The Real Valentine’s Day

I left you last with the specter of Valentine’s Day upon us. Yes, we at Carney’s Corner did see the expected brain-dead trying to get a table at the last minute for he & she.

The best of the night, for all of us, was the Liquor Rep. In this case, I’m not in sarcastic mode.

Our first reservations came at 5 and 5:30 – only a few, still not a full house. [For those not up-to-date, Carney’s has only 10 tables in the dining room-proper. Ten more tables in the lounge/patio.] Phil is the Main Man Liquor Rep. He’s a charming (aren’t they all?), good-looking, dark-haired guy in his early 40’s. Phil sidles up to the bar and starts pleading. He’s in a big bind.

He has four people at his house for Valentine’s Day dinner but his oven is broken down. [Remember, he’s in the Biz, so he understands it’s foolish to go out on V-day.] He needs to get a top-flight meal for everyone or his ass is grass (his words).

Carney is not there, and our restaurant has a policy of no to-go orders. ESPECIALLY on holidays. Not to say the rest of us wouldn’t do it any other day if she wasn’t there – we understand how to do things – but she was due any minute and we’d surely get caught trying to pull a fast one.

So 20 minutes later Carney arrives. Phil pleads his case. First thing Carney says is, ‘We just can’t do it.”

Did you see the period I wrote? Same period Carney stated.

The servers are . . . well, we’re freaking out. We know better. This guy is a good guy. He’s done us a lot of favors. Even if he hasn’t done us a lot of favors, maybe we’d do it anyway. Further, do this for him now, you know you’re going to have an ace in the hole for later. Last of all, at the time it was perfectly within the restaurant’s capabilities to produce a to-go order . . .

We couldn’t believe it. But to spare you the minute-by-minute drama, Carney capitulated.

But then, this guy is their best salesman. Is it any wonder he was able to convince her?

End story: Four dinners to-go, $$240 check = $100 tip.

So that was the start of our evening.

Aside from the idiots aforementioned, the night was pretty smooth. We left the building like Elvis with $375 apiece and a nice buzz from the ‘shifters’ and everything was well.

The only salacious part of the night came from our irrepressible bartender, Frank.

On holidays, Carney’s usually has a policy of restricting the bar from regular customers – ostensibly to reserve the seats for parties waiting for their tables. In practice this creates an empty bar, as Carney runs a tight and efficient reservation book. The trade-off for Frank is on such days he contributes to and takes part in our tip pool. Do you remember that Frank is a snake?

After night-after-night (of special holidays) of sub-par bar business, they reversed this stupid policy. This did not affect the dining room business, but it increased the bar business.

Unfortunately for Frank, it took him out of the gravy-train waiter tip pool. I’m sure he did well, but not as well as us – which burns the hell out of him. Frank was bitter the whole night.

The penultimate moment came when Ciera had a Big Regular, Mario, on the patio who tipped her big, then also offered to buy her a bottle of wine on his tab. Well, she decided to have a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, on him.

So it’s the end of the night and we’re sitting down for what we call the ‘Sewing Circle.’ So-called because we gather to gossip about all the bullshit that went on in the restaurant during the night, generally about Frank and Carney. Frank asks Ciera what she wants for her ‘shifter?’ He expects her to ask for a simple glass of red wine. Instead, she tells Frank she’s having Veuve Clicquot. She gets it out of the refrigerator and shows it to Frank.

Of course, Frank wants to know what the F’ she thinks she’s doing? Frank is all about his control of the ‘shifters’ for the staff. If we want an import beer, he gives us a domestic. If we want a decent glass of Cab, he gives us the cheapest Merlot. The thing is, the owners, Carney and Harry, don’t care at all. It’s just Frank’s power trip.

So Ciera explains that Mario wanted to buy the staff a drink. She told Mario that we liked Champagne. Mario said, ‘Then get a bottle of good Champagne.’

Frank was incensed. But Mario was gone. The bottle had been paid for. And he wasn’t getting any of our tips.

As we commenced the Sewing Circle back in the dining room, Frank made a point to come out from behind his Sacred Bar to . . . well, it’s hard to say what he was doing besides spying on us, listening to what we were talking about. See, Frank makes it a point never to come out from behind his Sacred Bar when he needs us for anything, be it a new stack of dinner checks, a clean fork, a cup of coffee, a fresh napkin . . .

I hope you get the idea. If he needs something that requires effort, he’s too busy (and too important) to come out from behind his Sacred Bar. But if he wants to spy on us, suddenly it’s no problem to come back to see how many tables are left in the dining room.

During the Sewing Circle, Frank came back three times for various ‘reasons.’


We enjoyed it a lot. We counted out a lot of money, and made a point of hushing significantly and hiding the cash whenever he showed his face.


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