Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Great Omelet Caper as told to Karla Stover

  

     I am a huge fan of the humorist, Jeanne Robertson, and one of her philosophies is to try and find at least one humorous thing that happened during your day. My problem is---is the following story I wrote from an experience that happened to a friend of mine funny or is it schadenfreude

Here it is:

     Thank goodness in the New Millennium—which really isn’t all that new anymore—it was possible for thirty-something businessman, wearing after-five attire, to sit in a bar late at night and have a drink without being eyed, and raked over by suspicious minds.  Well, almost possible, anyway, but “shame, shame, shame,” as Gomer Pyle used to say, on their potty minds. My friend, DJ was business professional, whose job as a stock broker required a lot of socializing. And that’s what he’d been doing, on a Thursday night in Bellevue, Washington, Seattle’s sophisticated neighbor.

     Earlier in the evening, one of his clients, a gallery owner and artist in his own right, had an art showing. DJ had attended, done the wine-and-cheese thing, and trolled for new clients—unsuccessfully, as it turned out, and left around 11:00 p.m. Along with some of the art lovers he’d gone to kill the effects of the wine with a cup of coffee at a swanky restaurant and lounge called Benjie's, but they’d left, he was blissfully alone, enjoying the ambiance and the relative quiet.

     Benjie’s was located in the penthouse of a bank building. Its d├ęcor was chrome and black leather with recessed lighting and wide floor-to-ceiling windows. Even if blurred by Puget Sound rain, they framed the city lights and eliminated most of the street noise. Another part of the architecture was the bar, which was designed to let people watch the chefs at work. Benjie’s specialty was omelets for the light-night, crowd. DJ was a regular because he liked to sit at the bar and listen to snatches of the cook’s conversations, and watch their economy of movements as they prepared the orders coming in.

     That Thursday night DJ heard enough of the waiter’s whispered conversations to know that there was tension in the air. Apparently, Vinnie, the head chef, had been cooking steadily since 10:00 a.m. that morning—nearly 12 hours standing at the hot stoves.  While he flipped eggs and cheese in a small pan, it was obvious the long day was taking its toll. Tufts of bleached blond hair stuck out from under his tall, white hat. The hat, itself, was decidedly askew. His apron was fresh, but his face glistened with steam and sweat. His slightly hunched posture looked so tense, DJ later told me his own neck and shoulders began to ache, sort of a kitchen couvade.

     Three of the waiters on duty, two men and a woman, all young and collegiate-looking, seemed just a little anxious, but one, a man named Kirt, was apparently oblivious to the tension. He was also oblivious to the fact that he was giving Vinnie extra aggravation. DJ was familiar with Kirt; he had a bubbly personality and treated every patron as if they were a welcomed regular.  However, he stopped and talked too much—annoying under the best of circumstances and a powder keg under the worst.  And that night, circumstances were at their worst.  Vinnie snatched the order slips out of Kirt’s hand, and barked out his name when the orders were ready for pick up. Unfortunately, due to his chatting, Kirt didn’t always hear his call, and his name seemed to be called four times more often than those of his fellow waiters. It was a situation ripe for potential. 

     “Kirt, please." Vinnie slapped yet another dish on the bar between the kitchen and the lounge.

     Kirt was at the far end of the room, taking another order and didn’t hear.

     “Kirt, order up,” Vinnie called again.

     That time Kirt heard, but a man at a window table detained him.

     “Kirt! Get your ass in here!” The over-heated cook roared.

     Kirt’s fellow waiters stepped aside to clear a path, and Kirt responded immediately, practically speed walking through the archway into the kitchen.  Just before loading his arms from wrist to elbow with assorted-sized plates, he gave another order to Vinnie.

     “Tell them there’s none left,” Vinnie snapped, as he looked at the new request.

     “Tell them yourself,” Kirt snapped back.

     With a lot of unnecessary clatter, Vinnie slammed his way through a refrigerator and several cupboards.  After gathering his ingredients, he mixed, poured, and stirred in a series of small, round-bottomed sauce pans. DJ said he never saw him leave the stove for a minute, but suddenly the unmistakable odor of burning food began to waft ever-so-gently toward the bar. That was evidently Vinnie’s own particular boiling point. With a magnificent and enviable windup, he snatched the offending pan off the stove and heaved it and its contents against a far wall. The pan ricocheted back, left a black mark on the white paint, and dropped conveniently into a nearby garbage can with a cacophony that stopped the diner’s conversations. A sunshine yellow assault of eggs, milk and various-colored peppers flew up in a leap Nureyev would have envied. A confetti of ingredients splattered the walls and appliances in a six-foot radius, but most of it hit the wall near the black mark. Like a slow-motion action sequence, the goo slid slowly and inexorably toward the floor, leaving cheery streaks of yellow dotted with red and green.

     For a moment the room was so quiet even the distant sounds of freeway traffic could be heard. Then conversations resumed as the waiters and remaining kitchen staff raced to the scene like reporters to the site of a disaster. The wall’s egg-tempura vanished under an assault of paper towels. While some hands wiped the appliances down, others patted Vinnie soothingly, talking softly in attempts to diffuse the situation.

    “That was the last order, Vinnie.”

     “You’ve had a really long day.”

     “Go home; we’ll take care of things.”

     Impervious to it all, Vinnie pushed everybody aside and stormed out through the lounge, his apron strings floating behind him.

     It was over in a flash.  The majority of the diners probably weren’t even aware of the great drama

 that had just taken place. DJ was just lucky enough to have seen it all from start to finish. And what a

great ending since he didn’t particularly like omelets.

SO---funny or unkind to laugh?






3 comments:

  1. Any story can be written in a way that makes it funny or sad. I thoroughly enjoyed the way you told it, Karla. The fun is in the details. Loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great details. I would have to go with sad, as my daughter manages a restaurant in Seattle, and has had to deal with a great number of DIVA chefs!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd go with speechless at first, but then funny once you absorb all the details :)

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