What a long day Sunday was! It all began at 7AM with a missed phone call from work. I assumed that whoever had called me from the main kitchen number couldn’t possibly be telling me I was late, so I ignored it and started my coffee machine, jumped in the shower. Only after I cleaned up and caffeinated out and saw that the phone was still ringing did I pick it up… there had been a fire in the basement of the restaurant.
Instead of going back to the still-warm sheets of my bed, I lit up a non-filtered Pall Mall and headed up the exit from my basement apartment with my digital camera. At the restaurant, there was a strong smell of burnt plastic and lots of smoky particles in the air. The first floor had not been affected at all by the underground fire, but the air had and all the cooks were wearing surgical masks. My coworkers looked like the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team traversing the new concourses of the Beijing Airport, minus the rolling luggage.
Putting aside my brunch captain hat for the day, I donned my own surgical mask, powered up the camera, and descended the stairs into the restaurant basement. A clothes drier had burst into flames (be sure to clean your lint traps now) at approximately 4AM in the morning, and the fire department had arrived with five ladder trucks within 10 minutes thus preventing the flames from spreading to the ceiling or the liquor room or the gas lines or any of the other instant detonators within a fifteen foot radius of the burning clothes drier. Fire had damaged all the plastic goods stored nearby, ruined an ice machine and covered anything down there in thick black ash.
After snapping over a hundred pictures for the insurance record, I returned to the ground floor and smoked another cigarette. The first time a non-filtered Pall Mall was actually a break for my lungs and respiratory system, ha! Disaster management companies that had followed news of the blaze on CB radios and the local morning news were still parked in front of the restaurant. Our managers and chefs told us that cleaning professionals were on the way, and that although our offers of help were appreciated, we were free to go. Diamond Dave and Hot Dumpling Tom, both cooks, and my friend Brian, a bartender, and me formed a group to go eat brunch at our sister restaurant, Highland Kitchen.
Everything we had for brunch at Highland was terrific, but something truly strange happened right before we were to abandon our bar stools and all finally return to the no-longer-warm bed sheets of our respective homes. As we paid the check, an Asian-American woman squeezed next to us and began crying out for the bartender’s, Claudia’s, attention. At the same time her pleas commenced, a long story about how I have been feeling ignored by a couple coworkers climaxed with me shouting, “Its my own problem… I’m an attention whore! I’m a whore for attention!” The woman’s cries competed with and amplified my own self-referential cries of “Attention whore!”
In “Curb Your Enthusiasm” style (which is how so much of my life plays out) the woman went home and wrote a scathing review on yelp.com, which you all just have to read here. Let me quote what she wrote, turning the incident into a horrific misunderstanding: “Finally sat in the bar facing the window. We were ignored for another 20 mins, even after I got the bartenders attention. After being so aggravated I shouted “hello” college boys (who were clearly underage) called me an attention whore. Yes wanting to eat after 40 mins is being an attention whore. The bartender was slow and we noticed from the entire experience that unless you know the people there it is not worth going.”
I have not yet had the time or heart to write to this lady to apologize for my buffoonery and correct her mis-characterization of myself and friends as “underage college boys…” a stereotype that stings because I am 25, don’t drink, and did not graduate college. The worst feeling in the world is being ignored and I understand my fellow diner’s sensitivity. The lesson here may simply be that its impolite and inappropriate to shout the word “Whore!” in a public place under any circumstances. Thus did I, and by extension of the internet, Highland Kitchen, become the victims of my own loud mouth. Later that night my manager Mark and I went out to the Mars Volta concert at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. I was transfixed by the insane noise of these guys, and their skintight black rock and roll outfits, and their songs about nearly escaping the curse of a Ouiji board bought while on tour in Jerusalem. From their lyrics comes the title for this post… “the Hand that’s touching Sin” is connected not to right or left, but the third arm.