World's Worst Waiter... Ever
By Jeff Kahn
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.
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.
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
all I could come up with was to scream, "FUCK ME" at the
top of my lungs. I was fired on the spot.
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
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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