There were two highly coveted jobs to have post high school in Las Vegas, where big money could be made immediately with virtually no experience. If you told people you were working one of them it was likely the next question would be, “How’d you get it?” Most of the time it was because you knew someone—you got juiced in. Those hot occupations? Valet parking and cocktails.
I considered myself very lucky to spend a summer working cocktails at the Western Village Casino. I made a lot of cash—usually $75-$100 a day. It was 1983 and that was huge money. The uniform was a take on the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders outfit: short skirt, cropped, fringed vest, white cowboy boots. There wasn’t much of me that remained a mystery, but having lost my Freshman Fifteen I felt comfortable enough. It was physically the toughest job I’ve ever had. Carrying those trays of drinks—loading them up to avoid multiple trips. Walking for miles around the casino floor in uncomfortable shoes while using a sing-songy voice to repeat, “Cocktails?” A permanent carefree smile was required even as the feet throbbed. Putting up with the Friday night drunks who came to cash their paychecks and listen to live country/western music in the lounge was simply part of the job. There was a massive level of coordination necessary to balance a full tray of glasses and bottles without spilling, while maneuvering a crowded bar and sidestepping a nightly grope–or five. There were always those who would grab the brand of beer they’d ordered from the tray without realizing the weight was strategically resting on my palm.
Don’t ever take anything from a server’s tray.
That job taught me what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life but also made me forever respectful of the hard work of servers–and certainly some of the indignities they experience.
I met Ira for a drink on our first date–tall, nice looking, an Ivy League law degree and a hugely successful practice. He was a litigator for big award lawsuits and proud of his lucrative career and all the accouterments of a rich attorney’s life. He was brilliant and had a sarcastic sense of humor that was self-effacing.
It was a quick first date, but I felt a bit of chemistry brewing—enough to warrant a second one.
He’s a nice guy, I thought after that first night.
We met for dinner a few days later at Alouette, a French bistro in my neighborhood. It was a charming restaurant with a relaxed ambiance and excellent food. The wait staff was warm and efficient and I settled in as we shared a bottle of wine and light conversation.
The evening was just getting started.
On our first date I’d told Ira about the blog. Eventually our casual chat became a bit more serious as he brought up my writing. I tensed up, as I always do. I’ve learned to accept criticism as part of the process, but it is never easy and my defenses are always on high alert.
It’s a funny thing that everyone’s an expert when it comes to writing.
He talked about how much he’d enjoyed reading my posts and that he thought I was an excellent at what I did. I felt my insides relax a little. I’m sure it showed on my face. The server approached the table and unobtrusively poured more wine and then paused, I believe to take our order. Ira waved him away without glancing in his direction. I didn’t like that and thanked the waiter for the wine and asked that he give us a few more minutes.
Ira continued to wax poetic about my mad writing skills. I felt myself relaxing into his words. Music to a novice writer’s ear, and my annoyance at his pompous treatment of our waiter began to fade. Shamefully, professional flattery is my Kryptonite. The server waited about fifteen minutes and then approached again. Ira was in the middle of a story and he continued to talk while the waiter stood patiently waiting. I interrupted Ira and told him we should order.
We’d had plenty of time to look at the menu. We had even discussed what we were ordering yet Ira, once again, dismissively told the waiter to come back as he’d not decided. At that point we had been at the table for 30 minutes and I told Ira that I was hungry and asked that he choose quickly.
Finally, we ordered.
Ira continued to monopolize the conversation and a funny thing happened. His face changed and he delivered the first verbal punch.
“I find some of the things you’ve written to be distasteful—inappropriate.”
I asked for an example.
“I don’t want to read about the sex you had with your husband when he was undergoing chemo.”
He was referring to the blog post, The Fun Factor.
“That was important. I wanted the reader to understand my relationship with my husband. How much fun we had even when he was sick. I wanted them to know the history of my life with Neal—why it will be hard to replace him—the stuff I’m looking for again.”
“I was embarrassed for you.”
“Well, you’re one reader. Many others loved that part of the post. Whatever.”
Ira didn’t like that I dismissed his opinion.
He raised his voice slightly and told me again how inappropriate it was to share. Other patrons glanced in our direction and I saw our waiter watching from the side of the room.
“Don’t you raise your voice to me. I write what I want to write. If you don’t like it, don’t read it but you’re not going to bully me. Something tells me you can be a bully.”
Ira confirmed that he was used to having his opinion respected and that he was sometimes a tad rude in his delivery. “An occupational hazard when you’re the best at what you do,” he replied.
