Copy of HandonTableHere’s something that might amuse those of us who work in restaurants and bars — although it will probably offend just about everyone else.  It’s a real-life story about dodging a complaint bullet, and getting away with something when you’ve been caught dead to rights.  (This comes from a friend who works as the GM in a popular restaurant in the Boston area.)

It seems last weekend this GM’s regular floor manager took Friday night off, and the restaurant’s head waitress was filling in for for him.  As you might expect everything that could go wrong did, and she was struggling from the get-go.

One of the food-runners didn’t show up, a waitress called in sick, and of course it was even busier than usual.  This fill-in floor manager was running around simply trying to keep her head above water.

Then in the middle of the rush, a man came out of the rest rooms so angry he just about had smoke coming out of his ears.  His arms were waving.

“I’m never coming to this restaurant again!” he shouted as he approached the host desk, “I’ve been coming here for years, but this is the last time you’ll see me!”

“What seems to be the problem, sir?” the temp floor manager asked politely.  She managed to steer the complaining gentleman off to one side.  “Tell me all about it,” she said.

The gentleman said that he’d been in the men’s room, and he’d seen one of the restaurant’s kitchen staff walk out of a stall . . . and then this worker left the bathroom without washing his hands!  Apparently the guy didn’t even look at the sink as he ran out, zipping up his fly.

“I couldn’t believe it,” the gentleman said now, “Is this the type of establishment you’re running?  All these years I’ve been coming here . . . all the times I’ve eaten here . . . and this is what’s been going on?”

The customer went on to describe the employee, and the poor hostess/head waitress immediately recognized which kitchen worker he was complaining about . . . she knew exactly who it was from the man’s description.

Her mind was racing.  She was looking for a way out of this.

“What do you have to say for yourself . . . what do you have to say for the place you’re supposed to be managing!” the gentleman demanded.

She had only a split-second to respond.  I can picture her standing there with the smoking wheels spinning in her head.

“No, I don’t think I know the person you described,” she now answered slowly and calmly.  “No, . . . that really doesn’t resemble anyone who works here.”

“No, wait,” she went on, as though thinking it over.  “Wait, . . . it must have been one of the construction crew.  They’re putting in a new floor downstairs.”  (Of course, there were no construction workers downstairs, no new floor being installed.)

“One of the construction crew?” the gentleman snapped back in disbelief, “He was wearing one of your restaurant’s shirts!”

“Oh, anyone can buy those shirts,” the floor manager smiled warmly.  “We encourage people to buy them, we encourage people to wear them.”  (Having committed herself to a bold-faced lie — the construction-guy bit — she was determined to make it work.)

“You can even buy one,” she continued smiling, “What size do you wear?  Would you like me to bring it to your table?”

Within a minute or two, the floor manager had completely convinced the gentleman that it wasn’t one of her employees.

“I’m so sorry,” he was profusely apologizing, “I’m so sorry.  I was just so upset . . . I didn’t know.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she told the man, “I want to thank you for being concerned.”

“But I assure you,” she continued, “No one from our staff would ever be so negligent.”

“I want to thank you again for your concern,” she said as she lead the gentleman back to his table, “And when you folks are ready for dessert, please let me know.  It will be on the house.”

Then the temp floor manager went into the kitchen where she took the cook aside, and reamed him a new _____ (one).  “Don’t you dare go back out into the dining room again . . . for any reason!” she told him, “You stay in this kitchen until I tell you it’s OK to come out!”

(In fairness to the employee, there are three hand-sinks in their kitchen installed exclusively for that purpose, but that didn’t matter.  The floor manager definitely didn’t want the customer to see this cook again.)

Later, she went back to the gentleman’s table, and asked if they had decided which desserts they’d like.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 6 Comments


Copy of wormHere’s two stories about my least favorite industry type — the low-living (slimy) restaurant worm.  I won’t say where the following incidents took place, but they both happened a long time ago, and definitely not where I work now . . .

A great crowd, good food, a decent boss . . . this should have been an aces job.

