I Wrote a Rap Song

I wrote a rap songOf the most unlikely sentences that I could utter (or write), “I wrote a rap song” would surely make the Top Ten List — mine and everyone else’s. It’s true, though. I did.

We were joking around at work yesterday. How we managed to do that in the midst of the mayhem, I’ll never know. What can I say? Servers are a resourceful bunch.

In response to the anxiety that I felt as I was faced with a dozen tables scattered all over the restaurant, I started to formulate some song lyrics (or, as it’s known in the rap community — of which I now consider myself a member, albeit a fledgling member, but a member just the same — “laying down some bars”). Oddly enough, I found it therapeutic and more than just a little amusing. So did my coworkers.

I am unsure as to whether the humor they found in my running around trying to find words that rhymed with “hammer” had more to do with the juxtaposition of a middle-aged field hockey mom whose taste in music runs more along the lines of Jackson Browne than it does to Chris Brown or whether it was because they were stunned by my ability to punch out those words with the ferocity of an angry female hip-hopper. Either way, they seemed entertained.

Like any class clown worth her salt, I continued with my act. I have to admit that I was more than mildly distracted throughout the rest of my shift. I could not, no matter that I was faced with a severe wine glass shortage and a bar full of Merlot aficionados, to shrug off the idea that I should be writing this stuff down.

When I returned home, physically exhausted and mentally weary after my second twelve-hour shift in a row, I thought about doing just that. I opted, instead, as middle-aged women like me are wont to do, to don my flannel pajamas and allow my head to hit the pillow, rather than moving my fingers on a keyboard.

I slept fitfully. Words — many of them rhyming with “hammer” — kept awakening me.

The minute I rolled out of bed I poured myself a cup of coffee and headed for the computer. I really HAD to get these words down before they became confused and possibly jumbled up with other words like “dish detergent” or “greeting cards”. It was very likely that my synapses would misfire causing a mix-up to occur; I was gripped with the fear that failing to memorialize the lyrics would result in my finding myself in the home improvement store wondering what, exactly, I was doing in the tool aisle. It would not be the first time that I have been nagged by the vague notion that I was in need of a hammer.

Of places where and states of mind in which I can be found, “confoundedly wandering around the home improvement store” comes in just behind “standing in my kitchen wondering where my damn phone is” and “searching my pockets for where I put that twenty-dollar bill that I had in my hand five seconds ago.” Yeah. That is normally who I am, not someone in search of esoteric (and catchy) ways to say “prison”.

I did it, though. I thought it out and worked it up. I committed real words to virtual paper.

While I hesitate to share it here, not so much because I think it might actually be good enough for someone to want to record it (might any of you know the name of an up-and-coming female rapper?), but more because it may convince those of you who are on the fence about me that I am indeed just as batshit crazy as you suspected all along. I have decided to do it, anyway — share it with you.

I will also admit that there is a small part of me that worries that my husband might read this, might find me out. I find myself feeling a little guilty that I spent my day this way. I should be more productive on my day off. I should be cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry instead of wasting my time tapping into the nascent and heretofore unacknowledged lyricist persona (this is how I think of myself now). In other words, I should have something far more concrete to show for the energy that I expended working up a rap song that no one will ever hear. By “more concrete”, of course I mean figuring out dinner or making the bed. I could not seem to help myself, though.

Like all great artists who must divide their time between menial household chores and moments of clarity, most of them, one would imagine, artists of the female variety, I will wrestle with my guilt later. For now, and for what it’s worth, this is the result of my sleepless night and a morning spent not mopping the kitchen floor. I kind of like it. I think it was worth it. There will always be something to clean, but how often do fits of genius that require bursts of creativity occur? Not very often.

Tell me what you think! Should I be working on my rap name? Ordering oversized jewelry? Picking out my grillz? Working phrases like, “Word Up!” into conversations?


No disrespect to Mr. Seeger

Promotin’ tools for higher causes

Me? I’m just a bit beleaguered

Trying hard just to please the bosses

(Everybody’s bitch)
If I had a hammer

I’d like destroy

In the slammer

That’s where I’d toil

(Everybody’s bitch)
Spittin’ down different bars than these

Burnin’ my time

(Ain’t no hitch)

Gettin’ round off that gov’ment cheese

Burnin’ my time

(Still somebody’s bitch)
Playin’ for cigs and swapping tales

Course there’s always a glitch

My luck I’d draw laundry detail

Different venue, same travail

(Still everybody’s bitch)

(Everybody’s bitch)

Think your life is yours

Not unless you’re Oprah, hon

Otherwise, it’s smoke and mirrors

No money in the bank when it’s said and done

(Everybody’s bitch)

Someday I may be

Spittin’ down different bars than these

Burnin’ my time

(Less I strike it rich)

Gettin’ round off that gov’ment cheese

Burnin’ my time

(Still somebody’s bitch)

Free will is overrated

An illusion designed to keep us humble


We’re all one step away from the tumble

(Everybody’s bitch)
I’ll leave you this

Go ahead and throw your pitch

The best laid plans

Of mice and women

Thwarted by unseen hands

And what might have been

If I weren’t


Everybody’s bitch

(Everybody’s bitch)

Break out the mold

Spit down different bars than these

Let your rounds be hoops of gold

Burn your time scratchin’ your own itch

Don’t get old

Being everybody’s bitch

(Everybody’s bitch)
Pin it on your heart

As your feet hit the floor

Today’s the start

Don’t take no more

(Nobody’s bitch)

Get schooled by me

So you don’t have to be

Anybody’s bitch

(Nobody’s bitch)

(Nobody’s bitch)

Written by Jacqueline Tierney-DeMuro


(Take that, bitches!)

