Mike Buzzelli

Column Mike Buzzelli

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and published author. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant, Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine, and an active board member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the Carnegie Arts Initiative and the Carnegie Screenwriters. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

Humiliation, not clothes, makes the man

May 9, 2014

We all make a few of our own rules in life. I have a list. We can’t name all of the various rules here. But I did want to share Number 17. Seventeen states, “Don’t wear shorts in a restaurant if they have linen tablecloths.”

You can wear shorts in a restaurant if they have plastic tablecloths or no covering. Of course, there is a caveat for plasticware. That way, if someone throws a bed sheet over a picnic table, I can exercise an exemption. Obviously, if there is a spork present, shorts are acceptable.

Several years ago, I was working the early evening shift for a production company in Los Angeles. They made all sorts of reality shows. Most of the shows were about people’s personal tragedies, but with better music and cooler graphics.

Since I didn’t have to go to work until 2, I met a friend for lunch on a random Tuesday. We decided to go to Great Greek, a restaurant in the Valley, just on the other side of the Hollywood sign.

My friend Henry had the day off. He showed up in baggy cut-offs.

We also over-ordered. Normally, Henry and I used to share the vegetarian platter (it was meant for two people). The platter came with a variety of items, but only two stuffed grape leaves, meaning we each got only one. I wanted two grape leaves.

It was 11:30 a.m. and the restaurant was mostly empty. While we were sitting there, the president of the production company walked in with a posse of his employees, i.e. my co-workers.

I was mortified. El Presidente was in a suit and tie. I was wearing jeans and a green T-shirt with Kokopelli characters dancing in a sacred circle (my short-lived hippie phase). It was Henry’s day off and he was wearing the aforementioned shorts. I got embarrassed for both of us. Henry thought it was hilarious I was so concerned about the co-workers at the other table, but he didn’t work there.

On top of that, the president, Gary, was a fitness nut. One Christmas, in lieu of a bonus, he gave us all three free hours in a local gym (where they proceeded to talk us into joining). He was health-conscious; I never said he was generous.

I was additionally mortified because Gary watched as two large platters came to our table. More food than the five of them had on their whole table. I could feel him sitting back there judging me. It was the most uncomfortable meal I ever had. Except it was delicious, especially the stuffed grape leaves.

I’d like to tell you that I never over-ordered ever again. That’s a lie. I’d like to tell you that I believe that how someone else dresses in my company in no way reflects anything about me. Unfortunately, if it’s true, I’m not “there” yet.

I want to be one of those people who could go out to dinner with someone in clown pants, giant shoes and a bulbous red nose and think nothing of it. I’m ashamed to say I still care what other people think of me. I know, in my heart, that we could probably all benefit from caring a little less about what other people think, but I’m still wearing long pants to nice restaurants.



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