Thursday, November 05, 2009

Are you friends with reality?

Anyone else a fan of the old re-runs of Cheers? I was at the bar Cheers in Boston a couple of times last year while on vacation, and while it wasn't as cool as the show, it did bring back some good memories. Cliff Clavin was always good for a laugh.

I have a semi regular guest who for whatever reason really prefers me. I don't know if I listen better or what, but suffice it to say that this guy must've dropped enough acid in the 70's to give a whole herd of elephants a bad trip. I've actually tried to avoid him at times, but I always seem to have an open table when this guy comes in. He sometimes comes alone, and other times he comes with his fiance. How this guy got a woman to stick around I'll never know. I'll explain.

Whatever the word is for the step beyond bizarre, that is this guy. He has the bald hippie mullet - long hair in back, balding on top - Think of the old Tommy Chong loosing his hair. His fashion sense is something between dirty rock star and homeless, but thankfully always clean. Spend more than 20 seconds with him, and he'll remind you how long he has been sober. Each. And. Every. Time. You. Talk. To. Him. In an average meal I'll be reminded of his sobriety at least 20 times, and that is in no way an exaggeration. And I think that is great, but the thing is, every time he tells you this, he appears to think it is the first time he's ever told it to you. After a few years, this can get annoying.

It is clear that drugs have had a major negative impact on his life. Once when he came in by himself, his bill totaled something like $30 (he does eat well) and he tried to give me $200 in payment. You might be saying POCKET THE MONEY FOOL! But that isn't my way. I earn mine, not take advantage of others, plus, if someone called in and complained it would be obvious who waited on him. I always get him. So I always end up making change for him because he doesn't really seem to get money. Other times he hasn't given me enough and I've had to convince him to give more. I've spoken with his fiance about this and she gave me an amount that should it happen again, that I can keep beyond what his bill is. I'm cool with that. And I know he means me no harm.

This woman by all appearances seems normal. She's a healthy middle age woman, and I am always confused at how, in spite of love, even she could deal with this guy on a day to day basis. For the most part, she appears to take care of his money, and him for that matter. And in that regard, I have wondered if that is why she is around. Not to bilk him from his stash of cash, I think she could've already done that had she wanted to, but to maintain access to it. I don't know where it is from, but this guy has money. You couldn't tell it by the way he dresses, but when you talk with him for a while, you can piece together from where he lives, what he drives (scary that he is on the road!) and where he vacations, that there is a big pile of money somewhere. I think she could've taken the money and run, but yet she remains.

So while he is not mentally all there, he is pretty smart. He can't remember at times what he ordered 10 minutes ago, but he can spout off factoids at an amazing rate. Never anything that is useful mind you, but information nonetheless. And as odd as it sounds, his "specialty" is what I can only call "anti-conspiracy theory". He is passionate about debunking any known conspiracy theory. Who killed Kennedy? That is a 2 hour conversation. Area 51? You might never go home. And when he starts off on this, you can literally walk away from the table, and come back 20 minutes later and he'll still be talking about it. Even if no one else is there. And as he tells you these things, he has the most non-linear way of doing it I have ever experienced. In the middle of telling you all about the make and model of the gun used to kill JFK, he'll throw in a random and completely unrelated fact. "You should be carefull driving. A sedan only has a .32 coefficent on icy roads, and your van is even worse." Like an autistic Cliff Clavin. You had to know I'd tie this back into Cheers somehow. So out spouts something random, and often absurdly hilarious. And the thing is he never stops talking. From the moment he hits the booth to the time he walks out the door, he talks. Whatever it is in your brain that shuts your mouth off, he is missing.

And while all of this is tolerable for a while, I cannot imagine 24/7/365. This woman is an angel. But the redeeming thing of all of this is that this guy is amazingly sweet. While as odd a duck as I have ever encountered, he is always over the top nice and friendly, like the weed and acid killed his ability to experience anger. And he is always a gentleman with his lady, and always, ALWAYS talks about her like she is the divine manifestation of God in flesh. Even when she is sitting right there.

So I generally enjoy waiting on him. You never know what you are going to get, but without question you know you will get a good show. And if you pay attention, you might actually learn something. Probably not something useful, but something nonetheless.

And that brings us back to Cliff Clavin, who gives us one of the greatest quotes of all time.

One night at Cheers, Cliff Clavin explained the" Buffalo Theory" to his buddy Norm: "Well ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, use the general speed and health of the whole group keeps living by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."


