Dearest Stephanie,

Damn, girl! I’m jealous! Your manager actually tells you how to fix what you’re doing wrong?!  Mine just tells me I do everything wrong, so much so that, in fact, there’s really no point in telling me the specifics because, well, it would all be too much for lil ole doctorally educated me.

Talk about being worn down! Over the last week, this is what I’ve been hearing: “You do a lot wrong. You make a lot of mistakes.”

“Can you give me some specifics? Maybe a tip or two?”

“There’s just so much,” he said.

Ummm, well, that wasn’t very helpful now, was it. (I omitted the question mark because, like, it’s a rhetorical question.) The most bizarre part is that this manager actually lobbied me for weeks to move to the busier of the two restaurants on Saturday nights because he said the other bartender was too slow to handle the rush. And I resisted because Boo works at the slower restaurant, and I love working with Boo. But I finally relented due to my desire to actually make money at my job because, you know, that’s why I wanted to work in the first place.

I’m not one for conflict. I’m easy-going in the extreme. I just like to know that I’m an asset not a liability at whatever I do–writing, bartending, parenting…you name it!

So, yes, I’ve been quite distressed, really, at the thought that my mistakes are so voluminous that there’s no saving me. Consequently, for the last two nights, I’ve been crafting an eloquent resignation speech, especially while counting my drawer or polishing the glasses. So typically melodramatic of me.

But I really don’t want to quit, partly for reasons you have explored–it bothers me to give up, etc. etc. blah blah blah. But also because…I like bartending. It’s fun and social and soaks up some of my excess energy. Plus there’s the added bonus that I’m too busy to think.

Except when the bar is dead. Then I begin to think, in excess, that no one wants to come see me because I am a bad bartender. Oh no!

Between my manager’s “criticism” and the empty bar, I’ve been a bit, shall we say, “down in the dumps.” (Relish the air quotes.)

To cheer myself up, I bought a new pair of flats and two silver bracelets that look quite lovely with my existing silver bracelet. This was also to remind me that if I quit, bye-bye pretty things. It’s kind of fucked up, I acknowledge, but there you have it.

The insight I’m about to share with you has nothing to do with what I’ve been going on about, but here it is: I realized that I was absorbing the criticism and the environment such that my failures would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe I suck, and so I act like I suck, and customers come to believe that I suck. You get what I’m saying? It’s sort of like an “I think; therefore, I am” kind of thing.

So tonight, when I finally had some customers, I said to myself, Listen, you. The only thing you can control is you, so just do your thing, and don’t worry about the rest. Just enjoy yourself. Just go with it. Just remember every vague, self-help thing you’ve ever heard second-hand (because self-help books are boring, and there’s just too much good literature to read, and who has the time?), and create your own reality. It’ll be great!

And I did. I was friendly and personable and as efficient as I know how to be.

It just so happens that one of the owners decided to spend tonight hanging out at the bar. Was this chance or by design…I couldn’t tell you. But, man, was I glad he was there. Because I could not have scripted it any better. Ever read one of those chick lit books with the uplifting ending? No? Too bad, because it was just like that.

Some highlights include:

A couple who came to the bar to wait for their take-out order announced, “we wanted to sit and have a drink with you!”

Another couple, also waiting for take-out, asked, “What nights do you work?” When I told them, they said, “Ok, well then we’re only coming in Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.” Then they looked at the customers sitting next to them and exclaimed, “She’s such a great bartender!”

The two thirty something ladies who said, “You’re so fun! We’re definitely going to come back to see you!” As an added bonus, they went to hight school with the owner’s daughter and said this in front of her. They also tipped me $20 on a $27 dollar tab. I liked them!

But here is where it actually gets a little ridiculous. A woman who frequently comes in with her daughter to eat at the bar came in with her family, and they sat at a table. When she left, she stopped by the bar to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, and she reached out her hand, so I clasped it, and–I’m deeply embarrassed to type this–she kissed my hand! You can’t make this shit up. I’m actually laughing because it was so over-the-top. But it cheered the hell out of me. She really is an incredibly sweet lady.

