As you may know, if you know me, the phrase heading this post became, in my mind, a most-despised phrase while I waited tables at the late, great Dressel's Pub in the Central West End Neighborhood of St. Louis. Don't worry, the pub is still there, but the vibe that the place housed during the 80s and 90s is mostly gone.
Nevertheless, it was there that I ran circles around a miraculous bar of liquor and beer selections only to completely halt all writing efforts. It wasn't that I had no inspiration. It was only that I was confounded by the culture shock of waiting on the privileged and pseudo-intellects while trying to figure out what I really wanted to do amongst such culture-laden surroundings.
I cast that last statement as a guess.
It could be that I was working and drinking too much.
It could be that I was simply floundering from the loss of a lover.
It could be that I was slumming...just a little bit.
It could be that I was swimming, perhaps wading, into deeper waters of a different St. Louis than I cared to be accustomed to at such a late age.
I started waiting tables there after having quite a crazy, five-year stint on Laclede's Landing during which I learned much about the seedier side of St. Louis. I met many scumbags; befriended many who were fierce, intelligent and able; layed a few beauties and a couple unfortunate souls; and beat the rest off with the proverbial stick as I earned a living as a barback, doorman and occasional bartender at Lucius Boomer's.
There, on Clamorgan Alley, a couple blocks west of the banks of the Mississippi, I tore through the remainder of my later 20s and the earlier part of my 3os, not to mention a good part of my tendons, ligaments and brain cells. If you think it was HELL, well, yes, it was. If you think it was fun, well, yes, it was, if you could put your mind on hold, mute your hearing to the clammer of debauchery and the dreaded cover bands and set your being at a particular speed and determination to a setting that could only end in WHATEVER with WHOMEVER and a Jagermeister hangover.
Luckily, I shunned more offers than I accepted in favor of reflection and observation. I fully admit to accepting a majority of the drinks offered, but firmly claim that I passed by a full 90 percent of the sexual advances that were insinuated in those underground environs and the places I ventured after hours. I claim no virtue in these denials. In most cases, I simply gave the stiff-arm to such advances by drinking beyond their realization. In others, I craftily maneuvered end-arounds and performed the exact opposite of the "cock block", sending the vampiric subjects off in another direction towards a more willing victim...or, as some may see it, to some other fellow who was better able to "lay the pipe where it was wiling to be laid".
I submit once again that there was little of virtue in these actions. I was, more than once, enticed and subdued by such offers and am not ashamed by such outcomes. Though I was raised a Christian, I have long ago discarded such restraints in the interest of meeting others in a more intimate settting. Many a time have I felt the need to please or be pleased if only to feel the company of another or satisfy a curiosity. At the same time, I have shunned the idiocy of such a moment if there was no apparent need or feeling of intimacy. In other words, I don't always need the BANG BANG!
You might see me as an odd sort of fellow, especially because I might refer to myself as a fellow. Yuck yuck, hardy har.
You might think me a fool to engage in such work and spend time having to deal with such situations, perhaps. Perhaps? Now that is a word that isn't used in everyday contemporary conversations, so you might think me odd in that such usage, eh?
Well, let me go on to say that it is only to explain that I do not condone the laziness of mind that goes into ordering a Diet Coke, when one has not even been offered another beverage...and this was my original thought.
Do you see the error?
A perfectly good wait person approaches a table and asks those seated on the chairs around said table and asks, "Hello. Would you like something to drink?" He would not ask, "Hello. Would you like to toss about in the sand?" or "How about we rape a kitten just about now?"
No, he simply is approaching the table at this point and attempting to proceed with a restaurant transaction and this sophomore from who-knows-where says, "Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."
Where does that come from?
I know, I know!
She was uncomfortable in a pub and being approached by a waiter who (may or may have not have laid her cousin after a quick exchange down on Laclede's Landing back in the wild 90s) has just asked her if she wanted something to drink probably sounded like, "Yo, you wanna start with a bottle of Turkey?"
But really, isn't it more likely that the waiter is only interested in whether or not the customer wants a glass of Chardonnay or a Bud Light or a lemonade or a Perrier or a white wine spritzer?
Here's what I think, and I want answers and comments if you think I'm wrong!
