Meditations on an Exposed Arm Tattoo
I mostly get it. Tattooing anything on your body, especially on highly visible areas like the neck or arm, makes one vulnerable to commentary. I get it. There are times when I wonder why I tattooed this large literary reference across the inside of my forearm. But most times I don’t. The catch-all, “I did it for me” was a good enough justification at the time.
When I’m alone, the thought rarely crosses my mind. I could care less—it’s a permanent piece of my identity—and it’s certainly not the most interesting tattoo in the world.
Why They Matter in the Service Industry
(Or rather, why Portlanders may feel their tattoos matter)
Here’s a confession: I subconsciously want roll up my sleeve when approached by a self-absorbed subarbanite swiller whose sole comfort comes in the form of condescention.
Politely, “What sounds good tonight?”
(I must wait to hear her response because it is common to pull out your iPhone mid-drink order these days)
“…OKSorry. Is yourguyses margarita mix fresh made?”
[OUR GUYSES? AS IN PLURAL TO ‘OUR GUYS?’ FUCK ME]
“Why, yes. It is made by little bar elves every day at 4pm.”
“Ok welllllllll. I guess I’ll just have that.”
[??? Fuck. Ok, princess]
And that’s when I catch myself: Roll up sleeve, expose tattoo, pass drink.
What am I proving? Do I really think exposing the phrase written across my arm will make me feel better about interacting with this underwhelming tchatchki of a girl? In summary: yes (Why? Dunno. Fodder for a different post). Am I trying to prove my superior ‘legitness to her, instruct her somehow that conventional beauty is boring? Go ahead and fuck up your arm, it may make you interesting. Sure.
So why am I so irritated when a dude waltzes up and asks, “What’s that say on your arm?”
This imagined offense, is it some unique Portlandy take on tattoos which I have somehow adopted? The desire to be “offended” by friendliness? Frankly, I’m ashamed.
Hello. I got this done for a reason. If I refuse to talk about my tattoo, am I more of a douche than the clueless Joey standing on the other side of my bar? After all, it’s a fucking generous, icebreaking question (one I rarely bother to ask others).
True confession: I have a love hate relationship with my tattoo, ”Play it as it lays.”
“Oh are you a golfer?”
[The most overasked question of my daily life]
I have a friend with beautiful script enveloping the entirety of her gorgeous body. Due to one bold-faced quotation on her exposed shoulder, men frequently ask her if she has accepted Jesus Christ into her life. It’s not even a biblical reference. I guess we all have our cross to bear. Some more literal.
If the question is posed of me at work, I must survey the poor sod and move quickly. He will generally have a posse of friends hovering, waiting to hear the response—which I must memorize in order to collaborate my own story later on.
Sizing up the examiner is about economics. Point blank: I’m here to make money. If this is an investment group, and I’m pouring doubles of Johnny Walker Red, hell yes I’m a golfer. My handicap is 18 (not bad for a chick), and I’m waking up early to tee off, so no, you can’t buy me a drink after work.
On the other hand, If your first question is “how much do shots cost?” and your second question is whether or not I’m a golfer, the answer is, “No. It’s a Didion reference.”
Sorry fellas, don’t have time to fuck around. I’m not here to score dates, and there is a lot of cleanup work I could be starting.
“Oh, so what is that, a song?”
“Nope. A book. By Joan Didion.” Delivered as flatly and as sweetly as possible, to ensure you still put that crinkly One dollar bill you’ve been deathgripping for the last five minutes in my tip jar and walk back to your table asap.
“Ok cool. I’ll be sure to read it.”
[No you won’t]
The next shift I promise myself I’m going to wear long sleeves. And when I don’t, I try to remind myself: This tattoo can serve as an educational tool. I can teach idiotic whiskeylovers about how to talk to women. A simple, “How’s your night?” will work just fine.
Congratulations! You have made the first step towards enjoying a rewarding career in the exciting restaurant industry. This is a very special kind of job, reserved for only the finest, and most patient people. Surely you have chosen this profession because you are a real people-person!
Before embarking on this wondrous journey into the study of human nature, I have prepared a handbook to ensure you make the most informed decisions regarding your career.
Success in the Restaurant industry requires accurate, working knowledge of high school social politics. You must be familiar with drama, gossip, immaturity, and above all: binge drinking. In addition, a good candidate will also know how to placate difficult and demanding customers, much like they did when they were in high school trying to negotiate a later curfew, or simply sneaking out after midnight.
Depending on your level of commitment, it is easy to ascribe to whichever position fits your set of qualifications
Where do you see yourself?
Take a moment to think about how involved you wish to become in the world of service. Bear in mind you will always be evaluated on purely superficial levels, such as attractiveness; ratio of fake-smiles-to-teeth-gritting; and above all, your ability to conceal underhanded commentary. Know that it takes a special kind of person to remain in this industry for more than two weeks.
Location, Location, Location
A simple truth in any city: Location matters. Just as in high schools, the demographics of your location will decide the kind of experience you are likely to have. Schools located in more affluent sections of town have more sheltered points of view than the schools located in the projects. This is true for restaurants. [The exception here being the cream of the hipster crop, where the trendiest restaurants are found in the shittiest neighborhoods; half serving as a fuck-you to the established food scene, and the other half a matter of affordability.] The closer to a mall or a freeway exit, the more hellish your job will be. Hands down. We’re sorry, but there is no exception to this rule.
Most newbies make the mistake of taking a restaurant job at the newest shopping center, or tucked just far enough away, where they know none of their friends or ex-college roommates will see them schlepping burgers and fries for extra cash. Sounds pretty logical, right? No. Can you imagine anything worse than waiting on a table of tired, fat, hungry shoppers who just spent all their money at Old Navy and have only 10% to tip you on a $26.95 bill? The only positive to come from a job like this is the assurance of exercise. Cheap customers will run you.
Keep in mind that the bigger the menu, the crappier the food. Look at the Cheesecake Factory for example. Their menu is twelve pages long. This translates into frozen meat, neglected vegetables, and endless ramekins of Ranch dressing to mask the hideous taste of their fake-food.
Restaurants with more remote locations have much smaller menus. Consider Boar. * If you can even get a table at this tiny one-room eatery, you will be rewarded with a menu consisting of three items: The Draper Valley Duck, The Wild Alaskan Halibut, or the Strawberry Farms braised pork shoulder. No substitutions, and please do not make eye contact with the staff. It is considered rude to need anything at these establishments. If they feel your water needs re-filling, they will do it.
In the coming days we will be studying various *types* of customers, how to spot them and what to do when you are confronted with problems in the workplace (i.e., you accidentally sleep with your boss).