Happy Thanksgiving!

love,

Stella

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FYI

November 25, 2009

Dear Stella,

I am in awe of managers’ psychic abilities to see the need to do something as you’re doing it. It’s fascinating, really.

See my hand reach for the salt shaker. See my other hand reach around with a disinfectant-soaked rag to clean it. Here comes the hand, closer, closer, then—wait for it . . . . . . .

“Stephanie, we need you to clean all the salt shakers today.”

Amazing! How do they do it?

Just for fun, I like to make little bets with myself. “I’ll bet you the $1.50 you made in tips last Saturday that in 3 seconds Bill is going to point out something you’re doing wrong.” “It’s a deal,” my Ph.D. self says to my service industry whore self, always ready for a gamble. Here I go, walking past Bill now—“Hi Bill, how are you?” Big smile, taddaa! I’m at the ice machine now, thrusting metal scoop into ice, letting ice slide into portable bin. Scoop, slide, scoop, slide—wait for it . . .

“Stephanie, ah, FYI, the bin should be resting on the side of the ice machine like this.” He points to the side of the ice machine.

“Silly me,” I reply, “That sure does make it easier!” I practically yuck-yuck myself into the ice bin. Just for fun.

I uncork the Lapostelle Merlot, wipe it’s rim. I tip the bottle over the expertly polished (if I do say so myself) glass on the bar. Look how the rich red streams into the glass and then, oooh yeah, I lift and turn, catching the last bit of wine before it dribbles. I recork and turn and—wait for it . . .

There’s Bill! “Ah, FYI Stephanie, next time pour a little less,” he wiggles his pointer finger to indicate an invisible line on the wine glass just below my pour.

“Ah yes, of course Bill, how gluttonous! What a hog I am! How simply gauche!”

Little by little I find myself joining the kids I work with in their rebellious techniques—opening a bag of snack mix and shoveling into face behind the bar; spray gun wars; disappearing for “a certain period of time” and letting someone else deal with all the bullshit.

FYI, I think there’s an important lesson here, Bill: constant negative critique and nit-picky micro-managing does not breed good morale, loyalty, and hard work. Duh! You’re wearing me down, dude.

love,
Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

The Whitest Man in America has 6-inch thick glasses. He’s overweight with a receding hairline. He wears high-water pants, pulled up over his belly with a too-tight belt, and black shoes over white gym socks. He speaks in a deep monotone. Everything is very literal. He is divorced, pushing fifty, and lives with his mother.

The Whitest Man in America is one of my customers.

He pays for his tab with his mother’s credit card. And let me tell you something: she is one ferocious looking lady. I know this because her picture is on the credit card.

For the record, I did not christen him with his moniker. Nice Guy manager did that all by himself. He too is white but apparently, by his own admission, not the whitest of white men.

TWMiN usually comes into the bar towards closing time, orders beer and take out (dinner for himself and his mom), and sits at the bar for interminably long stretches of time. He’s a nice man, never inappropriate. For example, I have never seen him hit on the absurdly exotically attractive 19-year old server. Nor has he asked me to pour her alcoholic beverages. Keep in mind that I can’t say this about all my 40-50 something male customers. Nevertheless, my heart would sometimes sink when I’d see TWMiA coming, mostly because it means an extra long night, and mommy tips only moderately well. And he’d engage me in conversation thus distracting me from my clean-up (which I kept having to redo with every beer he ordered).

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also add that I held a slight grudge against him because he orders draught beer, and our taps are cruelly intractable. They’ll run just right until the glass is half full then belch out a stream of foam, splattering everywhere, leaving me with a big fat mess to clean up.

So anyway, one night, TWMiN had stood up to leave when another of our regulars—the distinguished professional, Psychologist #1—came in and sat down next to him.

“Let me buy my friend here a drink,” TWMiN said, gesturing to #1.

