The Ignored Waiter
We were the only customers in this discount restaurant. Shep’s Deli on Pico in West Los Angeles was the only one to fit our budget. We grabbed a booth despite seeing rips in the plastic cushions. As our buttocks searched for comfort on the lumpy seats, we could relax. Our sore backs screamed for luxury. Mom, my-self and lover Scott were a common threesome. The delight from the double bill made us hungry for Jewish comfort food. I had arranged for us to enjoy two films for the price of one as we sneaked from one cineplex theater to another. The show times for the two 1977 film releases Julia and The Goodbye Girl coincided perfectly. Scott and Mom were game.
The gruff sweaty waiter handed us tattered menus. If they were brand spanking new the prices would have been inflated so who cared if a few food blotches peppered the menu. Matzah Ball soup, chopped liver, kasha varniskes, coleslaw pickles, cucumber salad, crisp seeded rye, potato pancakes, and chicken with stuffing stared at us and dared to make us decide which delicacy we deserved. Sharing was in our DNA.
“We’ll have two full dinners and bring an extra plate for my mom.”
“Anything to drink?” the waiter countered with an aggravated sneer.
“Three waters please.”
The water sloshes as he drops each glass in front of us. His fingers gently touch the upper rim of the glass. Gee I hope his hands are clean.
I had a view of the kitchen from our seat. I’m fascinated by the mechanism of running a restaurant. The large stove top burners are quiet. I notice a dirty rag hanging in the front of the lower oven. Instantly a blob starts sizzling. The cook must be making potato pancakes. A splattering of grease hits his hands and he uses the rag to wipe. Ugh. I wonder what kind of rating this place received.
Scott is looking at the silverware. “Something is corroded on the fork.”
“This place has really gone down-hill.” My mom said.
I wave my hand to get the waiter’s attention. “Can my mom have another fork? This isn’t clean”.
He comes back and plasters a fork on the grimy table, not the napkin.
When he delivers the soup his thumb accidentally dips into the bowel for a split second. Should I say something? He’s in such a rotten mood. Maybe he used anti-bacterial soap.
“Should we go?” Scott asks.
“We’d like two extra spoons for the soup.” Mom says.
He must be thinking how cheap we are to split a soup three ways.
The soup is one step above dishwasher taste but it’s hot and filling. As we finish, I feel some movement beside me. I look down at the seat cushion and see a large black roach scurrying by,
I scream and jump on the seat.
“Gordon, what’s wrong?” Scott and my mom ask in unison
“It’s a bug or roach or water bug.”
Where is the waiter or cashier or cook? Are they deaf? Just don’t care.
Mom starts giggling as Scott joins in. It takes a moment for me to see the humor. The laughter bubbles into tears.
When the waiter returns with the next course, he looks bewildered at our glee.
“Don’t you feed your cockroaches? It was looking for food at our table.”
His smirk turns to hilarity. The smile makes us amused. The laughing convulsions build to a crescendo of sweet melody. The four of us bellow in rapturous glee.