Character: ERNIE — a waiter, middle aged
Ernie is cleaning glasses before the evening rush begins.
I mean, you can’t be dressin’ in Gucci when your baby girl needs diapers. You hear me? Once you have a kid everything changes. That’s just a theory. That’s just my opinion. Oh man those people last night they drank everything! They were European and Europeans get thirsty, you know? They like to stay hydrated. I guess they just understand how much water a person should consume on a daily basis. They’re very educated, people from Europe. Some of them were very nice. You could tell. When you’ve been in this business as long as I have you get feelings about people. It’s just a sense I’ve developed, you hear me? I’ve been in this business a long time.
You have to be clean in this business. Ooh, Derek broke some glasses yesterday. They got mad! Oh, lord did they get mad. I mean anyone can break glasses. It’s just—you know—it’s part of the business. But you can’t break too many glasses. You have to be able to carry glasses in this business. You have to know how much you can carry and not carry too much. I can carry a lot of glasses but I’ve been doing this for so long that I understand my abilities. I understand, you know, how you have to balance the weight on a tray. It’s all about finding the balance. That’s just a theory. You hear me?
But some of these people will ask you for the kitchen sink. They’ll work you! The last Passover I worked was disgusting—literally. I had to get this woman a grapefruit and in the menu the grapefruits had a maraschino cherry on them and she wanted a maraschino cherry. I say “oh lord!” And I just had to look back at her and say to myself, oh, you have got to be… But you can’t say anything because she’s a customer. But then I had to look for a maraschino all over the hotel. And of course they were rude to me in the kitchen. They told me they didn’t have any maraschino cherries and I had to go and talk to the management. Those people they can be… they need to relax a little… but they get angry at me because they don’t have maraschino cherries. Then I had to go back to the table and tell the woman that we don’t have any maraschino cherries. And she was mad! Then they didn’t even give me a tip! I saw the check at the end.
Lord I’m tired. I went to bed at eleven last night and then woke up again at twelve and then I woke up again at one. I couldn’t sleep. I just couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was something I ate but I just ate pizza. I had to be here this morning at five. I’m tired, you hear me? I just ate pizza. But maybe the pizza upset my… I don’t know. I’m tired…
You need some time for yourself, I’m sorry but you do. I can’t be at someone’s beck and call for—you hear me? I can’t work seven days and then not have any time for myself. You need to have time for yourself—especially in this business. I’m sorry, but you do. That’s just my opinion. You can’t serve two masters. You can only go to the well so many times. You can’t get by on three hours of sleep. I’m sorry but you can’t. I need at least four hours of sleep. I’m sorry but I do.
I think working class people tip the most. Sometimes people with money can be stingy. Not all of them but you know… That’s just a theory I have. That’s just how I see it. You hear me? People with money, they don’t understand what it’s like to not have money. Not all of them. Some of them are very generous. I served Lou Reed the other day and he was crabby! I wanted to say to him, “I served Barry Manilow once and he was a very nice man. Not like you, Mr. Lou Reed!” Lou Reed was just old and crabby. I’m like, who do you think you are? Barry Manilow has sold lots more records than you and he’s a generous man. But that’s just how some people are. Maybe it’s just an act. I don’t know. You can fool some of the people some of the… you know… but you can’t fool all of the… you know? He was crabby. I just shook my head. I said you need to chill out with your crabby self, Mr. Lou Reed.
Lou Reed never understood balance. That’s why he got so messed up in drugs and everything. But folks like you and I understand how you have to live day to day. That’s why we’re the ones doing this grunt work. We know that life ain’t no fairytale. Barry Manilow understands that. Who needs Lou Reed anyway? You hear me?
copyright © 2010 Benjamin Adair Murphy. All rights reserved.
In New York, Benjamin Adair Murphy’s work has been produced at Ars Nova, the Barrow Group Theatre, the Midtown International Theatre Festival, the Lark Theatre, and the National Comedy Theatre, among others. In Chicago, his work is currently being produced by the Stockyards Theatre Project and The Rubicon Theatre Project.