By this time of night, if you look close enough, when Ash walks it’s like two chalkboard dusters being smacked together. He rushes up to me and says I need to pick up another table in the outside section. Zuki is spinning her tits off. The outside section is burning the fuck down, he says, and before I can say no he vanishes in a white puff of powder.
I don’t know if you know what spinning is – it’s the same as bombing out and it’s the stuff nightmares are made of. It’s the equivalent of a poker player going on tilt. It’s when all composure goes right out of the window.
I run up to Warrick and ask him, does he know what the hell a fucking steurgarnaal is and he tells me he doesn’t know what language I’m speaking right now. I say I’m not sure either but I need steurgarnale and an allegaartjie and a tongvis. Ferdinand has reappeared from out of nowhere. He says those are prawns, a mixed grill and sole. I take his word for it and put the order through.
The outside section has little gas lamp-heaters all over for cold nights like this, if you brush up too close to them you’ll leave some skin behind. On my way to rescue Zuki I pass by That-Son-Of-A-Bitch at Table 12.
There’s five bucks on the table.
My first two tables have finished eating and I’ve cleared their plates. Only one of them has ordered dessert, the other made a big show of declining. People get way too dramatic when telling a waiter they haven’t left room for dessert.
They’ve asked me for the William. I already know that’s the bill and they’re just trying to be funny but I don’t have time – I’m in between the pass and my seven tables and the bar and back again. The kitchen staff are all yelling at each other and throwing stuff around.
I need a cigarette.
Liz comes up to me while I’m printing the bill out at the waiter station near the children’s play area and says it’s almost time to sing for her table’s birthday kid. I say I don’t know what she’s talking about. I’m bombing, I say, I can’t even see straight. She says I promised and as she’s running away I say I did no such thing.
I don’t remember it.
I’m standing there when Mike comes running up to me with a Cheeseburger and throws the plate down onto my tray. He tells me, “Get rid of this!” and I say what the fuck, what the hell are you talking about, whose burger is this but he’s already gone.
I open the cupboard beneath the computer and put the untouched burger in there on top of the placemats.
On my way to my section, a customer has just asked Heidi if he can have a waffle.
She’s giving him the Wi-Fi password instead.
Heidi is a dumb bitch.
Liz says it’s time to sing. She’s standing there with a bowl of ice-cream with a sparkler poking out of it. I say I will as soon as I can get out of this line, I need to place an order. Donny is holding five of us up, staring blank-faced at the computer screen.
I ask him if he’s bombing. He says, “I’m bombing my bitch ass off, bro.”
He says he’s got a table of Asian people and none of them speak English. They keep pointing at the illustrations on the menu, but none of those illustrations are actual things we have on the menu so he’s trying to make something up.
I feel like I’m about to fall down and die.
I hope God understands English. If I get to heaven and have to point at a menu I’m gonna be pissed.
Behind me, the New Guy asks if we sell Fur-Burger wine. I can’t believe somebody is pranking the poor bastard at a time like this.
Mike rushes by us, carrying a bunch of dirty dishes, waistcoat down over his shoulder, buttons undone. He’s spinning himself right out of his waistcoat.
I finally get the orders done and I rally some waiters to go sing for Liz’s birthday kid. We make an out-of-tune hasty mess of it. By the time we rush off again the ice cream is melted.
On my way through my section a kid asks me if I’m going to bring the Crème Soda he ordered any time soon. I run off to the computer to place the order. Charles calls me from the kitchen pass and says I’ve got a Chicken Schnitzel drying up under the heat lamps; it’s been there for like twenty minutes. I say what Chicken Schnitzel, I never ordered any Chicken Schnitzel.
In my shorthand, I use C/S for Crème Soda and Chicken Schnitzel and Cheese Sauce. I must have ordered the wrong fucking thing.
I dump the Schnitzel in the cupboard next to the Cheeseburger from earlier and take the kid his Crème Soda. The old lady at my next table asks me, have I seen her teeth? Where are her teeth? I say I don’t know what she’s talking about. She says she took her dentures out and put them on the plate when she was done eating. The plate which I cleared away like ten minutes ago and then threw down in the kitchen scullery area.
Are you serious right now?
I run off to the kitchen. Donny has put lemon water fingerbowls down at his Asian table for them to clean their fingers. As I rush by I see them drinking it like soup.
In the kitchen, Eric and Goodwell are yelling at each other, getting in each other’s faces. Heidi is using a chewed up straw to scoop the leftovers of somebody’s Dom Pedro into her mouth. I ask her what the hell she’s doing, that’s gross, and she starts slurring at me that she has a problem.
It’s a shicknesh, she says.
I’ve got Liz and Ferdinand watching all six of my tables while I spend the next twenty minutes rummaging through the wet mess in the kitchen bins, looking for that old lady’s teeth.
Sometimes I think my job is actually a hidden-camera game show where they see how much absurd bullshit I’ll put up with before I catch on.
Eric has taken his shirt off and is trying to wrestle Goodwell to the ground outside in the bin area. I tell them to stop behaving like such degenerates; I’m trying to find some fucking teeth here.
When I finally find her dentures, there’s lettuce and tomato sauce all over it, so I rinse it off under a tap and take it out to her on a plate, nice and clean. I suppose, what she doesn’t know won’t kill her. Or maybe it will. Those bins were pretty filthy. She gives me a kiss on the cheek.
While I was out there digging through the trash, Mike had rushed by my baby table and knocked the dodgy baby chair right off, sending their four-month old kid sprawling out into the walkway screaming and crying. Warrick is there dealing with it, offering them free dessert or something.
On my way to the table in the outside section I pass through the smoking area, where everybody is lighting up and dragging and puffing away and as I walk I take several deep breaths. It’s the same as smoking a Lite cigarette, I figure.
The table outside is a young couple on a date. The guy asks me, how much is a bottle of our finest champagne?
It’s ridiculously overpriced and I tell him how much it costs.
“That’s funny,” he says and starts chuckling.
I say, I know, I know.
He says, “Oh no, that’s not what’s funny.” He points to the table behind me. He says, “That Down-Syndrome boy over there just tried to hug one of the heaters and burnt himself.”
We both laugh and laugh and laugh.
The full story – “Friday Night” – was published by THE KALAHARI REVIEW
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”