SkippyMom said...

Great post. I love the Cliff Clavin quote at the end [had forgotten it] and I like your customer.

Perhaps instead of drugs he may have had an accident or a dengerate disease? Sometimes that happens - although he mentions his sobriety beaucoup times he may have short term memory loss due to something besides frying his brain - perhaps that is why she stays? She sounds lovely.

Thanks for the great post. Really enjoyed it.

SkippyMom said...

**degenerative - not degenerate LOL oh I can't believe I wrote that.

LordSomber said...

He sounds like Oliver Sacks' "The Last Hippie."

Lobster Boy said...

Definitely drugs. I left out the part where he is a born again Christian and as part of his reminding you he is sober, he gives a part of his testimony. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known about the Acid, I have no experience with it to know what sort of effects it might have.

But he might have banged his head on top of all that! Quite the character.

trisha said...

hilarious! thanks for another amusing entry. guests like that person are annoying and sometimes infuriating... but in the end they make for a darn good story.

scaryice said...

That quote was never on Cheers, that's a myth. Look it up.

America said...

We have this one guy who comes in and whenever I am talking to him, he makes himself sound like he is some business big shot. I think he made one business move that was decent, and that was selling some little company he had to a bigger company, but I don't think he made much money on it.
He has told me stuff like "Oh well right after this lunch I am going to the airport to pick up a business partner who is interested in this idea I have." And he will show me some cheesy plans about something. Honestly I think most of it is a lie.
Amusing, nonetheless, but he tips awful, if he even tips at all..

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! Funny. And it's believable. Your only chore is to keep him from becoming another waiter's call party. They'll probably clean him out, and a few weeks later he'll never come in again.
I had a guy like him, repeat customer as well, last night. Unfortunately, my guy doesn't tip 500%. Nice enough, just damaged. He's the impotent conspiracy guy. All he does it catalog all the powerful people who know/work-with/are-related-to each other. He just nods knowingly and never says what he thinks they're up to. But it goes on and on.
Loved your post.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lobster Boy,

I just got hired at Red Lobster and I have loved reading your blog. I have definitely found a lot of pointers and don'ts from your various experiences.

Since you have so much experience with working at Red Lobster, I was wondering if you could help me out with something. During training, my manager told me that servers MUST declare 100% of their tips if not they can be up for investigation by the IRS and that a server will get flagged if they are only declaring around 8%. Is this really true? Do all servers declare 100% of tips, or is there a percentage that I should stick to let's say 12%, so you can keep a little extra cash without getting in trouble. Please let me know. I'm not saying you do this, but just what do you recommend a new employee do? Thank you very much in advance for your help. I wasn't really sure who to ask about my situation, so I apologize for taking up your time.

Blair said...

I do feel smarter after a few beers! I really like this blog, just found it. I have a similar blog called, it posts funny waiter stories that are submitted by viewers. Would you be interested in linking up?

Lobster Boy said...

The law states you must claim all your tips. So if the IRS is listening, we all claim all our tips.

The reality is that I tell all the people I train to stay above 8%. You go below that and you risk getting flagged, which means we're all likely to get audited. And if I find out you were the cause, I'm going to throat punch you. Hard.

The reality is with Credit Cards, you have times where you pretty much claim everything. There are other times where you will have to make a choice for yourself what you are comfortable with.

The Red Lobster computer system will require you to claim a minimum when you clock out, and the reality is that there are days when you don't hit that minimum. So you should go get a manager to clock you out so they can adjust the system to allow you to claim less than the minimum. But reality is that after a 10 hour split shift work day you don't want to go tracking down the manager who has been riding your ass all night, so you just claim the minimum and eat the loss. So it balances out a bit. But the IRS doesn't view it that way FYI.

If you are concerned, keep a detailed record of exactly what you take in each night, and save those books for the next 7 years. And claim every penny.

I have never done that personally, but I do know I claim above what most of my co-workers claim. I'm pretty confident in saying I make more than most of my co-workers, which has a bit to do with what I claim. (result of lots of experience and a good list of "regulars") Servers are generally pretty open about this if you ask some that you work with. Ask some servers who have been in your store more than a year what they are doing and you should get a pretty good feel for things. Red Lobster is required to tell you the law is to claim every penny, what you do from there is between only you and your priest! ;-)

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I loved this post. Your honesty is a good thing, too.
I always feel smarter after a glass of wine or two :D