“Okey dokey,” I replied, working overtime to keep the despair out of my voice.

I’ve harbored a distrust of psychologists going back to college, when I noticed that the psychology majors seemed to be the biggest crazies, and I can’t say that #1 has divested me of this distrust. One day, he ordered three gin martinis in rapid succession. As he was guzzling the third one, he glanced at his watch and said, “Shit, I gotta see a patient at 6:30.”

It was 6:05.

Further, he’s got a self-righteous vibe about him, like he knows the answer to any and every conundrum and moral riddle. Plus he tends to implicate me in his political views. There are few things that fire me up like when other people assume they know how I feel about something. Don’t assume. Don’t assume! You don’t know me. You don’t know me! I detest when people talk about controversial subjects as if they can’t understand why there would be a controversy. Only two realities exist: 1) what they believe, and 2) All That is Wrong With the World.

Why oh why am I the only person who believes in heeding the dictum “Don’t talk politics at the bar?”

But I’m getting off topic. On the night these two fine fellows were conversating, the bar was quite busy, so I couldn’t eavesdrop on (or, in other terms, participate in) their conversation. I heard snippets of it as I rushed up and down the bar filling orders. What I heard was #1 say, “I don’t want to know anyone who’s pro-life. I just don’t want to know them.”

“Why?” TWMiN asked, in a voice filled with wonder.

“I just don’t,” said #1. This didn’t surprise me since #1 isn’t one to provide long, evidence-laden arguments. He said it; therefore, it must be true. And please, let’s note the sentence structure: this is about what #1 wants and doesn’t want not about the issue itself, which I’d just as soon not hear about, by the way.

But TWMiN continued talking. I heard the word “foundation” come up en route to the microwave to heat up a hot sake. Then #1 again, contemptuous, in a raised voice,“I don’t want to know about your foundation.”

“Why?” TWMiN asked again, again clearly puzzled.

Then I heard the scraping of a barstool. #1 stood up, moved two barstools down, sat down again, turning his back to TWMiN, and struck up a conversation with a couple of other regulars. TWMiN just stayed where he was, sipping his beer, smiling pleasantly.

I passed their spot just at this moment with the sake in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels, which I was taking to the service bar, in the other. At some distant table, customers were waiting for that hot sake and a Jack and Coke.  But I was rooted to the floor, as the saying goes. I felt deeply upset, to be perfectly honest. My throat clenched, and I had to blink back tears.

Meanwhile, TWMiA sat a few more minutes until his beer glass was empty. I was stealing quick glances at him from the service bar, where I was pouring wine. Eventually, he stood up and began to walk towards the back entrance.

“Don’t forget your take-out,” I called out.

“Oh, I won’t,” he said, still smiling pleasantly as he ambled towards the exit having picked up his bag of food.

“And have a nice evening,” I added.

“I will. Thank you,” he replied. As he passed #1, he said, “Nice to see you #1. Have a good night.”

“Yeah, thanks,” said #1 dismissively over his shoulder.

In truth, I know precisely nothing about TWMiN’s heart or mind. I do not know how he came to be living in his mother’s basement or why he comes to a Chinese restaurant’s bar every night around closing to drink American beer. I don’t know anything about the foundation he referred to. But I’ll tell you this: I absolutely loathed myself for every unkind, ungenerous thought I’d had about him.

Love,

Stella

 

 

It looks good on paper

November 24, 2009

Dear Stephanie,

When I went into work today, I was feeling…I cannot summon the appropriate verb. Let’s just say I “wasn’t feeling it.” Partly because it’s been so quiet lately, which means less money and less entertainment (yes, the bartender wants to be entertained as well as to entertain). Partly because Hellcat manager has been “on my case” about little bullshit things. Plus I’d had a feeling going in that something unpleasant was gonna go down.

It wasn’t a dead night, but it was pretty slow. There were enough customers that I didn’t need to windex the bottles all night or spend an inordinate amount of time deliberating my dinner selection but not so many that I walked away with a big smile on my face.