Tips were more than adequate, and there were plenty of nice employee benefits — like free shift meals, free after-work drinks, and half-price on food and drink if you stopped by on a day off.  But then a restaurant worm wiggled his way onto the staff, and things began to change.

What exactly is a “restaurant worm?”  I’m not sure there’s a set, standard definition but to me it’s someone who really works at complaining, someone who finds trouble even if essentially nothing is wrong.  And they’re not satisfied until they have everyone else on the staff complaining right along with them.

We all bitch and moan — sometimes to relieve tension, other times because things really are screwed up.  But this person will complain when the sun rises in the East, simply because it’s their nature to piss and moan.

The “restaurant worm” may only be one in several hundred — or even one in a thousand — but you know what they say about just one rotten apple in the barrel.

Anyway, this new guy had been hired to work the bar, and at first he didn’t seem like a bad sort.  He was a graduate student at one of the local, prestigious universities — tall, good-looking, with a sense of humor and athletic background.

But it wasn’t long before it became clear nothing was ever going to be quite right for this guy.  Even rules and procedures that made sense, that made the place work . . . they just rubbed him the wrong way.   

Suddenly all those great employee benefits weren’t good enough for the new bartender.  It really bothered “Mark” (I’ll call him) that his girlfriend, and her friends, didn’t get the employee discount when they came to see him.

Why couldn’t he have the steak or shrimp for his employee meal?  Why did the free shift drinks have to end when the closing manager was ready to lock up?  Didn’t the owner realize that they were just getting started?

It was amazing to watch how easily the staff let Mark get under their skin.  “Psst . . . Pssssst! . . . Psssssst!”  He just kept working on them.

I felt like saying:  “Mark, if you’re going to behave like a little girl, where’s your little skirt?”  But at that point, I was just trying to keep my nose out of things, all of it.

It was sickening to watch, though, as Mark buttered-up the owner, and then once he left trashed him simply for being nice.

“He should be called Ferddie the Wimp!” Mark would say, commenting on how the owner (Ferddie) sometimes let things slide rather than be the bad guy.  “All Hail Ferdinand the Wimp!” Mark would laugh.  I supposed it was meant in negative contrast with someone like “Ferdinand the Great.”

It didn’t take long for the less-experienced staff to develop the same attitude.  Soon they were all just as bitter Mark — and suddenly everything about this job was wrong.  The rules were the same, the customers were the same, the tips were still great . . . but under Mark’s influence, some of the staff began to openly complain about how much this place sucked!

It spread like a cancer, like gangrene.  From one person to the next, until some of the staff had worked themselves up into a frenzy.  A few of them quit.  Content before, now they could no longer stand working here.

Some of the staff got fired because their attitudes had spun so seriously out of control.  (They weren’t as slick, or as good as Mark at being two-faced about it.)

I eventually left, too . . . tired of the downward spiral in everyone’s mood.  It was time to move on anyway.

But it was a shame to watch one restaurant worm so easily, and so single-handily start a lemming-like rush to the sea.  It had been a decent place to work, and as you know there aren’t a lot of those places out there.

(I later heard through the grapevine that the owner eventually fired Mark.  He caught Mark giving away entire trays of drinks to a cute waitress.  They were trying to steal enough money so that they could support their coke habits — they wanted to party together all night after work.  Mark was now cheating on his girlfriend.
I have to say that when I heard he’d been fired, I felt pretty good about it, even though the place no longer personally concerned me.)


“Worming” your way to the top . . .

I suppose another type of “restaurant worm” is the person who tries to get ahead not by being productive, or doing a good job . . . but by being a total kiss-ass.  By scheming, lying, and stabbing fellow employees in the back.

Copy of restaurant busserI was the bar manager at a restaurant when a new guy got hired to fill in here and there on the floor.  I actually helped him get the job . . . I put in a good word for him.   He was a customer who’d been unemployed for a while, and I thought he could handle the low-level stuff he’d be doing.  Busing tables, running food, stuff like that.

