“Excuse me, where’s the bathroom?”
Just head towards the back of the restaurant until you find the emergency exit door. Once you push that open, climb down the fire escape and you’ll see three side alleys ahead of the massive garbage compost you just landed in. You’ll walk through scattered colonies of diseased rats and heroin addicts if you pick the first one on your right, and you’ll likely get stabbed if you choose the one next to that, so I definitely recommend you opt for the first alley on your left side when you’re facing the abandoned parking lot. From there just go straight until you see a scruffy ne’er-do-well named Rufus, who will kindly offer you the piss bucket and let you know what a dumbass you are.
“Right upstairs, sir,” I reply while pointing to the nearby staircase whose sparkling “Restroom” sign and suggestive arrow would render this search too elementary for a segment of Blue’s Clues.
Waiting tables in Georgetown is about more than just raking in mad tips off deep-pocketed schmucks too inebriated to notice or care that gratuity was already included. It’s about the process of throwing oneself headlong into the social melting pot, or the act of engaging with men and women from all walks of life and realizing, no matter which corner of the globe they’re from or what language they speak, people just aren’t particularly competent creatures. Because I don’t care how many minions work for you on Capitol Hill; if you need to ask me about the difference between a falafel burger and a veggie burger, there’s just no way your daily consumption of valuable natural resources can be justified.
These are the kind of thoughts that cling to me as I march toward dreaded table 23, a party of four whose bewildered faces give them away as one of those families making its annual trip out of the house for dinner. They stare at the menus as if they’re clutching copies of Mitt Romney’s tax returns, and I can’t help but dread what my spiel about the evening’s specials will do to their feeble minds.
My greeting elicits sheepish stares, and my spiel only magnifies their silence. A tender-footed reply from the broad-shouldered father confirms reports of intelligent life existing at table 23, but it also confirms my pre-conceived notion that they’ll need more time to decide on things.
Folks, I can put up with a lot at the restaurant. Toss me some old geezers, big shots, frat stars, yuppies, low-talkers, loudmouths, showoffs or apologetic suck-ups, and I’ll grit my teeth and press on. I deal happily with cocky college kids, pickle-slinging toddlers, ketchup whores, man whores, actual whores, wine snobs, soda guzzlers, ghetto-fabulous ballers, elitist grad students, nerdatrons, even French people.
But one thing I can’t stand are the indecisive time drains. Servers the world over tremble at the thought of these restaurant-going noobs, these attention-mongering trolls who believe that, by way of their annual passage into the unfamiliar realm of the outside world, their presence in your section demands you treat them with the same undivided pampering a sultan might receive upon rolling into a club in downtown Dubai. They mull over the menu like they’re cramming for the LSAT, and they flag you down whenever you pass so that they can pepper you with mind-numbing questions that will invariably lead to reluctant decisions all around.
With all this in mind, I head toward the kitchen to check on food for another table, stopping to assist a nitwit nomad on the way.
“Excuse me, is there a bathroom here?”
Nope. We’re actually the only full-fledged food service establishment in the continental United States that has managed to circumvent the law by depriving patrons from discharging said food. Hold it in or get the fuck out, that’s our policy.
“Yes, there is actually. Right upstairs.”
Few people know that passing through our kitchen doors is actually the quickest and easiest way to cross the southern Mexican border into Guatemala. The lively sway of mariachi blares above the banter of busy Guatemalans, all of whom pause for a second to stare down the lanky gringo who encroaches their territory. One of them mutters some strange Spanish slang likely containing the words “pussy” and “that guy,” which draws laughter and resumes the cooking/periodic drinking. I grab what I need and try to play it cool with Pablo the expo, but as I turn to leave he says something that probably links words like “pussy” and “that stupid gringo.”
Upon crossing back into the Mother Land, I am immediately accosted by a distressed lady with a full bladder and an empty head.
“Excuse me, waiter, do you know where the bathroom is?”
You know what, I’ve been working here for about a year and a half and I still haven’t come across one. Poor signage and a lack of managerial transparency have kept me in the dark on this very important issue. Try pulling your head out of your ass or calling your mother for help.
“I sure as heck do. Right upstairs, ma’am.”
Upon collecting my 35-cent tip from the foreigners at table 22, I take a deep breath and whirl back to my pals at table 23. Consternation clearly still gripping their souls, I ask if they have any questions about our menu. And yeah, they’ve got a few.
“What do these numbers next to each item mean?”
“What kind of non-alcoholic drinks do you serve?”
“Can we get straws with our waters?”
“Are the nachos, like, really big? And would they cost less without the cheese?”
The seconds tick by with merciless speed. One by one brows furrow and necks crane at my five other tables as everything is put on hold for the time-draining sultans.
“They don’t leave any pink in the steak, do they?”
“Can they cut our burgers in half?”
“Is it possible to just get the chicken sandwich without the bun or any of the toppings?”
“How much would it cost for half of the Thai salad and half of a salmon?”
Several minutes later, after decisions are nervously made, then un-made, then made anew, I turn away, eyes rolling and head churning. Four chicken finger dinners coming right up.
I beeline toward a long-neglected table 20, but before I can get there, someone else needs me first.
“Pardon me, where’s the toilet?”
I stare straight ahead this time, pointing to his forehead.