It's St. Patrick's day and I'm working my regular shift at new Melrose hotspot, The Village Idiot, which is a welcoming haven on this Saturday night for emerald-clad alcoholics, despite being an English pub. Oh, I'm in the throes of food poisoning, which has turned my skin a festive shade of green (NOT from Idiot food, rather a K-town tempeh burger with a mean streak). As you can imagine, hijinx ensue. Some highlights…
A buffed-out, squinty guy loiters near the front door. He looks familiar.
“Is the new door guy famous?” I ask Dean, owner/Aussie/food expediter/Libra.
“No. Would you like him to be?”
I roll my watering eyes, shuddering at the thought of all those biceps crushing in on me.
“Nine-oh-two-one-oh,” whispers Natalie, actress/waitress/doppelganger. Customers (and Eric, the busboy) are always confusing us with one another, despite her sunny disposition and my bad attitude.
“Really?” I squeal. “Who was he?”
“The guy that Brenda almost married.”
I knew he looked familiar.
At the height of the dinner rush, a moussed-up geek in pointy black boots yells into a Bluetooth while he clogs up the walkway leading to the kitchen. I squeeze by balancing three plates of food and a splitting headache. I catch his elbow en route.
“OH!!!” he hollers. “Excuuuuuuuse you!!”
Perched in the window at Table 40 are three 30-something couples — all beautiful, all English. I unload a tray of drinks in time to hear the scruffy guy with the pretty blue eyes say to his buddy:
“Oh yeah. I talked to my mom. She wants to do with acid with you.”
The chubby girl at Table 15 asks if the grilled chicken comes on the bone.
“Can you take it off the bone?”
“Are you sure?”
A hissy-fit ensues. She's a former vegetarian. On-bone bird carcass freaks her out. I hover, holding hippie-dippie vegetarian space while she indulges, sputters, spazzes-out and ultimately, resolves(ish) her icky-chicky issue. She resigns herself to the dish with an exaggerated sigh.
“I guess I'll just have to deal with the bones.”
“I'll help you,” her tipsy friend offers.
Later, I drop by to check-in on them (Read: sell them more booze). She seems to be coping just fine. Her date's beer glass is empty.
“Would you like another beer?” I ask.
He lifts his glass dramatically in front of him.
“Can you guess what I want?”
I have nine other tables and a growing need to vomit.
He's speechless. When I return with a fresh pint of Pilsner, his girlfriend glares flaming daggers at me. They leave me a gigantic tip.
A straight sort in stripes stands in the clearly delineated waiter's station at the bar, waiting for his vodka cranberry.
“Having fun yet?” he asks.
“No,” I wheeze, clutching my ailing belly while waiting for a round of tequila shots which will ultimately be spilled on an innocent bystander's frayed faux-fatigue jacket by a drunken, though appropriately apologetic blonde with a fantastic nose.
“I'm not a cheesy weirdo,” he explains later, taking a break from tongue-wrestling his girl. Turns out he's a writer named Brad Listi. He rode his bike to the Idiot and wrote a novel! Attention. Deficit. Disorder. He encourages me to buy his book and to post on his blog. He introduces me to his fiancee (Hudson jeans don't look good on me, either).
The later it gets, the uglier it gets. Drinking reaches a crescendo. Words are slurred, drinks are spilled. Desperate lotharios eye scantily clad fashion victims through myopic beer goggles. Spit is swapped. Numbers are punched into Blackberrys. Walkways clog with five-deep bar overspill. Barflies hover between tables, surrounding late-night diners with wall-to-wall ass. Serving morphs into a different shade of nightmare, as traversing a route from bar to table becomes a logistical shit-storm – ducking elbows, leaping over outstretched legs, tip-toeing around wildly gesticulating sorority girls, all the while trying not to spill overloaded trays of drinks.
I zigzag through the bar crowd loaded down with pint glasses. Some guy taps me on the shoulder.
“Can I get—”
A drunk and meaty brunette straight-arms me in the face. I'm so annoyed, I kiss her.
Rolling in on midnight, Chris, a freakishly tall professional something-er-other saunters in with his rowdy crew of cohorts. Chris and I became fast friends the week before when the following exchange ensued:
“What do you think of the pork sausage, Dani?”
“I think it's disgusting,” I deadpan. “I'm vegan.”
Chris went onto order those specific dishes I deemed the greatest carnivorous atrocities with gusto and pizzazz. A ribeye, a steak pie and a pork shank later, he asked for a whiskey neat.
“What's this?” he sneered, still reeling in face-contorting wince from his last sip.
“Southern Comfort. What's wrong with your face?”
“I asked for a Knob Creek.”
“No, you didn't.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Oh. I must have tuned you out.”
Clearly, it was love.
So, Chris the friendly giraffe, rolls in with his boisterous Barney's-outfitted friends and orders a ton of food from the bar, kicking off a catfight between the bartenders, who already hate him, and the waitress who's now dealing with him (the issue being: the waitress gets the tip, but the bartenders put in the order ). Late night deep-fried flesh now fetid and rotting in his belly, Chris stands between tables, chatting with friends, hurling empty promises and making faces at me as I pass. Waiting for my last table to pay, I join the trio, present my back and demand a massage. Chris happily obliges, digging deep into my virus-strewn brick wall shoulder blades and cracking my back with the ease only a trained professional or giant could muster while I chat with his buddies about the Year of the Flamingo and our yet-to-be-paid-for USC “overgraduate” degrees . This was to be the three-minute highlight of my St. Patrick's Day 2007, especially in light of my one-thirty a.m. homecoming when I slipped out of my still damp, tequila-drenched Dickies, salivating for unconsciousness, only to discover I'd brought a customer's credit card home. I trudged back to the Idiot in my nightgown, cursing St. Patrick all the way.