My mistake.  I guess I didn’t know him well enough.

Now all puffed-up because he finally had a job again, apparently this guy (I’ll call him Bob) wanted more.  There was a rumor circulating of a possible opening a little higher up in the restaurant.  Nothing was definite, but if this position did open up, Bob saw himself as someone in the running.

Since Bob would be in competition with two other employees, I thought it a little curious that suddenly he wanted to talk with the owner — he wanted to inform the owner of all the complaints he’d been hearing about one of his potential job-rivals.

During a meeting with managers and the owner, Bob proceeded to trash this other guy.

According to Bob, this other staff member had pissed off a lot of customers, and the place was losing a lot of business because of him.  But I’d seen this staff member loan Bob money when he was out of work.  At the bar, I’d watched him buy Bob drinks when he was broke, and even buy him meals.

And now Bob was throwing him under the bus.

What made it worse, as I listened, was that nothing Bob was saying seemed to be true.  I felt he was just making the stuff up.  It was total bullshit.

“Jeez,” I interrupted for a moment, “I’m on the bar those nights every week, and I never saw anything like that.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t,” Bob replied, “He always stops just before you come in.”

(In a twisted sort of excuse for him, I think it’s fair to say Bob probably had quite a few drinks before he showed up at the meeting.  He wasn’t as good a liar that night as he normally would have been.)

“Why haven’t I at least heard about it?” I asked, “Has anyone else noticed?  Who else has seen this?”

“Oh, everybody’s seen it,” Bob assured us, “But they probably won’t tell you.  They’re all afraid to talk.”


Everyone has noticed, but Bob is the only one not afraid to say something?  And we shouldn’t ask anyone else because they probably won’t want talk want to about it?

Later that same meeting, Bob also tried to bury his other competitor.

“It’s funny you should bring him up,” the owner said to Bob when he mentioned this second potential rival.  (By now the owner knew what was going on.)  “It’s strange because we were considering him for a new position.”

“Well, to be honest,” Bob said thoughtfully, as though just thinking of it, “I don’t believe you really want to use him.  He has all these hidden issues.”

And then he started in full-steam on the second rival.

I’ve never seen anything like this before.  I know it happens all the time, but typically it happens behind people’s backs, on the sly, and I’d never been in a position to see it first hand.  Rightfully unsure of his own limited merits, Bob was trying to worm his way up the restaurant ladder.

How can you sling bullshit and trash someone who has helped you when you were down and out?

Surprisingly, I believe Bob still works at the place.  He was still there when I left, although he’d been demoted, relegated to working one bussing shift a week (on the slowest night.)  I still can’t understand why the owner didn’t fire him.  Maybe it was out of pity.  Anyway, it was the first time I’d seen anything of that kind, and I remember thinking after the meeting that I hoped it would be the last.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 4 Comments

“BOOM-BOOM” (Pauline; Part II)

(Click here to read Part I)

(Not Pauline, but it gives an idea of how good she looked that Halloween.  Image by Sofia Sicilia.)

(Not Pauline, but it gives you an idea of how hot she looked that Halloween.  Image by Sofia Sicilia.)

Pauline and I continued to get together in our irregular way–once a week, then maybe not again for a month.  Then back to once a week, or at least every couple of weeks.

Once she called to say she was having a Halloween party next weekend, and she really hoped I could make it.  (It was very unusual for her to call.  Even when she was upset with her life, or simply wanted to see me, she’d just show at my apartment, or stop by where I was bartending.  A phone call meant this was important.)

I went dressed as a tourist, with sunglasses, a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, and a tourist’s map of Boston stuffed in my pocket.  I was totally out-done by everyone else.

When I arrived at her place late, it seemed they’d all put in more effort.  One guy came as this giant dildo, encased in a full-body, flesh-colored tube complete with flashing lights.  (It must have cost him a fortune.)

I really didn’t care.  I had arrived late on purpose; I was only there to make an appearance.  These were all her friends, and I only knew one or two of the people, other than Pauline.