Flat Jackie

flatjackieAt some point last night, as I tried valiantly to meet the demands of my customers — an act which feels, more and more, like a Sisyphean endeavor — I took a few precious seconds to observe my co-workers. Thankfully, they appeared to be as frantic as I was. It is always nice to know, in the throes of madness, that one is not alone.  If even one of them had been, say, leaning up against the coffee station enjoying a snack, it is quite possible that I would have lay down and let that big rock that I was, metaphorically, pushing just roll right over me. Flat Jackie.

I will admit to taking a few precious seconds and flirting with the idea, as I rounded the service bar to replace the third dropped steak knife for one of my clumsier guests, that instead of heading toward where we keep the cutlery, I could take a hard right and walk straight out the front door. It is a lucky thing that my belongings were in the back storeroom and that the temperature outside was a balmy -2°F — a temperature no doubt colder than the proverbial witch’s tit. (Those poor little witchlets!)

Having no desire to become a human popsicle, I remained indoors. Life is full of tough choices. Better, I thought, to be ornery and warm than light-hearted and frozen.

In the midst of attempting to access, from the dark recesses of my brain, recipes for the Bahama Mama, Planter’s Punch, and something called a Jack Honey Tea, I noticed that other thoughts were hovering around the edges of my consciousness. I pushed the most obvious ones away. (Who orders this shit in February? What kind of an idiot drinks this nonsense at any time of the year? What in God’s holy name is a Jack Honey Tea? Who ever heard of such a thing?) Using what felt like the last shred of mental acuity that I had left, I did what any decent bartender in my position does, I made them up. I have a theory, borne of experience, that if it’s the right color, they’ll drink it. They almost always do.

Having, at least to my satisfaction, successfully navigated the drink recipe dilemma, I remained troubled by a much larger question, “What”, I found myself asking (possibly aloud) “the fuck am I doing here?”

Fortunately, my job being what it is, there is very little time to engage in deep, philosophical conversations with oneself (or anyone else). If things were different, if time was not of the essence in my line of work, I fear that I would spend most of my shifts pondering such questions and, as a result, that I would find myself, on an all too frequent basis, awash in a puddle of my own tears.

It is probably a good thing that bartenders cannot expend energy on things as esoteric as philosophy; that we must, instead, use our time to concoct dumb drinks, recite the beers on tap to the latest in a long line of literacy-challenged cretins (the flavors are on the handles, you beer connoisseur, you!), or to muddle mojitos for the groups who want to fool themselves into believing that the mere act of consuming this silliness will magically transport them to South Beach. It will not. Get on a plane.

Such is the life of the lowly restaurant worker. Such is my life.

I fear that one day soon I will be flattened by my own rock. Flat Jackie.

Worth a Shot


There are times when I can be strident, possibly too strident. For example, in a recent post (“The Scarlet Letter”) I suggested (okay, I outright recommended) that parents who chose not to protect their children, through immunization, against disease should be forced to wear a “Scarlet Letter”. Actually, “suggested” and “recommended” don’t exactly convey the proper tone of the piece; its tone was more along the lines of a call to arms.

This is how I get — my family describes it as “worked up”, I would characterize it as “passionate” — when I smack up against the nonsensical. When I come face-to-face (or, more often than not these days, Facebook-to-Facebook) with arguments that are based on fear or, worse, ignorance my answer is to make attempts to quell the fear and to dispel the ignorance with as many facts (from reliable sources) as I can get my hands on.

I always think this approach will work. It almost never does.

Sadly, though, softer approaches, like the 1986 letter penned by Roald Dahl, whose own daughter succumbed to measles in 1962, in which he practically begged parents to have their children immunized do not seem to have an effect on the anti-vaxxers, either.

For a couple of weeks I watched as this letter made the social media rounds. Some of the responses left me shaking my head in despair. Once or twice I got drawn in by some insane comment and even responded myself — with facts (from reliable sources). When I began to wonder if banging my head against the nearest hard object might be a better use of my time, I stopped reading these wacky responses. I ceased responding myself. I made a conscious decision not to get any more worked up about the issue than I already was.

And then I saw the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial — not because I had watched The Super Bowl, but because it was all over social media the following day. People were mighty worked up about having their Super Bowl interrupted by the message that preventable accidents are the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5. Based on the amount of social media kvetching associated with this commercial, I sought it out and watched it.

I wondered if this very powerful advertisement didn’t have parents lined up on Super Bowl Monday, waiting for the doors to open at their local Target stores so that they could purchase the equipment necessary to insure that their children were safer in their homes, their automobiles, or while engaging in sporting activities.  How many people, I wondered, went home, dug out their screwdrivers, and set about child-proofing their cabinetry?

I began to think that perhaps an ad campaign such as this one, but aimed at educating people about the danger that not immunizing children presents, might go a long way to convincing parents to line up at the doctor’s office or the local clinic — or any place else where they could get their children vaccinated. As the legions of people who have done this very thing can attest, such a thing does not even require a screwdriver, just a modicum of common sense.

Ultimately, the combination of seeing this advertisement and reading some of the responses to the Roald Dahl letter served to ratchet my mood up a few notches. I went from merely worked up to over the edge.

It was in this frame of mind that I furiously hammered out “The Scarlet Letter” post.

Surely if my child was still young enough for things like locked cabinets and covered outlets to be a concern, the Nationwide commercial would have had its desired effect upon me.  Having had my awareness raised, I would like to think that I, too, would have been shopping on Super Bowl Monday for items that would make my home safer for its youngest inhabitant.

Very shortly after I had written and published my post, several people posted a cartoon, which appeared in The New Yorker, in which a doctor, treating a measles-afflicted child says, as the parents look on, “If you connect the measles it spells out ‘My parents are idiots’”. (As I am not licensed to share it here, click here to view the original cartoon.)

Some people got pretty worked up about it. I had a light bulb moment.

Both the ad and the cartoon send the same message: Do these things (or this thing) or your children might die.

