ShoreBilly's Swill on ShoreBread

I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting for my annual report on Memorial Day Weekend shenanigans, but with the amount of hours I’m putting in for the holiday weekend I am forced to save my reflections for next week. Instead, I am treating you with some restaurant experiences I’ve been stewing over for some time now – a new piece that we shall lovingly call, Confessions of a Restaurant Guy. I plan on coming back to this line of thought from time to time; a tangent that will essentially consist of anecdotal stories spanning my 30-plus years in the restaurant world that I’ve either never shared with anyone, or with very few tough souls. As always, I wish I could say I was making this stuff up, but I’m not nearly that talented of a writer. So every story I share will be completely true to the best of my recollection. Let me start by saying I’m not particularly proud of any of these.

Don’t read too much into the title either…I didn’t develop a terminal illness or a conscience. I haven’t found God or entered a rehab program. I’m healthy and plan to live a long full life. I still question all and think for myself. And the only vices I have left are bacon, Girl Scout cookies, and the occasional vodka on the rocks, none of which are going to be eliminated from the curriculum any time soon. This essentially is nothing more than a compilation of things that have happened to me over the years that the statute of limitations has run out on.

So without further adieu, here is the first of many of these stories. Just for giggles, we’ll title this first story; “Passing the Yuck”.

It was a Monday in late fall somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The weather was miserable that day with heavy rain, high winds, and cold temperatures. Not quite freezing, but that damp autumn cold that we are all too familiar with here on the Eastern Shore. Given the day of the week, the time of year, and the conditions, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the Ocean City bar scene. I was working a double and I had sent home the only server who was on with me.

I had roughly a half a dozen of my daily regulars at the bar – you know the type of loyal customers who would not miss a day in those stools if Armageddon were upon us. To my surprise, the front door opened, and in walked two rain-soaked individuals, each holding smaller rain soaked bundles. It was two very dear friends of mine (both of whom were bartenders) and their 2 young children. I was actually thrilled to see them and glad they had battled the elements to come visit me. I set them up at a table with a high chair and a booster seat and handed them menus.

I let them get settled in as I retrieved their beverages. When I returned, we engaged in conversation and started catching up. Both of their kids were adorable and perpetually well-behaved from what I recall. I stood by the table chatting with them for quite awhile. Being restaurant folk, they could look around and see that I had no other tables and that everyone at the bar was content.

There came a point in the conversation when my ill advised Taco Bell run I had made for lunch that day started reminding me of its existence in the deepest abyss of my inner workings. I got a little nervous, and my eyes widened a bit. I adjusted my stance and was confident I could stave off the attack from within. My friend was in the middle of a lengthy and enjoyable story; otherwise I could have walked away and regrouped. Any other table I could easily have faked some reason to leave abruptly and maintained some semblance of dignity.

The seconds ticked by though they seemed like hours. I was standing there clenching like I was trying to crack open a walnut but it wasn’t helping. Eventually I came to grips with the fact that I could not vanquish my gaseous foe and started bracing for imminent doom. Like it or not, flatulence of Biblical proportions was about to become a part of our lives and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I prepared for the inevitable levee breeching the best I could and hoped for the best. Though I could see my buddy speaking to me I could no longer hear his voice. It had been drowned out by my own inner monologue repeating the phrase; “please be just a fart, please be just a fart. “

The release was slow and gradual and not even a dog at close range could have heard it. I had handled the situation like the seasoned air biscuit veteran that I was and emerged unscathed, or so I thought. Approximately 9 seconds later both parent’s noses wrinkled up and my friend looked at his own children and said; “which one of you was it?” Of course, both of these little cherubs vehemently denied it.  Which prompted Dad to say; “At least one of you is lying!” This was one of those moments in life when I had an opportunity to do the right thing. Needless to say I did not. I kicked those poor kids under the proverbial bus without hesitation and let them take the fall for my air polluting assault.

I started to feel pretty bad when I realized that they had failed to bring in the diaper bag and that one of the parents was going to have to run through the rain to the car and back. I finally had my out. I said; “I’ll give you guys a minute to take care of that”, and I excused myself from the table. What kind of grown man does that? This one apparently. Despite my guilt, I offered no confession and still considered this a victory.

The rain soaked Mom returned and changed both children surprised to find them both unsoiled. While this was happening, I was in the kitchen doubled over laughing hysterically like a pack of second grade boys who had just heard the word penis for the first time. The middle aged gent working in the kitchen looked at me and with a condescending tone and asked; “what did you do?” I told him the story between childish guffaws and his response was; “you should be ashamed of yourself!”

I responded with; “I know, I am, and I promise I will tell them the truth someday”. Well today is that day.

Thanks for playing along.

Until next week, Syd Nichols

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