Wednesday, November 17, 2010

She Just Might 'Liquor

Who says you need to work with customers to get a daily dose of buffalo-chicken moments? This ex-cafe line cook hit the road today, leaving my beloved NYC on a jet plane only I know when I'm getting back again. Returning to my most recent roots where my cooking career began, I took a mid-morning flight to Champaign, IL. No, that's not a misspelling... trust me, there's little bubbly about this corn and soybean town. I had some good times in Champaign where I spent four years working on my PhD in Communications, one and a half of those years working on full-time in the evenings as a grill and fryer station cook at a local tapas restaurant. I also met my best friend - a brilliant professor/grad student who happens to have an accomplished resume as a server in NYC - thus my reason for returning.

But I digress. I arrived at LaGuardia in the morning on an empty stomach and made it through security by 10AM, where I found myself in line at a breakfast/lunch cafe and bar feeling overwhelming sympathy for the line attendant. There were three customers ahead in line: two high school or college aged kids (their maturity level gave me no indication either way) and a woman I'm guessing in her late 60s with comically red hair. The kiddies engaged in a spirited commentary bemoaning the cost of the $3.00 hot dog, laughing about the possibility of eating lunch food for breakfast (ever nurse a hangover, kiddies?). No real buffalo-chicken moment here... just a couple people that have probably never worked a day in their life complaining about food cost in A) New York City and B) an airport. I'm sorry, but are they new?

Red hair, on the other hand, is a different story. Actually, more of a muffled conversation. Truthfully, I couldn't hear much of what she had to say. But I caught every eye roll, forced smile, groan and response from the line cook. The exchange went something like this:

Lady in Red (Hair): Garbled sounds resembling any adult voice in the Peanuts cartoons.

Line Cook: The bar is separate ma'am. And it doesn't open until 11:00 AM.

Lady in Red (Hair): More garbled sounds, leaning closer to the line cook in a desperate attempt to emphasize her point.

Line Cook: I understand that ma'am. But I'm sorry, I can't open the bar early. The bar opens at 11 AM.

Lady in Red (Hair): Dejected look, pays for her food, turns toward the bar and then returns to the line cook, speaking in Peanuts voice again.

Line Cook: No, ma'am. The bar never opens before 11 AM.

Points for effort, I suppose. But here's a word to the wise. Asking the same question over and over will not inspire a new answer. It might, however, get you a phone number and address for a local AA meeting.

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