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Laugh With Lisa: It’s Only A Game

Linda DeMarco tells of tough and not-so-funny times on Big Game Day in Mike's sports pub.

Considering I’m a “sport-illiterate” kind of girl who doesn’t drink or smoke, what better place for me to work than in one of the popular local sports pubs. Steady money, familiar faces, who knows, I may even meet “Mr. Right.” I figured it would be like socializing while getting paid. Not!

Sure the hours might be flexible– considering my class schedule, and it is quick cash, but there’s always those days that forces even a seasoned server – like myself – to scream, “There has to be a better way!”

It started out an ordinary Sunday afternoon. I had just hit the mid-point of my usual double shift, and I was already counting down the hours. Everything seemed quiet. There were a few customers scattered along the bar, a few more playing a friendly game of darts, and then there was me – the soul survivor from the afternoon crew.

Mike, the big boss man and owner of this “fine” establishment, was also on the premises. However, I know enough to stay out of his way. As he ran about the place – like an expecting father – changing satellite channels and adjusting the volume on each of our twelve T.V. screens, I tried my best to look busy. Because I knew that if he saw me resting for even a moment, he would think up some ridiculous cleaning job to keep me occupied.

As I wandered around aimlessly trying to make sure everything was properly set up, people slowly began to drift in. Are there ashtrays on every table? Are the napkin dispensers filled? Is there enough silverware rolled? Were just the few of the questions that ran through my mind. But, everything seemed to be in place. Every table did have an ashtray, a ketchup bottle, salt and pepper shakers, along with plenty of napkins. The popcorn machine was filled and both the upstairs and downstairs stations had a sufficient amount of lined baskets. Nevertheless, I continued to check and double check everything, because I knew “the boss man” would manage to find something to complain about.

“It should be a money maker tonight, ah?” one of my regulars commented as I made my way towards the bar. “You may even have to work for a change,” he laughed.

“Yeah… sure, whatever you say,” I whispered. “After tonight I’ll definitely be able to retire.”

Soon the second shift began to arrive, and as they clocked in, I decided to take a quick but meaningful break. I positioned myself on some empty milk crates in the back store room in the hopes of getting at least a moments rest.

When I returned to the floor, everyone had been given their work section and a stack of guest checks, and you could say it was just about time for “the games” to begin. You could feel the anticipation building as fans from both sides began to taunt one another. Everyone in the entire bar – both customers and employees – flaunted their team's paraphernalia.

Understandably, it wasn’t difficult to distinguish who was here to root for who. Even I played a role in the scheme of things. No, I did not care about the game, but being from New Jersey I felt it only appropriate to represent my state. (Even though both are officially New York teams, the Giants play in Jersey.)
So there I was – dressed in a pair of cut-off white shorts, a brand new Giants’ jersey, Giants’ suspenders, a Giants’ cap along with an array of Super Bowl XXV buttons pinned to my bright red apron – making it quite clear which section of the field I belong on.

As the stench of cigarette smoke filtered through the room and the noise level steadily increased, it was obvious that tonight would be “one of those nights.” The comments and criticisms toward the upcoming game along with the past seasons were overwhelming, yet – for now – the overall tone seemed light hearted.

One of the first tables I greeted consisted of two couples – all Giants fans of course – from Long Island. They were a rowdy group to say the least and extremely demanding. They quickly informed me that they were going to “keep me busy,” and then, the one man – who seemed to nominate himself the table’s spokesman – proceeded to make his demands. First off, he said “You’ll have to bring us a round of shooters (Rock Lobsters) every time the Giants score a touchdown.”

Great, I thought to myself. “Don’t bother asking us if we want them or not, just bring them when they score,” he added.
Even better, I thought. Like I didn’t have enough to do just serving these loudmouths, but now I’m supposed to pay attention to the game, too. “Are you getting all of this?” he asked as he noticed that I wasn’t writing anything down.
“Yes sir,” I said with a fake smile plastered on my face.

My next table, I knew would be the torment of my evening. They were a group of college kids and what appeared to be one of their mother’s. At least that’s the impression I got, and they were Bill’s fans, and she was an avid one at that.

“Hi there,” I said. “What can I get you?”

“Another server for starters,” the woman answered quickly.

“Aren’t their any Bill’s fans working this side?” she asked.

“No ma’am. Just me,” I answered as I proceeded to take their order.

“You’ll see who’s the better team soon enough,” she said.
“The Giants are losers, and you should be embarrassed to root for them,” she continued.

“So that will be two rum and coke, a Tanqueray and tonic with a twist of lime, two Sprites and a pitcher of Bud, right?” trying to ignore the comments she was making.

“Cut her some slack,” one of the guys said as she persisted to rambling on.

However , me being the professional that I am along with knowing that it was in her power to stiff me, I continued on my merry way trying not to take it personally.

