At the end of the meal, I got up to use the men's room. Unfortunately, it was occupied, so I waited in front of the door. I glanced at one of the tables across from me and saw an older woman, possibly in her seventies, beckoning me over. My mind raced: Who was this woman? Did I know her? A friend of my grandmother's? A friend of my mom's? She looked vaguely familiar, but all the older women on the Upper East Side look the same to me. They dress the same, they have the same hairdos. Think, Kaufmann, think! Who is she? I had only moments to come up with an answer before it became one of those embarrassing "Hi, you!" situations.
She beckoned again. Confused, I looked behind me to see if she was motioning to someone else. There was no one else. I pointed to myself. She mocked that motion with a funny look on her face and beckoned me over once more. Finally, I stepped forward, expecting to her to ask if I recognized her, she was a friend of so-and-so, whatever.
"Were you waiting for the bathroom?" she asked.
"Oh," she said. "I thought you were one of the waiters."
The waiters were all dressed in black shirts with red ties. I was wearing a blue shirt and no tie. More to the point, all the waiters are Asian.
People ask me for help in bookstores all the time. I've worked in retail for so long, especially book sales, that I must exude a vibe in stores that says I work here even when I don't. But this is the first time I've ever been mistaken for a waiter. Or Asian.