Maybe because I arrived late . . . or as an outsider to the group, maybe I was “the new guy in town” . . . but for whatever reason Pauline was acting a little different.  In public we were always just having fun and clowning around, like we were good friends.  Now she was acting like I was her boyfriend.

As soon as I walked in the door, she gave me an overly-affectionate hug, and kissed me for a long time.  She looked absolutely gorgeous.

(There’s something about women when they get all dolled-up for Halloween–every one of them looks fantastic with their elaborate make-up and in costume, and the ones that look great normally now seem like movie stars.)

(Guess I use the "tourist) costume a lot -- this is about ten years afterwards.)

(Guess I use the “tourist” bit a lot — this is from Halloween around ten years after Pauline’s party.)

Within half an hour of my showing up, Pauline wanted to go straight to the bedroom.  She practically dragged me there.  And we stayed in her bedroom for the rest of the night; all night, even as the party was going on.

“What about your guests?” I asked at one point.

“It’s my party, my apartment,” she laughed, “I’ll do what I want . . . things were winding down anyway.”

When we were taking a break, she got up to get us more drinks.  Through the bedroom door I heard her talking with some of the guests as she made her way back.

“It’s only round two in there!” she told them laughing, and she went to say they were fine without her, and that I wasn’t through with her yet.

Truth of it was, she wasn’t yet done with me.

So Pauline’s and my relationship continued at the same pace.  But then came a month that for whatever reason we hadn’t gotten together at all.  It stretched into two months . . . but because of the haphazard way we were, it took me that long to notice something was different.

Now I was beginning to wonder what was going on with her.  I missed her, and I was thinking maybe I should call, if only to make sure she was OK.

Before I got to it, one night she was ringing my apartment buzzer.

“God, I’m so glad you’re home . . . !”  She hugged me close.

In my apartment, I was thinking she must have been doing a lot of coke again during our little break.  She was definitely wound up.  She tossed her jacket aside, and she didn’t actually pace the floor, but it seemed like she was frantically pacing around inside of herself.

She’d lost some weight since I’d last seen her . . . not too much, she was still a knock-out, but her face looked a little thinner now.

“I don’t want to have sex tonight,” she said, as she sat on the couch.  She had just finished one cigarette, and now she immediately lit another.  “I just want to chill out for a bit.”

“Is that OK?” she asked.

That was fine with me . . . I really did like her, and was happy to be just her friend for the night, if that’s what she needed.

She talked a little about how screwed up her life had become lately, and that she felt everything in her head was spinning in circles . . . but she didn’t offer any specifics.

After a couple of beers, she wanted to go into the bedroom and just lie down, and that’s what we did.  I held her until she finally drifted to sleep.

In the morning, the hormones took over for both of us, but this time the sex was different.  It was much quieter, and more openly affectionate.  And even though we were having sex, it was as though this time it was only another way for her to be held.

Then once more, after that night, I didn’t see her for a month or so.  She surprised me with a phone call three or four weeks later.

“Can you meet me today . . . this afternoon?” she asked, “I really need to see you.”  Her voice seemed shaky.

(Government Center, Boston MA.)

(Government Center, Boston MA.)

We met at Government Center, and walked around for a while, then sat on one of the low brick walls that circle the small groups of trees decorating the area.

“I’m so stressed-out,” she said, “I thought I’d be able to handle this better.”

She sighed with both hands in her lap, looking up at the skyline.  Her eyes were filling with tears.  She was barely short of crying.

Her voice broke as she started to say something more, and she seemed to slump a little.  I put my arm around her shoulder.

Then she told me that she’d somehow gotten pregnant, and she’d just had an abortion.

We were sitting side by side.  She was sobbing quietly with my arm around her shoulder.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” she said, “It’s all that Catholic guilt.”

Now she reached into her purse and pulled out a card, sealed in an envelope.  “Don’t read this until you get home,” she said.  She looked at me with the saddest eyes.

Later, when I opened the card at home . . . she had written on both inside pages of the card and then over onto the back.  I could tell by the shaky handwriting that she was seriously upset when she wrote it–it was a lost, rambling, stream of consciousness note.

