Somehow I don't think this is what my guidance counsellors had in mind when they told me that if I worked hard I'd get ahead. NYou see, I always wanted to be a waiter.
As soon as I was old enough to get into bars, I fell in love with bar staff. They seemed to be part of a secret club that I wanted to join. There was just something sexy about them.
(Hey, I was climbing out of adolescence. Anything that said sex caught my undivided attention.)
My initiation into waiterdom was in a roadhouse. At the door to the bar stood a bouncer who wore a button on his leather jacket that read, "Give bikers a chance."
Greasy dude I couldn't help but think to myself every time I saw it, "To do what?"
One night this greasy-looking dude sauntered into the bar looking for a drink. The bartender refused to serve him.
"I can't serve you. You're smashed."
"I'm not drunk."
"Listen to ya. You can't even get the words out to order a beer." (And that, after all, was our criterion.)
"No, really," he insisted. "I was shot in the head and it left me with a speech impediment."
The skeptical bartender waved him off. Undaunted, the slurring man opened his mouth and pointed his finger inside. There, on the roof, was a small, round scar.
Then he turned around and lifted his greasy hair. On the back of his head was another small, round scar.
There was nothing else to do. His drinks were on the house.
Having put in my time at roadhouses, I thought perhaps it was time to move on.
Besides, now I was a university student, on the road to becoming a professional. I needed something more befitting the station to which I aspired. I was ready for, not a job, but a Career. A recession later, I found myself back waitering.
Worldly experience But I was right about one thing -- I had moved up in the world. I was rewarded for my now sophisticated intellect and worldly experience.
I clawed my way up from the biker bar to a gig at a yacht club.
It was where the bourgeoisie ate. The real, honest-to-goodness ruling class, not the abstract designation to which my fellow Marxist students and I referred: people like princes.
Now, I can hear all the waitrons out there drooling about gigantic tips on oversized bills. Well, let me disabuse you of any envy.
The yacht club was just another roadhouse, only instead of a bouncer there was a maitre d'. It's where old waiters end up, new waiters pay their dues and desperate waiters end up during recessions.
My rich patrons didn't even give us tips. Oh, they paid a 15 per cent service charge on bills all right, they just kept it for the house -- which was owned by the people we were serving. In other words, they tipped themselves for the privilege of having us serve them their lamb chops and crème brûlée.
The yacht club once hosted an event called The CEO 300. It was put on by Forbes magazine for the top 300 CEOs in Canada, i.e., some of the wealthiest men in the world.
It was attended by the likes of Mike Harris and former U.S. secretary of state Caspar Weinberger and we had to wear white gloves (presumably so our proletarian cooties wouldn't get too close to their vichyssoise.)
They kept the whole thing hush-hush until we actually arrived at work. I can only guess they were frightened by what plans might be hatched in the minds of us poor, righteous wait staff.
They were right to be afraid. We hated them.
But the valuable thing I learned from the yacht club -- besides how cheap the rich are -- was that the higher you go, the more security you encounter.
Prince Andrew, for example, got the full treatment: bomb-sniffing dogs checking our bags and crotches (?!), and strange men talking into their hands, keeping each other abreast of what course we were serving HRH. ("All right, they're bringing up the coffee urns now. I estimate they will be in pouring range within 45 seconds.")
High-grade ecstasy I guess it's important to protect the family members of Britain's highest-paid shopping-mall openers.
Alas, if only we'd had a chance to prepare, we could have dosed HRH with some high-grade ecstasy.
Lacking the opportunity, my sorry ass was stuck plugging away for $7.50 an hour, sans tips, delivering Cuban cigars to David Peterson or tea to idle, rich women who smelled vaguely of embalming fluid.
Jews, blacks and women had to fight for decades to be able to enter this club. After a couple of months, I just wanted to slip out the back -- perhaps with a wallet or two.
But having survived the roadhouse and the boathouse, I'm ready for anything that waiterville has to throw at me.
And now that I'm within inches of a graduate degree in economically useless studies, I'm even closer to waiter perfection.
Now, if only I were an aspiring actor....