Thursday, October 23, 2008

Something spooky in the driveway

Lastnight my friend Michelle K. and I went to Trattoria Aroma, the restaurant that used to be Just Pasta. We had the snottiest waiter. Leonard Pennario used to like to apply that word "snotty" to certain people we disliked so I have adopted it, too.

This waiter thought he was so cool. When we asked him to recommend a good red wine by the glass, he said: "Well, I would recommend Jack Daniels and Coke."

Then after Michelle mentioned to him that she was starving, he took about an hour getting around to coming back to us to take our order.

Cast him out into Bryant Street, that he may wail and grind his teeth!

In the end Michelle insisted on giving this goof a 15 percent tip. She thought she was punishing him by doing that. She says that tipping is now 20 percent. I say that tipping goes by a percentage, so it naturally increases as the price of what you eat and drink goes up. There is no reason for the percentage itself to increase. I also think that as long as we keep rewarding people for bad service, we leave the problem free to continue for the next person who walks into the restaurant. Well, that is what I think.

I am thinking too much these days.

This morning I got up early and drank one cup of coffee and wrote a chapter of my book -- honest, I did, from beginning to end. Then I poured myself another cup of coffee and then I walked around the downstairs of my house, in my pajamas, for about an hour, drinking my coffee and thinking about Leonard Pennario. I thought over my letter in Gramophone Magazine, went over the points I made, thought of things I would like to elaborate on. I thought about Pennario's career in Europe, contrasted it with the careers of other pianists. I walked over to the piano, where I have a bunch of LP's LPs lying around, and I picked up this record and that, looking at the covers. I looked at Pennario's hands. I looked at his eyes.

Now it has hit me: I have officially turned into something out of Emily Bronte. Here I am, walking around, obsessing over this dead pianist. Plus, I was even wearing his bathrobe. I saw Pennario wearing it once or twice and now I am wearing it.

Is that macabre enough to qualify for our October story of the supernatural? No! It is not.

Here is what is:

Howard just came in from outside where he was replacing the battery on the GPS unit he keeps in my car. He has to track me because I am the tester for the GPS unit he sells at As I go about my daily life, my every move is tracked meticulously by law enforcement across the country. As if my life is not weird enough!

Anyway, so there Howard is, out in the driveway, with bedhead, carrying this battery set-up, which looks like a bomb. And he is approached by two church ladies. "Can we give you this free pamphlet?" they asked.

Howard said: "Sure." They gave it to him and walked away. Howard thinks that with his bedhead and the thing that looked like a bomb, they did not consider him save-able, or worth saving.

This pamphlet is so spooky! There is a picture of a cemetery and it says, "What Happens To Us When We Die?"

And it says: "What the Bible Teaches us: At death, humans cease to exist. Since the dead cannot know, feel, or experience anything, they cannot harm -- or help -- the living."

Now that is scary! It is like something out of Hitchcock. Another question is: "Is There Any Hope for the Dead?"

I do not even want to read their answer to that.


Anonymous said...


Many years ago, the playwright and wit George S. Kaufman encountered a terrible waiter in an out of town eatery. When given his check, he stood up and said to the waiter, "Where I live, I am known as an exceptionally generous tipper. However, I believe in tipping in relation to the service received. You will notice that I am leaving on the table the exact amount of the check." And he and his party walked out.

Budd Bailey said...

There is an article on tipping in the Wall Street Journal today, by coincidence. It said the percentage of the average tip has been going up, slowly, over the years. Ten percent goes for crummy service, 15 percent for adequate, and 20 for good to excellent. That's up 5-10 percent over 40 years. I think there's a growing awareness about how little restaurants usually pay the wait staff.