Tonight, on the A Train home from work, I saw an ad for Barnes & Noble Bookstores. The ad read:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is. O brave new world
That has such people in’t!”
---William Shakespeare, “The Tempest"
Apparently, Shakespeare never rode the A Train.
Actually, these words, uttered by the character of Miranda in The Tempest, are NOT meant to signify the beauty of the world as much as they are meant to show the naïveté of Miranda. The characters she calls “goodly” are really not all that great.
But apparently, the Barnes & Noble Corporation doesn’t get the context---nor the irony of putting this particular gem on the A Train, whose cars are where the local bums go to sleep at nights.
Oh, I’ve learned the hard way to scope out the car in advance. A friend of mine once told me a story about his sister visiting NYC. They were waiting for the A Train and noticed that most of the cars were packed, except for one.
“Oh, that car’s practically empty!” she cried as she dashed towards the vacant car knowing she would get a seat.
“Okay,” he snickered as he followed her across the platform. “But you’ll see why.”
The doors of the train opened and the smell of unwashed homeless immediately tore thru their nostrils.
Ten minutes after they got off the train, they still had the smell of pee on their clothes.
Frankly, if I’m on the A Train and look around me and think, “How many goodly creatures are there here…” Well, I’m just as deluded as the over-sheltered Miranda.
However, as a waitress, there is no danger of that. Waitresses have learned thru years of lousy treatment not to trust people. In fact, we’re often shocked at kindness. Even hold it suspect.
“Those people were really nice. What the hell do they want?”
Once, I told my manager at work to look at a particular blog post I wrote. The next day he said to me, “Wow. You seem really nice on your blog. Like a nice person.”
“I AM a nice person!” I replied. “I’m a completely different person outside of this job. You can’t be nice here. They’ll eat you alive!”
Tonight, I waited on what seemed to be a lovely couple. French. Old. Really old. I'd say close to ninety. They each ordered a glass of wine and the all-inclusive Prix Fixe special. Things seemed to be going along swimmingly. They were happy with everything. Having a very nice vacation in America. Smiled. Seemed to be having a pleasant, relaxing evening.
At the end of the meal, he asked for the check. When I went back to pick up the check, the man had laid a coupon for 15% off next to the check.
"Oh," I explained, "I'm sorry, but the coupon doesn't work for the special. You can use it for the wine, but the special is already a special."
The man instantly became irate. Started asking me where it said on there that he couldn't use it on the special.
'Well, it says right here, 'Some restrictions apply'"
"Some restrictions!" he screamed. "What are the restrictions? It doesn't say the restrictions!" he screamed as he pointed his arthritic finger at the coupon.
"Well, it also says on the special menu, 'Not to be combined with other offers'".
This seemed to send him into a rage. "You're crooks!" he yelled at me with his French accent. "CROOKS!!!"
"Sir, I'm just the server. It's the company policy."
"You're crooks! All of you! I'm never coming back here again!"
I was this close to saying, "Are you going to live that long?"
Of course, when I told this story to my manager and another server and uttered my imagined response, they immediately cracked up laughing. I was told I was "on fire tonight".
Luckily, I have a manager who appreciates my sometimes twisted sense of humor. Luckily I HAVE my twisted sense of humor. Some nights, it's the only way I can get thru the evening without going postal on the joint.
Of course, I knew this man wouldn't leave a tip. And he didn't. No big surprise. Old French Man was determined to hang onto that six dollars one way or another.
But anyone willing to use the last precious days of his Golden Years to yell at a waitress over a possible six dollar savings was not my type of person.
I can't imagine being an old person like that. Sure, waitressing may have taught me some mistrust---but it's also taught me to appreciate the good times.
Tonight, as I ride the train home, I set to work on a short sketch for a local theatre company. Fresh from work, I pull out that snarky, doubting side of me and add it to the sketch. Ninety year-old French man may still have have his six dollars---but I have him and every other crazy, angry and/or miserable person I've ever met to draw upon as material.
Who's the richer now?