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Before my life became a complete wasteland devoid of any semblance of normality, I actually had a (relatively) normal life. I had a wife, I had a job, I did things "for fun" (i.e. things other than drink my life away). One of the fun things I loved to do was make my wife laugh. Luckily, our move to Austria and in particular Vienna brought many events and people along with it upon which and whom I could make comments on to make my wife laugh.
So one day, this was early on before we had both gotten jobs, we were doing our usual tour of Viennese cafes. I was by then already on my third coffee (and by the way, we're talking Viennese coffee, not that mule piss they pass off at Starbucks) when a sly thought entered the highway that was currently housing the racing, caffeine-induced thoughts of my brain.
"You know what," I began, leaning over conspiratorially towards my wife, "I bet you that I can make one of these waiters laugh."
She snorted, rolled her eyes and, while leaning back in her chair nursing what had in the afternoon turned to tea (she was smarter than I was when it came to caffeine consumption) and replied, "Yeah right. I'll bet you $100 you don't get a laugh." (That was of course $100 out of our joint bank account).
"You're on!" I responded while scanning the cafe for our ever elusive waiter.
"But," she interjected, "it has to be a full on laugh, not a smile, not a smirk, not a grin, and not a snort. A laugh."
At this point an aside about Austrian, in particular Viennese waiters is in order so that you can see just how foolhardy and tall my task was. Viennese waiters have a certain aloofness to them; imagine what a poodle would be like if it could walk on two legs, make minimal small talk and carry a tray; that's a Viennese waiter, a poodle with a tray. In fact, you are lucky if you are met with mere aloofness and not outright hostility when you first accost a Viennese waiter; and lord help you if you decide to embellish on an order, you might as well jerk off in your own order right then and there.
The reason for this can, like all problems in the world, be blamed on socialism. The labor market in Austria is extremely tight which means that, once you hire someone, you're kind of stuck with them unless you have reasonable grounds (i.e. blatant (and repeat!) insubordination, sticks his dick in the butter, etc.) to fire them. This leads to ALL businesses hiring the bare minimum of employees necessary to run their concern. When you're a small boutique that's fine, as customers filter in and out throughout the day, but when you're a bustling coffee shop? Oh man. You have maybe 2 to 3 harried waiters running to and fro trying to meet the demands of an overwhelming number of customers. Remember these are poodles that know that it's really hard for you to fire them.
So there I was, tasked with making one of these harried, overworked, aloof, just-give-me-a-reason-to-stunt-on-you waiters to laugh. This required two things: (1) me actually getting our waiter's attention (no easy feat) and (2) taking up his valuable, already split between too many obligations, time to engage in small talk. Again, if this were an Applebee's waiter who practically sits down with you to discuss the latest Dave Matthews Band concert they were at last night for 20 minutes, and are pretty much paid to laugh at your dumb-ass time-wasting jokes, this would be a simple endeavour.
I finally managed to flag down our waiter and as he came strutting towards our table with a "he better had not be asking for another side of whipped cream" gait I felt a disconcerting knot in my stomach. Just as the waiter landed at our table I glanced to my left to find my wife in attentive repose still holding her warm mug of tea; ready, so to speak, for the fireworks to begin.
"Yes?" the poodle barked at me, not kindly, but not unkindly.
"Uh yes...uh um, uh, I had a question about the whipped cream."
The poodle tensed up.
"Did you actually whip this cow because it tastes decidedly un-whipped."
He stared at me for 5 uncomfortable seconds.
"I do not understand. Are you not satisfied with the whipped cream? Shall I bring you...more?" The last part was added with a menacing tone.
At this point my wife was chortling into her tea mug, amused by my reeling in a conversation that had gone drastically awry.
"Uh, um no. Uh. I was just wondering...does Starbucks have a good coffee?"
"HA!" he laughed! sure it was a pompous husk of what laughter should probably be, and sure it sounded like death probably sounds when he's laughing at children falling off of playground swings, but he had laughed!
I turned triumphantly to my wife who rolled her eyes in a "you technically won" manner, at which point I realised the waiter was not done with my absurd question.
"Dis Starbucks, it has ze vorst kaffee ju have ever tahsted. Why, it iz not even kaffee." Then he leaned in close to me in what was either a superbly threatening or superbly intimate manner and said, "here," and with this he stabbed his long pointer finger on our table, "is vhere ju get gut kaffee."
"Uh..." I stammered, "alright then, thank you!"
He smiled (I got a smile as well!) adjusted his tie, straightened up, made a smart turn and went back into the crowd of tables.
"I won!" I cried triumphantly to my wife.
"Oh please, that was a derisive laugh, almost as bad as a sympathy laugh, kiss my ass." my wife responded.
I miss those times.