasted the homeless man with all his possessions in a plastic bag with the opulence of the Time Warner Center and its habitues…I’ve been telling you that you should come to Key West for a book-signing; today is the day–bright and sunny, but only 68 degrees so far. Whatever, it’s a darned sight better weather here than there! Take good care, Waiter…
It is pretty damn cold in Boston too. I’m dreading walking to the grocery store today. 🙁 loved the post! And I don’t remember who mentioned it, but why not give us a few appetizers for your new book? I’m sure it would build reader interest 🙂
In portland, we have had quite a winter, but at least I can wear my thermal mask while walking and not get questioned by a police officer in the process ;-).
A few replies to people addressing tipping. For that semi-salon that you were talking about anonymous, if there is no space for a tip, some people consider that a reason not to tip. Most of the times this is true. I like to ask a person in a casual way how much they make for starters. My example: I go to subway twice a week and order the same thing. Usually I see the same person on these days but sometimes it’s a new face, because it’s Subway after all. I know their shit wages first hand, so for every $5.00 sub I buy, I tip a buck, and that’s $2 cause I buy two subs each time. I consider all this into my tip: they handle your food, make it to order and are the cashier as well. They do the prep-work for the dough/breads, the meats and veggies, and the side-work of cleaning it all up. This is much more than what your typical barista will do and yet most people do NOT tip subway employees, and they tip the person making their fancy caffeinated cocktails.
If someone does a lot of work for you personally and you know for a fact they have a crappy basic wage, there is NO harm in tipping them, even if at first they feel sheepish about accepting it. I even tip my UPS guy sometimes (it’s almost always the same guy) because I order so much stuff. Usually it’s computer components online. I know they get a much better standard wage and benefits plan than quite a few other people, but when I get that package in pristine condition a few days earlier than expected, and that guy is delivering in crappy weather, I always tip a few bucks if I can catch him!
In regards to tipping garbagemen, I would like to think that any employee of the city, state or federal government has a non-tipped position. You don’t tip police officers, you don’t tip anyone that works for the state department, and you certainly don’t tip anyone at the IRS. In the end, if you personally feel a great service is being done for you (such as the milkman), and you think that person is worth more than what he/she is making, and you don’t mind dishing out the same tip every time you see that person, then by all means tip them. Every time I see my UPS guy, for instance, rain or shine, I let him know his great service in keeping my computer components, etc… dent-free and on-time (or better) is well-appreciated with a few extra bucks. I doubt this will catch on but I’d like to think you’re making a bond with the person who helps you out on a weekly basis.
“I wonder how life’s changing for that doorman, the homeless guy, and the girl with the orange hat who whisked past me like an athletic dream. Who knows?”
I trust the interview went well?
A mini-rant about Taco Bell’s latest ad campaign for “double the beef”:
It drives me crazy when one man is about to tip his barista until another approaches and convinces him to spend it on a “double the beef” burrito at Taco Bell. Tipping is not about leaving money you had no other use for- it’s about thanking someone for a service!
Especially with the economic downturn, tipped employees get screwed. People are much quicker to lower the tip on the same product or service they consume, than to lower their consumption and continue to tip accordingly. Can’t wait for that book (and would be happy to elaborate if you’re still looking for input).
Another tipping pitfall to avoid- if you are a member of a country club or other members only eating establishment, watch out for a “house charge”, “service charge”, or similar %age charge at the end of your bill. In two establishments I have worked in (in two different states), this charge was used to pay employee wages, and is not a tip. Most of the members in both places assumed that this fee went back to the servers (I guess it did, but the owner should have to pay at least our base pay of $3.50/hr, don’t you think?) and didn’t tip. Needless to say, I didn’t work in either place very long…
You have such a melodic way with words.
“People watching”, or whatever you want to call it, is a fascinating activity. Too often we are so overwhelmed with our own lives that we don’t even see our fellow human beings as anything other than faceless players in our lives. I enjoy taking that minute to actually see the people all around me. I am enjoying your observations and musings almost as much as your writing.
