Waiter, Please!


A Saturday with Robert Benchley


You know, ‘tis time to quit the bar, old man. The room is spinning. Signal the waiter for the last round. Now, here I am with my good friend Frankie Putskin... but has he gone, or was I here alone? Drinks, please. Here’s the waiter now, and I cannot make him out from a walrus in a polka-dot slip. And, boy! Am I polished or not? I hear bells . . . oh, right, that article is due in two hours,  and what do you know, I haven’t begun. The publisher knows where I live and carries a gun. Waiter, please! Now, if you would add that on the tab of  F– N—, care of the New York Post!


Taking the A train at lunchtime in New York often changes one’s good intentions to bad. The man sitting next to me has been served a ten course meal, and I wait and wait. I am salivating. Here comes the waiter now, with a scowl on his face (for I have only been flailing my arms and calling “waiter, waiter, waiter!” for a quarter of an hour), takes one whiff of my breath and sees how drunk I am - or was - or where am I?


Being turned out of the A train in New York (for I assume that is how I came to be lying in the alley clutching a bottle of hobo wine, and feeling naked - but, alas, I am naked! Dear heavens! - and feeling cold and slipshod, a stranded old writer man with no coat and no pants, with a deadline at any which time, for I seem to have lost my watch) is not for this old boy.


Quite unheard of in the annals of history has it come to pass that a man of belles lettres has found himself, naked, walking in an alley in a direction he thinks is towards home, clutching a bottle of hobo wine, when who is it that he sees approaching the other way but the clergy!


“How d’you do, Robert,” says Father so-and-so, without so much as raising an eyebrow. “Why, how d’you do, Father,” - but has the devil gotten hold of my tongue? - “and very well but do y’spose you could spare me that robe?”


I find that now I am walking with a great deal more spring to my step. Spring is about here, and hay fever is no more. I am warmer now, and the day seems full of promise. “Boys and girls, do your homework and your chores on time!” says Father Bob to some passing children. And, hark! I believe I know how that article shall begin—


So late in life it is and I have just learned the value of a father and a robe on a Saturday afternoon. The kind of father that wears a robe, that is . . .