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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Waiter Chronicles Survey 2: Winner

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

E-Dub, with the fabulous Seinfeld knock-off, "They're real, and they're spectacular."

Of course, they're not real, but it made me laugh the hardest.

Well done, E-Dub.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles Survey: Are Those Real?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Every guest at the ristorante gets to see the dessert tray. It's a granite slab weighing about 15 pounds and dotted with silicon models of apple strudel, creme bruleee, and tiramisu, among other delectable delights.

The models were done by the owner's brother, and they're really good. So good, in fact, that often, instead of paying attention to me as I explain extol the culinary virtues of our Limoncello Parfait, guests fixate on the models themselves. Their heads cock to the side, their ears perk up, and their eyes turn into swirling spirals. Often, someone will just reach over and touch one of the models.

Inevitably, someone breaks the silicon spell and asks, "Are those real?"

I want your best reaction to that scenario, either the touching of the models or the question, "are those real?" (just to let you know a couple I've already seen tried: taking a model off the tray and throwing it onto the table; screaming, "No! Don't touch that!")

The answer that makes me laugh the loudest wins.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:13 AM | link | 6 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Separate Checks

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tonight I waited on a party of 10 people, all men, and all seeming to be from out of town, visiting for some kind of convention. They informed me from the start that they'd be ordering on separate checks, a fact that made me a little nervous because I haven't yet had to handle that. But you gotta do it, right?

So they each ordered a beer. Then they each ordered a pasta--that's 10 different pastas. Then five ordered a dessert, while six ordered coffee. In the meantime several had second and even third beers. When it came time to split up their checks I was a mess. I had taken copious notes during their orders, but I wasn't the one who got the second and third beers. I was randomly assigning beers to guys who may or may not have drank them.

In the end there was only one mistake, and it was easily corrected. But here's the fun part: Only two of these 10 guys paid with a debit card. The rest paid with exact change. And I mean change. Eight separate collections of bills and coins. I couldn't bring myself to count each person's money and check it against their bill, so I just collected it all up and handed the stack of tickets to the owner, preemptively apologizing for any short tickets.

"What are these guys?" she asked. "Engineers?"

It could have been a lot worse. The Angry Chef assures me it will be.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:07 AM | link | 2 comments |

MTV ala NPH: Josh Ritter--"Girl in The War"

Monday, August 13, 2007

With the Waiter Chronicles taking off and an endorsement of a Presidential candidate, things have gotten a little heavy here at NPH. So allow me to introduce a fun new feature: MTV ala NPH.

Each week I'll scour YouTube for the videos of my favorite songs, both present and past. I'll try to add a little background, as I can find it, but mostly I'll just let you watch the video and enjoy the music.

We start this week with Josh Ritter's "Girl in The War," a song--literally--unlike anything you've ever heard. When I first discovered it last winter I listened to it several times a day for about a week, right around Christmas time. On the way to Christmas Eve worship, and on the way back.

This is what Ritter himself said about the song to an audience last year: “It's about a bunch of people talking about problems and not getting past just the talking. So I hope you do.”

Without further adieu:

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:19 PM | link | 1 comments |

Rushkoff Copies NPH (or Vice Versa)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A couple years ago I did a series of posts exploring the genre of werewolf movies.

Now, Douglas Rushkoff has written a wonderful little essay for Discover magazine called, "What You Can Learn from Zombie Movies." I recommend it highly.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:46 PM | link | 0 comments |

Blogging Biden: Talk Talk Talk

Friday, August 10, 2007

Joe Biden's greatest liability is what I find most appealing about him: his mouth. From threatening to "shove [a veto] down [the President's] throat" to calling Barak Obama the first "articulate" and "clean" African American Presidential candidate, Biden has repeatedly been caught out saying things that a candidate for the country's highest office just can't say.

He's taken his lumps for this. But he's not running away from or apologizing for this tendency. The other night he joked with John Stewart about "long-talkin' Biden," and later said that his mouth was the only thing in Delaware that the Biden's don't control. And he keeps talking. And talking.

Exhibit A: yesterday's interview with Tom Ashbrook of WBUR Boston's "On Point" radio program. If you've listened to Biden in the debates thus far, and if you've caught him on any of the talk shows, then this interview is nothing new; he's not saying things he hasn't said in those other places. But it's magic. It's not your standard stumping. It's a conversation. And most of his public speaking has that feel to it, which I find completely compelling.

I come away from listening to Biden knowing more about Iraq and health care and tax cuts than I did before. You don't just get Biden's stance on these things. You get their context and their nuances--things, unfortunately, that don't carry great weight in campaigns.

But I'm in.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:55 AM | link | 1 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Drup Rep Dinner

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Ristorante and Bar has a private dining room that can accommodate up to 30 people. Often, pharmaceutical companies will host dinners there for local doctors, doctors they are hoping to coerce into prescribing their companies drugs. There's nothing like free food and wine to sway a doctor.