The Nationwide advertisement, entitled “Make Safe Happen” pulled at our heartstrings. It made us think about whether or not we, as parents, were doing all that we could to insure the safety of our children.  Unlike the cartoon, it didn’t call people “idiots”. It may have suggested idiocy and stupidity, but it fell short of outright saying it.

The “things” or “thing” in question are different, but the result of not doing them may be the same.

I did not get the sense that people were angry about The Nationwide ad so much as they were uncomfortable with it. Being force-fed a dose of reality on a day when bumping up against the worst case scenario is often limited to running short of wings and beer or, for some, watching helplessly as the coach orders a passing play instead of a running play which adversely affects the outcome of the game; learning that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in America is not what people have come to expect from their Super Bowl Sunday commercials.

The Nationwide ad was not the only downer of the day. In what can best be described as a bold and unselfish move, the NFL, rather than selling the most expensive commercial time known to man chose, instead, to set it aside for its own use; they aired their own public service announcement about another harsh reality — domestic violence.

I got the definite sense that people were annoyed. Why aren’t we watching burping frogs hawking beer? Why must we have our fun interrupted by these messages? Where is the beautiful supermodel selling us soft drinks? Why must we be subjected to the truth?  Why must we be made to feel?

The reaction to the cartoon, which, unlike the Nationwide ad and the NFL PSA, contained absolutely no nuance, was altogether a different story.  It ticked more than a few people off — some of them got mighty worked up about it.

It made me wonder if the vehemence with which many of those who identify themselves as “anti-vaxxers” reacted to this cartoon isn’t really what is at the heart of this issue. I, too, would react vehemently to being characterized as stupid.

The Christian Science Monitor in a February, 2015 article entitled “What You Need To Know About Measles Outbreak and Vaccine”, authored by Amanda Paulson, reported that the immunization rate for measles in this country is, in fact, 95 % nationwide. This figure*, according to The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which sets a target vaccination rate at 90%, should be more than enough to protect most Americans from a measles outbreak. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are pockets of the country where this number is significantly reduced.

According to Paulson, while much has been made of the “vaccine skepticism” which abounds in some of the more liberal, affluent, and highly educated communities of Marin and Orange Counties in Southern California, she argues that “vaccine skepticism” “cuts across ideological, religious, and class lines” — citing that, for example, Colorado has only an 82% compliance rate.

In an attempt to further define who, exactly, these people are — those who “opt out” of vaccinating their children — this same article defines them as “parents who are committed to a more natural lifestyle, arm themselves with their own research, and tend to be skeptical of pharmaceutical companies”.  Hmmm. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t believe this is who these people are. Further, the idea that they choose to “arm themselves with their own research” does not exactly inspire confidence. Frankly, I am not even sure what that means.

What, then, do I think this whole debate is about? I think that it could be as simple as some people thinking that they are smarter than other people.  Whether they believe this because they consider themselves educated, because they have more money, because they are committed to a more “natural” lifestyle, because they mistrust either the government or the pharmaceutical companies — or some combination of all of these things — does not really matter at the end of the day, does it? What does matter is that they are making decisions that may adversely affect the public health of this country because they are laboring under this delusion. I think this is precisely why there was such an uproar over that cartoon.

I have reached the conclusion that I will not be the person to convince them otherwise, to force them to wear scarlet letters, to disabuse them of the pretense that they are smarter than the rest of us. I don’t know if any single person can accomplish that. Still, I have to wonder if the folks who created that Nationwide ad couldn’t come up with an equally powerful campaign aimed at challenging the notion that choosing not to vaccinate your children is no indication that you are, in fact, smarter than the rest of us; that, for example, opting out of vaccinating your children is akin to not using a car seat or to not securing a bottle of aspirin — actions that many people would attribute to those who lack basic intelligence.

While I am fairly certain that such an ad campaign could be designed, what I am less certain of is whether or not it would influence — or even reach — the very people who need it most. It couldn’t hurt, though, could it? It may be worth a shot.

* http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6341a1.htm

** The federal government targets 90% childhood vaccination rates. Nationwide, Americans are hitting or exceeding that goal for measles, mumps and rubella; for polio; for hepatitis B; and for varicella (the virus that causes chicken pox). Americans missed targets for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, and for Hib and PCV vaccines.  (The L.A. Times, 9/12/13, “CDC reports on U.S. vaccination rates, recent measles outbreaks.”)  http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/12/science/la-sci-sn-cdc-measles-vaccines-20130912

The Scarlet Letter

There is always something to get “worked up” about — always. If you want to know what the cause of the day, the week, or the month is, all you need to do is to check your Facebook or your Twitter feeds.

A school or other public place shooting will lead to outcries for gun control.thescarletletter

An incident like the one that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri late last year, will, no doubt, let you know where your friends stand on law enforcement. You will be unable to avoid bumping up against the sad state of race relations in America today.

The shootings in the Paris office of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo led to cries of “Je suis Charlie” in attempts to show solidarity with and support for freedom of the press and, once again, to debate the evils of worldwide religious fundamentalism.

Now, with the measles outbreak that stemmed from an exposure to that disease in Disneyland, we have moved on, once again. This time we are pitting “vaxxers” against “anti-vaxxers”.

I’ll take “Eliminating Childhood Diseases” for $100, Alex. This one is a no-brainer, folks.

Gun control, race relations, and religious fundamentalism are difficult and, yes, far more prickly issues to tackle than are vaccinations.

Frankly, it seems crazy to me that there is any debate AT ALL. It’s very simple, really. Unless your child has a compromised immune system, get him or her vaccinated. (If your child is one of the rare few who, for actual, legitimate medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, he or she will still be protected — as will others who are immune-compromised — by the “herd immunity” that is a direct and scientifically-proven result of coming into contact with children — and adults — who are immune to these diseases because they have been vaccinated.) That’s it. End of story. End of debate.