Another cold day in Cincinnati. Things have calmed down since the holidays and the bar where I work has slowed down a bit. Your new book on tipping should be interesting. I am a daytime bartender at a beer, wings, sports bar and I live with a pizza delivery guy. Our entire life depends on tips. I work in a nicer part of town than he does but still get stiffed several times a week. I get a few 10% tips too, which is like a slap in the face. The funny thing is those people make a big deal over their 10% tip, like they are giving me the keys to a new car. My BF delivers pizza at night. If the weather is bad and they are scrolling school closings and road closings across the bottom of the TV screen I know he is really busy. Its dangerous driving out there and he gets stiffed 20% of the time. he has been robbed at gun point a few times and has to buy a new pizza car about every 3 years. Why don’t people tip? Why do people order delivery in the worst weather and not tip? I know many people ask why we keep our jobs and not find something better? We have freedom in our jobs, we can take unpaid vacations when we want, get our shifts covered whenever we need a personal day, We don’t have to buy clothes for our jobs, and we like the high energy of it all. Basically everyday is a new adventure. It is great. I love my job, just hate a small number of customers.
Come on down to Cincinnati Waiter we can fill a few pages for ya!
Ya go to Cincinnati, Chicago and Cleveland’s ugly step-brother, where you can get robbed at gunpoint, make shite tips and get stuck in the snow, all while freezing your ass off! I’d much rather sign up for a year-long tour in Iraq as an explosives expert without any formal training than spend a cold long winter in any of these 3 cities.
Don’t worry, Obama’s going to make it warmer.
Waiter, please please don’t forget to swing by your corner grooming salon! We live on tips too, and I have to say, we do one of the dirtiest, most thankless jobs in the tipping industry. Not only are we dealing with the same high-end clients that servers deal with, we’re also working with their spoiled, neurotic pets! We fight tooth and nail (literally!) for our tips… it would be worth your time to interview a pet stylist!
When i hear you dressed like that, I get a mental image of Ignatious Reilly..
Love your work still.. Miss the restaurant posts, but you still keep me sucked in..
I left a comment here but it didn’t post. Am I doing something wrong?
I always tip well – wait staff, handymen, trash collectors, mail carrier, newspaper deliverer, UPS, hairdresser, shampooer, etc. So in spite of putting that good Karma out into the world, I got played by the frickin’ Geek Squad.
Two guys came to my house right before Christmas. They looked at what needed to be installed and told me that the home entertainment system wasn’t included. I said that didn’t sound right since I spent 40 minutes on the phone making these arrangements.
They assured me they would install everything for free even though they weren’t supposed to. Of course, they got a huge tip.
Then I dug out my receipt and discovered that everything had been included in the fee I was charged.
Geeks suck. I was planning to give them a good tip anyway. I’ll continue tipping, but I won’t get fleeced again. Stupid, stupid Geeks!
The heat and cold changes are why we dress in layers. I have made the mistake of only dressing for my destination and not the journey before. Oy vey! I hate being hot.
I love watching people and seeing that little spark that confirms we connected. I often wonder who they are and what they are going through right then. Fascinating stuff.
Your next book should be about Peter. Do you realize how much information and knowledge that our elderly population have with them?
You just keep getting better and better. I mean that sincerely.
Last time I rode a bus into NYC the Pt Authority was on 34th and 8th I think…how is it you are walking Down C.Park West toward Columbus Circle…or did you get off at G.W. bridge from NJ? I need credibiity in your stories..remember?
Hey Boophy….we are so proud of your mayor! Gives Gay Pride a new meaning! degenerate
Even when you’re not writing about waitering, you’re still a pleasure to read! I’ve been reading your blog since the start and am a proud owner of Waiterrant, the book!
Please keep posting, I truly enjoy it.
Today at the bookstore:
Customer: I want to return these books without a receipt.
Me: I’m sorry mam you must have a receipt to return the books.
Customer: I am friends with your district manager so you better take them back.
Me: (Sighing I look them up on the computer) Mam, these are out of print. I can’t take them back.
Customer: Where’s you manager?
Me: I am the manager. Mam, these are computer books from 2003.
