I saw his curly hair, tipped in blond, through the window of the restaurant. I didn’t need a second look; I knew it was him.
The Bitchy Waiter.
While it has sometimes been attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli and more recently Michael Corleone, the phrase “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” definitely delivers some sound advice, and here he was, right in front of me. Waiting for me.
Several months ago, I wrote a little piece for New Times about things I thought restaurants should cease doing. One of them was that wait staff should stop making condescending faces when I asked for salt or I was going to start breaking out the little salt packets I steal from Arby’s and use those instead.
Another was to stop acting surprised when I bring my mother into an empty restaurant at 4 in the afternoon and have neglected to make a reservation.
I also asked servers to stop butting in to fill my water glass when I was about to deliver a punchline to my feeding companion, and I then requested that restaurant employees stop referring to themselves as the royal “we” or in third person.
The story was posted, some people laughed — which was the intention — and then it sunk, like all stories do, to the bottom of the internet.
But it didn’t stay there.
A month, or maybe it was two months later, I noticed some odd posts on my Facebook page about food service and what a terrible customer I was. One guy I didn’t know banned me from his restaurant. I ignored it, but later that day, the thread had grown longer, and with two clicks, I was discovered that a fellow named The Bitchy Waiter had brought that story back up to the surface, most likely baited with a Twinkie. He posted it to his website, thebitchywaiter.com, and the thing blew up like sweaty dynamite.
It’s not often that a story goes viral at two months old; that’s kind of like digging up a corpse and then watching it stagger down the Miss America stage with a cluster of roses in its arms. It’s actually kind of a miracle. But the story spread like norovirus through the food industry, and pretty soon, a legion of foul-mouthed servers were raging at me from as far away from New Zealand.
Apparently, even hobbits use the “F” word.
The hate mail rolled in, and by the time I stopped looking, there were already over 450 comments on the original New Times post. When we decided to run a response, the first person I emailed was The Bitchy Waiter, who immediately apologized for the followers who professed that they wanted me dead.
I hadn’t seen those comments/threats, but it was a nice gesture.
I mentioned that I would be in New York, where he lives, in a few months, and asked if he might want to go and steal some salt packets from Arby’s with me. To my surprise, he agreed, and two weeks ago, I found myself staring at his curly hair through the restaurant glass, waiting for me and my posse to show up for lunch.
To make the whole thing more civilized, we opted out of Arby’s and into the legendary Balthazar, where I did make a lunch reservation for four: me, The Bitchy Waiter, and my two friends, both named Amy.
I gotta say, the guy, whose real-life name is Darron Cardosa, is brave. Super brave. He met me and my friends for a sit-down. He was one against three. A hard sell by any means, but he showed up. I’m sure he expected to see the snout of a severed horse head sticking out of my purse, but instead, my gift to him was much more heartfelt. I brought him tiny packets of salt, which is the purest way in which I know how to express my love. And also a muffin from Dominique Ansell in case he gave me the bitchy face.
But he didn’t show that face at all. In fact, he turned out to be the charming, affable, and funny fellow I suspected he was. I don’t want to blow his cover, but he wasn’t bitchy once (although he can be. He certainly can).
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We touched elbows a couple of times, he passed the salt to me, and we giggled like schoolgirls about ordering ranch dressing in a hoity-toity restaurant, which we did.
He ordered a grilled cheese (swoon), and we toasted to the number of hits that post had collected in several days’ time on our web page and his. He even agreed to do a little video with me, because it didn’t take long to find out that keeping an enemy close wasn’t necessary; anyone that you share a grilled cheese and Champagne with is definitely a friend.
Which, in this case, made all of that hate mail — even the one about my entrails being ripped out through my nose — well worth it. Even if I now know that hobbits use the “F” word.