I think that there is a species of people that go to restaurants when they're not hungry or thirsty and perhaps, when they're not ready to be presented in public, and they don't know what they want! (...and I don't know if that exclamation point is warranted, but so be it...not like FUCKING amen or something...don't get upset, but it is there and I'm going to leave it there until you demand that it be removed by the FUCKING FDA, the thought police or some such blah, blah, blah...)
I submit to you, my readers, that said subjects do not know what they want.
They are at a restaurant and they do not know exactly where they are and they are not exactly hungry or thirsty and they do not know what they want and they feel a bit uncomfortable being questioned about it and their mind is racing and they are pouring over the options and inside they have settled on some rather fun options and finally they just blurt out,
"Actually, I'll have a Diet Coke."
That really used to piss me off.
It used to make me want to open a dialogue right there at the table side.
But then again, lots of things used to make me want to open up a dialogue right there at the table side. Being employed in a busy pub and being personally prone to and proud of my expedient abilities, I did not take the time for such interchanges. I was waiting on eight or nine tables at a time and I didn't take the time to stop and prevent nightmares of the future by asking what-the-fuck every customer meant when they said what they said. So, I advanced, got the Diet Coke, the Shirley Temple, the Long Island Iced Tea and the four Double Dragon Extra Bitters and got the vessels back to the table.
It was, really, the only reasonble thing to do. There was always time to relive my thoughts over a dozen drinks with co-workers later and that was good fun, but it was probably best that I did not dawdle over every indecisive customer.
I'm sorry to even bring it up, really.
I'm not at the table right now, though. I am sipping whiskey and enjoying an Oatmeal Stout and type-type-typing at my little computer keyboard and you are wondering where this is all going.
Well, Sirs and Madams, just beware that you may be the one who doesn't know what they want and you may be in a place of commerce where someone is waiting to serve you, be it a bank, a 7-11 (Freedom's Waiting for You!), a sausage shack or coffee kiosk. There are moments of decisiveness and those in which surety is lacking...and I know it is difficult. You, the busy American must decide what to consume when you have been ripped away from your computer, your car, your cubicle, your iPod, your comfortable rut, your life...
...and I feel for you...and it is you I love most dearly. It is you I cherish, my fellows and damsels in distress of indecision, for it is a dangerous road you travel and on it you may carry many other victims.
...and for you, my loves, my many loves and darlings, I will go to bed hungry. I will go to bed starving, but thinking of all the many things I'd like to eat tonight, but can't decide upon.
...for when I wake tomorrow, my body will tell me what I want!
...I will shiver under threadbare covers and know what my body craves!
....My life's vessel will crave nourishment and will envision colors.
...It may scream, "I need GREEN!"
...It may scream, "I need YELLOW!"
...It may scream, "I need BROWN!" (...but, I hope not)
When the body is in need of food and drink it tells us what we want!
Oh, I'm working up to a finish here and it ain't a feller from Helsinki, it's gonna be a doozy!
My fellow consumers, it is simple: get what you want...or atleast what you need.
I understand you're rushed and uncomfortable sometime and I don't get upset anymore when you don't know what you want.
I guess it is just human nature to feel uncomfortable when you feel like a dork!
Only a joke, there for a minute...not to demean, only to chuckle myself into the next thought.
Well, pardon if there are any mispellings in this improvisation.
I knew what I wanted and I drank it.
See you tomorrow at the bar and I'll know sort-of-what-you're-thinkin'.
I live for you.
I love you.
...and for the record, I no longer get upset as I did in the past. I've got rubber mats holding me up off the ground and am no longer subjected to the many pains of waiting tables. I will trot to keep you and your friends in food and drink.
There is a better synopsis to all this, but I haven't thought of it just yet. When I continue this train of thought, it will follow that the word "actually" is misused. Perhaps, perhaps that is where I'll take it all. We might wander off into meditations on the use of the word "just" by folks being interviewed for television. "We just wanted to give thanks that Sparky is alive, so we made this 700 pound corndog to offer up to Jesus," a frumpy lass says. "He was just a happy little chipmunk," another suburbanite will utter. "I just can't stress how much he was just a little happy chipmunk. I just can't understand why he set himself on fire amidst our Beanie Baby renaissance festival sculpture. It just puzzles the mind," she'll continue.
That is indeed something I'll need to chew on a bit.