The real drama came at the end of the night. Vampira, Hellcat’s aunt, threw a major hissy. There was a couple at the bar, but the rest of the place was empty with the exception of staff. I could hear Vampira screaming her head off at Hellcat and him responding quietly, even plaintively. Naturally, I could not understand since they were arguing in Chinese. The sound of Vampira initially didn’t concern me because a) I don’t speak Chinese, and b) everything Vampira says sounds angry and high-decibal level to my untrained ears.

The other day, I was coming up the back stairs with a full bucket of ice, and out of nowhere, she screamed, “Miguel!!!” to summon one of the dishwashers from downstairs. I almost fell backwards on the stairs from the unexpectedness of it.

So I’ve trained myself to expect screaming. Always and at any time. Sometimes, she laughs after screaming, suggesting that she just made a very loud funny. Other times, her body language indicates, “Better nobody laugh.” Basically, I’ve learned to tune it out, which isn’t hard to do given that I have no idea what they’re all talking about anyway.

I finally realized I was in the grip of some serious negativity because the closing server (a Taiwanese woman in a position to understand Vampira and Hellcat’s exchange) was standing in her station with the runner as if the restaurant was full (though it was empty), and she had a sad, faraway look in her eye. They both looked at me somberly by which they meant to communicate, “Keep your head down, and stay out of the way.”

Eventually, the screaming stopped, and Vampira sat down on some stool or something in the kitchen, looking precisely like a small child spent from a tantrum over the color of her socks. Hellcat closed me out, and I hightailed it out of there.

The thing is, when you’re just a cog in the wheel, you receive owners’ and management’s stress whether you are the cause of it or simply a hapless observer. Taking a job with limited responsibility seems pretty appealing, but I’m beginning to see in a whole new way how little responsibility can also translate into little agency.

love,

Stella

Breaking News

November 20, 2009

This week I attended my Uncle George’s funeral. Uncle George was the one of the first photographers for Rhode Island’s WJAR news. I knew of his career as a news photographer. I also knew him as kind, funny, soft-spoken, interested, compassionate.

What I didn’t know before he died is how he got the job in the first place, how he created the position when there was none—by approaching the news station and telling them he could take pictures, develop them, and they could air them that same day; it was revolutionary at the time, far from the immediate accessibility of tweets and retweets. What I didn’t know before was how fearless he was.

Uncle George gave me my first camera and my first developing set. I still have the developing canisters and, knowing me, I probably still have the chemicals too, which I’m sure have gone all nuclear by now.

He inspired me to look at the world through a camera, to see things differently, to consider what might be framed, and how this act of selecting tells a story. I know now, too, that his entrepreneurial spirit is with me as well. That I’m not alone in wanting to make my own way in the world.

Thank you, Uncle George.

love,
Stephanie

Take-Out’s a Bitch

November 20, 2009

Dear Stephanie,

Sunday night, a man strode up to the bar. Immediately, I thought, Now here, clearly, is a man with an inflated sense of his own importance. It was the little things—the imperious curve of his lips, the perfect posture, the sense of purpose in his jaunty gait. He leaned against the bar, looked me purposefully in the eye, and announced, “I’m going to be placing a large take-out order.” He spoke slowly and clearly, infusing his pronouncement with a sense of gravitas, much in the way he might tell his broker, “I’d like purchase 603 million shares of Microsoft.” Clearly, he has little confidence in his broker.

“O-kay,” I said, looking him in the eye right back (I have a thing about making eye contact—it makes me seem less dangerous).

I then reached back for a take-out menu. Here’s the thing—this will be complicated, so let’s both agree to do our best (thank Krishna we’re both doctors!): Each food item on the take-out menu has a little number next to it. For example:

11. Vegetarian Fried Wontons

12. Szechuan Dumplings

13. Crispy Spring Roll

As opposed, for example, to a soggy spring roll.

