Tag Archives: cheap

We’ll take the cheapest bottle of white wine, please

I’m not really into writing about my day job, or my night job really, about waiting tables. I do it sometimes, but it’s just something that I want to keep separate from the rest of my life. Because when I do venture into stories about something that happened in the restaurant, it tends to be negative, something that bothered me so badly that I couldn’t help but come home and write it out. And then I start out with a big disclaimer, an “I don’t like writing about the restaurant,” opening paragraph, like this is somehow a justification for some complaint I’m going to air about a customer that asked for too many ketchups or a couple that sat in my section for too long.

wine tasting

But here it is: the other night I had a table of three women. And yeah, I’m a few days removed from the situation, and so it’s not bothering me as much as it did that night. I came home fuming, trying to keep a lid on the rage inside. Why did I let myself get so angry? I fantasized about how I’d tell this whole horror story, a “Can you believe it?” play-by-play.

But now that I’m sitting down in front of my computer, now that I’m trying to piece back the sequence of events, everything feels so petty, the women, me. Mostly me. Mostly the fact that I got so upset, that I gave these three strangers so much power over me, to let them direct my emotions, my thoughts. And over what?

They ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. They ordered the cheapest bottle. Whatever, I mean, that’s what it’s there for, right? I did the whole waiter-opens-up-a-bottle-of-wine routine, the presenting of the bottle, the pouring of the little taste. Where most people are like, “fine,” especially with the cheap stuff, this woman made a face, a scrunched up mouth face.

And she held it for a minute, all the while twirling the glass in her fingers. Finally she was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I just … I just … I don’t … I just,” before making her friends try. In my head, I’m thinking, come on ladies, it’s the cheapest bottle of white wine on the menu. What are you really expecting?

But the other friends got stuck in the same feedback loop, “Well,” they said while sniffing the inside of their empty glasses, “I can’t … it’s just … we don’t,” and I cut them off, I was going crazy, I reached for the bottle and very graciously offered them something else. “We’re really sorry,” they said, to which I replied, “Don’t be sorry, I’m happy to bring you something you’ll enjoy.”

And I did. They ordered the second cheapest bottle of wine. “Much better,” the first woman told me after tasting it. The relief on her face, in her voice, it was like she had just received the antidote to a poison that had been causing her visible distress. “We’re so sorry,” she continued, “it’s just … we’re just … this is much better.”

Fine. Terrific. They ordered three veggie burgers, they ordered three sides of avocado, and they sat in my section for the rest of the night, picking at their food, and then engaging in what I can only assume was a spirited game of “let’s see who can drink our wine the slowest.” But this was the end of the night, I had been working there since eleven in the morning, I had absolutely no fight in me, I couldn’t have gotten annoyed simply because I was too tired. So what if I was losing out on another turn of that table? That would have been even more energy that I would have had to expend, gas that I didn’t have left in the tank.

I dropped the check and left them to figure out the bill. A few minutes later, all three of them had their hands in the air, trying to get my attention. “Yes?” I was trying to figure out what could have been the problem. Did I forget to take the first bottle of wine off the bill? Had I handed them someone else’s check?

“Can you go ahead and take these avocado charges off? We never pay for avocado.” And I didn’t know what to say. Everyone pays for avocado. There’s an avocado button on the computer. In fact, there’s no way for anybody to get avocado in this restaurant without paying, so I told them all of this, that there wasn’t really anything that I could do. They started to turn on me, fast, “Listen,” they told me, “Two dollars isn’t going to make a dent in our wallets. But we never pay for avocado.”

They made a loaded statement like that, basically saying, listen asshole, we have tons of money. You think we give a shit about two dollars? No, we don’t. But we don’t want to pay for this. And framed in that light, I took another look at my guests, I noticed their expensive bags, the Merrill Lynch corporate credit cards they had on the tray to pay for their meals.

This wasn’t about two dollars at all. Neither was the wine service. The whole night for them was an exercise in power, in going out and flexing a little muscle. Take this bottle away. Make this two-dollar charge disappear. You, come over here and do as we say.

And when I refused, I knew they’d probably tip less. They started laughing a little. I walked away and when I came back, they handed me the bill. They totally tipped less, thirteen percent each. And that’s when that rage started. I would have never let them see it, that would have been giving them exactly what they wanted. But I took that anger home with me. I brought it into my house when I started “venting” to my wife about how I can’t stand this and that.

Only a few days later, after I’ve had a minute to cool off, can I see how ridiculous the whole situation was. Stuff like that is going to happen and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I did what I had to do and that’s that. Why am I getting so pissed off? It’s all about what I said earlier, that by allowing myself to be angry at these three strangers, I’m giving them the power that they’re seeking, over me, over my emotions, over my mental well-being.