She wrote about her life and how she had been living it, and how she felt so hopelessly lost and was making so many mistakes.  And now what she’d just done . . . the abortion, or if she hadn’t done it . . . either way both had seemed such terrible, irreversible choices, but she’d been forced to choose one or the other.  And now she felt she was about to melt into a sobbing pool.

On the card she thanked me for being her friend, and said it should have been different for us, our timing . . . our ages should have been different.

She wrote that she knew none of this was making any sense, but she felt she had to write it anyway.

At the bottom, she’d drawn a picture of her face, with a tear dropping from one eye.

As we sat together at Government Center, I didn’t know what was on the card yet . . . but I knew right now she simply needed someone who cared about her.

“I didn’t think I could handle having a child at this point,” she said.  She couldn’t stop quietly sobbing.  “I didn’t think I could handle it . . . it wouldn’t be right to raise a child that way.  My life is so screwed up.  I’m such a mess . . . I know that.”

I had no idea what to say, or do.  I had one arm around her shoulder, and with the other hand, I was holding onto to her hand, squeezing it tightly.

“You’ll be OK, Pauline,” I told her, “You’re a strong woman.”

She continued to cry, and I tried to keep talking.

“You’re a really good person, Pauline,” I continued, “I know this has to be unbelievably tough . . . I know it’s hard . . . terribly difficult.”

“But you’re one of the strongest people I know, Pauline . . . and you’re going to be all right.

“Give it some time,” I said.  “You’re wounded, and you’re so very hurt . . . but you have to realize all this pain will wash away.”

“You’re going to be OK,” I said, “This too will pass . . . you know that.”

Side by side, I pulled her even closer against me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I just so needed to see you today.  I guess I need to be alone for while . . . but I really wanted to see you first.”

“Thank you,“ she said, trying to smile as she looked at me.  “Thank you.”

A long time later, when she said she’d better be going, we both stood.

“Pauline, are you OK?” I asked.  Now we were standing face-to-face, holding onto each other.  I had my arms around her.

“It wasn’t yours,” she said very quietly into my shoulder.  “I don’t know what I would have . . . .”  Her voice caught again, and she pulled me closer.

“You’ll be OK, Pauline,” I told her, “You’re a really good person, and a strong woman.”

“I’ll be home all night,” I told her.  “You can call me anytime you want . . . you know that.  Call me later if you want.”

“Or just stop over, like you always do . . . .”

She smiled and gave me a quick kiss.  As we turned to go our separate ways, we were still holding onto each others hand.  And we kept holding on until both our arms were stretched to their full length . . . and then we let go.

[Pauline ended up moving back to the mid-West not long after that.  We kept in touch by snail-mail, and an occasional phone call.  She eventually settled down, got married and started a family.  She opened a business in real estate, and did exceptionally well.  (Of course she did . . . in something like that, her energy, her personality must have totally floored them.)  

The last Christmas card I got from her was one of those with a family picture on the front.  There was Pauline, and her husband (she had told me that he knew everything about her time in Boston, and still absolutely adored her).  They were in the living room with their three young children, two girls and a boy.  That photo might be the favorite one I have of her . . . and I feel a little foolish for saying this, but that photo still warms my heart.  They all look so very happy.]

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 9 Comments

“BOOM-BOOM” (Pauline; Part I)

Copy of BoomBoomForBlogI was back to strictly bartending again . . . this time at an Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End.

For the last two years I’d been working 60-70 hours a week as a GM — working so much that more than once I slept overnight in offices of Friends & Company.  (It was a two-level restaurant/bar in Boston’s Faneuil Hall.)  I always kept a clean shirt and a different tie in the office — a quick shower at a near-by fitness club, then back to work.

So what did I do now that I had a new (much easier) bartending job, and the night off?

I headed to Friends & Company . . . the same place I’d been so eager to escape.

