“and I guess I will protect myself from you.”

i’ve made a few embarrassing admissions on this website over the past few years.  this definitely won’t be the most embarrassing, but here it is: i watch standoff.  for those of you who don’t know about it (and you are probably numerous), it’s a show on fox about hostage negotiation.  initially i watched it because ron livingston’s in it, and office space is one of my favorite movies.  every time i see ron livingston, i picture him saying “say hello to LUMBERGH for me!” and i laugh and laugh.

i was also intrigued by standoff‘s lack of a tired will-they-or-won’t-they subplot.  in the first two minutes of the first episode, it’s revealed that ron livingston and his FBI partner are already dating, so i was curious as to how the show would handle that.  not very well, it turns out; standoff is mostly just a bland procedural show that happens to feature ron livingston.  in addition to the two leads, there are also four supporting characters who have nothing to do except yell orders, look things up on the internet, and try to see if they can get a clean shot at the hostage taker.  each episode is pretty much the same.

but i keep on watching standoff, and i figured out why.  it’s because i like to see people stand up for each other.  in the cheesy hostage situations, if someone threatens ron livingston’s girlfriend, he comes to her defense.

when i had this epiphany, i was immediately ashamed.  an independent, 21st-century woman such as myself should not find it romantic to see ron livingston take up for his partner in a crisis.  women can defend themselves!  they don’t need other people to do it for them.  but i can’t help it.

a story:

when i was 20 i was a waitress at a restaurant in a suburb of houston.  this was back when i really liked being a waitress, when i didn’t dread going to work every day, when waiting tables didn’t make me hate people.  the restaurant where i worked was a small one, run by a man named harris, who had never owned a restaurant before.  he had eight employees total, including cooks, waiters, bartenders, and a dishwasher/busser.  in our battle to make money amid the more popular suburban restaurant chains (a battle we lost eventually), we were like a little family.  at the time i was also dating jake, one of the regular customers.

one night i was working the cocktail tables around the bar area.  that was my favorite section; the customers were friendlier and more accommodating of my rookie mistakes, and there was a lot of money to be made.  on this particular night, one of my cocktail tables was occupied by a group of men that had just been out hunting.  they were sweaty and mosquito-bitten in their camouflage jumpsuits, there was a dead deer in the bed of their pickup truck, and they were drinking tequila.  a lot of tequila.

round after round of shots i served them, per harris’s instruction.  our restaurant was failing, we all knew, and any money we could bring in was good money as far as harris was concerned.  at one point i went to the table to deliver some drinks, and one of the hunters said, “hey, i want to show you a magic trick.”

i was immediately suspicious.  “what is it?” i said, as i put the drinks on the table.

“okay.  i’m going to hold my hand out like this, okay?” he said, extending his arm with his palm facing the man seated across from him.  “see my hand?”

“yes…” i said.

“now i want you to keep watching my hand, don’t take your eyes off my hand, okay?  and i want you to turn your head and kiss me on the cheek.”

“no,” i said, and walked away.  even if i’d been willing to kiss him on the cheek, i knew his intent would have been to turn his head towards me when i wasn’t looking so i’d end up kissing him on the lips.  it would not have been magical.

i avoided their table for as long as i could, but when their drinks were empty, harris told me to ask if they wanted more.  when i approached them, i stood as far away from the table as i could and said, “how about another round?”

“how bout my dick in your mouth?” one of them said.

after he said it out loud i could hear him saying it over and over again inside my head, how bout my how bout my how bout how, with the most offensive part removed, as though my brain was trying to protect me from it.  everyone was laughing.  i turned and ran.

i found harris in the kitchen, clutching his customary cigar and cognac.  “i’ll put someone else on the table,” he said, after i told him what happened.

“what?  you’re not going to kick them out?”

“alison, i can’t.  they’re good customers, and we need their money.”

furious, i stormed back out into the restaurant.  jake was sitting by himself at the bar, and i told him what had just happened.

“gee, that sucks,” he said.

i don’t like to date angry guys, guys that start fights at the drop of a hat, guys that challenge people with a “what are you looking at?”  on the whole i find that sort of behavior pointless and juvenile.  but in that situation i wanted jake to be as angry as i was.  i didn’t want him to take action, but i wanted him to get mad, if not at the hunters for saying what they did, then at least at harris for not kicking them out.

but all he said was, “gee, that sucks.”

while watching standoff the other day, i tried to think of a time in which someone has come to my defense.  other than the nice half of the commenters on this website taking up for me against the not-so-nice half, i could only think of one instance:

four years ago, my grandparents and my parents and i were all at my aunt’s house for christmas.  my grandmother asked me if i was still dating the same guy i was with the last time she saw me.  “no,” i said, “i’m seeing a different guy now.”