So anyway, in order to place a take-out order, I have to punch the numbers that correspond to the desired food items into the POS system and press F9, thereby sending the order into the kitchen. There, a terribly clever machine prints out these items for the chefs in (wait for it) Chinese! None of the cooks speak much English. (This was a superfluous detail rather unnecessary to the story—I’m just telling you because I think it’s so cool when I go back to the kitchen and see all the tickets printed out in Chinese.)

There are approximately 100 items on said take-out menu. As you can imagine, I have in no way memorized all of these items, let alone their corresponding numbers. I’ve got your most common drink orders down:

Q12 Classic Martini

Q21 Saketini

Q26 Cosmopolitan

V44 Grey Goose

B081 Becks

Etcetera.

But the take-out menu, which I deal with maybe two or three times a week? Not really. My manager has told me how deeply important it is to memorize the menu. Each time, I nod my head gravely and agree to the importance of this in our quest to provide Awesome Customer Service. When the bar is quiet, I take out the menu and appear to be studying it diligently mostly because it’s more fun than windexing the bottles for the 6 billionth time. Really, as you’ve perhaps guessed, I’m thinking, Do I want the dumplings again, or should I go for sushi?

But the take-out cashiers are another story. They know the menu cold, in a photographic memory kind of way, and can type someone’s order at the speed of light, give or take. I however must rely on the hard copy. It’s quite simple, really, the system I’ve developed. It proceeds as follows:

  1. Pick up take-out menu.
  2. Locate desired food item.
  3. Circle item number.
  4. Punch number into POS system.

Believe it or not, I’m quite proficient at this task and am able to carry it out rather efficiently, if I may be so immodest. But Take-Out Guy was in no way assured of this. He seemed mildly alarmed at the sight of the take-out menu, as if I were proffering something dreadfully distasteful—a roach carcass, perhaps.

Don’t you want to put it right into the computer?” he asked. He seemed almost to be encouraging me to make the right decision on my own, much like you might encourage a small child thusly: “Don’t you want to wash your hands after going number 2?”

I saw no point in belaboring this delightful encounter by explaining why I wouldn’t be doing things his way (I’m not a take-out cashier, don’t have the item numbers memorized, but if he’d like a Classic Martini…blah blah blah), so I just said, utterly expressionless, “No, this is how I do it.”

So then he said, “Oh God, it’s going to take 20 minutes to place this order,” the subtext of which was I’m an impatient, entitled jackass.

I wanted very much to laugh, but instead I opted to stick with the pretend-you’re-dealing-with-a-small-truculent-child theme by ignoring the undesirable behavior. Give it no attention whatsoever.

“So what would you like?” I asked, pen poised over the menu.

“I’ll take an order of BBQ Spare Ribs,” he replied, clearly agreeing to play by the theme.

“BBQ Spare Ribs,” I said, enunciating slowly and deliberately. “BBQ Spare Ribs [pause] BBQ Spare Ribs. Hmmm, let’s see where those are. … Ah, there they are.” I think we both know the subtext here: 20 minutes was a conservative estimate.

I circled the item with my pen, slowly and deliberately then looked up expectantly at him with a big, happy, lots-of-teeth smile. This was fun!

We continued in this vein.

Him: Buddha’s Feast.

Me: Huh, I don’t think I’ve even heard of that one before. Oh, there it is under the vegetarian selections. Right. Of course. Haha. Makes total sense.

I deliberately willed myself to feel as unhurried as possible; he went down his list of items; I painstakingly searched for them on the take-out menu. All the while smiling sweetly. Judging from the smirk on his face, I think it was pretty clear to both of us what was happening.

In the meanwhile, one of our more cantankerous regulars turned up, who I greeted with the usual question, “Will it be red or white tonight?”

“I’ll have one of your whites,” he said.

I reached up for a white wine glass (which are suspended from the ceiling) and placed it in front of him. “I’ll be with you in just a moment.” Oh how I wish I’d said, “in 20 minutes or so.”