If you do not do this and despite what people like Jenny McCarthy say, if you have a healthy child who you would like to see remain healthy, you have no good reason not to, then I say this: Your child should have to wear a “Scarlet Letter”.  Let’s make it an “A” for “anti-vaxxer”.  (I’ll bet Hawthorne never saw this one coming!) And, so should you.

thescarletletterflourishToo harsh? You don’t want to ruin your party dress or have to answer questions as to why your “dare to be different” approach to life flies in the face of years and years and years of scientific data conducted by dedicated researchers and, hold on to your hats!, scientists at your next book group get-together, cocktail party, or barn raising? Too bad.

You don’t want little Typhoid Mary or Michael shunned by the neighbor kids? Too bad.

You’d better install a small schoolroom and brush up on the “3R’s”, too, because your child should not be allowed to enroll in any school — public or private — where he or she can infect another child (or adult) who cannot be vaccinated (and, in rare cases, ones who have been vaccinated) with some possibly deadly disease because you, their parent, decided that, contrary to what good, reliable science has proven, still believes that there is a link between autism and inoculation. Might I suggest, though, that you, yourself, don’t teach the science portion of your child’s lessons? Enlist a grown-up to do that, would you?

Guess what? Correlation is not causation. There are lots of things that we have now, in abundance, that we did not have prior to the measles vaccine (and other vaccines) that may (or may not) be responsible for the rise in diagnosed cases of autism.

The first measles vaccine was licensed in 1963; Froot Loops® also hit the marketplace that year.  A more attenuated measles vaccine was developed in 1968; McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac®, which, by the way, sold for a measly 49 cents, in 1968.

Theories about the causes of Autism are abundant. They run the gamut from the 1967 statement of psychologist Bruno Bettleheim that the disorder is caused by “refrigerator mothers” to studies like the widely-accepted Folstein-Rutter twin study (1977), which concluded that genetic, rather than environmental factors — like a mother’s “coldness” — play a much larger role in the development of autism than previously thought.

It was not until 1998 that Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet that purported a causal relationship between autism and the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine. This is the study that caused legions of parents to identify themselves as “anti-vaxxers”.

Even had Dr. Wakefield’s findings held up, which they did not — the paper was formally retracted by The Lancet in 2010 — it NEVER advised parents NOT to vaccinate their children against Measles, Mumps, and/or Rubella.  The paper advocated separate vaccinations for each disease, rather than the common combination MMR vaccine.

But, you know, people hear what they want to hear.

Vaccines are no more likely to be the cause of autism than are Froot Loops® or Big Macs®. There may be a correlation, but that does not prove causation. There certainly may come a day when food preservatives — ingested not by the children in question, but more than likely the mothers who incubated them — are linked to autism. Who knows?

Frankly, it is probably not a bad idea to remove Froot Loops® and Big Macs® from the diets of pregnant women (and young children). Whether doing so will decrease the number of diagnosed cases of autism is another story, though, isn’t it? Still, I suppose it couldn’t hurt.

What could hurt — what will hurt —  what is hurting us right now is that there are people who are still, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, stubbornly refusing to follow sound medical advice and common sense and foregoing immunizations for their children.

What’s worse is that, more often than not, we do not know who they are, who their children are. I, for one, would like to know. To that end, I move for full disclosure — in the form of a “Scarlet Letter”.

Who’s with me?

Froot Loops® is a registered trademark of The General Mills Corporation; Big Mac® is a registered trademark of The McDonald’s corporation. In no way am I suggesting that these foods are in any way related to autism.

This is where I got my information:

History of the measles vaccine:  http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/timelines/measles

Introduction of Froot Loops and The Big Mac: http://www.thenibble.com/fun/more/facts/history4.asp

Andrew Wakefield: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2010/feb/02/science/la-sci-wakefield3-2010feb03

Other important information:

How measles works: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/fs-parents.html

Why are “fully” vaccinated people not always “fully” protected?: http://www.business2community.com/health-wellness/vaccinated-people-get-measles-disneyland-heres-truth-behind-vaccination-01137540

A quick primer on “titers”: http://www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-is-titer.htm

Here is how “herd immunity” works:

Save the Introductions!

the annoying bar & grillsavetheintro

Recently I have noticed an “uptick” in folks introducing themselves to me when I come to the table. They must have read somewhere — probably on the internet — that this is a sure-fire way to create an atmosphere of instant camaraderie — one that will result in better service. Honestly, I just find it strange — and uncomfortable. Frankly, when people do this sort of thing, it makes me less inclined to want to interact with them or to give them better service.

The other day I had a table do this whole “Hi, I’m Bob. This is my wife, Mary, and my daughter, Alice. How are you today?” thing. My immediate reaction to this odd behavior is always to mumble something like, “Fine. I’m fine.” You’ll notice I do not add, “And you? How are you today?” Because I already know how you are today — and possibly every other day of your life — you’re weird.

I try very hard not to make any sort of eye contact with people like this, so as to discourage what I consider to be “too much, too soon” in the familiarity department. I always want to run for the hills before they try to tell me about Grandma — a woman who wisely opted out of lunching with these weirdos today. It is entirely possible that she used the old “my gout is acting up” excuse, but I would lay odds on the fact that she isn’t in attendance because she, too, finds them wacky. Go, Grandma!

This table didn’t want to talk about Grandma, though. No. They had something even better — and, yes, odder — up their sleeves. They showed me a picture of their dog. I, very seriously, thought to myself, “What the fuck is this about?”

It was apropos of nothing. I mean, no one — definitely NOT me — had mentioned anything even remotely canine-related prior to “Bob” pulling out his phone and showing me pictures of the stupid dog. I wanted to ask them what it was about me that made them think, “Oh, she looks like she would like to see a picture of our dog!” I will admit to taking a close look at the photo, which was mainly to see if I bore any sort of resemblance to “Fido” (or whatever his name was). Because that I reminded them, in some way, of their dog was the only reasonable explanation that I could come up with as to why a grown-ass man had decided that a perfect stranger might be interested in his personal life.

