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It’s all fun and games until the spaghetti hits the floor

It’s funny how life comes full circle.

This weekend I’ll be busing tables at our church fair, and 30 years ago I was busing tables, at The Tarry Lodge, a landmark family restaurant in Port Chester, NY, where I grew up. (It’s now a chi-chi place run by Mario Batali, but when I was a kid, it was THE family restaurant.)

Tarry Lodge Masthead

Tarry Lodge Masthead (Photo credit: Laissez Fare)

That job (which followed the paper route, babysitting and a stint as a page at our village library) was courtesy of my friend Kathy who needed someone to fill in for her. Little did I know that it would turn into an important income-producer, taking me through high school and then serving as one of three jobs I juggled in college. By then I was the restaurant’s hostess (and damn good at predicting the wait — a point of pride for me then and now. Pathetic, I know).

But I started out clearing and setting tables, creating bread baskets, later making peach melbas (and sneaking spoonfuls of the vanilla ice cream).

I moved on to waitressing, tucked into a black uniform shiny from too much ironing and never free of food smells, no matter how much it went through the wash. There I endured the tired quips of businessmen looking for a glass of “city gin” while they tried to sneak a peek down my blouse.

When I was the hostess, I met Basil there, thinking I was getting a rich, Greenwich fella. (We’re rich, of course, but not in a monetary way.)

And I met a man during one of those lunch shifts who would become my boss at the paper (and many years later a colleague at a different company). It took two interviews, separated by many years to land the copy editor’s job. Somewhere I still have his rejection letter from our first chat — it is the kindest “no thank you” I ever received.

Sometimes at the restaurant I worked parties, and it was in the course of serving a large group in the upstairs party room that I made my biggest gaff. On a night when the line was out the door and we were frantically trying to get everyone fed and turn the tables, I was sent upstairs to handle a large party — a table of 10 or 12, the family of a regular, demanding customer.

I can still see their entrees piled high on the tray — calamari marinara, veal parm, our signature pizza, sides of spaghetti. And in my rush to get the food to them, I kicked the kitchen’s swinging door too hard. It hit the wall, then slammed into the tray on my shoulder, sending food and plates flying.

For a cinematic second in that busy, busy restaurant, you could have heard a pin drop.

Well, at least until I started sobbing.

I’ll never know who cleaned up the mess. My boss sent me outside to walk around the block until I could calm down.

(I was gone a loooooong time.)

Punchline of the story? The man up in the party room whose food I dropped? He became our first landlord after we got married. And that is a whole other story, for another day.

Meanwhile, as I approach our fair at The Church of the Archangels in Stamford this weekend, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to share my restaurant experience with the other volunteer staff. They may relegate me to the kitchen — or worse.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


4 thoughts on “It’s all fun and games until the spaghetti hits the floor

  1. Amazing how people come in and out of our lives like that! I guess that’s why my Pop used to warn us not to treat anyone poorly because it might come back to bite you one day.

    Posted by Penelope's Papa | September 28, 2012, 11:05 pm
  2. Ah, the TarryLodge, great family restaurant! First time I ever had garlic bread smothered with mozzarella–yum!! Oh, and that’s where I fought with a lobster claw until it flew across the dining room. Great place for throwing food around, perhaps?!
    For peace of mind, remember that one spectacular gaff is usually surrounded by lots of mundane successes that we hardly take note of.

    Posted by Jackie | September 28, 2012, 6:52 pm

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