The Booger on the Wall Principle

My transition from teaching to waiting tables was gradual. When the latter became my sole means of income, I desperately sought a restaurant that paid better than the train wreck of a place I was currently attached to. I found employment at a casual fine dining establishment which proved far more lucrative than teaching about useless junk like the Aristotelian notion of the good life or Kant’s byzantine conception of ethics.

I had been a sloppy and ineffective waiter until the do-or-die direness of my economic predicament demanded that I manifest some mettle. While my intelligence, personality, and wit served me well at this place, I also faced the significant disadvantage of being a bearded, dirty white boy. My boss possessed a peculiar admixture of qualities. While a parsimonious, penny-pinching snob, she also had compassion for those less fortunate.

I don’t know how much shrewd calculation went into this, but hiring me doubled the manliness quotient in the front of the house, balancing out the flamboyant waiters, the generally attractive waitresses, and the Mexicans–some of them illegals–in the kitchen. I became a rather good waiter and made two good friends during my employment there.

The point of this post, as alluded to in the title, was a conspicuous anomaly that persisted for at least a month. In this fancy-pants restaurant, someone–hell, it could’ve been me–had wiped a booger on the wall about six inches above one of the two urinals in the restaurant’s only men’s room. The dullest Mexican there was the one tasked with cleaning the bathrooms. He couldn’t have not seen the bodily emission, but he just consistently let it slide–I mean, stick. He unwittingly set into motion a thought process that roughly half of all pissers surely underwent: when is someone going to wipe that damn thing off?

Moreover, two of the owner’s sons worked there and had obvious financial interests in the classiness of the restaurant. It would’ve been 100 times easier for one of them to just do it themselves, but I know they would have spent ten minutes finding the cleaner, instructing him to wipe it off, and then reprimanding him for being so lax. But they did nothing.

Instead, what transpired was a combination of diffusion of responsibility and a sense of playing chicken. I think we all shared this unspoken grotesque curiosity about how long it would take for the issue to be taken care of. How long would the offending object remain? We were all silently rooting for its longevity, tacitly expressing a deep-seated puerile “Fuck you” to the whole restaurant world in general and this place’s mismanagement and pretentiousness in particular. To be clear, this is obviously different from procrastinating on a serious matter, and it was not an arduous job by even the laziest and most squeamish standards.

I almost always showed up for work with a slight alcohol buzz, but sometimes I had a slight marijuana one going on as well. During one evening shift when both were in the risky zone, I tried telepathically communicating with the boss’s son, the second-in-command.

“Come on, Noah. You know about it, your brother Jacob knows about it. Every goddamn man here knows about it. I don’t care if you realize how buzzed I am right now, or if you know that I suspect your wife has a slight crush on me. Just admit that you’re on our team on one issue: long live the booger!”

Noah did not care for me all that much, and his next action may have indeed been demonstrative of my telepathic success.

“You’re up, Briana. Two in Four.”

I yielded a three dollar tip from the two old ladies he had assigned me to in Section Four, each of whom ordered a salad and a water. And they stayed for two hours.