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VIEWS FROM BEHIND THE PODIUM

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

By Chelsea Young 

For over a year now, I have worked as a hostess at an upscale, trendy sushi restaurant in Manhattan. I spend most of my time behind the podium, putting a much-needed wall between me and the guests. Although the podium succeeds at preventing guests from snatching my ipad every time I say, “Your table is paid, we’re just waiting for them to get up!” it does not protect me from the people, personas, and personalities that give me a peep show into the lives of the rich, famous, and fabulous. 

The Wife Who Won’t Be Pleased

First up is the wife who feels entitled to the best table everywhere she goes, which means that she will drag her husband around the restaurant. Meanwhile, she gives a lengthy explanation to the host about how each table she is shown is unacceptable. 

“No I can’t sit here; there’s no proper back cushion.”

“This is too close to the next table!”

“Oh, I can’t sit all the way back here. We need a table in the center.”

Her husband’s face alternates between shooting daggers of annoyance at his wife, random apologetic looks directed at the host, and displaying an overwhelming urge to sit down anywhere that will serve him food. 

The Hugh Hefner Wannabe 

This customer is an older gentleman with slicked-back hair, a watch that costs more than a college education, and just one-too-many buttons undone on his silk button down. His grey chest hair peeks out just a bit, catching the eyes of strangers and inspiring a few seconds of extreme discomfort. Wannabe Hugh doesn’t notice; however, he is busy looking for his date for the night, aka, any woman who could be mistaken for his daughter.

The Manager’s “BFF”

These are the people who have been into the restaurant maybe three or four times and consider themselves regulars, in need of special treatment. They bluster up to the podium, explaining that they don’t have a reservation, but that they know the manager and would like a table for 2, 4, or maybe 6, as soon as possible. Once the manager has come to greet their self-proclaimed best friend, they will feign remembrance: “Oh… hey man… what’s up? How have you been?”, and do their best to fit them in where they can. Once seated, this “regular” will return to the podium, complaining about their table. After a 5-7 minute discussion with the host and manager, the regular will agree to take the table they were so kindly offered in the first place. 

The Day Ones

Now, the real regulars, the people that have been coming in twice-a-week for the past ten years, they are a hit or a miss. These can range from NYC couples that have lived here since the Meatpacking District was all drugs and abandoned factories to wealthy millennials, eager to spend some of the money they earned from sending emails all day.

There are certainly courteous regulars, whose reservations don’t need a “Warning: Major Pain” note attached to them. They have the decency to actually make a reservation, come in on time, be friendly to the staff, and leave tips that supersede the price of their meal. However, most regulars follow a similar pattern of showing up an hour late to reservations (if they even have one), walking in as if they are partial owners, and expecting the whole staff to drop everything and sing karaoke to Be Our Guest as animated chairs escort them to the best table in the house. 

The Desperate Housewives

This party is comprised of older women who only come on weekdays because weekends would be way too much of a scene for them. There may be two of them one time, and eight of them another, but the purpose of the night will always be to catch up on everything that has happened since their last roundup. Because this is one of the few nights they have to see each other, they will sit there the entire night catching up, even if that means they paid two hours ago and their glass of wine has less than a sip left. When they do decide to leave, it will be because they got tired of the host, busser, server, and bartender shooting them subtle daggers to let them know they are the only table left. 

The Rich Kids

At this table, you can find the real-life version of the Gossip Girl cast. The guys are wearing plain t-shirts that cost $150, machete-hacked pants for $500, and $700 dollar Gucci shoes. The girls are dressed like Kylie Jenner Bratz Dolls. Although there are eight of them, the maître d’ has put them at a table meant for six, knowing they could not tell the difference, or care enough to. What they do care about is having enough arm room to hit their juuls, which is why you can glimpse bowed heads attempting to cover the smoke leaving their mouths. At the end of their dinner, one girl or guy, usually the birthday girl, will throw down Daddy’s card to pay for everyone’s meal. 

The Tailgaters 

A group of men, all white and seemingly well-off, arrive one by one. Each new entry elicits a resounding “OHHHH” from their corner of comrades, along with lots of back-slaps and the repeated question: “You want a beer?” Although typically very nice, these guys believe they invented comedy, so when one of them makes a (not-funny) joke to the server, he will look back at the table for the validation from his friends: he is, indeed, a comical genius. They never stay too late, as they most likely have wives and kids to return to, but there are plenty of high fives and bro-hugs for them to hold onto until their next comedy show. 

The NYC “Bachelors”

These men never make reservations for earlier than 9 PM, and when they do, they will remain long after the 10 PM and 11 PM reservations have come and gone. Kids? Eh, maybe. Wives? Let’s hope not, since half of their meal is spent eyeing girls as they travel to and from the bathroom. They tend to order hard liquor instead of beer, and they constantly have a drink in-hand, which is why they may forget that after the bill is paid, guests typically get up and leave, not hang around and ask for another drink. They usually aren’t too picky about where they sit, but they will flag down everyone except their server to ask for another drink, shot, fork, etc. During all of this, they will take a smoke break any chance they get, making the waiter fear they left without paying, and leaving  the ice under the sushi to melt and the steam from the steak to sizzle away. 

The Real Housewives of New York

This group is all Louboutin’s and Valentino, sporting a mix of botox and facelifts. Their age is ambiguous , as living in a city with an abundant income has allowed them to avoid the sweater sets of middle age and keep rocking their high heels and skinny jeans. They tend to show up one by one, with the first person arriving at 8:20 for an 8 P.M. reservation. The woman who made the reservation will start asking for the table the second she arrives. Her tone will suggest she has been waiting for an hour, but in reality, she is thirty minutes late and her whole party has yet to arrive. Once seated, they will question the server about every item on the menu before ordering.

“Can I get all the sauce on the side?”

“Do you guys have a menu for the calories of every item?”

Once they are done poking and staring at their food and ordering a dessert no one will eat, they will sit and drink back-to-back martinis until the end of the night. Cheers to being fabulous!

Chelsea Young is a staff writer at HoneySuckle Magazine and alumna of Pace University NYC where she studied Communications, Journalism, and African American Studies. 

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