Customer: I got them as Christmas gifts.
Me: Well, I am sorry the gift giver gave you such old books, but I can’t take them back.
Customer: You are an idiot that doesn’t know anything about customer service. I’m shopping on-line from now on.
Me: Next in line, please.
Customer: Hello, you know you should smile more.
Me: Yes mam
Customer: I mean it is sunny and you have an easy job, what more could you ask for.
We had just gotten our W-2’s at work. I make less that $18,000. I stand on my feet all day and was told last week our hours were going to be cut. Smile indeed.
Me: Thank you for reminding me mam. You have a blessed day.
I hate that phrase. It’s so damn condescending She’s not sure if I am sarcastic or not.
I ALWAYS WONDERED, IS THERE A HEAVEN OR HELL? IF THERE IS A HELL, IM THINKIN IM PROLLY GONNA GO TO HELL, IT MAKES ME SAD, WHY DOES SHIET HAVE TO BE SO HARD, I WANNA CRY, THEN SLAP A BI. IF U BAD AND SELFISH U GO TO HELL, IF UR GOOD AND GIVING U GO TO HEAVEN, HOW ABOUT IF UR YOUNG AND U DIE OF CANCER, DO U AUTOMATICALLY GO TO HEAVEN, BUT WAT IF U WERE BAD AND SELFISH ALSO, THEN WHERE THE FUK WOULD U GO, WAT IF U WERE BAD, THEN TURNED GOOD, WHERE WOULD U GO AFTER U DIE? IT COULD GO EITHER WAY IN SO MANY WAYS, IF U WERE BAD, DO U GET REINCARNATED AS A COCKROACH? THAT WOULD SUK, ALOT OF TIMES I WISH I WASNT EVEN BORN, CUZ LIFE IS SO FUKKKKED UP SOMETIMES, I DONT EVEN LIKE GETTTING UP MOST OF THE TIME NIGGGGGA, EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE SUCH A CHORE, EVEN EATING HAS BECOME MUNDANE, AND WHEN U WATCH THE NEWS, ALL U HEAR ABOUT IS BAD NEWS AND ABOUT ALL THE FUKKKKED UP SHIET IN THE WORLD, ALL THE GREED AND HATRED, SURE THIS IS GOOD ALSO, BUT EVIL SEEMS TO BE SO MUCH MORE OUT THERE, LOOK AT THE US, HOW RICH IT IS, AND THEN U LOOK AT AFRICA AND JUST HOT POOR AND STARVING ALL THE PEOPLE ARE, THEN U HEAR ABOUT BERNIE MADOFF AND HOW HE LOST 50 BILLION DOLLARS OF RICH PEOPLES MONEY, THEN U SEE BUMS ON THE STREET EATING OUT OF THE TRASH CAN, THEN U EAT AT BUFFETS WHERE THERE IS ENDLESS FOOD, AND THEN U SEE IMAGES OF PEOPLE DYING IN AFRICA OF STARVATION, LIFE I SO FUKKKED UP IN HOW RANDOM AND UNFAIR IT IS, ALOT OF TIMES THERE SEEMS LIKE THERES NO RHYME OR REASON, BUT THEN AT THE SAME TIME U THINK THERE MUST BE A GOD, I MEAN WHO COULD HAVE CREATED NATURE, THE WONDERS OPF THE UNIVERSE, THE COMPLEXT HUMAN BODY, THE CREATION OF ART AND MUSIC, SO MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD APPREAR TO BE A MIRACLE TO ME, SOMETHING THAT COULD NOT BE MAN MADE, SO IN THE END , I THINK THERE WAS A GOD THAT CREATED EVERYTHING, BUT I FEEL LIKE HE DIED, RIGHT AFTER HE CREATED THE UNIVERESE, HE CREATED US, THEN JUST DESERTED US, WHERE DO WE GO TO AFTER WE DIE? I HAVE NO IDEA, A BIG PART OF ME WISHES THAT IT WOULD JUST BE ALL OVER, NO MORE THOUGHTS , NO MORE WORRIES, NO MORE FEELINGS, I DONT CARE ABOUT HEAVEN, THAT WOULD BE HEAVEN TO ME, BUT THEN A BIG PART OF ME THINKS THERE MUST BE SOME KIND OF JUDGEMENT ON HUMAN SOULS, IT WOULD BE UNFAIR IF ALL PEOPLE HAD THE SAME FATE, PEOPLE ARE SO DIFFERENT, ESEPCIALLY GOOD PEOPLE AND BAD PEOPLE, IF EVERYONE HAD THE SAME FATE, IT WOULD DEFINITELY BE UNFAIR, BUT AS EVERYONE ALREADY KNOS LIFE IS UNFAIR
False, sad, cliched, weak dialogue follows:
“Was Meredith Viera very pretty?”
