When Ben was a couple of months old, I went back to work as a waitress. I’d waited tables for years before, so I was eagerly hired at the new pizza place that opened up in town. In a sea of newbies, I was a Master of my Trade. Queen of the Kingdom.
The general manager of the restaurant was a guy I’ll call Phil (although, I am stating for the record, this was not his name) and he was a decent guy. For an over-worked underpaid restaurant GM, that’s a huge thing.
He’d show up on the weekends and despite occasionally trying to get us to unsuccessfully have team building meetings at 5PM when the dinner rush was beginning to discuss things like “selling more pizza,” and often telling a server who was so slammed that she was eyeball deep in the weeds to “smile more,” I always liked him. Probably because he called me “efficient” which is a label–unlike ’stupid bitch’ which I am called quite often–that I had never before heard.
Hokey and corny, yes, but Phil was a good guy. Which meant we’d often mock him behind his back–although, I must add, not unkindly–and try to do our best Phil impression. This often involved frowning a lot and bursting out conspiratorially with the often-heard “I think someone is stealing cheese,” and by far and away the best impersonator was one of the managers, a mexican dude named Cesar.
One Saturday night after close, Cesar, who was the night manager, pulled from the manager’s office this large cloth contraption. Mystified, we all grabbed our smokes and gathered ’round, our piles of tips left on the tables near the halfway rolled up basket of silverware. Cesar was laughing so hard that he was crying. Although this wasn’t uncommon as he was known for his excellent sense of humor, we all clamored to know what the hell was so fucking funny.
Once he’d caught his breath and wiped the tears, he turned around the cloth contraption he was holding. On the back it had been brown but on the front, it was red. With large circles of purple and dots of grey felt and slices of green felt. It took us a moment to realize what we were looking at, but we all saw it at the same time.
“Holy SHIT,” Amy–another server–yelled. “That’s a gigantic fucking pizza suit.”
And it was.
Phil had bought us, for no reason we could ascertain, a gigantic triangle-shaped pizza suit. I can swear to you, The Internet as my witness, that I have never, ever laughed so hard in my entire life. It was a typical Phil thing (it is killing me, I should add, to not tell you his real name not because it’s an exciting name, but because I can’t think outside the effing box) to do: pointless yet hilarious, hokey yet comedic, and one of those things that no one else would think was a good idea.
I mean, sure, I do sometimes see those poor fuckers, dressed up as a taco or a sandwich on the side of the road. We live far enough from stuff that driving from place to place is a necessity, so these people merely stand listlessly on the side of the road, wilting in the heat and freezing in the cold and choking on the exhaust of Escalades and Bentley’s. And I will tell you that I have never, ever, EVER stopped to eat somewhere because they had a person dressed as a chicken sadly standing at the side of the road.
If anything, I keep driving and pretend for both of our sakes that it never happened. I had not seen an actual humiliated person standing there, dressed as a large Chicago hot dog or a milk shake. Seemed healthier that way for all parties.
Anyway, there we were, a cluster of servers, bartenders and delivery drivers, staring slack jaw awash in awe of the possibilities that only a gigantic felt pizza suit would provide.
Rick, one of the delivery drivers, acted first. He swooped down, all 6 feet of him, and grabbed the pizza suit from Cesar and held it up to his burly chest before running into the bathroom with it. He emerged, several minutes later, as a slice of pizza. A HUMAN slice of pizza with his face sticking merrily out of the middle of the slice.
It was just too much. I nearly soiled myself.
Who the hell thinks that a human dressing up as food is anything other than a) humiliating or b) hilarious? Phil had, obviously, seen this as an amazing way to attract attention and perhaps increase profits tenfold, but his thinking was predictably flawed.
While a dancing slice of pizza was sure to attract attention–the same way an afro on a white man attracts attention: it was, of course, the wrong KIND of attention. And it was such a uniquely Phil way of doing things, just like standing in front of the single pop machine during the dinner rush to inform some server or another that they were using too many napkins.
Valid point, stupid timing. Could be the slogan for restaurant GM’s.
But for us, all of whom had been interrogated at one point or another about the Curious Incident Of The Cheese And The Nighttime, it was just that much more hysterical. I mean, really, a dancing PIZZA?
For the next several weeks, during the start of the dinner rush, well before the drivers were needed to shlep pizzas back and forth, the delivery drivers would take turns putting on the pizza suit and running through the dining room. I’m fairly certain that in this manner, many children were suitably traumatized. But it never failed to make us laugh: this a stupid, corny costume.
Once in awhile, Phil would convince one of the poor line cooks (poor as in the take-pity-on-him not in the broke-as-a-joke way.) during a slow lunch shift to go to the nearby road to wave at passing cars. As far as I know, it never attracted a soul into the restaurant to drop some bucks, but 50 million marketing geniuses (genuii?) can’t be wrong. Can they?
One Friday night after work, Rick and I were sitting and counting our tips and having our shift drink together, and I was grumbling and grousing about how he always made more bank than I did. Little did we know that the opportunity of a life-time was about to be hatched.
I don’t know who suggested it thanks, in no small part, to my tall Jack-n-diet-coke, I can’t full take credit for it so instead I will simply say that we mutually came up with a brilliant plan. The following Thursday night, when I was off work but while Rick was working, we would meet up at the restaurant so that I could help him deliver his pizzas.
Rick would, we decided, dress up in the pizza costume and deliver the pizza to our unsuspecting victims as a slice of pizza. Because short of throwing Rick into a thong, his bulge hanging out for all the world to see, I couldn’t think of anything weirder than getting a pizza delivered by a slice of pizza.
So that’s just what we did. With my friend from school, Arlene, manning the video camera, we–acting as normally as possible of course–drove Rick’s route that night. He’d ring the doorbell and hand the pizza to the victim while I would help make change. Just like this was the most normal situation. Just a random Thursday night delivering pizzas dressed as a slice of pizza lah-dee-dah.
Acting like this was nothing out of the ordinary was harder than it no doubt sounds.
Arlene took some footage that I am certain would rival The Blair Witch Project for most nauseating camera work on an independent film. I would pay a lot of money to see that footage now, but I haven’t seen Arlene since I graduated college and have no idea where to find her.
Shockingly, not a single person commented on this. Not one soul acted as though anything was out of the ordinary. It was as though we were being Punk’d while we were trying to Punk others.
In our efforts to behave as normally as possible, it seems that the houses we hit were full of people for whom this is an everyday occurrence. Maybe they are always served hot dogs by people dressed as gigantic wieners, Chicago-style. Maybe every ice cream cone is hand scooped by a walking, talking milkshake. In a world where a sandwich is always made by a sandwich, we were mere players; costumed pawns in this parade of nameless, faceless food mascots.
I would totally live in that world, you know. So long as I could make the rest of my family wear sausage costumes.
Just so I never have to wear the Santa costume again.