Now it seemed like a great spot to visit.  When I walked in the door I already knew half of the people there — all the regulars were like old friends, and I’d hired and trained most of the staff.

After a few beers I felt like I still ran the place.

So when I saw a new hostess seating customers at the downstairs tables, I didn’t hesitate to offer her a suggestion.  (Maybe being buzzed was somewhat of an excuse.)

“If you had seated that deuce at table 40 by the wall,” I said authoritatively, “You would have had the three-top open for the party waiting now.”  I smiled at her.

She stopped and looked at me.

I’d later learn that she was nineteen-years-old.  She had thick brown hair, a beautiful face, and she was dressed-to-kill in a slightly flamboyant outfit.  She was a knock-out, a real head-turner.

She stood there looking at me for a second.  I suppose at her age she was taken aback by this perfect stranger just walking up to her.

Then she recovered.

“Who are you?” she asked now.

“And who are you to come up and tell me how to do my job!” she said, gaining steam.

“Just a suggestion,” I said, and walked away.

As I was leaving the host stand, she was already asking some of the staff who was this guy (me), and what the hell did he think he was doing, trying to give her advice?

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” she started out when I went back later to talk with her again.  Her tone was different.  By now she must have seen me joking with all the staff and the regulars, and figured I was OK.  She was more pleasant this time, but she still wanted to lecture me.

“I don’t care if you used to be the GM here,” she said sternly, although smiling, “You’re not now!  And you’re not my boss.”

“Listen, Boomboom,” I said without thinking.

The words came out before I knew what I was saying.  I’d been watching her seat customers, and she did have this strutting, bouncy sort of Boom-boom style.  She was always smiling — a trim, laughing, large-breasted girl with a runway strut leading people to their tables.  It was as though she was on stage, and this night was all about her.

I was a little drunk, so it just popped out.

“What . . .???”, her mouth remained open in shock.  “What . . .?” she said, turning to a waitperson standing there.  “He just called me ‘Boom-boom’!!!

But everyone started laughing, and then she laughed too.  Boom-boom actually summed her up perfectly; it became her nickname.

And she and I started a relationship — although it was never exactly clear what that relationship was.

That night she got off early (Friends & Company was open until 2:00 AM., but hostess-seating stopped at midnight.)  By now we’d been talking for quite a while, and she and I ended up trying to catch last-call at a bar in the Theater District.

“You’re only nineteen,” I said as we walked into the place.

“Paul always serves me,” she answered, giving a friendly wave to the bartender as we took our stools, “He knows I’m underage, but I have a good fake ID . . . wanna see it?”

I remember she drank “Pearl Harbors” — an overly-sweet cocktail for my tastes, but probably something that went down more easily at her age.

She had three or four of them within a very short time as we continued to talk and laugh.

Then we went back to her apartment.

The next morning I was checking the time on her bedside clock when I noticed a bullet laying beside it on the nightstand.

Yes, a bullet.

Copy of 45calIt was an unfired hollow-point bullet . . . probably for something like a 45-caliber handgun.

“Oh Jeez,” she said when I asked what this was — I was laying on my back, holding it up in one hand.

“Hank must have left that,” she said, rolling over to face me, propped on one elbow.  “He’s always doing crap like that . . . he thinks he’s going to scare away anyone I might bring home with me.”

It seems she was going out with a guy who thought she was his girlfriend . . . and he had a gun and was some sort of low-level Mafia gangster . . . and he thought he owned her.

“You’re not scared, are you?” she laughed, and she pulled me back down on top of her.

Anyway, that’s how Pauline’s and my relationship began.

As time went on, I never would have said she was my steady girlfriend, and I certainly wasn’t her only boyfriend.  I didn’t ask what she did when we weren’t with each other, and she never asked me.  We just kept ending up together.

Sometimes it would be once a week for a while, and then I wouldn’t see her again for a month.  When we got together it was like we were meant for each other . . . and then we were on our own until the next time, whenever that might be.

Sometimes I’d call her.  Other times she’d stop over to see me, all upset about something.