“i don’t like to hear about you dating so many boys,” she said.

“but if she doesn’t date different guys,” my dad said, “how’s she ever going to find one she wants to be with?”

it was the perfect thing to say, much better than anything i’d have come up with on my own.  my dad had come to my defense, he’d done it peaceably, and he’d done it with reason, something with which my grandmother could never argue.

i once dated a guy who never stood up for me.  he treated my feelings as an inconvenience, he defended other people when they were blatantly rude to me, and when i said something he didn’t approve of, he acted as though he didn’t know me.  in elementary school when the other kids bullied me, the teacher told me to suck it up and deal with it.  maybe this is why i romanticize the idea of people standing up for one another.  most of the time, i’ve had to defend myself.

solamente una mesera

if i still enjoyed waiting tables, i would totally want to marry this guy.  he knows what he’s talking about:

So who does the cooking? Mostly guys like Ernesto. Hardworking faceless guys from places like Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico. You were expecting a bunch of Italians singing opera flinging pasta? Wrong. You hear mariachi music and guys cursing in Spanish.

But this doesnít jibe with most peopleís fantasy of how a restaurant kitchen works. They imagine someone like Emeril or Mario Battalia waxing ecstatically about herbs and oils, engaging in something close to foreplay as they lovingly prepare your entrÈe.

So sorry. Itís a Mexican guy earning a paycheck, watching the clock praying for his shift to end as he sweats in front of a blast furnace cooking your food. In every restaurant in this great land of ours, whether it’s French, Thai, Chinese, or even Indian, itís Se Habla Espanol.

Yuppies raised on a steady diet of Food Network bullshit want an opera singing food personality to reinforce their Williams Sonoma Catalog ideal of how the world should be. When it runs smack dab against the harsh world of restaurant economics and immigration it creates what my old sociology professor called ‘dissonance.'”

he never told me what he wanted to drink

i put the menu and wine list on a patio table and he sat down and thanked me and i started to walk away.  “oh, hey, do you want something to drink?” i said, spinning around to face him, but when i spun around i slipped and my foot folded in half and i heard something pop.  i grabbed onto the patio cart to keep myself from falling.

“hey are you okay?” he said, looking up from the menu.  i didn’t move and it hurt so i said i guess i’m not okay and he helped me inside.  i couldn’t walk.  they took off my shoe and put ice and heat on my foot and i was crying.

and then i was sitting at a table by myself waiting for my dad to come get me.  everyone else rushed back and forth holding drinks and food and empty plates, waiting on the tables i was supposed to be waiting on.  martha gave me some napkins so i could blow my nose and wipe my eyes.  you were standing nearby.  “hey,” i said, “i’m sorry about the dog water.”

“it’s okay,” you said.  i looked down at my foot.  it was red, and it hurt under the ice.

we went to the doctor’s office, and my dad got me a wheelchair and pushed me into the waiting room.  while we waited i tried wheeling myself around.  it didn’t work.  “i don’t know how to do this,” i said.

“sure you do,” my dad said.  “you took physics.”

“i was good at physics,” i said, turning the wheelchair in an awkward circle.

the lady that x-rayed my foot asked me if there was any possibility that i was pregnant.  “no,” i said.  then i asked her how they would x-ray a really fat guy.  she said their machine wasn’t new or strong enough to x-ray a really fat guy.  they’d have to send him somewhere else.

so my foot probably isn’t broken, they say, but i’m supposed to stay off of it for a week.  i’m on crutches.  if i want to make something to eat i can do it myself, but if i want to actually eat it i have to do it standing up at the kitchen counter, or else someone has to bring it to me.  i live by myself and i make a living bringing people food.  i don’t like needing people to bring me food.  i don’t like needing people.

when my dad came to pick me up from the restaurant you had to help me out to the car.  i was gripping my dad’s arm on one side of me and holding your hand on the other, hopping on one foot in between, and the whole time i was thinking about how disappointing it was that your hand felt exactly the same as it always did.  i was hoping it would feel like dust.