There are two waitresses at U Sladečku, a.k.a. Crazy Daisy, who I have taken as a personal challenge. Both are brunette, slender, and pretty. If either speaks English I don’t want to know about it. One of them I have dubbed the Anti-Amy. Put Amy and the Anti-Amy side-by-side and they could easily pass as sisters. At least, until they start talking. Or, well, when Amy starts talking. The anti-Amy doesn’t say a whole lot. To anyone.
The czechs, I am often reminded, are a reserved people. That’s OK with me; I’m fairly reserved myself. Amy is not reserved. Not at all.
The Anti-Amy was not working today, but the other she-of-the-hard-won-smile was. Compared to the Anti-Amy she’s a ball of fire, which means on occasion she will toss a litte half-smile my way when I fuck up the czech badly enough but in a sincere way. Also working tonight was a skinny blonde with bad teeth who on rare occasions is almost friendly.
I sat with my back to the wall farthest from the door, next to the piano upon which menus are stacked. I settled in with a beer and a bowl of soup and looked for more parts of The Test that I could delete. (I found a bit I really liked that had been orphaned – it really hurt to delete “The madman Lawrence is back.” “He’s better then?” “I’m not sure. He seems all right, but he has your finger. He says he wants to return it.” You don’t get chances to write stuff like that often.) ANYway, I was unwriting along and a piano player settles in on his little red pillow and starts tickling the ivories. I had been about to leave, but I prolonged my stay.
By this time the place is pretty crowded, and all the open tables have “reserved” tags on them. I feel kind of bad taking up a table at times like that, but I’ve noticed that Crazy Daisy has a pretty plastic definition of “reserved”. At a certain time of night they want to make sure their tables are used efficiently. So it was that there were several tables unoccupied but reserved. It’s all about asking nicely. I sat in my corner, watching the ebb and flow of the bar, listening to the piano, and working on a part of the story that still makes me misty (embarrassing when you’re sitting next to the piano player, facing the whole bar).
“Do you have menus in english?” comes the voice across the room in unmistakable New York. “Do you speak English?” he throws at Smiles-Only-Rarely with hostility and disdain. He turns to the whole bar, his arms spread wide. “Does ANYBODY here speak English?”
Smiles-Only-Rarely turns away from the abuse to fetch the menus from where they sit next to my head. I catch her eye and smile ruefully, shaking my head, skrunching my eyes in a pained expression. Is it? Yes it is! A fleeting smile. She collects two menus and turns back into their sarcastic entitled bitchiness. He’s continuing to be a complete asshat, and suddenly Smiles-Only-Rarely notices, seemingly for the first time, the “reserved” tag on the table. Alas, all the other tables are reserved as well. No room in the inn. His New York victimhood fully confirmed, he escorts his wife out in a self-righteous huff. See ya, pal. Some of us have to live here after you convince everyone that Americans are jerks.
Smiles-Only-Rarely returns with the unneeded menus. She looks at me again. “New York,” I said, shaking my head. “Even Americans hate them.” I don’t know if she understood me, I doubt she did, but I got a real, honest-to-God smile. I love New York.