“Just call the number on the card if you’re interested,” I say.
The doormen’s wind chapped face breaks into a smile. “This could be fun!”
“I hope you call me,” I say. “But in any case, try and stay warm.”
“I will, sir,” the doorman says, touching his right hand to his cap. “Have a nice evening, sir.”
Just made aware of your site and book- will check it out. Used to be a waitress in my 20’s, tried to go back in my 30’s and lasted 3 weeks! Couldn’t do it anymore. Used to refer to my job as One Step up from Prostitution. sold my soul most recently to a uber-wealthy NYC family and may be able to get you in touch with their doormen. Let me know if you’re interested. Love your site! Stay warm! Julie- Recovering Server
Just had a thought- furniture movers. They might be a good group to interview about tipping. I’m never sure what’s appropriate and always worry I haven’t given enough.
So I’m anxious to read your book and I’ll probably go grab it tomarrow. I’m a Starbucks barista in Gig Harbor, WA. It’s a town that’s come to feel an entitlement for their coffee, only satisfied if you’ve smiled at their every picky preference they could think to add. That 20% you mentioned exists and they’re not ashamed to lash out for any reason under-the-sun. I’ve appreciated reading that this frustration has been written down. We joke at work about writing a book about all the rediculous questions, comments, suggestions, and requests we get day-in and day-out. The service world can be cruel, but those of us who haven’t become completly sinical see find the love to serve when we get that next refreshing customer here to enjoy the next 30 minutes sitting over a delicious hand-crafted beverage from their local barista. I look forward to reading more. Chao!
I loved the way that story was written. It gave some very good visual references and pulled you into the story.
The urban legend. Everybody’s heard of them, but no one really knows of anyone who’s ever been in one. Urban legends cover a large variety of topics… from murders to practical jokes to those flesh-eating monsters that hide underneath your bed at night, it seems society loves to create them and pass the stories on from generation to generation. Well, one summer I decided to chase a certain urban legend which has always fascinated me, and I thought I’d share my story with all of you.
The time: Summer 1994
The place: Ensenada, Mexico
The crew: Garrett, John, Paul, and me
Our mission: The illustrious donkey show
For those of you who don’t know, I’d say Ensenada is about 80 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border, give or take a couple. It’s got the reputation of being a touristy sort of area, but to me it just looked like Tijuana on a bad day… if you can imagine that. Now I’ve been in some pretty shady joints in my lifetime, but I have to admit that Ensenada could possibly be the most funked up place I’ve ever been in. As soon as we rolled up into our “hotel,” we knew this was going to be one crazy ass trip. The walls to the gated parking lot were about eight feet high, and there were shards of broken beer bottles cemented into the top of the walls to keep trespassers out. That’s some wild shit.
So we go on in and check into our hotel room, if that’s what you could call it. Place looked like it was decorated by a couple homeless guys off the street, and was probably cleaned by them too. The sick part was that there were 4 of us, and only 1 queen sized bed. So that meant two fools had to kick it on that nasty ass floor. Luckily paper rock scissors is my game, and when you up in my house you never win. Needless to say, I didn’t go out like a sucka.
There was also something else funky with the room. For some reason there was this hidden door in the back of the closet which led to the bathroom. Now I don’t know what the hell peeps down in Mexico use hidden doors for, but thank goodness there was four of us up in that room. You know what I’m sayin? Let’s just say four Asian guys kickin it deep in Mexican territory don’t exactly blend in with the locals.