The dog was some sort of white, fluffy thing. Truly, and maybe I was just fooling myself, I did not see any resemblance between me and Fido whatsoever. (Okay, maybe a little around the eyes, but that was where it ended!) As intrigued as I was as to what prompted this guy to look at me and immediately whip out pictures of a fluffy, white dog, I refrained from asking him (or Mary or Alice) anything that was not business-related. I was afraid that doing so, engaging them in any kind of conversation at all, might lead them to think that I cared or, worse, to show me images of their parakeet, their cat or, who knows?, an area rug.

It was one o’clock in the afternoon — the height of the lunch rush. They were surrounded by tables that any idiot could see all belonged to me. They even commented that it was “pretty busy in here today”. So, yeah, they knew. And, yet, even though they could clearly see that I was busy, they thought that wasting my time with introductions and pictures of their dog was going to endear them to me?

It’s so wacky. It really is. The worst part, though, is that I had to stand there as they squandered my valuable time. I also have to pretend to care when I run up against people like this — about Grandma, the dog, the cat, or the area rug. This behavior is not even close to endearing, it is maddening.

I swear that people like this are frequent restaurant guests because they think that, as they pay our salaries, we have to put up with this kind of bullshit. I’ll tell you what? Tip me less, but keep your introductions (and the snapshots of your pets) to yourselves.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: “Needy Numpty”

the annoying bar & grill needy numpty

I have to share with you the latest insanity that I was forced to deal with down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”, my most recent encounter with, yet another, “Needy Numpty”. Before I do so, though, I want to assure you that every single word that I say will be true; that even I, serial embellisher that I am, could not make this stuff up.

A couple of nights ago a man wandered in looking for a manager. One was fetched for him. Why did he need to see a manager? He desperately needed to impart his neediness. This is what “Needy Numpties” do. To that end, he claimed that he had called our restaurant on Monday evening — in the middle of a snowstorm — and was told during that conversation that we would be open.

He claimed that he then, operating upon this information, proceeded to get into his car — in a State of Emergency — and drive approximately forty miles (passing up two of our establishments and countless other restaurants) to get to us, only to discover that we had closed our doors early, which we did based upon the forecasted “Snowmageddon” that was hurtling toward us. (Thankfully, it missed us, but no one knew at the time that it would.)

Everyone involved in his little escapade called “Bullshit” immediately. This guy, as most “Needy Numpties” are, was also, what is known in the business, as a “freebie seeker”. Much like the folks who visit emergency rooms making claims of phantom pain in order to be prescribed painkillers, this guy and people like him — of which there are far too many — enjoy making up stories so that they will be handed a free meal. And someone’s undivided attention. Guess what? We are “on” to them.

He was told that he would receive some sort of discount, which is more than he deserved. He had already wasted enough of the manager’s time, now it was my turn to have my time wasted.

First, let me just say this: EVERY idiot who called during the snowstorm — and there were plenty of them — was told that we were open at the moment, but that we could not guarantee that we would remain open. In a rare display of exasperation with one of these morons who, apparently, was willing to risk life and limb for one of our delicious steaks, I overheard our host — a fellow that is almost always polite and patient — even with idiots — tell one such potential patron, “Sir, I cannot predict the future. All I can tell you is that we are open now.” Yup. That was about the size of it.

After telling his tale to the manager, “Needy Numpty” decided that he would repeat it for my benefit. Let me just mention that it was, at this point, approaching 9:30 PM. I had been there all day. Even if I hadn’t, even if it was early on in my shift, I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass about his cockamamie story. I have little sympathy for storytellers on my best day. Still, I had to listen as he lied through his teeth. I had to be nice. I also had to answer approximately seventeen inane questions about the menu. By the time he ordered it was 9:45 PM.

Of course he ordered one of the biggest, most expensive steaks on the menu, no doubt because it was being discounted. I know this — FOR A FACT — because he asked me the price of EVERYTHING before ordering it. I kept turning his menu around to answer his questions, as I DO NOT have the prices memorized. I don’t need to, as we have computers. And customers have menus that list the prices for EVERYTHING, if only they could focus their attention and spend their time reading it. If only.

For FIFTEEN MINUTES he badgered me with questions THAT HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HE WAS ORDERING — questions regarding what type of oil we use, whether our kitchen is nut-free, and how much salt is in our butter. Canola. No. And, are you fucking crazy? No one knows that. The ingredients for salted butter are cream and salt.

While it is possible, had I not left my slide rule in my other pants or if I was another sort of person, that I could have gone into the back refrigerator, located the butter, checked the sodium content, and done some per serving calculations, there was a better chance of a meteor striking us than there was of me dragging my ass to the walk-in box to do math. A meteor. Striking us.

When he FINALLY ordered he asked for “plain” butter. I looked at him quizzically. Did he think I could remove the salt from his butter? He did. I just shook my head and said, “No can do, sir. Would you like margarine?” Did I look like a dairy farmer? Did he suppose that I was going to go into the kitchen and churn him some fresh butter?

He did NOT want margarine. His reason? “Too many preservatives!” The guy who was eating half a cow and had ordered two carbohydrates as sides, was concerned about the contents of margarine. (“Salad? No! I don’t want salad! Can I get the macaroni and cheese? Oh, it costs extra? That’s fine. What kind of bacon is in it?”)

Who asks “What ‘kind’ of bacon” is “in” something? What does that even mean?

We are not a health food restaurant nor are we an Italian eatery. The bacon we use is not going to be made from turkey, nor will it be pancetta. It’s “regular” bacon — the “kind” that comes from a pig. JACKASS!

