He argued with customers with the drunken elan of a Lenny Bruce character.
“Are we really going to do this?” asked the customer, his wife clutching nervously to her Citarella shopping bag, obviously uncomfortable, obviously wishing she were anywhere else but here, with her husband, who is arguing about crema, not firm enough to rest atop a cup of lemon granita.
“I mean, if you want to, we can do it,” He says as He takes a few steps from behind the counter toward the customer and his wife.
The customer begins to walk away, his wife in front of him, but not before calling Him “Jackass.”
“Same to you, sir. Have a good day,” He sarcastically tells the exiting customer.
I like to people-watch in coffee shops or ice cream shops, but my gaze does not extend outside to the sidewalk or the street.
Another customer approaches Him, this time a woman. She is alone.
He yells at her, and she responds by asking His coworker to help her. She does not want to be served by Him.
He yells back to the coworker, “Yeah, somebody, please serve her, because I’m not!”
His boss covers and serves the woman.
He is angry. He works too much, sleeps too little. First shift: gelateria near NYU. Second shift: a kitchen in Manhattan. Recently fired from the Plaza, He is unhappy and volatile.
In another argument, He yells at a coworker after she comments that He has a bad attitude.
“No, youuuuuuuu have a bad attitude,” He retorts. “What are you doing working in an ice cream shop at 33 years old?!”
He repeats what He means to be an insult to make Himself feel less frustrated, less helpless, less small, maybe, for one moment, satisfied. “You’re 33, and you work in an ice cream shop.”
His coworker, new to the gelateria, is disgusted. “How did He know I was 33?” she asks herself. Only her manager knew her age.
“Is this really happening?” she thinks to herself. “Am I really being antagonized by a kid who is so angry He can’t stand to look at Himself in the mirror?”
I like to people-watch in coffee shops or ice cream shops, but my gaze does not extend outside to the sidewalk or the street. It stays front and center, peering into the sometimes curtainless stage that is both sides of the service counter. Who are these people who want to be served on one side and who do not want to serve on the other side?
One says, “Give me this thing that I want. Smile at me. Quickly. Where’s my change? I hate this latte. Make it again.”
We say we want good service, but I wonder sometimes, are we good enough to be served?
The other side responds with Kitchen Confidential defiance. And on and on and on.
Why do we subject ourselves to service? We say we want good service, but I wonder sometimes, are we good enough to be served? Sometimes yes, and sometimes not.
I read somewhere that over 60% of food service workers have herpes. How’s that for service? Makes you wonder: How the hell did they find out? Are people just offering up their status to random surveyors these days? Do they feel the need to be so honest and self-reflective that they dive into a Holden Caulfield-like confession? “Yes, I have herpes!! Now here’s your chocolate-filled crepe with powdered sugar, you bastard.”
Obviously, and surprisingly, yes.