Once a guy I knew from Friends & Company suggested that he and I should go out on the town for dinner and drinks.  He was interested in a girl he’d just met, and he said I should bring someone too.

“Who will you be asking?” the guy wanted to know.

“Not sure,” I told him.

He laughed.  “You’ll end up taking Pauline,” he said, “I know it.  It’ll be you and Boom-boom.”

He was right, and I took crap all night for him being right.

At first with Pauline, I thought it was strictly sex.  You know how it is when you hit it off with someone that way.  When we were together we couldn’t get enough of each other.  We would be up all night doing everything.

Once, after we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks, we ended up fucking ourselves silly.  We had stayed at my place, and the next afternoon when I was walking her to the subway stop in Harvard Square, we were leaning against each other, arms over each others shoulders.

“My legs are bending both ways,” I joked as we walked along the sidewalk.

“Next time we can’t wait so long,” she said, “Or someday we’ll fuck ourselves to death.”

The problem, in my mind, was that I was a lot older than she was . . . more than ten-years-older, and that’s a lot when a girl is nineteen.

She had just moved here to Boston from the Midwest, and she was only starting out in life.  I could never see a real relationship developing.  She had once asked something like “what-we-are-doing?” and I explained that I thought I was too old for her . . . but I wasn’t sure it was a serious question anyway.

She was just a young, strong, bold girl . . . sometimes too strong for her own good.  She’d end up doing something — just about anything — without ever thinking where it might lead.

“You have to be more careful, Pauline,” I’d tell her, “Your strength is in some ways your biggest weakness.  You think you can do anything you want.  You take risks without realizing the potential consequences.”

But of course she was too headstrong, and probably too young to really know what I meant.

Like when she finally stopped seeing that gangster guy, Hank, and started dating a drug-dealing photographer who claimed he was from Norway.

I never met Hank, and now I’d never meet the photographer, but Pauline told me all about him.  She ended up moving into his place . . . a condo he owned in Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill district.

The amazing thing was that our relationship didn’t change one bit — not with Hank, or now with the new guy.  We were still getting together the same as we always had, and sometimes she’d tell me what was going on with the photographer.

She had started doing coke all the time when she was with him, and she was telling me about the parties he’d sometimes send her to by herself.  I thought from what she said that maybe he was having her fuck some of his wealthy drug clients.

She wasn’t my “girlfriend,” as I said it was mostly sex  — but by now, I really cared about her.  I worried about her.  I didn’t want anything to hurt her.

“Aww, you love me don’t you,” she laughed, “And I love you, too, you know that don’t you?”

“But you really shouldn’t worry about me,” she said, “I can take care of myself.”

She was only nineteen . . . maybe too attractive, and way too bold for her own good.

(For Part II click here. )

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 9 Comments


What me ... Extortion??? (Yelp! spokesperson .... oh wait, that's actually Alfred E. Newman.  My bad.)

“What me … Extortion???”  (Yelp! spokesperson … oh wait, that’s actually Alfred E. Newman.  My bad.)

Below is a real-life case study of a Yelp! review — first the reviewer’s lengthy and numerous complaints, and then a look at the facts.  Unfortunately for the reviewer, everything happened to be recorded on camera . . . ).

For all the many gripes and extortion lawsuits against Yelp! perhaps the most damning critique is a common-sense analogy that’s being tossed around lately.

If you want to find a good mechanic, the best school for your kids, or you’re looking for a reliable open-heart surgeon . . . do you ask the opinion of a perfect stranger walking down the street?

If you’re in an AOL chat room, do you necessarily believe that everything you’re being told is true?  Is the woman you’re talking with online really a 36″-24″-36″ former Playmate model?  What makes us think Yelp! is any better?

The fact that anyone (regardless of their motive, intelligence, or qualifications) is free to post an online review on Yelp! . . .  well, that would seem sufficient warning.  Yet people continue to read it.