By the time I returned with their drinks, this pathetic, middle-aged woman had managed to turn their corner of my section into something that resembled a politician’s press party. She had draped a Bill’s beach towel over the table, tacked a Bill’s flag on the wall adjacent to where they were sitting, and she neatly placed Bill’s napkins and cups in front of each person – as though she was preparing for a small child’s birthday party. How ridiculous, I thought. But it wasn’t hurting anyone, so I tried my best to just ignore it. All was well, and the crowd seemed anxious to get the ball rolling.

That brings me to the three remaining tables that occupied my seated section. Here sat twenty “game oriented” young men that were not necessarily longlost pals, but for tonight they would join together in the camaraderie of the game. Sure, they each ordered separately, (keeping me running) and they were loud and somewhat obnoxious, but overall they were the least of my problems. They were all easy going and – for a change – cash-and-carry, and they didn’t mind having to wait.

Finally the time had come. The moment they had all been waiting for. After a brief mention from the local news regarding the President’s indecision toward “sending in the troops,” Whitney Houston began the festivities belting out the National Anthem. A sense of unity formed among us all. It was almost patriotic, as though we were preparing to embark in something so meaningful. Like history was being made. But, it’s only a game, I reminded myself.

Once everyone was settled in, and the initiial excitement had worn off, I knew it was just a matter of keeping up. It was almost like I was standing on a rotating floor – continually walking from each of my tables to the bar and then back again – taking orders, emptying ashtrays, and picking up dirty plates and empty glass ware. Back and forth again...

“Excuse me! “Coming through!” I shouted.

Within a matter of twenty minutes or so, my nice, clean and quiet bar had transformed into an unruly, unorganized mess. It was a nightmare – standing room only, and everyone wanted something, but no one wanted to wait. I don’t know how I ever managed to keep my concentration in such chaos, or whether or not I even started out with any, but as the night went on, I seemed to amaze even myself.

“Do they think we’re magicians?” I grunted to Eddie (one of the bartenders) while he continued to pop beer caps and mix drinks.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “But if I were, I’d fill my tip jar and blink them all right out of here.”

“I know what you mean,” I sighed as I grabbed my pitchers, some beverage napkins, and a couple more empty ashtrays.

“Behind you,” I screamed. “Excuse…”

But no, not this time. Before I knew it, I was covered in ice cold beer, (three pitchers to be precise) and glass was everywhere. The best part was, while I squashed around trying to slop up what I could, the idiot that knocked into me had the nerve to complain about his shirt getting wet.

Oh well, I thought as I shouted to one of the bar backs to get the mop. Then, I proceeded to throw a dry towel at the big mouth and continue on my way. As the game continued and the intoxication level rose, my energy and patients declined. Between knocking my hips against tables that were pushed too close together and continuously stepping on one of the many piles of glass that occupied the floor, I could only hope that my efforts would be well rewarded. But for now, I was at their mercy.

“There’s dirty dishes on table two, and someone needs to make some more popcorn,” Mike shouted in his usual insensitive tone. “Would someone like to handle it or should I?” he muttered.

“Oh sure, I’ll do it. It’s not like I have anything else to do,” I whispered.

Before long, the attention level seemed to intensify – as all eyes concentrated on the screens. It was the two minute warning, I was told, and the Giants had just scored a field goal. Buffalo had only one chance left.

I could see Mike signaling us. It was time for our own team huddle. “Get those tabs out, now.” he shouted “… and make sure no one walks.” (Me, being a veteran to game days, I knew exactly what that meant. If the customers doesn’t pay the bill, their server will.) As we all, myself and my six co-workers, pushed toward the calculator in order to quickly tally our open tabs, the end of the game drew near.

It was just at the moment when I dropped off my last check at my Bill’s table, the game came to a dramatic end. Time had ran out, and Buffalo missed the go ahead field goal.

“Ha, ha,” I sneered with a sigh of satisfactions. “Who’s the loser, now!” I asked to the woman who had taunted me for nearly three hours.

But much to my surprise, my middle-aged, Bills’ fanatic was more than a sore loser. While euphoric Giant fans pranced around her table, she proceeded to throw a child-like temper tantrum. Suddenly, it was not funny anymore. She jumped up from her chair and snatched her so-called towel-table cloth – scattering everything onto the floor. The ketchup bottle splattered all over everything – including other customers standing nearby. Pitchers, beer bottles and various pieces of glassware also managed to shatter after plummeting to the ground. Then, to top it all off, she reached over to the table next to her and grabbed a plate of chicken bones, which she irately threw at me.

“Mike!” I screamed – standing motionless – while the rest of her embarrassed party eagerly fought to get her out the door.

“She probably took out a second mortgage on this game,” Mike laughed. “You might as well start cleaning this up,” he added as he walked away empty handed.

Finally the moment I had been waiting for. The time in which to say good-bye to all my (not so) wonderful guests, collect my (so-called) “big tips,” and clean up the mess (the animals) had left. What fun, I thought, but at least the night was almost over, and soon I’d be home, kicked back on the couch – counting all the hard-earned money ( I hoped) I had just made.

www.sbpra.com/lisademarco

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