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Invisible Man


As I wiped down the length of the men's bar, I noticed a tall stack of postcards with color photos of nude busty women waving hello from sunny faraway beaches. I saw they had been sent from vacationing members with fond regards to Sam or Hazel. Several had come from married couples. One glossy photo boasted a detailed frontal shot of a red-haired beauty who was naked except for a shoestring around her waist. On the back, the message said, DEAR SAM, PULL STRING IN AN EMERGENCY. LOVE ALWAYS, THE ATKINSON FAMILY.

April 16 (Thursday)

This afternoon, I realized I was doing okay. I was fairly comfortable with my few "serving" responsibilities and the rules that related to them:

When a member is seated, bring out the silverware, cloth napkin, and a menu.

Never take an order for food, but always bring water or iced tea if it is requested by a member or waiter.

When a waiter takes a chili or salad order, bring out a basket of warm rolls and crackers, along with a scoop of butter.

When getting iced tea, fill a tall glass with ice and serve it with a long spoon, a napkin on the bottom, and a lemon on the rim.

When a member wants his alcoholic drink refilled, politely respond, "Certainly, I will have your waiter come right over."

Remember that the member is always right.

Never make offensive eye contact with a member or his guest.

When serving a member fresh popcorn, serve to the left.

When a member is finished with a dish or glass, clear it from the right.

Never tell a member that the kitchen is out of something.

But there were also some "informal" rules that I discovered (but did not follow) while watching the more experienced waiters and kitchen staff in action:

If you drop a hot roll on the floor in front of a member, apologize and throw it out. If you drop a hot roll on the floor in the kitchen, pick it up and put it back in the bread warmer.

If you have cleared a table and are 75 percent sure that the member did not use the fork, put it back in the bin with the other clean forks.

If, after pouring one glass of Coke and one of diet Coke, you get distracted and can't remember which is which, stick your finger in one of them to taste it.

If a member asks for decaffeinated coffee and you have no time to make it, use regular and add water to cut the flavor.

When members complain that the chili is too hot and spicy, instead of making a new batch, take the sting out by adding some chocolate syrup.

If you're making a tuna on toasted wheat and you accidentally burn one side of the bread, don't throw it out. Instead, put the tuna on the burned side and lather on some extra mayo.

April 17 (Friday)

Today, I heard the word nigger four times. And it came from someone on the staff.

In the grill, several members were discussing Arthur Ashe, who had recently announced that he had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion.

"It's a shame that poor man has to be humiliated like this," one woman golfer remarked to a friend over pasta-and-vegetable salad. "He's been such a good example for his people."

"Well, quite frankly," added a woman in a white sun visor, "I always knew he was gay. There was something about him that just seemed too perfect."

"No, Anne, he's not gay. It came from a blood transfusion."

"Umm," said the woman. "I suppose that's a good reason to stay out of all those big city hospitals. All that bad blood moving around."

Later that afternoon, one of the waiters, who had worked in the Mixed Grill for two years, told me that Tom Seaver and Gerald Ford were members. Of his brush with greatness, he added, "You know, Tom's real first name is George."

"That's something."

"And I've seen O. J. Simpson here, too."

"O. J. belongs here, too?" I asked.

"Oh, no, there aren't any black members here. No way. I actually don't even think there are any Jews here, either."

"Really? Why is that?" I asked.

"I don't know. I guess it's just that the members probably want to have a place where they can go and not have to think about Jews, blacks, and other minorities. It's not really hurting anyone. It's really a Wasp club. . . . But now that I think of it, there is a guy here who some people think is Jewish, but I can't really tell. Upstairs, there's a Jewish secretary too."


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Aug 17, 1992 issue of New York
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