KGB – A Short Story
Throughout years of working in restaurants, there are certain characters that, no matter how many years it’s been, make you chuckle to yourself every time they cross your mind. In this case it was someone who just made it too easy to have fun at his expense, you simply couldn’t help yourself. He was the kind of person who would always sit and take the harassment, almost as if enjoying the attention whether or not it was positive.
When I met him I was working at a restaurant that we’ll call “Bella Serra.” I had recently moved back to Portland from Chicago and was going through what I consider to be my “prima donna” phase. One day I noticed a man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, poking around the host stand. I remember his hair looked like it was cut with a Flowbee and he was wearing pants with about five pleats in them that I was sure were purchased at Chess King.
Now to give you a little background, I was already a little shaky about new hires at this place. Just recently they had brought on a woman to wait tables who looked like actor Paul Sorvino, but with bleached blonde hair. She was immediately nicknamed “Dumpy Spice,” and lasted about two weeks before getting shit-canned. Now there was this fucking guy…
I don’t remember why we nicknamed him KGB, he was Polish not Russian, but it immediately stuck. He started by hosting a few nights, and then began waiting tables. I remember that we made him train to the point where we would just make him our bitch and collect all of the tips. He was the kind of guy who was nice enough, but also made really stupid mistakes that at first invited ridicule, but progressed to torment.
One of the my favorite examples of this would be the “Table Game.” There are two ways of playing, and they both involve the victim being really busy on what was usually a weekend night. The minute you would see the look of panic in their eyes, it was time to start the game. When he went into the kitchen to check on food, we would log into the dining room computer, close all of his tables as cash, and clock him out. Then we would re-locate to the other side of the dining room and wait. First there’s the phase of confusion, when he can’t find his name to log in (because he’s been clocked out), which progresses to frantically looking around the dining room, as if an explanation would present itself. Finally, anger sets-in as he knows we’ve got something to do with this. Another variation on this game was to transfer all of his tables to different servers and then clock him out. This never got old.
Then there was this one night in early November, we were starting to close down and the last customer had just filtered out. We had several “sample” bottles of wine on the bar, so we help ourselves, getting a little rowdy in the process. The restaurant had been decorated with various gourds and pumpkins in kind of a “harvest theme,” and to this day I can’t remember who threw the first gourd. Next thing you knew the dining room was like a war zone with people hiding behind walls and various decorative items zinging right past your head as you looked desperately for ammunition of your own. KGB was on the second floor, open to the first, completely oblivious to what was going on and polishing glasses to re-set a ten top.
It was at this moment several things happened at once: A server from the restaurant across the street had just walked in to ask if he could borrow a decanter as I spotted a large pumpkin on one of the shelves. I grabbed it and, to the decanter-borrowing server’s amazement, flung it up at KGB on the second floor (who’s back was to us). It misses his head by about 2 inches and lands directly on the table, smashing about five glasses and creating one of the loudest noises I’ve ever heard. KGB reacts as if a bomb had gone off, leaping about a foot and ducking for cover.
At this moment, myself and everyone else realized I may have just taken things a little too far, but no one can stop laughing to do anything about it. The visiting server leaves, completely forgetting the decanter, and I can only imagine the stories he told when he got back to work.
The last of KGB’s Portland exploits, before moving to Tahoe to become a blackjack dealer, involved getting banned for life from the Commerical St. Pub. For those who don’t live in Portland, I’ll just tell you that it is pretty fucking difficult to get banned from this bar. Apparently, KGB had been very drunk and kept following women into the bathroom and trying to “interact” with them, which he later referred to as “just trying to, you know, use the bathroom, man.”