I've worked a few of these now, and the benefits are obvious. First, since it's bound to be a large party, the gratuity is built in at about 18%. Second, since the representative from the drug company is paying, doctors have no squabble about ordering the most expensive wines and entrees on the menu, driving up the bill and, therefore, the tip. The other night a party of 12 doctors and four drug reps rang up $1500 (I knew we were in good shape when one of the doctors asked for a bottle of "the best Cabernet you have"--$99).

But a waiter earns this impressive tip. Aside from the routine stress that attends large parties, these parties bring with them their own unique challenges. For one, there is the challenge of maintaining a charitable view of human nature as you watch people--doctors, no less!--grab for as much free stuff as they can get. It's not uncommon to have one of the doctors, after finishing her $15 appetizer, $30 entree, $10 dessert, and $20 worth of wine, order a Filet Mignon from the kitchen--to go.

Here my background as a Presbyterian minister comes to the rescue. One of the "essential tenets" of Presbyterian theology and polity is a recognition of the human tendency toward "tyranny and idolatry"; uber-wealthy doctors are no different.

Also, these will be among the most demanding diners you will service. Not only with they order obscure cocktails by the tray-load, but they will also ask for more bread. And more bread. And more bread. When it comes time to order, they will rarely order something exactly as it's described in the menu. Instead, some customizing is always in order: "can I get that with mushrooms instead of shrimp? Tell the chef to leave off the pepper. Oh, and add some anchovies to that."

Or leave them off. The other night a gentleman ordered a Caesar Salad with the acknowledgment that he's a vegetarian. But when I brought the salad, topped with two anchovies, he looked at them like they were earthworms. "What is that?" he asked me, pointing to the two small fish like he was terrified to touch them.

"Oh, those are anchovies," I answered.

"I'm a vegetarian"

I knew that. I offered to bring him something else. He didn't want that. I offered to take the anchovies off. There he waffled and looked conflicted, and as he looked around the room for some sympathy, I quickly took his fork and scraped the two anchovies onto his side plate and scooped that plate up. Then I moved on.

He didn't touch the salad.

Finally, there is the specter, for me, of carrying plates and refilling waters while overhearing a big-idea conversation carried on by people who have advanced educations. I'm no doctor (though my wife is), but I used to have those big-idea conversations, buttressed by own advanced degree, although never in a setting like that. Indeed, the greatest difficulty in waiting on a group like this is the desire to be a part of it, to sit around a common table with colleagues and share ideas and challenges. My colleagues would not, I assure you, demand constant baskets of bread.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:48 AM | link | 4 comments |

Bagging for Biden

Wednesday, August 08, 2007



A back-to-the-beginning look at NPH's favorite presidential candidate.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

NPH Declares

Monday, August 06, 2007

I've been revealing to friends of late that I like Joe Biden for President.

I'm now declaring it publicly. Look for occasional expositions of the virtues of Biden's candidacy here. For now, enjoy this video:

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:52 PM | link | 9 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Jesus for Lunch Winner

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The first response was the best:

"I live in awe of the Father and fear of our Lord and Savior and . . . friend Jesus Christ."

"I live in Loma Linda."

Nice job Point of Order.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:15 PM | link | 2 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles Survey: Having Jesus for Lunch

Friday, August 03, 2007

The owners of the ristorante like to tell their guests that their new waiter is a minister. Or that he's a professor of theology, depending on the guests.

Recently a guest took this news as an invitation. As I was clearing the dishes from his table (he was dining alone), he said, "So you're a minister?"

"Yeah," I answered, slightly embarrassed and concentrating intently on not dropping tapenade all over the floor.

"What denomination?"

"Presbyterian."

He looked reflectively out the window to his right and into the distance. "Well, I live in awe of the Father and fear of our Lord and Savior, and--" he turned to face me now--"friend, Jesus Christ."

Ummm . . . . "Amen?"

Seriously, what do you say when a total stranger makes such a profession of faith? What do they expect you to say?

Here's the challenge for NPH readers: come up with the best response to this guy's faith profession and post it as a comment. One winner will be chosen to receive what I live with every day: the accolades and adoration of the masses.

Get to answering. God is watching.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:09 AM | link | 6 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Bravo

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Bravo, Rocky. I'm very proud of you. You did good."

Those words from the owner capped off a $124 tip night.

I could get used to this.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:42 PM | link | 4 comments |

The Waiter Chronicles: Protected or Played Revisited

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A week after airing my suspicions about Grandpa's and Son-of-Grandpa's directing tables and tips away from and toward themselves, I have concluded that those suspicions were unfounded. Grandpa shared tips with me (roughly half) every day last week, and Son-of-Grandpa is continuing to do that, even as he sends me to more-and-more tables.

Yesterday I took six tables from beginning-to-end during the lunch rush. I took only one table during dinner, but I waited on four others at one point or another while Son-of-Grandpa attended to a six-person drug rep. dinner.

It was at the end of the night as we were leaving that last week's suspicions were given the lie. Son-of-Grandpa handed me what amounted to a 50/50 split of tips. When I, ahem, protested, "You don't have to do that."

"Yeah," he said, "I do. You're getting it."

That felt good.

But today's another day.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:07 AM | link | 1 comments |