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The World's Worst Waiter... Ever
By Jeff Kahn

If I was ever your waiter, you had precious little time to witness my complete ineptitude, unmistakable frustration and ill-mannered contempt before I was inevitably fired. Because I was the world's worst waiter... Ever. I was living in Chicago and became a waiter to support my addiction. Sad, but true, at the time I was addicted to a terrible narcotic known as "ACTING." Acting, and wanting to act, makes you do crazy things to support your habit. And I was into one of the most addictive forms of acting... Theater. Since theater pays next to nothing, it forces the acting user to do just about anything in order to pay for his acting fix. Yet, after graduating college with a BA in history with an emphasis on Peasant Anarchist Movements in Pre-Civil War Spain, I entered the real world qualified to do two things: Be unemployed or wait tables.

My first waiting job was at the River Club, a member's only restaurant that catered to Chicago's downtown business community in and around the Mercantile Exchange. The restaurant boasted dramatic views of the Chicago River. Out the floor to ceiling windows you could witness the majesty of Chicago's two climatic seasons: Arctic and too fucking hot. I worked the lunch shift, which gave me plenty of time to concentrate on my first Chicago theatrical acting fix, the Sam Shepard play entitled, Geography Of a Horse Dreamer. I was cast as "Bell Boy." I had no lines. I made my sole entrance at the very end of the play and, for reasons known only to the playwright, or perhaps Jessica Lange, I walked on stage, ignored four dead bodies, switched on a Zydeco record and stood there silently as the lights dimmed. Makes no sense, I know, but I was a junkie and those brief wordless minutes of stage-time got me through a whole week's worth of waiting tables at the River Club.

To be a good waiter at the River Club you had to be efficient, friendly in a business-like manner and confident in your presentation and service. We served in the French style -- which means something about taking from the left and serving from the right -- I didn't know then or now. Rules like where to place the plates and remove forks didn't really register because I was way too busy thinking about acting in my next play... The Memorandum, written by Czech activist, playwright and one-day president, Vacel Havel. I must have been daydreaming about it when I accidentally dropped a loaded tray crowded with entrees of pork tenderloin and pasta Alfredo. As the plates of food fell to the floor and broke, spilling in a tidal wave of cream sauces and hog meat, I racked my mind to come up with the most efficient, confident, friendly yet business-like way to react to the situation in front of the patrons… yet all I could come up with was to scream, "FUCK ME" at the top of my lungs. I was fired on the spot.

Luckily, I had The Memorandum... I was cast as "Office Spy," a character who spends the entire play unseen behind an office wall. As with any addiction the more one uses, the more one needs to get off, and my doing these inconspicuous plays was just not doing the trick. I needed ever-increasing quantities of acting and a new waiting job to pay for it. The job came in the form of The Halstead Street Fish Market. The upscale restaurant served over 20 varieties of fish. From oily mackerel to flaky white, the regal tuna to the humble cod. While I pretend to give a shit about fish, I spent my off-hours searching back alleys and side streets for more acting. I found it at the Victory Gardens theater adaptation of Samuel Becket's play, Catastrophe, where I was cast as "Man on a box wearing a shroud." During the entire play, I… stood on a box wearing a shroud. I had no lines. After the show, people in the audience would ask what I was thinking about up there on that box wearing a shroud, and I told them, "I was thinking about why I keep getting these shitting acting parts." One night, in a desperate need of protein, I was caught by the owner of The Halstead Street Fish Market in the men's room scarfing down a customer's half-finished "catch of the night," trout almandine, and was sacked yet again.

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