And Yelp! continues to grow — and businesses continue to be put-out-of-business by these totally un-verified “independent reviews.”  (Yelp! offers another option.  You just have to pay them hundreds of dollars a month and they’ll “filter” things so that good comments have equal billing with the negative ones.  The good reviews remain buried at the bottom until you pay them money?  Some people think that’s extortion.)

A friend of mine runs a popular Boston area restaurant — and when his establishment recently received a negative Yelp! review, he decided to see for himself what actually happened.  His restaurant has a security camera system.

First, here’s a summary of that published Yelp! complaint.  (So we can keep the identity of the reviewer anonymous, I’ll list the main points rather than reprint it entirely.)

— The reviewer claimed to have arrived at 9:00 PM for a reservation, but not be seated until 9:30.

—  The reviewer stated that their waitperson was “clearly overwhelmed“, and that “it took her forever” to get to them.

— The reviewer said that a burger was delivered without the bacon they’d ordered.  There was also a complaint about the overall quality of their meal.  (Can we trust this person?  Did they actually order bacon . . . or did they mistakenly assume that it automatically came with the burger?  Don’t vote yet . . . wait until we see just how reliable/unreliable this reviewer proves to be.)

— The reviewer said that by the time they found someone to complain to about the missing bacon, they were already “half-way done” with their meal.

— The reviewer complained they received “mediocre” service from a “harried” waitress.

My friend, the manager, wanted to see what had gone wrong.  The waitperson involved was one of his best . . . so he checked the restaurant’s security tapes.  He was able to identify the reviewer by reservation time, and the table’s specific order.

Here’s what the actual recorded video shows.  (I changed the name of the waitperson to “K”.)

Service Timetable for Table 70 (yelp complaint)
9:19 Customers sat (their reservation was for 9:15)
9:22 First visit by “K” (waitperson)
9:25 Food order rung in
9:27 Drinks ordered
9:29 Drinks delivered
9:41 “K” checks on table*
9:45 Food delivered (by expeditor)
9:46 “K” visits table (two bite rule)  “K” goes to kitchen right after
9:47 “K” spoke to table
9:49 “K” brings bacon
9:50 “K” checks on table*
9:53 Looks in on table again
10:02 “K” checks on table*
10:03 “K” checks on table*
10:09 ”K” checks on table*
10:17 “K” checks on table*
10:23 Table gets up to dance. Customer walks to the area where table 102/103 would be for a minute or so then walks around the floor toward table 24. The floor was very crowded.
10:32 Customer returns to the table.
10:33 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:34 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:36 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:37 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:41 Clears table 71 next to them
10:42 Spoke to table 70
10:43 Gave water to table 70
10:44 Gave one drink
10:46 Spoke to table 70
10:47 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:52 Cleaned table 71 and looked in on table 70
10:53 Reset table 71
10:55 Spoke to table
10:57 Spoke to table
11.02 Took C.C. from table and returned it to the table
11:11 Picks up the C.C. customer had left

“*” denotes when “K” looked in and may have communicated with the customer, hard to tell

Longest times between visits:
12 minutes while food order is being prepared (customers had drinks)
9 minutes when customer is dancing
9 minutes after dropping off the C.C.

25 Total number of “check-ins” on table over the course of their 1 hour and 52 min stay

Hmmm, I’d say that waitperson was pretty darn attentive.  What was all the bullsh*t about her being “overwhelmed” and “taking forever” to get to them?

Following the “two-bite” rule, the waitperson stopped by to ask how everything was for them one minute after the food was delivered — and then she immediately went to the kitchen.  (The reviewer claimed it took the server “forever” to stop back, and that they were already “half-way done” with their meal before they could point out there was no bacon on the burger.)

The bacon (was it actually initially ordered by the reviewer?) arrived three minutes later.

As recorded on the security cameras, this waitperson was checking on the reviewer’s table repeatedly, if only to look in and give them the chance to request more service.

If the reviewer’s complaints were that far off — on the actual time frame, and the promptness and quality of the service — how much can we trust the rest of what was said?

I think we might get a more honest and accurate review from that self-proclaimed AOL centerfold playmate.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 13 Comments