“Take your time,” he said, uncharacteristically pleasant. “No rush.”

Thank you,” I said with emphasis, “for your patience.” Then I flashed my sweetest smile, tilted my head to the side, and nodded appreciatively and meaningfully at the same time.

“What else would you like?” I asked turning back to Take-out Guy.

“Oh, are you talking to me again?” he asked.

“Mmm hmmm,” I responded. More sweet smiling and nodding, as well as ignoring undesirable behavior, ensued.

As I was typing his order into the computer in my typical, wildly efficient manner, he asked, “May I have a Coors Light while I’m waiting. Please?”

“Certainly. It would be my pleasure.” I was all sweetness and light as I pulled off the beer cap. “Would you like a glass with that?” I asked, my brow furrowed with concern.

“Yes please,” he said, suddenly verging on meek. He went on to chat pleasantly with me about the football game that was on in the background and stayed for a second beer even after his food was ready. I offered to go through the bag with him, you know, to ensure that everything was as he’d ordered it. But strangely, he declined my offer.

I should mention here that very few people who order take-out tip on the total bill, which is why I chose to, shall we say, passive-aggressively instruct the customer about Respect. Most customers tip on the drink total only.

Take-out Guy tipped me 20% on the whole order, food and all.

Funny, right?

Love,

Stella

Driving in Bars

November 17, 2009

Dear Stephanie,

Here’s what you need to do if you’re inclined to see humans behaving badly (perhaps for sociological reasons?):

  1. Get in your car.
  2. Turn it on, and put it into drive (or reverse—use your judgment on this one).
  3. Put your foot on the gas, and drive…anywhere.

As you drive, you will be afforded the opportunity to observe these common human failings:

  1. Impatience.
  2. Self-Righteousness.
  3. Self-Absorption.

Just be prepared. You may even discover these qualities in yourself!

***

I was already tired and cranky when I arrived for my shift. It was Sunday, a historically quiet, low-income producing night. I had spent the day in the city and the previous night out too late. Upon arriving at work, I found five customers seated at the bar and three co-workers (manager, server, and runner, in a moving show of cross-class solidarity) crowded around the service bar watching the football game.

First of all, I could barely squeeze through the mini-mob my coworkers produced around the entrance to the bar, and second of all, I couldn’t get to my drawer to count it because they were using my register to process take-out orders. Which they’re supposed to do at the front desk. Bu there was that football game to be watched, you see.

Finally, just because every sundae needs a cherry, I opened the cooler to discover…the previous shift’s bartender had opted against restocking the beers. This translates into three or four trips down the treacherous back stairwell to the stockroom for cases of beer (and back up lugging those cases), but nevermind that. I’m sure he had his reasons.

Because I haven’t mentioned it yet, and it’s important to the story, I need to tell you about the five customers seated at the bar. Four of them had arrived moments before me, and No-Boundaries (a server, described above as one of the football-game watching coworkers) had served them their drinks but not entered them into the computer, leaving them for me to enter under my employee id number. This means he’s left the tab and the tip for me. Don’t get me wrong: that was cool of him.

On the one hand, it makes sense because who knows how long they might stay and what else they might want? Given that No-Boundaries would likely have his own tables to manage soon enough, he hardly needed to worry about running back and forth to the bar to deal with a few drinkers. On the other hand, some coworkers will go that route, maybe because they’re greedy but most likely because they just desperately need as much cash as they can get. Servers, especially at Asian-Fusion Two, can’t rely on tables filling up like they used to in stronger economic times, so I wouldn’t blame someone for picking up every customer he or she could get.

As a final note, an alternate strategy he could have chosen would have been to not pour them their drinks, knowing that my shift was about to begin, trusting that I would arrive on time (usually, I’m five minutes early), and telling them as much. This wouldn’t have been the best customer-satisfaction strategy, but he could have gone that route, had he been lazy…or cranky.

