To Listen Or Not To Listen

Many words are spoken. I hear what is said. I don’t hear what I don’t want to hear…


I looked at her treasures; crumbled dollarbills, a hairbrush, more money. A tiny piece of clothing maybe a g-string, she draped over the breadbasket. Lipstick, condoms, eyeliner, tweezers, a small pocket knife, a toothbrush littered the table cloth while she chased a set of silver ben-wa-balls on the roll between their plates.

Restaurant business has become a part of my life. Most evenings and nights I spend at the workplace including those long weekends and the holidays. I like it this way.

True there was a time when I wished I had the same hours as everybody else, but I got used to the typical restaurant hours, and today I don’t want to be off on holidays and busy weekends. I listen to my gut feeling which says: “When it’s busy work and make money and when it’s quiet go and enjoy your time off.”
My handwriting is so bad that the chef is using it as an excuse for his own mistakes – French chef’s seldom make mistakes. German waiters always make mistakes. I don’t listen to his complaining. The hanging out at night in the comfortable atmosphere of a restaurant is much like long distance travel.

I get to meet a lot of different people from all over the world. The variety of dialects and languages spoken by the customers matches and often beats the multiracial employees’ mixture. Many words are spoken. I hear what is said and I don’t hear what I don’t want to hear. At some of my tables I spend more time than at others. I spend very little time tuning into any of my guests’ conversations. Eavesdropping is not my forte. I block the things out which I don’t want to hear and solely concentrate on my orders and sales. Still I get to hear what the hospital supervisors are talking about. I have had already many tables of them over the past three days. They are in town for a convention.

I pour wine at another table. Here doctors are talking about some new cures and old overpriced equipment. I go on to the next table. At a table of lawyers I pour more water. They change the subject as they notice me approaching, these attorneys they don’t trust anybody. They might have good reasons for it. Nevertheless after a number of drinks they too, get careless in their conversations.
I have plenty to do. There are better and more important things than to listen what my customers’ talk about. As I make an order of steak tartar for this one couple, and pour more wine for both, I cannot help it but become a witness to their conversation. My guess is that she is a new sales associate in his real estate sales office. I know him. He tells her how he had started out. I have to bite my tongue not to start laughing. He brags about how he had to turn every rock over for new listings. He exaggerates greatly his efforts and how good he felt about his first earned commission check. I keep a straight face. I do however know his parents well. They made all their money in the late seventies.

His father had built the company which allows him, the son, a playboyish lifestyle, to buy fast cars and to spend money like its going out of style on his various dates. I know but I don’t say what I know. He does not know how good I know his parents. For him I am just one of those waiters, these guys who for a tip bring you food and wine and whatever you can pay for.
Tonight’s choice of company actually impresses me. This young lady she is not only cute, but seams to be smart too. She is certainly well mannered. I do admit this lady strikes me as the best from all of the women, I have seen him with, in more than three years. This fellow’s preferred ever-changing female company has so far been limited to one kind of dates. They all had in common skimpy outfits, trying to look their best and sexual most attractive, yet none was too familiar with table manners.

Usually these females were from out of town. I remember them mentioning being at home in Reno, the Bay Area and Sacramento when I asked if they were visiting in town. This fellow tries to impress these ladies by showing off his wining and dining knowledge. One of his bimbos I shall never forget. She used the most awful foul language and he seemed to love every four-letter word in it. She asked me to help her looking for her earrings which she had lost. She sat on the big golden hoop-ear-rings. But first I recall being speechless, not only about her vocabulary. I remember I looked in the flowers right behind her, before checking under her chair, the table, as she emptied her purse carelessly on the tabletop. She pointed each item out to me, like I needed to know. He was laughing while I looked at her treasures. Crumbled dollarbills, a hairbrush, more money, a tiny piece of clothing maybe a g-string, she draped over the breadbasket. Lipstick, condoms, eyeliner, tweezers, a small pocket knife, a toothbrush littered the table cloth while she chased a set of silver ben-wa-balls on the roll between their plates. She had to get up to do so and I spotted her precious earrings on her chair. She had been sitting on them. She was cracking up about my eyes getting bigger inventorying her possessions and trying to remove her bunch of keys from the butterdish.
Another of his dates was a gregarious Asian lady, braless in a see-through blouse. She was pretty. Her small breast featured dollar size aureoles. However she was all business when he mentioned “generosity.” I overheard him offering four C-notes to her, provided she was going to stay with him for the whole weekend. She asked him to double up and I am not sure, yet I think I heard him agreeing.

I am back at the hospital supervisor’s table who argue about a certain supply company which has been selling outdated equipment at ridiculous prices. I hear opinions ranging from suing the company to replacing the equipment with modern technology from a new formed company. This new company is by far better than any competitor, but they are new and need all the business they can get. I try not to listen. By hearing the same company’s name several times, I get the feelings that there are many hospital supervisors, who agree that this one company is no good. They do think another outfit is much better. I also realize that it is a company in which I have bought some stocks over the years. I bring the check to the love birds at the fireplace. I try not to listen to the couples love talk, but grin hearing her saying “Oh thank you! That’s so sweet of you.” He gets a kiss from her. “You really want to give me these your two listings . . . , . . . you are so nice to me!”
The next time I am at their table I hear her modest “Maybe it’s not such a good idea?” “I have never done such ever before!” He is holding her hands in his. “You are right, but why wouldn’t you want to stay with me tonight?” I watch her objections melting away, “Okay, but you promise . . . ”
I don’t listen to the rest. I run his credit card and bring the folder back for his signature. At the end of the night I count my tips. It was an okay night and I go home. I sleep good and in the morning I call my stock broker and ask him to sell the stocks in question. Yet also, to buy for the same amount stocks of the underrated competitor. He thinks it is too much of a gamble, but does what I say.
A week later when I talk to him again, he asks me “How come, you dumped the, now near worthless, shares when you did?” I answer “It was just a hunch!” By now I have read in the newspaper about lawsuits which had been filed against this certain hospital supply company.

by helmut schonwalder