My days of employ at Zemblanity are numbered. The road beckons once more, as does Europe for the first time, as does the hope of something better. “Dear Tanya,” I wrote in my notice, “March 30th will be my last day. It has been a surreal pleasure to work amongst a cast of such colorful characters. My experience of New York will forever be entwined with this magnificent old restaurant.”
I ripped out this sheet of paper and handed it to Tanya as she marched by to which she said, “Aw, a ripped sheet of paper? You know, you almost got it perfectly right.” This illustrated in sharp relief the sentiments opposite to those that I had expressed. Zemblanity is just a stupid, cruel, waste of a job that tears down character. It makes me practically giddy to think about throwing off the shackles of this place.
But then, just to complicate matters, Tanya came down from her office and put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I really liked your note.” And she smirked her tough guy smirk, nodded, and marched off. Of any of the characters I have briefly examined here, she is the most perplexing of all. One moment, she’s a terrifying, bloodthirsty valkyrie and at the next moment, she’s your buddy, she’s your pal. The lady is an enigma.
I rather wish that I could show her this blog, or anyone at work for that matter, although I know that I won’t. How strange it has been, walking around the workplace amongst my fellow employees and all the while with an undisclosed volume of observation scribbling itself behind my eyes. Perhaps everyone feels like this. Perhaps everyone has a vast, unread manuscript of thoughts tucked between their ribs… uninhabited and dusty palaces... unvisited libraries…
Actually, come to think of it, I have told one person that work with about this blog. His name is Mark and he was the receptionist when I first began. He left a month or two into my time at Zemblanity to go to work for the New School and now only fills in from time to time on the weekends. I figured that he would be safe to tell because he’s sort of an outsider at the restaurant and promised never to divulge the contents of these secret tracts.
Mark is a tall drink of water from the state of Alabama, complete with rolling southern drawl and a set of almost antiquated manners, all “yes ma’ams” and “y’alls.” Everyone loves him partly because he seems impervious to the spirit-tarnishing grind of working an unsatisfying job. Now that he only works part time, he’s doubly impervious. As he often likes to ask, “what are they going to do? Fire me?” Then he impersonates Michael Jackson, singing “woo!” and laughs. The dude makes himself laugh all the time.
There’s a sort of manic, attention-deficient glee with which he cartwheels through the workday. He seems to have no filter whatsoever and says whatever ludicrously stupid joke springs into his mind. Actually, part of the reason that he’s so hilarious to work with is that his jokes are so unfunny. He seems to take a bizarre sort of pride in allowing himself to shout out profoundly random non-sequitors. Here are some approximations:
“What if I had hooves instead of feet?”
[While speaking in a squeaky voice] “What if I talked like this?”
“Would it blow your mind if I just disappeared right now in front of you?”
[Under his breath to a rude customer] “Oh no you didn’t, you old pig face.”
“Gosh darn, I smell like a turd today, don’t I?”
“You know what I love? McDonald’s sweet tea. No lie.”
Once Mark told me a story about Mr. Charles coming in with a new cologne. He wanted Mark’s opinion and said, “Marcus, smell my neck. No, you can’t smell it from there. Come close and smell my neck Marcus.” MY GOD! How creepy is that? Mark and I got a few rounds of hearty laughter out of that one.
Last weekend, I told him that it wouldn’t surprise me if in a fit of weird hysteria, it popped into his head to burn the whole place down for a laugh. He thought this was pretty funny. His brand of wonky, delirious hysteria effects everyone who works with him. Last weekend, several times, I ended up laughing so hard that I had to step out in the hallway so as to not disturb any of the patrons. As far as I’ve seen, this ludicrous, unfiltered sense of humor is the best defense against an existentially hollow stretch of employment. It is a flailing, farting, discombobulating sort of rebellion. If your work makes no sense, it’s okay to make no sense.
At the end of the shift, I took him aside at said, “Okay Mark, you’ve got to check out this website of mine but you seriously can’t tell anybody. I mean no one. It’s a secret.”
Pre-Oscar Jeff Bridges, Lady Gaga, Kevin Pollack, Some America's Top Model and... Barbara Feldon, who played "99" on the old Get Smart. Every year, she and her best friend celebrate their birthdays at Zemblanity. They sit in Marilyn Monroe's old booth for over three hours and don't tip nearly enough to make up for it. "There's nothing we can do," says Miss Annette. "It's always the same every year. This is Zemblanity and it's the way things are."