Fuck that shit. I don’t need their two dollars each either. Is that going to make a dent in my overall financial security? Hardly. I just have to remind myself of all of this, the next time I’m dealing with unpleasant customers, the next table that I’m serving that I can’t seem to satisfy. I’m just doing my job, doing the best I can, and if someone else isn’t happy, then that’s on them. I’ve got to be better about not letting random people dictate the terms of how I feel.

Confessions of a button masher

Button mashing. It’s when you’re playing a video game against somebody else, usually somebody a lot better than you, somebody who’s wiping the floor with you, laying waste to your virtual avatar. It’s cheap. But sometimes there’s absolutely nothing left to do. You’re backed into a corner, chances of survival are looking grim. So you tighten your grip on the controller and you start mashing.

It doesn’t work on sports games. If you try to mash on a racing game, you’re going to wind up with Lakitu, that stupid cloud guy, hovering in your screen telling you that you’re going the wrong way. One time I tried to button mash on a game of iPhone Scrabble, and I wound up texting a whole bunch of gibberish to my boss.


It has to be a two-dimensional side-scrolling fighting game, like Mortal Kombat, or Street Fighter II. Different fighting games will feature different characters and various weaponry, but at heart they’re all basically the same (with Super Smash Brothers being the exception.) You and your opponent are facing each other, and you have to fight until they don’t have any more energy or life or whatever it is, and they die.


All of your buttons represent a rudimentary move, for example, A for punch and B for kick. Put simply, if I move my character over to yours and hit A, you’ll get punched, and you might lose like one percent energy. If I keep doing this, punching you a hundred times, you’ll eventually die. But that’s not very fun. And so fighting games employ combos. Combos make your fighter do cooler stuff, and they exact more damage from your opponents.

So you might press down, down-right, right, A, and your guy might shoot out a fireball. Or start hitting Y in rapid succession and you’ll start doing this hyper kick, totally demolishing anything that comes your way. In theory, you’re supposed to figure out these moves, and employ unique sets of combinations to overpower the enemy’s unique set of combinations.

That’s the idea anyway. First of all, none of the games ever tell you which characters work with which combinations. You’re kind of left to figure everything out by yourself. Or, that’s how it was when Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat came out when I was in the third grade, before the Internet, before we could go online and look everything up.

I had the Internet freshmen year of college. I was totally able to go on the Internet and look up the different combinations for every character in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, our dorm floor’s fighting title of choice. But try as I might, regardless of how many classes I skipped so I could memorize button combos, despite all of the hours I clocked in practicing level-ups and power-ups and special bonus combos, I could never really get to the point where I could rely solely on my reflexes and my bank of stored knowledge to successfully get through a fight.


Eventually there would come a point, I’d be getting clobbered, the end clearly in sight, I’d have no choice but to forgo any sort of strategy and start wildly hitting all the buttons. The thing about button mashing is, it works. You just take your thumbs and start hitting both sides of the controller as furiously as possible. All of the sudden all of those ultra high-level combos, the ones you’ve only seen performed by the highest level computer players, you’re doing them. Sure, it’s not happening in any particular order, and maybe you sent a couple of attacks in the wrong direction, but just keep mashing, keep going, it’s starting to work, you’re starting to close the gap.

The thing about button mashing, I already told you that it’s really, really cheap, but it’s also kind of unsustainable. It quickly depletes whatever energy your hand muscles have stored up. And if you somehow manage to get through the debilitating thumb cramps, pretty soon the skin on your fingers is going to give, the constant friction. A video game blister is nothing to laugh at.


And so you’ll start button mashing, the surest sign that there is of a desperate player staring death in the virtual face. And you’ll look to your real life opponent, and he’s just kind of like, really? You’re really going start button mashing? Fine. I’ll still kick your ass. But you start coming back. He can’t get close to you because you’re character is throwing everything it’s got, everything the both of you didn’t even know it had in it. And after that gap gets closed, holy shit, it looks you might actually win here. And then maybe you take the slightest edge.

Your opponent unleashes a guttural cry, “You fucking cheap fucking button mashing asshole!” and then he starts mashing buttons also. Now who’s desperate? But where your hands are calloused, built up, used to the unrelenting pain and pressure that come from the repeated thrashing button mashing doles upon your hands, he’s too technical of a gamer, unfamiliar with the art of pure gaming chaos, the wild unknown of giving everything your fingers have to a PS2 controller.

And so it’s a noble attempt, to stoop to my level, but it proves unsuccessful. As my opponent’s player hits the ground in 64-bit slow motion, he takes his controller and slams it to the ground, “Get out of my dorm Rob! You’re not allowed to play this game anymore! So fucking cheap!” He’ll calm down. It’ll gnaw at him from the inside, the chance to beat me fair and square, to prove button mashing isn’t a real technique. But I’ve got to tell you, it works. It’s not for everybody, but button mashing is a viable strategy, an art form even. OK, not an art form, but it works. Try it.