One other thing about Mexico… don’t ever ever ever drink the water. Hell, you don’t even have to drink it to get sick. All you need to do is get that crap in your mouth and you’ll have the green apple splatters for like a week. When you’re down in Mexico, you drink bottled water, you brush your teeth with bottled water, you even wash your face with bottled water. And watch out for ice and soup and all that kind of stuff… it’s all diarrhea in disguise.
So after a carefully consumed dinner consisting of orange eggs and hot dogs (I kid you not!), we decided it was time to get our shit on. We headed out to a couple of clubs, checkin out the local establishments, and also droppin questions on where we might be able to find El Donkey Show. For those of you who don’t know what a donkey show is… hmm… how do I explain it? I guess the best way to phrase it, would be to say that a donkey show is when you go and pay money to watch a woman have sex with a donkey. Whoo hoo!
Now this is something that I’ve always wondered about since the first time I heard about it in high school. Questions a plenty zoom through my head when I try to picture this unholy act taking place. What position is she in? Does she have any outside support? How the hell does it fit in there? How long does it take a donkey to cum? You know… all kinds of deep philosophical inquiries that boggle one’s mind. But this was gonna be it… right here and now on this trip… I was gonna settle all these questions and have one kick ass story to talk about when I get back home. So with this as our ultimate goal, we continued on with our quest to become more cultural people.
After knocking back a couple of beers, tequilas, and other various alcohols, it became apparent to us that finding a donkey show would be harder than we expected. We thought we could just roll up in here and find a donkey going at it on every street corner, but alas it was not meant to be. We must’ve scoured every single inch of that city looking for some action, but everyone we talked to and asked didn’t know where we could find such a thing. Lying or just ignorant? We’ll probably never know.
A few frustrating hours passed and we was still doin our best Inspector Gadget imitation. Was this how we were gonna out? Travel all this way, battling jacked up roads, polluted water, and nasty ass orange scrambled eggs to be foiled once we got here? Nay I say! All this did was make us even more determined to find our Holy Grail. If no one down here was gonna give us what we wanted to see voluntarily, we’d just have to do things the American way… bribe em!
The only problem now was to find a shady looking cat that would dish out the 411. It took all of five minutes before some scummy looking dude that looked like he visited donkey shows on a regular basis passed by us. We stepped up to El Chico and initiated a conversation…
Us: Hey man. You know where there’s a donkey show going on?
Scummy Looking Dude: Que? Donkey?
Us: Yeah man. Donkey! You know…
SLD: Ahh… El Donkey Show! Si! Si! Cuantos?
I guess this fool knows how things is run or whatever, cause he knew we was down to pay him for intelligence before we even whipped our wallets out. We slipped our new homeboy a grand total of two bucks to show us where it was goin down, and we soon knew that we were about to watch bestiality in its finest.
Little did we know though, was how deep into enemy territory we had to travel to get there. Sure, everything is all good and relatively safe when we were kickin it in the “touristy” areas, but once we stepped foot outta the downtown area, things started getting a little bit too shady for my blood.
Our newfound guide led the way as we marched a good distance from the clubs, the glitz, and most importantly, the streetlights. The blackness creeped in on us as we continued on our way, all the time being eyed by the locals who no doubt wouldn’t mind stickin a shiv in us and robbin us for all of our American money. I think the only thing that protected us was that there were four of us. Anything less and we’d probably still be in Mexico laying on our stomachs and rotting in some cornfield or whatever. Scary shit down there.
Anyways… after walkin about a mile from where we first started off, Mr. Guide stopped and pointed us towards this rat hole of a building. The outside walls were supposed to be white in color, but who knows what shade of dirt they really were, and the numerous cracks and chips decorating it reminded us that this ain’t no Trump Tower. Eager to go inside but cautious all the while, we bid farewell to our trailblazer and ventured inside.
