I was determined to work there. The place was swank. I could smell the under-the-table cash I’d make through tips and the endless heat and comfort they’d buy me. No more turning the oven on and leaving the door open. No more drying clothes item by item and huddling by the vent. I could buy a carton of eggs AND some cheese. Omelets, anyone? Yes! I was going to really do this.
‘How hard could it be to learn wine?’ I thought. ‘Idiots talk about wine for hours all the time.’
I had one friend who wasn’t so sure. He was a self-proclaimed wine snob and asserted that I didn’t have what it took to learn everything I needed to know by my interview. Determined to prove him wrong and still stick to the plan to do the minimum research necessary, I fired up Wikipedia.
My search? “Wine.”
Easy. A pages-long article appeared before me. I was convinced that after a close reading, I’d be able to lead a tour of the Napa Valley. The article encompassed the making of wine, the health benefits of wine, different wine from different regions, food pairings, a glossary of terms pertaining to wine…a veritable font of wine knowledge. I printed it. I annotated it. I read through it several times over. I memorized certain sections. All-in-all…a solid six hours of work. My friend, who had doubted me so strongly in the beginning and had taken a $300 wine course a year ago, quizzed me.
Let me tell ya, he ate his words. With my romantic life in the toilet, buying Dollar Store makeup and stealing rolls of toilet paper from the coffee shop down the street…that slight feeling of superiority was a huge coup.
I felt I was prepared for the interview. I was ready to bullshit my way into a glamorous career as a server at an upscale, downtown restaurant. When I walked into the restaurant, I was greeted by a pinched young woman wearing massive gold hoop earrings and entirely too much eyeliner. Slightly More Tanned Morticia gestured brusquely at two empty seats at the bar and we were off to the races.
The interview began in a standard fashion: “How did you hear about us?” “Why would you make a good server?” “How would you rate your knowledge of food and beverage service?” When we came to the last question, I swallowed and said, “About an 8.5. I really love, just love,…wine.”
Her nose twitched, and she smirked. “Well, myself and my boyfriend just took a trip to a vineyard in Naples. You know him, my boyfriend? He owns this place. Yes, me and my boyfriend just love wine. I know a lot about it. It’s a passion of mine.”
I nodded thoughtfully as I let that sink in. “So, are you seeing anyone right now?”
She turned a little red. Damn my snarky tongue! I’d have to bring this around somehow. I could see her doing the hot girl version of a bull pawing the ground waiting to savage a poor, clamoring rodeo clown. I braced. The barrage came. Questions about grape varietals, food pairings, bouquets and tannins. I held my own through them all. I could tell by her posture when it was time for the last question.
“Can you tell me what type of grape is used to make a Beaujolais?”
Ohhh man. This what it must feel like in Final Jeopardy when a contestant just knows. I paused for dramatic effect. I took a breath and smiled indulgently. “Well, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the Gamay grape, isn’t it?”
She was blown away. “Wow. I mean. Some of the senior staff here don’t even know that. Crazy. Well, I have to say, I’m impressed. And you’re very pretty.”
“Uh, thanks…That and 7 bucks will get me a glass of wine in this place, amIright?”
Anyway, I got the job. I worked there for about 3 months before moving on to something more…ahem…challenging. The tips weren’t that great, P.S. Turns out the rich businessmen are mostly gay and super stingy. And the straight ones usually eat with their wives. What a bunch. I got called “sweetheart” a lot. That was kind of flattering, mostly degrading.
The point is, you can fake anything (ladies). Some knowledge you need to acquire through intense periods of study and book-learnin’. Other kinds, it takes a Wikipedia article and a penchant for spinning a web of bullshit. Sure. Go ahead. Plan an expensive wine course in Italy. Be my guest! But don’t come back and expect me to be impressed. You just spent $6 grand on something that cost me a trip to an Internet cafe and a $2 composition book like Harriet the Spy used to have. From where I’m standing, you’ve been had.