During a recent Sunday brunch shift - a shift notable for the soul-sucking hangover I'd amassed from the night before - I watched in relief as nary a customer came to dine. For two gloriously quiet hours, I pretended to fold silverware as I napped myself back to normalcy.
Then came the lovely slap on my neck from management alerting me to my new customers. Customers who, despite all the empty booths, insisted on sitting at a small table in my section.
I cleared myself of drool and tried as hard as I could to look awake.
I set my bloodshot eyes on two giggling men, the elder of whom kept looking at me directly while giggling. He was a heavy-set, rosy-cheeked man wearing a seizure-inducing patterned shirt. I couldn't tell if he wanted me to inquire about the source of his laughter or merely find him as amusing as he found himself, but either way, Ol' Stonewall here did not budge.
"I was just telling him about this concert I did in San Francisco with no power, and how I still managed to perform for thousands with no microphone or instruments," he told me.
"Neat," I replied. "Anything to drink?"
Victor the Voice continued giggling at this riotous tale as his sidekick, a squirrely little Latino houseboy whom I nicknamed Rosita, feigned giggling to keep in his master's good graces.
"Does your bartender know how to make a Scandinavian Spring?" Victor asked me.
"I doubt it," I replied. "What's in a Scandinavian Spring?"
"Oh it's the most delightful summer cocktail," Victor beamed. "It reminds me of the summer I spent doing a show in Provincetown. I was staying with [some woman I'd never heard of whose name sounded like a flavor of Milano cookies] and we drank them all summer long."
Victor began to giggle again.
"This one night...[Milano Cookies] and I were drinking Scandinavian Springs and forgot that we'd been baking a batch-full of the fish my nephew caught that morning. All the sudden, the whole place filled with smoke!"
Victor then began to cry from laughing so hard. Rosita made some sound that was either laughter or a frightened rookery of albatross escaping a monsoon.
"So..." I interrupted just as Victor was about to regale me with more anecdotes of summers of yore spent imbibing with Milano Cookies on the Cape. "In lieu of a Scandinavian Spring, what may I bring you to drink?"
Victor ordered two margaritas served martini style and was just about to tell me why he preferred them that way when I ran off mid-sentence.
I returned to find Victor scrutinizing a tortilla chip and licking it gently the way a detective would to detect poison.
"Peculiar," he said as I approached. I ignored his passive aggressive comment and set down the drinks.
"No it's just really odd to me," he continued.
"What eees it?" Rosita asked.
"This salt just tastes really...peculiar," Victor said. "Waiter, what kind of salt is this?"
"Yeah WAITER," Rosita added for emphasis.
I shot Rosita a hate-filled look that made him cower with arousal.
"It's table salt," I replied. "Real standard stuff."
"It has the most peculiar taste," he continued.
"Wha? Eees it taste like shooo-gar?" Rosita asked.
"No no," Victor waived his hand dismissively. "It's just saltier than most standard restaurant table salt."
I paused for a brief moment, waiting for an obnoxious T.V. host to step out from behind a booth and tell me I'd been punked. But no. This was all real.
My time with Victor and Rosita dragged on for another two hours, during which time neither of them ordered anything. Victor merely used each and every interaction, utensil, and passage of time to instigate another unsolicited trip down memory lane.
Finally, dinner time. Quicker than you can say "Scandinavian Spring," I transferred Victor and Rosita to an unsuspecting dinner server.
I couldn't help but pass them on my way out.
"Excuse me, Waiter?" Victor called out in a voice reminiscient of Charlotte Rae in The Facts of Life.
"Yes?" I stopped.
"You transferred us to another server?" he asked with serious offense. "But don't you want to stay for your tip?"
I'd rather try to take a nap in the dishwashing machine with a nest of angry bees and John Travolta.
"Sorry," I said. "I must get home. I feel the most bizarre sickness coming over me. Something terribly peculiar."
"Ah, well, I understand that," he started. "One time, when I was doing a charity concert in Branson, Missouri, I ate the most foul-tasting chicken and my stomach was..."
And with that, I ran off for the last time.