I am sure that you have realized by now, as had I very early on in my encounter with this idiot, which is a direct result of my long-term exposure to this sort of needy numpty, that he was not really interested in the “ins” and the “outs” of the menu, as much as he wanted to be the center of someone’s attention. Sadly, that “someone” was me.

Unsurprisingly, “Needy Numpty” returned his steak. Our idea of “medium-rare”, though it was described to him, in painstaking detail, and his idea of “medium-rare” were two very different things. Of course they were.

When he had received his properly cooked steak and two fresh sides, he decided that it was time to pepper me with several thousand more questions, which he asked merely as a springboard to share with me his views on anything and everything that came to mind. For example, he asked me how I felt about basketball. He didn’t really care how I felt about basketball, but I knew that. What he wanted was to tell me how he felt about basketball.

I wish I could tell you how he felt about basketball, but I can’t. Why? Because I wasn’t listening. I did not care. I just wanted to clean up and get the hell out of there. I answered his self-centered behavior with some of my own. I won’t apologize. I’m sick to death of these time-wasters.

More to the point, I have grown awfully weary of being required to suffer their insanity. I’m tired of wasting my time for two dollars. I have grown far too jaded to even pretend to have any patience for these crazies anymore.

When he received his check he asked me if “we” couldn’t “do better” on the discount amount. I explained that “we” could not. (Of course we could have. Of course I could have asked the manager to give “Needy Numpty” a larger discount. I was NOT going to do that.)

When that request failed, he began to kvetch about paying the sales tax, which amounted, just so you know, to a measly $1.40. I explained that if I couldn’t do anything about the discount, that I certainly couldn’t do anything about the sales tax.

This is when he decided to tell me that he was “disabled”. I told him that, as far as I knew, our State does not consider individual disabled persons worthy of a sales tax exemption. He said that he knew that but felt that it was unfair. He continued to lobby for me to lop off the buck-forty by telling me that he is often given an exemption by other restaurants and retail establishments when he asks for such. I said, “Oh, how nice of them”.

There was no way in HELL that I was going to give him an additional discount. No way. No how. He asked me to get the manager. I asked him for his tax exempt form. I explained that the manager, who was very busy AT CLOSING TIME, would only be able to remove the tax if he had a State-issued tax exempt form from which he could enter the tax exempt number contained therein into our computer. “Needy Numpty” admitted that he could not provide such a thing — a fact that we both were well aware of at this point. I explained that I could not provide him with a manager.

The entire time we were engaging in this nonsense — for $1.40 — he was holding his credit card aloft. He then put it back in his wallet and told me that he would pay me when he returned from the men’s room. Yeah. No.

It was now almost 10:30 PM. The kitchen guys were almost finished. Despite “Needy Numpty’s” best efforts to distract me from my closing duties, I, too, had long been cleaned up and ready to go. I explained that I needed him to pay me then, as there was no one else left in the restaurant and the manager needed my cash drawer, so that he could complete his closing duties, of which he has many. “Needy Numpty” asked me if I thought that he was the kind of person who would run out on his check.

Of course he was EXACTLY the kind of person who would run out on his check, but I couldn’t say that. Nor had I intimated such a thing. I honestly did need his check in order to turn in my cash drawer. “Needy Numpty” was, essentially, holding me — and my coworkers — hostage.

As nicely as I could, I told him that it had been my experience, based on thirty-plus years in the restaurant business, never to assume that a customer was not going to pay his or her check. I assured him that, given that this had long been my policy, I wasn’t going to start suspecting people of such a thing now. I reiterated that my need for his payment was so that I — and my coworkers — could go home.

He gave me his credit card. Still, we had to wait another fifteen minutes for him to come out of the bathroom and make his long, slow way out the door. It was pretty fun to spend that time with my coworkers, though. What “Needy Numpty” could be doing for FIFTEEN MINUTES in the men’s room came up once or twice.

You cannot make this stuff up.

And “The Idiot of the Night” Award goes to…


It was busy last night down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill” — and about to become even busier — Friday night busy for a Wednesday night staff; that kind of busy. I was keeping pace, though, and taking no small amount of pride in myself for doing so. I knew it wouldn’t last long, my ability to keep up with all of my duties.

I had just about reached the physical and mental limits of what one bartender can handle — a nearly full bar, high-top tables clamoring for my attention, and service bar tickets spewing out of the printer more rapidly than one woman could possibly clear them, filled as they were with orders for umpteen frozen drinks and specialty margaritas (and don’t even get me started on the number of foolish mojitos that were in the mix) when “The Idiot of the Night” plopped his ass at the far end of the bar.

“The Idiot of the Night”, the guest who requires the most maintenance, ALWAYS, geographically-speaking, chooses to “live” in the worst possible location — the most difficult seat for me to attend to. It’s just what they do. Sitting there is how they meet the first requirement for “The Idiot of the Night” award.

Seat choice is merely Level One. It takes a few more annoying behaviors over the course of his or her visit for a person to reach the point where the confetti falls and the music plays, signaling that we have a winner in “The Idiot of the Night” contest. Some nights the competition is fierce. Not last night, though. Even the judges — my embattled co-workers, who all had idiots of their own to contend with — had to agree that although we were in the early stages of the balloting, my guy was going to emerge victorious.

Barring a naked meltdown later in the evening over a tartar sauce shortage — or some other such nonsense — it was clear to everyone involved that the clear winner last night would be, “Storytime Guy”, a name I had assigned to him for very good reason. I think that, like my co-workers, you’ll agree.

Me: Hi! Can I get you something to drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

Me: Anything? Water, soda, iced tea?

Him: Yeah. I drink those.

Me: Would you like to choose one of those?

Him: Yeah. Sure.

Precious time elapsing as I spy a table squatting at one of the high-tops

Me: Shall I bring you a menu while you think about that drink?

Him: I don’t drink.

… Back to square one…

Me: Okay. [… Really, what do I care? …]

Him (holding menu as if he has never seen one before): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir? Have you made a drink selection?