Once we stepped inside our “Donkey Taj Majal,” the smell of cigars and stank beer overwhelmed our senses. The inner walls were all painted a dark red, and the dim lighting inside kept the place dark. Dark enough for anyone to do basically whatever they wanted to do without prying eyes getting in the way. Naked senoritas, obviously prostitutes, were all over the joint sittin on the patron’s laps and givin them a little somethin somethin for their money. It reminded me of a scene out a movie. You know… when some fool that doesn’t belong walks into a room and all of a sudden the music stops playing and everyone has got both eyes locked down on you. Well, that was us.
“Fuck this,” I heard John say, and I was down with that too. I didn’t come to Ensenada to get the shit beat out of me, and I think everyone was pretty much in agreement until Garrett spotted something on the walls. With a swift movement of his finger, he pointed out to us a drawing on the wall, many drawings in fact. Curious with what he saw, we glared through the smoke until the sight of all sights filled our vision, a crude illustration of a woman holding a donkey by the leash.
“Alright!” I thought to myself, “This is it! Finally I’m gonna see this shit!” At that moment, all worries of living and being safe left my body, and it must’ve been like that with my other three compadres also, cuz right then and there, we knew we were gonna kick it here for awhile. Slowly and quite politely I might add, we made our way to the back of the bar and sat down at a small table in sheer obscurity. Aw yeah… it was only a matter of time now.
A waitress came by our table and took our order for drinks. I don’t know what she was thinking, but I really doubt that she waits on a table filled up with Asians on a frequent basis. Thank goodness beer comes in bottles and not on tap… who knows what they would’ve slipped in our drinks if they weren’t.
So we’re loungin and drinkin and waitin… and waitin… and waitin… and about thirty minutes pass and nothin is goin down. Frustrated, we order more drinks and hang out hoping for some quality entertainment to pass our way, but it just doesn’t seem like any action is gonna happen. After about an hour and a half of being pissed off and drunk, I spot an amiable looking chico sittin down at the table next to us. It doesn’t look like he’s carryin a knife or anything, so I decide to tempt fate and fire up a short conversation with him…
“Ay umm… you know if there’s a donkey show goin on tonite?” I ask him VERY politely.
“Eh? No donkey show here. No donkeys,” he replied back like I was nuts.
Arrrghhh! That was the only thing that could go through my head at that moment. That fool could’ve been lying to us, but why the hell would he lie? No… I think he was right. There was no donkey show goin on, at least up in this joint. So with a feeling of disappointment growing in our bellies, we paid our bill, got up from the table, and started our slow walk back to Ensenada. Not only did we waste half the night lookin for our urban legend, but that scummy little dude ripped us off two bucks! Most of the conversation on the way back involved coming up with different ways to take two dollars off that dude’s hide, but luckily we didn’t see him again. Who knows what people will do when they’re drunk?
So basically our trip was a bust. I’m not sayin that I didn’t have a good time in Ensenada, but everything we did down there, we could’ve done in Tijuana for cheaper. And no donkey show to boot! Bah… it was still a good trip. How can I complain about getting drunk every night and kickin it with some good friends? I’m so sentimental…
Now I’m not sayin that donkey shows don’t exist, but to this day I’ve never found one. Will that stop me from looking? No. And believe you me, I will find one before my lifetime is over. And if I don’t, I’ll figure out how to stage one somehow. This is something that I must see, in order to fulfill my destiny of becoming a true TSO. There’s gotta be one out there in a small little corner of the world hidden from prying eyes. If there isn’t, how do these donkey show rumors start anyways? It’s gotta be out there somewhere… doesn’t it?
I’m listening to your book on CD right now and it’s terrific! Listening to your rants actually calms me down a whole lot, even though people think I’m crazy because I’ll be walking down the street with my iPod and suddenly burst out laughing. I just decided to check out your blog now and I’m ecstatic to hear you’re working on another book. Thanks so much, and keep warm!
I live 40 miles from the Mexican border in AZ. I wouldn’t venture into Darkest Mexico to witness the Second Coming, let alone a donkey show.
Ahh, such an excellent, well-shaped story with lots of heart-tweaking observational details. I look forward to reading more of your work, published and otherwise.