WORK

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2010

"Go ahead, Tony, take my table. I've been doing pretty good tonight."

"No way," says Tony. "You think I didn't see those spots?"

Damn! Okay, it's profiling, but Dalmatians are loud and ill-mannered. Always. And bad tippers - almost as bad as dachshunds. They're the worst.

Tony shakes his head. "Looks like she's got an attitude, too."

"Hey, you come in here expecting bad service and that's what you're going to get."

The public can't seem to figure that out. Why should I knock myself out when the customer is just going to complain about everything anyway? Cut your losses and move on - that's my motto. I'm not doing a tap dance for some token five-buck tip when the maitre d' has a golden retriever straining on the leash.

I've only been at Welcome Waggin' for six months, but I know the ropes. Since there are currently just two dog restaurants in the world, this one here in New York and another in Tokyo, I'm a genuine expert. At serving dogs. I suppose that there is no need to bother telling you that I am also an aspiring artist. Is there any other breed of humanity that ends up waiting tables in a canine cafe? There seems to be a rule requiring a person to undergo a period of humiliation before emerging as a successful artist. If there is any justice in this world, I should be the next Picasso.

The owner of Welcome Waggin' is Miss Margaret. That is the only name we know her by. She is a stately, middle-aged woman who seems to have stepped right out of some Victorian novel. The prim and lacey spinster aunt. I suspect that her Oxford accent is an affectation, but this makes little difference since her conversation is reserved almost exclusively for dogs. I'm sure they don't care. Not as long as they get their liver pâté and filet mignons.

I have suggested to Miss Margaret that I use my talents as a draftsman to draw caricatures of our regular customers. We could hang the pictures on the wall, like they do in people restaurants throughout the city. Most of the dog owners (owner, master, handler, etc. are actually words that Miss Margaret forbids us to use) who come here are wealthy, so, besides being fun, this little project might provide me with contacts useful to my art career. Miss Margaret hates the idea. She will not have her establishment associated with the bistros and delis that cater to degenerate show-biz types, tourists and other riffraff. I suppose she's right. One thing tends to lead to another, and before long we'd have huskies and bird dogs in here sniffing butts with poodles and Pomeranians.

"There you go, Jon." Tony is shaking his head again.

"Yeah, I heard the accent," I tell him. I've seen this pair before. The owner (bite my tongue!) could be the villain in a grade-B Nazi flick. All he needs is a monocle and riding crop. His wiener dog will probably have me running for the pooper-scooper before I can even bring them a menu - just to show me who's boss. The last time they were here, they sent back the schnitzel three times. When I suggested crepe suzettes for dessert, I nearly got my hand and my head bitten off: 'Something wrong with German chocolate cake or a nice strudel, eh?' Looks like it's going to be one of those nights.

•••

Martha and I wolf down our morning coffee and bagels. We are both anxious to get to work. Our real work.

"How did it go last night at the beagle beanery?" asks Martha.

"Rough one. Dalmatians and dachshunds. They run you ragged and you can't beat a decent tip out of them."

"Yeah, me too. Must be a full moon or something. Pedophiles, pee freaks, B and D's, and a few that haven't even been classified yet."

Martha enjoys her phone-sex gig about as much as I enjoy being a doggie waiter. But with the two incomes we can afford this nice, spacious loft. Soon we'll both be lost in our work. We'll forget for a while what's facing us tonight. I pick up my coffee mug and head for the easel. Martha sits down at her potter's wheel.



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