Him: Yeah. Bring me a diet something or other. With cherries!

Me (making moves toward the beverage area to fetch his “diet something or other… with cherries (!)”): Okey-Dokey!

Him (loud enough to wake the dead): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir?

Him (motioning toward the menu): I can’t read this!

Me (stunned that a grown man would admit to this in a stage whisper at a crowded bar): [ …speechless …]

Him: I forgot my glasses. Can I borrow yours?

Me (dumbfounded): I suppose so, but they’re progressives. I don’t know if they’ll work for you. (I hand him my $500 prescription glasses, which he proceeds to bend to fit his big, fat head.)

Him: Miss?!?

Me (depositing his “diet something or other” with cherries (!) in front of him): Yes, sir?

Him (as he is removing — and throwing — the cherries (!) that he had so desperately wanted, on the bar in front of him): These aren’t working.

Me: The cherries?

Him: No. The glasses.

Me: Ah, yes. They do take some getting used to, sir.

Him (pulling my expensive glasses off of his massive head and depositing them, lenses down (!), on the cherry juice-laden bar top): You’re just going to have to read the menu to me.

Me (wondering how such a large head could hold such a small brain): Let me just clean up my lenses first, okay? They’re a little sticky, you know, from all that cherry juice. In the meantime, why don’t you decide on which portion of the menu you would like me to read to you this evening. Because I don’t have time to read the entire thing to you. Perhaps we can just hit the highlights, okay? Like I used to tell my kid, “Mommy only has time for the one story tonight, dear.”

I left him, alone with his thoughts, as I scurried to attend to the various other guests who, presumably, could read and were now ready to order. And, yeah, there were also plenty of servers, awaiting their drinks, who were bordering on becoming an unruly mob.

It had now become rather busy down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. Still, I needed to deal with “Storytime Guy”. With a heavy heart and all the patience I could muster, I made the long journey to the far end of the bar. It felt a little like the last walk of the doomed death row inmate. I knew I was headed for disaster.

Me: How ya doin’, sir? Have you nailed down a category of food that you’d like me to help you with yet?

Him: How am I doing? I’m hungry, that’s how I’m doing. What the hell took you so long?

Me: Oh, I don’t know, just the usual stuff. Coffee with a few of the gals, the tossing of several double entendres with some of the waiters, and, of course, I had to wait for my nail polish to dry.

Him: Very funny. You’re a very funny person, aren’t you?

Me: I suppose that all depends upon how you define “funny”.

Him: Do you have onion soup?

Me: We do, indeed.

Him: Does it have cheese melted on the top?

Me: It does.

Him: Well, I want one of those, but I want the cheese burned. Like black. Really burnt. You know what I mean?

Me: I do.

Him: Can they do that?

Me: I can say with some fair amount of certainty that I have borne witness to burnt cheese atop of our onion soup, so the answer to your question would, in short, be “Yes. Yes, they can do it.”

Him: I want it really burned, charred, black.

Me: Yes, sir. I think we all know the definition of burnt.

Him: Well, we’ll just see about that.

It is in this moment that I know, for an absolute fact, that no matter how black, how charred, how burnt his cheese is, it will not be burnt enough for him. He will be returning the soup.

Him: I want a steak. What kind of steak do you have?

Me: We have all sorts of varieties of steaks at different price points and degrees of tenderness. Were you looking for something very tender, very juicy, very flavorful? Something on the bone, off the bone?

Him: I want a steak that’s good.

Me: Well, don’t we all?

Him: Do you have a porterhouse?

Me: We do.

Him: How much is it?

Me (consulting the menu, as I don’t have the prices memorized): It’s…..dollars.

Him: Is it tender?

Me: The filet portion is tender, the strip side not as much. It’s kind of one of those combination steaks, know what I mean?

Him: Well, I want something really juicy.

Me: I would recommend the bone-in ribeye. I think that steak will meet all of your criteria.

Him: How much is that one?

Me: It’s … dollars.

Him: What does it come with?

Me: All of our steaks come with a side dish and a salad, or you can substitute the French onion soup — with the burnt cheese — for a couple of dollars more if you don’t want the salad.

Him: Fine. Give me that.

After what felt like an eternity, we came to an agreement on a side dish and a degree of doneness for his steak. At long last, the ordering portion of the festivities had, gratefully, come to an end. I would estimate that “Storytime Guy” had now been in the building for about twenty-five minutes. I fetch him — and a few of my other more self-sufficient guests — some bread. While in the kitchen I speak to the psycho cook working the salad window and explain to him about “Storytime Guy” and his need for very, very, very well done cheese on his French onion soup. I look this cook — our resident psychopath — right in his Manson lamps, an act that requires no small amount of chutzpah, and iterate that there is very little chance that the soup won’t come back one way or another, but request that we do our darndest to please “Storytime Guy”. I practically beg. I get the distinct impression that Norman Bates does not give a rat’s ass about my needs or the needs of “Storytime Guy”, but am satisfied that I have done my due diligence. The chips will fall where they may.

I then return to “Storytime Guy” with bread and assurances that I have communicated his cheese needs to the kitchen. I don’t mention how little faith I have that the lunatic in charge of soup was even listening to me, so preoccupied had I become with the attitude “Storytime Guy” exhibited toward the bread that I had placed in front of him — bread that took me time and energy to procure — time that I did not have, energy that could have been better spent doing more important things for other guests. “Storytime Guy”, upon receiving his bread, shoved it back at me, declaring that “I don’t eat bread”. This revelation concerned me and forced me to remind him that French onion soup, by definition, contains bread. My fear was that I was going to have to head back to the kitchen and tell Boy Wonder that the croutons would have to be removed from the soup that was currently being charred beneath the broiler. Luckily, “Storytime Guy” said that the bread in his soup would be “fine”. Okay.

