Fully Committed

Apr 24

Hi, Sara:

As Reservations Clerk in Chief (How did I get this friggin’ job?),

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“One ringy dingy”

I am here to report that we will be back from Ocean Grove Sunday afternoon after all, so we could meet you for an early dinner.
How early do you want to make it? Five? Six?
I checked with Scarlatto, which is in the theatre district (where you’ll be) and which also happens to be where I left my hat the last time I was there (It’s a cute hat!) and the food is good, so. . .
Give me a time and I’ll make the reservation.
Love, Pat

So how did I get this friggin’ job? Why am I always writing e-mails like the one above? Why am I constantly looking up restaurants in Zagat, and plays in Time Out New York (before I cancelled my subscription because they started getting so weird)? What ever happened to spontaneity?  I guess that my question really is . . . Why me?

My life as a reservations clerk/social director began when I stopped working full time (and before I started writing this blog), and I supposedly had time for all that nonsense. Then too, I often took on the job because my husband is challenged about making plans (he’s a man), and someone had to do it . . .

Before I had all this alleged time, other people sometimes did take care of making the arrangements.  I was always grateful for this — and as we know, gratitude is the noblest emotion, on those rare occasions when we can actually summon it up. It’s wonderful to make no decisions, to just be told when and where to show up. Especially if it turns out well. Honestly, even if it doesn’t. But before I started doing this myself every time, all the time, I had no idea.

“Let’s Do Lunch!”
Take a recent venture in simply getting together with a few friends for a dinner at a hot restaurant. Quick! Which word in the previous sentence doesn’t belong. Right, it’s “simply.” As you probably have noticed, very few things in life are actually simple, and getting a reservation at ’Cesca is definitely not one of them.

The latest trend in happening restaurants: they don’t tell you that they are “fully committed” like they used to (so last year). What they do is offer you a choice of two times on whatever date you want: either 5PM or 10 PM. Wonderful. I love eating at teatime. And it’s so chic to dine at 10 — in Barcelona. I’m afraid that you have to Know Someone to get in at any civilized hour, let alone 8 on a Saturday night. (In your dreams.) Well, lucky for me (my name isn’t Fortunato for nothing), I do have one connection: my brother in the film business.

I don’t like to ask Ron for many of these favors, but I really wanted to get into ’Cesca, in my lifetime, and he said he’d try. So I gave him the date (which had taken three e-mails between the female half of the other couple and me to establish), but then I got a frantic message from her saying that the original date wasn’t good after all. Suppressing the urge to say forget it, let’s do lunch —at another restaurant, in another time zone —I rushed to call Ron, who luckily hadn’t gotten through to the guy at the restaurant because he doesn’t get in until 4 (Phew! it was 3:20). I decided to call the restaurant myself for the new date (which was three weeks away), and got the same 5/10 routine. And so Ron will make the call after all. Stay tuned.

I once read a book about wealthy women in the 50’s who spent most of their time shopping for — and then an almost equal amount of time returning — clothes, cosmetics and stuff for the house. Come to think of it, they must have also done a lot of making and breaking of reservations, but when I read the book I didn’t notice that because I had another career then, and it wasn’t Chief Reservations Clerk.

“On your knees, citizens of Broadway. A superwoman walks among you…
Then there’s Broadway. Where there’s a broken heart for every light, or every overpriced ticket, or something. One of those hearts is mine, and I’m not even an actress. Just one little example: I went through a lot of trouble to get tickets for Wonderful Town a while back, but it turned out to be the one night in recorded history when Donna Murphy wasn’t performing. (I am not always lucky.) We saw it anyway, but I wanted to see this superwoman person that Ben Brantley had raved about in the Times.  God knows, I am not one. So I asked a friend to include me when he got tickets. l gave him some dates, and he got tickets, so far so good, but it turned out to be on a Thursday when had I opera tickets. Whoops. So I exchanged the opera tickets for another night, and saw the show with Donna Murphy. She was sensational, I must admit, and the chemistry between her and her sister Eileen was go good that I left the theatre wishing that I too had a sister. Sigh. Maybe if I did, she could make reservations and get tickets for shows. Once in a while.

Anyway, then I realized  that the new opera tickets were for the very night that Kevin Kline was scheduled to appear at the National Arts Club in Talking About Shakespeare. You don’t understand: I am a member of the club, and this is the kind of event that makes a person feel really good about having paid her dues. Besides, I saw Kevin Kline in Henry IV, and I really like that man. But if I wanted to change the changed opera seats (I don’t even know if they’ll do that), I would have had to go back to Lincoln Center and attempt to pick another night that wouldn’t conflict with something else. Or, we could just miss the event at the National Arts. I didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, a Kline is a terrible thing to waste. On the other hand, I quit.

Take this job and . . . Oh, you know.
I think by now it’s clear that I am monumentally unsuited for this kind of work. If I were my boss, I’d fire me. In a New York minute, if I could reserve one. I am terrible with details, and this is all about the details. If I have to do this much longer, I will be fully committed.

All this doing and undoing makes me think of an exhibit I saw years ago at the beginning of the women’s movement. It showed a woman sitting at a vanity table endlessly putting on —and then taking off— her makeup. The woman next to me started to cry. Oh, the humanity! All that time used up in repetitious actions that leave you in the same place you started out in.

Although I do love the socializing, it gives me absolutely no sense of accomplishment to make the arrangements for dinner and/or a show. It’s just something I have to do. And yet, doing it well really is a big accomplishment. How I miss the office manager at my company who was actually good at this sort of thing. It’s almost enough to make me go out and get a real job. You picked up on the “almost,” right?

In the meantime, I have no sister, no office manager, or anyone else to foist my responsibilities on, and I don’t want to miss fun restaurants and good shows. It’s even harder lately because I’m trying to be thriftier, which means doing things like finding good prix fixe dinners and getting half-price tickets. So fun! Anyone for pizza and something on the nature channel. Travel arrangements? Let’s not even go there. Literally.

Usually, I wait until a restaurant is a little less hot, but I had the feeling that a girl could get really hungry waiting for ’Cesca to totally cool down. We eventually did get a reservation, which I made myself because the brother connection had moved on to another watering hole, but the table sucked. And yet, I soldier on. Another dinner, another show. Hey, maybe Kevin Kline wants to join me at the Club for lunch sometime. He could tell explain Henry IV to me and review what he said the night that I blew him off for Donna Murphy. Maybe he knows the owner of ‘Cesca. That would solve everything.

Meanwhile, does anyone out there want my job?
It pays nothing (literally), but the fringe benefits are terrific.


If making reservations is tough,  how about . . .
BUYING A BATHING SUIT!   Oh nooooo.

Watch for:
WITH A THONG IN MY HEART
Coming Saturday At A Blog Near You!

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