I should’ve left. I don’t know why I didn’t but the rest of the meal was filled with several tense moments where he shared an opinion on a topic, I disagreed and he got angry but then caught himself and adjusted his behavior, but inside I could tell he was seething.
After dinner, Ira suggested dessert. I didn’t want to spend another moment with him and declined. He ordered it anyway and asked for two forks. He also ordered an espresso. By that time we were one of the few occupied tables in the restaurant.
The server brought our dessert and Ira let it sit on the table untouched for at least fifteen minutes. I could see our server watching and waiting patiently. We were now the only occupied table.
“They’re trying to close the place. We should finish dessert and let them.” I told him quietly.
He ignored me and continued to sip his coffee. I had a few bites of dessert to prompt him to do the same and finally, our meal was over. I expected Ira to ask for the bill. He had other plans.
He ordered another espresso.
I don’t know if he was intentionally screwing with the server or me or if he was trying to drag out the date since he knew that I wanted to get away from him. I could see a look cross our waiter’s face when Ira ordered the second coffee, but he respectfully said, “Of course.” I told him he could bring the bill when he brought the coffee.
Ira took forever to finish, but FINALLY the bill was paid and we made our way towards the exit.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” I heard behind us as we’d almost reached the door. Ira and I turned to see our waiter behind us.
“Yes?” I said.
“Did I do something wrong? Were you unhappy with the food or my service?”
“No, the food was wonderful and your service was perfect. Why?” I said, shocked by his question.
“Because of this,” he said as he showed me the bill.
Ira was defensive. “I paid the bill.”
“Sir, it wasn’t the bill, but my tip.”
I glanced at the tip he’d left and felt instantly sick to my stomach. Our bill came to $149 and Ira had left a $7 tip.
“What were you thinking?” I said. His service was impeccable. “Don’t worry,” I said to the waiter, “You’ll be given the right tip. Either he’s going to do it or I will.”
“Pay him.” I said to Ira in a tone that left no alternative.
Ira pulled out his money clip and peeled off a ten-dollar bill and threw it on the tray with the check.
“No, that’s not enough.”
“It’s a seventeen dollar tip!” Ira said incredulously.
“On a hundred and fifty dollar bill not even close to being enough. Give him more, a twenty.”
Ira sheepishly pulled a twenty-dollar bill from the wad and threw it on the tray along with the ten. “There, are you happy now?” He asked, with an indignant tone.
“I’m so sorry. Your service was wonderful,” I told the waiter as I made a beeline for the door.
Once outside I turned to Ira and my monologue began. “What were you thinking? Don’t you understand that he works for tips? He’s making minimum wage and survives in New York City on those tips. Are you so removed from the real world that you don’t get that? I’ve never been more humiliated in my life.”
Ira tried to justify his shitty tip. Mentioning things like in Europe tips aren’t required, etc. I wasn’t having it. He finished with this, “Well, now he’s rich. He won’t have to pay taxes on that tip since it was cash.”
I walked away from that stupid remark and began searching the street for a cab. I also started to cry. I think it was a combination of being mortified and the realization that I was on a date with a monster.
Sometimes the hopelessness of this online dating experience gets to me.
Ira asked why I was crying and I told him that I found his cruelty to our server throughout dinner disgusting and then the tip he left was the final insult. I explained that I’d been a cocktail server in college and understood how hard the work was.
“You were a cocktail server?” Ira said, in a tone that implied I’d just told him I was a crack whore. “And where did you go to college, by the way?” Ira knew I went to the University of Nevada/Reno. I’d told him that on our first date. In typical lawyer fashion Ira was asking a question he already knew the answer to. And he was doing it to put me in my place.
“Don’t you dare pull that snobbish bullshit with me. You know exactly where I went to school and you’re not going to fuck with me that way,” I said calmly, no more crying. “You’re so transparent.”
A cab arrived and I got in. Ira got in the other side, which was a shock. “I’ll see you home, and maybe we can talk about this some more. I’m sorry if I upset you.”
“We have nothing to say. I don’t want to talk to you and you’re not coming inside my apartment.”
We rode in silence for a few blocks and the driver stopped at a red light. Ira opened the door and got out. “See ya,” he said, just before slamming the door.
I got an email message from him the next day apologizing for his behavior and filled with regret that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again. I think this was Ira’s boilerplate response to many women he’s met on the site.
I did not reply.
“Only the little people pay taxes.” Leona Helmsley