What I hope to have communicated to you is the murky moral territory upon which we tread. Multiple strategies exist for handling a given situation. Absolutes, as comforting as they are, do not serve to illuminate the path of righteousness, in this instance.

But I’ve sort of tipped my hand about how I feel about my coworker, haven’t I? And in this sense, I’ve sort of stacked the deck against the poor guy, right? “No-Boundaries” kind of says it all, no?

Believe me, he’s earned his nickname. He routinely invades my personal space, taking things out of my hand—a lime wedge I’m about to put on a cocktail glass, a wine key I’m about to insert into a cork, even a soda glass I’m about to fill. “I’ll do it,” he’ll say before grabbing it out of my hand. I have a pet peeve about that.

He asked me for my phone number in a way that made it awkward for me to decline, had I so desired (and I did so desire). He asks about my after work plans in a way that makes it uncomfortable to not invite him, if I’m so inclined (and, sorry—I’m sorry!, I am so inclined).

He questions what I do in what I feel to be inappropriate ways. He will lean over my shoulder when I’m entering a customer’s order and comment on what I’m doing, in his view, wrong, even when I’m not doing anything wrong, and it’s none of his business anyway, because he should attend to his customers and leave me to attend to mine. He will question my pours on glasses of wine when, trust me, they’re fine as is!

And sometimes, he just offends me, perhaps by asking the other server to close then sitting at the bar eating dinner until closing time when he knows that the other server has to wake up at 5:30 the next morning for his day job. Then he’ll take it upon himself to walk around the restaurant turning off the lights and telling us how to close properly. Also on my personal list of his wrongdoings? He’ll ask me to pour him a soda when I’ve got five tables with drink orders to place or, even more irritating, he’ll ask me to make him an alcoholic beverage during his shift, which is a major no-no.

None of these offenses make him a bad person. Understand that I’m aware of that. What it really boils down to, in the final analysis, is friendistry.

I get that.

But anyway. I’m sort of getting away from the story, which is about the diner at my bar on Sunday night. The diner who was No-Boundaries’ customer. Remember, if you will, that No-Boundaries was watching the football at the beginning of this protracted narrative. He was still watching the football game when the diner asked for his tab.

Also keep in mind, if you would be so kind, that I still hadn’t counted my drawer, still hadn’t finished restocking (nevermind checking the garnishes and juices, lighting the candles, refilling the straws, plates, spoons, chopsticks, napkins, etc.). Please also understand that I had no idea which icon on the computer system represented the diner’s tab. Otherwise, sure, I could have printed it out. But instead, I said, “I’ll get your server,” then turned 60 degrees to my left and said to No-Boundaries, “Your customer would like his tab.”

No-Boundaries nodded at me expectantly, which I took to mean that he expected me to print out the tab, so in response, I said, “I don’t know where you put his tab” then resumed my tasks.

Unbeknowst to me, No-Boundaries printed out the check, placed it in a check wallet, and left it on the counter. I didn’t know this, you see, because I was in the stock room at the time, retrieving a case of beer. So when I returned, and the diner motioned to me again and again asked for his tab, I was confused. So once again, I turned 60 degrees to my left, where No-Boundaries was—I know I’ve mentioned this already—watching the football game while leaning against the edge of the bar. That’s when he pointed to the check wallet with the tab. No words. Just pointing. No eye contact. Just pointing. And watching (the aforementioned football game).

I wouldn’t know whose tab was on the counter because I hadn’t served the diner, therefore I did not know what he ate and therefore what would be represented on his tab. For all I knew, the tab in the check wallet could have been a tab from the night before. See what I’m saying here?

So I said, in a snotty, exasperated tone, “The gentleman is waiting to pay, and I can’t get into his tab. Can you take care of your customer so I can finish my side work please?”

Now here’s the thing about No-Boundaries: He does not have boundaries. Therefore, it is necessary to set boundaries for him in ways that are appropriate and constructive for all involved.

Keep in mind what I said about the driving thing.

Love,

Stella