Table 241 is arguably the best tabella della sala da pranzo in my workplace. Resting a half-foot from the door sash separating Indoors from Outdoors, it is elementally kissed, while simultaneously remaining shaded beneath the pizzeria eaves. Its air-conditioned indoor environs spare starved diners from this season’s unusually inexhaustible heat, too, since the hot air blowing from the direction of City Hall and the Business Loop has time to cool while passing over the Chicago River Channel. Finally, as an added bonus, the lucky soul in Position One at Table 241 has the unconscious advantage of sitting in a spot once occupied by a man who not only beckoned the world to Bring [their] Jukebox Money to the Love Shack, but who went with friends to the beach Armed with Matching Towels, only to find a Rock Lobster under the dock.
One impeccable May afternoon, in the waning hours of my Lunch Shift, a single, slight, spectacled man in a cotton button-down shirt was led to Table 241. Around him, empty seats breathed sighs of relief, resting after a bustling lunch service. I looked up from whatever my current occupation was that day, regarded my new guest while he assembled shopping bags on a nearby seat, then, taking note of his seat choice, marked his table number and position on a blank slip of paper.
Our hostess approached momentarily with her own slip of paper.
“He’s a friend of Paul’s,” she smiled, extending the memo to me.
Paul, another server, is among the many who welcomed me to my new job from the beginning. His sharp wit, ability to relate, and talent for storytelling were impressive from Day One; in fact, a story about meeting this particular friend to thrift shop in Wicker Park seemed an incredibly hip activity, considering the guest and my co-worker. I approached the table, remembering it.
Paul’s friend, Fred Schneider of the 35-year old punk/pop band the B-52’s, inquired as to whether Paul were available, following our initial Hellos. Although my negative answer seemed to disappoint him, it allowed us to focus on the lunch menu, a selection of hand-rolled pizzas, small plates, pasta, sandwiches on locally-made ciabatta, and antipasti. In the end, he went with myriad selections of small plates that were vegetal in character. He kindly requested a glass of sauvignon blanc to cool him as he waited for the plates’ arrival.
Which they did. One. By. One. Soon, the table was cloaked with his selections.
After waiting the obligatory two minutes to see if there was any other item I could bring to the table, I approached and inquired. Placing his right hand on a wafer-thin crostini that had been dragged through white bean spread, he leaned back and smiled, surprised by the question.
“Not unless you have another stomach somewhere in the back,” he commented, laughing.