Sunday, June 1, 2008

Restaurant Somewhat Confidential: Fingertips and Breakups

Running a restaurant is, as cliche as this sounds, a war of attrition. On one side, you have your heroes (me), leading a ragtag group of mouthbreathers with basic culinary skills to unattainable glory. Then there's the enemy (customers), who will stop at nothing to find and expose your slightest weakness, ripping you open and driving you under with all their might.* As with all wars, there's crying, screaming, and every now and then limbs are lost, as was the case a few weeks ago.

It was 6:30 on Friday night and we were already fucked. Parents were out of town and I was completely in charge. Full house, understaffed, and oversexed (standard). Lots of children, lots of screaming, and lots of Aleve. Seriously, I wanna endorse the stuff, it's magical. Now, no matter how stressed the waitstaff is or how dire the dining room situation may be, the kitchen is always more laid back than an ironing board. There's music (Bollywood film songs, Power 106, or that Ranchero accordion crap), laughter, and more penis jokes than you can shake a... well, penis at. Seriously, if you ever work in a restaurant, go somewhere without any type of sausage or kebab on the menu, cause it's all phallic, all the time. Better yet, don't work at a restaurant, be a telemarketer. Then kill yourself.

Knowing all this, I stopped dead in my tracks the moment I realized there was not one goddamn sound coming out of that seemingly never ending fiesta. I peered in and saw everyone circled around Nitin, the new Tandoor guy, and I started looking for the blood. It was bound to be somewhere. Not spotting anything after a cursory glance, I became hopeful about the situation, and asked what the fuck everyone was standing around for. Then I see Nitin, holding a towel over his left hand, sadly motioning to the tip of his left index finger, lying on the cutting board next to some green and newly red cilantro. "Fuck."

My first reaction was "Wow, he's really calm." Using my terrible Hindi, I figured he thought there really wasn't much bleeding and didn't feel much pain. Without my dad around, I had to make a decision fast, and despite my hoping it would all work out fine, I thought it best to take him to the walk-in clinic nearby (yeah I know, I'm an asshole, that should've been my first choice). I told Nitin to keep holding the towel and putting pressure on his nub while I put his fingertip on ice and grabbed my keys. Just after I told him this, he decided to take the towel off.

For a moment, hushed silence. Then he started screaming and blood was spraying everywhere. Just like in Kill Bill. Seriously. Three other guys forced the towel back on and tried to calm him down, and as much as I cared about his well being, the whole time I just keep thinking "Please don't get blood on the expensive ingredients." Luckily the nub was re-covered before any food got a fresh coat and Nitin's yelling became a quiet whimpering (with the help of 2 Aleve tablets).

Ten minutes and near collision later, a kindly old nurse at the clinic sprayed some weird foam that smelled like cherries on Nitin's finger and reattached the tip. After paying about $400 for this (fuck the US healthcare system, honestly), we raced back to the restaurant. Nitin, the good sport, refused to go home and rest and continued to work for the night. I headed into the dining room and, for the second time that night, faced the greatest fear of any restaurateur: silence.

The room was still packed, people were quietly eating, and everyone was trying not to stare at Table 4 in the corner. Walking over there, I found a young man with his head in his hands and a cute brunette with tear-smudged makeup. Knowing that this was already a huge mistake in, I thought "Fuck it" and asked if everything was alright. The girl's answer consisted of a bunch of sobbing, pointing, and the liberal use of the word "asshole." The guy said they were just going through a rough patch. Not wanting to deal with the mounting checks in the back, I tried to remedy the situation and get them the fuck out of there.

I start off by asking the basic questions, like how long they've been together and such (highly inappropriate, but hey, that's me). Turns out it's been three years and long distance but the girl just moved back for good. Then I simply asked if they loved each other, to which they both replied yes. After pointing out that the decision was pretty simple knowing those facts, the guy agreed to give it another shot and work things out, which elicited a tiny annoying scream from the girl. They shared an awkward hug and kiss across the table, and I asked if they wanted anything else. Thankfully, he just needed the bill. Dr. Phil, go fuck yourself.

After checking on the other tables and finishing the checks in the back, I spent the rest of the night playing tennis on my cell (great timewaster). At the end of service as I held the door open for the last table to leave, a guy asked, "Hey, is that blood on your shirt?" I look down and see a faint smattering of blood on the right side of my shirt. I proudly reply "Yes, but it's not mine." He smiles. "Nice," he says. "Nice."

*Note: I love our customers. Most of them. Really.