A few minutes elapse, as it takes time to char cheese, and he asks me where his soup is. I explain that it is being burnt, as he requested. He asks me for a loaf of bread. And this, my friends, is how one becomes “The Idiot of the Day”.

I go into the kitchen to get the damn bread. While there, I ask Looney Tunes if my burnt soup is ready. He moves his eyes and points, very dramatically — his gesture would put one in mind of “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” in the beloved Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” — at a bowl of soup that is now occupying the service window — a bowl of soup that in no way, shape, or form is topped with cheese that even a rookie restaurant worker would consider to be “well done”. I am not a rookie restaurant worker. It was at this point that I toyed with the idea of breaking into tears.

I put the idea of hysterics on the back burner, as it was still early yet and, judging by the way the night was going, I might have to save such an unprecedented lack of character for later. Who knew what might happen later? I may have been faced with something that would require actual hysteria. I hoped not, but I wasn’t going to bank on it.

My manager, having been clued in to the goings-on with “Storytime Guy”, delivered the charred soup. Guess what? It wasn’t charred enough! Who saw that one coming?

Finally, a soup that met with his approval was placed in front of “Storytime Guy”. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was, as it turned out, a short-lived sigh of relief.

Him (loudly and in an exasperated tone): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir. Oh, I see you got your soup. How is it?

Him: The cheese is fine now, but you know I had to send it back the first time, right?

Me: Yes, sir. I got that memo.

Him: Well, now the cheese is fine, but there’s no broth left in my soup. It’s not like soup at all now, is it? It’s just basically cheese and bread. I wanted soup.

Me: Well, that’s just kind of how science works, isn’t it?

Him: What?

Me: I’m not sure if it would be considered chemistry or thermodynamics, I’ll have to think on that. Is thermodynamics part of chemistry? I can’t recall. The way I remember it is that when you heat up a liquid, as it reaches a certain temperature and given enough time, said liquid evaporates or, to use the vernacular, “disappears”. (I helpfully make ‘air quotes’ with my fingers here!) Maybe “dissipates” (again with the ‘air quotes’ — I just love a good ‘air quote’, don’t you?) would be the more correct term. Well, whatever you call it, the science behind it is the same.

Him: What?

Me (speaking very slowly now): When you heat up a liquid….

Him (understandably interrupting me): I understood you. I just want to know what you’re going to do about it?

Me: What would you like me to do?

Him: Bring me some broth.

Me: Okay

Another trip to the kitchen is required. Another conversation with Psycho Killer ensues. It turns out we have run out of onion soup. Oh, happy day!

Me: Sir, I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first: we’ve run out of onion soup.

Him: Well, what’s the good news?

Me: The soup is free.

Him: Fine.

It is at this point in our journey that “Storytime Guy” receives his bone-in ribeye.

Me: Would you like some steak sauce?

Him: I thought you said the steak was good?

Me: It is good.

Him: Then it shouldn’t need steak sauce.

Me: Agreed. Still, some folks like steak sauce.

Him: I hope I don’t need it.

Me: Me, too. Enjoy!

… An unsuspecting patron takes the seat next to “Storytime Guy”. He orders a Heineken, thus he will be referred to, where necessary, as “Heineken Guy”…

Him (about thirty seconds after digging into his steak): Miss?!?

Me: Yes, sir, I was just about to check on you. I just wanted to get this gentleman his Heineken. How is your steak?

Him: It’s fine, but I’m full. Can you wrap it up for me?

Me (handing him a box and a bag, as is our policy): Here you go. Will the one box be enough or would you like another?

Him: I’d like for you to wrap it up for me. If I wanted to wrap up food I’d do your job.

Me: Oh, sir, I don’t think you could do my job. Ha-ha-ha!

Him: I don’t want to wrap my own food.

Me: I don’t particularly want to engage in this conversation and, yet, here we are. Our policy and the Board of Health rules in this city require us to give customers what they need to take their food home with them.

Him: That’s stupid.

Me: There seems to be a great deal of that going around tonight. I hope it’s not catchy. (I give “Heineken Guy” the eye, just in case he’s considering getting up to any shenanigans.)

Him: You’re very funny, you know that?

Me: I’ve been told that on more than one occasion.

Him: What kind of dessert do I get with my meal?

Me (taking his steak off the plate and wrapping it for him because, really, I want him out of my life already): Excuse me?

Him: You said I got dessert with my meal.

Me: No, sir, I never mentioned dessert. Dessert is not included in your meal.

Him: I’m sure that you said that it was.

Me: Well, we could roll back the videotape, but I assure you that of the several categories covered in our many verbal exchanges this evening, the subject of dessert never came up. It’s not included. Do you want to see a dessert menu?

Him: No. I don’t have my glasses, remember? You’ll just have to tell me what’s on it.

Me: Guess what?

Him: What?

Me: It’s a picture menu!

Him: Are the pictures big enough?

Me (handing him the dessert menu): I don’t know. Here. Take a look.

Him: You know what would be a good thing here?

Me: What?

Him: An audio menu.

Me: Yeah. I wonder if we could get Sam Jackson to narrate it.

Him (eyeing me suspiciously): Umm, I guess. Why him?

Me: Because I think it would be amusing if it started out like this: “Listen up, motherfucker, cuz I’m only gonna say this once….” BA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Him: You’re a funny woman.

Me: I know.

Heineken Guy: She sure is. I think I chose the right restaurant tonight.

Me (turning to “Heineken Guy”): Thank you, sir. Would you like to see a menu?

… And the cycle begins again …

Thankfully, “Heineken Guy” turned out to be a lovely man. He was literate, too. He was playing expert-level Scrabble on his iPad against the computer and, get this, he was winning! “Heineken Guy” can come back any time. As for “The Idiot of the Night”, I hope to never see him again. Given my luck, though, he’ll probably be back tomorrow.