3 Faking It
When I was 12 years old I had to ride the giant yellow school bus. I hated it. In Kansas, its either too hot or too cold to be outside, so no child should be subjected to the fate of the big yellow bus.
The only redeeming factor about riding the bus, was that two of the “cool girls.” who at least pretended to be my friends, rode on the same bus as me. The rides home were always filled with preteen gossip and giggles. Of the three of us, I was the only first-born child. And while being the first-born has its perks, it also has its drawbacks. For example, you don’t have older brothers and sisters terrorizing you, but you also don’t have them teaching you the “ways of the world.”
Sometimes you need an older sister (or brother if you’re a guy) to let you in on lingo and know-how that is entirely inappropriate for a parent to do. This fact slapped me in the face for the first time while riding in the back of the bus (which was reserved for cool people) on a Friday afternoon.
Since it was a Friday, we were all rowdy with excitement for a weekend sleepover, full of prank calls and tee-peeing houses. As we bounced along, one of the “cool” girls turned the conversation to a crush of mine. He was a year older, and a mile cooler than me, and the very mention of his name made my face flush. The cool girl, lets call her Bambi, reveled in my discomfort. While publicly she touted the fact that she was my “BFF,” privately she was as kniving as she was beautiful, a dangerous combination.
She started with the usual kissing rhyme about sitting in a tree. When laughter erupted at my expense, she continued with what I knew was an insult… and that was about it. “I bet you’d even give him a BLOW JOB if he asked!” she cackled. What the hell did that mean? I hadn’t the faintest. I knew it was sexual, but other than that, I was dumbfounded. Luckily, I was cunning enough to respond with the best-ever preteen come back, “Your Mom!” And the tide turned as the laughter erupted at her expense, or her mom’s, I’m not sure.
Flash forward to 21 years old. I have just started waiting tables at a hoity-toity steak house, where one meal costs more than I make in a week. I was completely under qualified and only scored the job because the general manager thought I had a nice smile. How’s that for credentials?
I figured out the food bit quick enough, but the wine list was literally 50 pages long…50 pages! This was at a time when I had a box of the pink stuff shoved in my dorm room’s mini-fridge and even that was a splurge. Being the little hustler that I was, I quickly learned that the more the customer spent on wine, the bigger my tip probably was going to be.
So I began to learn some of the go-to wines: Chatuau Montelena, Viader, Pine Ridge. Just when my confidence was building up, and I thought I had a grip on the wine list, I was hit with a completely unexpected demand.
It was a table of 5, and the head, showing off, loudly ordered an older vintage of Chateau Montelena. I was excited, because at the restaurant it cost about $250 (which meant an extra $40 tip). As I reached to lighten the wine list from my new guest’s load he laid it on me, “Can you please DECANT it?”
What? My mind raced back to the 12-year-old blow job comment from the bus… I had no clue what he was talking about. I couldn’t ask any fellow wait staff, because I would be found out for the fraud that I was if I asked such an obvious question. I even considered saying back to the customer, “Your Mom!” but I didn’t think that was the right answer this time.
So I did what any Wine Blonde would do. I faked it. I rushed over to the bartender who was lazily watching a basketball game on the flat screen in the empty bar. “Hey, um, can you decant a wine?” Curiously, he looked back, grabbed a huge glass thingy and slammed it in front of me. “No” he said, “but you can.”
The glass container made it obvious enough- the wine was supposed to go into it. “Okay, I can do this.” I rushed back to the customer with the glass fish-bowl looking thingy and his Chateaux Montelena. I set down the fish bowl, quickly opened the wine and began pouring it into the neck of the tube. “Ah-Um” He said. “Yes?” I replied. “Your SUPPOSED to let the wine run along the side of the glass to AERATE the wine.” “Of course, Sir.” I was sweating bullets as I finished the pour.
Once the bottle was empty, I had the Herculean task of pouring even pours out of the fish bowl into their glasses. I went around to each glass, delicately pouring between a taste and a glass’s worth of pour. In order to make amends for my stupidity, I doubled up on the guy who ordered the bottle, which he was totally fine with. They “Cheers’ed” and forgot my Wine Blonde moment, but from there out, I knew I better work on my wine smarts.
That night, when I returned to my dorm room, I poured myself a big red plastic cup full of the pink stuff, and Googled “Wine.” That single search was the beginning of my rabbit hole, and exoudous from complete Wine Blondum.