April 21, 2009 · 3 comments

John Waszilycsak is a good friend of mine.  That’s a link to his Facebook page.  He lives in Baltimore MD right now.

John and I are friends from “back in the day” when I was at law school down in DC.  I worked at a bar called Poli-Tiki with John.  He was the only person with whom I worked that had the same perfectionism in his work ethic that I did, so we naturally clashed at first and became fast friends shortly afterward.

That time in my life is a bit hazy.  Everything was very experientially intense and I wasn’t getting much sleep.  I was also over-indulging in various chemicals in a somewhat insane attempt to control my meat suit.  So putting exact dates on anything is kind of tough; please bear with me on that account, dear reader.

I had been working at the bar for a while – probably about a year – when I met John.  I was bartending in the basement (as usual) and John had just been hired as the new barback.  John started a few days before we met, and his reputation preceded him – no one had anything but shining accounts of his hard work and dedication.  As this was a bar we were working at, I naturally took those accolades with a grain of salt.  And as I had worked with many “hard working” barbacks before, I was also a pratictioner of the greek concept known as epoche – reservation of judgment.  Yeah, that’s a philosophy term – up yours.  I had to see for myself.

There’s a reason I put the words “hard working” in quotes here and above – most of the barbacks and people who “really knew what they were doing” were all show and no go.  John turned out to be the opposite.

Barbacking at this bar consisted mainly of collecting empty glasses from the tables and rails outside of the bar and bringing them up in racks (along with the racks from behind the bar) upstairs to the kitchen, washing them, and returning them to the bartender before he or she ran out of clean glasses.  Management was cheap and glasses broke frequently (it wasn’t a very upscale bar), so running out of clean glasses was a real problem. 

After working with crappy barbacks for a while, I eventually told them all to f*ck off and bussed and cleaned the glasses in the basement bar myself – the old-fashioned way: with the three sinks under the bar.  I had a very regimented system.  The counter on the left was where I put all the dirty glasses, and the one all the way to the right was “the cleanest part of my bar” – where the clean glasses dried off, face-down. 

On John’s first night, he made two mistakes:  (1) he put a dirty glass in the drying-area, and (2) he called me “Ace” while he was doing it.  Now, in John’s defense, (1) he was used to working with bartenders who expected him to do certain tasks and didn’t clean their own glasses, and (2) said bartenders tended to be of the “mostly show, little go” variety. 

Before I continue, please don’t misunderstand: I had some very excellent and hard-working co-workers in my time at Poli-Tiki.  I do not mean to cast undeserving aspersions on my fellow bartenders – Van and Willie Cunningham, Elizabeth Jones-Brown, Vince Tur-Rojas, and Melinda Beatty (nee Ragusa) are some of the most professional people with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work.  They taught me everything I know.

I asked John (fairly tersely) what he was doing when he put the dirty glass down on the cleanest surface of my bar, to which he replied something along the lines of “doing my job, Ace”.  I stopped mid-beer-pour and, in a curt fashion explained to John my glass-cleaning methodology and why I now had to re-clean the drying area because of his unknowing transgression.

I was not particularly nice in my explanation, and definitely talked down to John – albeit in a manner that was, on its face, a bit more respectful than his inflection on the word “Ace”.

To John’s credit, he understood immediately what I was saying, as well as the things that I was leaving unsaid.  He’s smart like that.  We quickly and wordlessly worked out a division of labor between us and everything progressed smoothly thereafter.

John and I worked together many times over the next few years and became good friends.  I still have pictures of us playing chess at my apartment.

When I left my wife and moved back to NJ in 2003, John and our friend Kaleb showed up on my parents’ doorstep a couple of weeks later just to see how I was doing.  Nobody else did that.  John and I lost touch over the next couple of years and finally reconnected this past August when I was on a work-related trip to Baltimore.  Not much had changed between us.  We quickly fell into our old banter – John trying to explain to me what point I was missing and me trying to explain to John why I wasn’t missing whatever point we were talking about.  To quote the title of one of Douglas Adams’ books, “Life, the Universe and Everything” is what John and I generally talk about.

John is one of the most forthright and genuine people I’ve ever met.  He doesn’t put on airs or attempt to be something or someone he’s not.  He’s not entirely transparent, but neither does he hide his feelings.  Like me, he’s extremely intelligent and that can sometimes impair his relations with people who don’t understand or appreciate this fact.  He’s a straight-talker and people sometimes take this the wrong way.  Where I usually go out of my way to explain why what I just said was in no way meant to insult, John simply doesn’t give a sh*t – sometimes he even revels in their misunderstanding.  Somewhere between lies a happy and truer medium.

John and I connected on Facebook right around the time that Katie set up my account for me.  He wasn’t hard to find.  I dig that I can spell Waszilycsak without having to think about it.  We’ve gone back and forth on Facebook a few times – writing on each other’s walls and things like that, but we don’t keep in touch to my satisfaction.

To that end, yesterday I friend-requested all of John’s 74 friends, telling them that I’m “kinda-sorta effing with him” because I don’t hear from him as much as I’d like.  So far, 26 of the 73 friend-requests I sent out have been accepted (we already had one friend, Jim Fordham, in common).  Of those 26, three have sent me messages approving of my effing, and a couple commented affirmatively on my status update that about an hour after I sent the requests, John and I had 17 friends in common.

Dear reader, if you and I are friends on Facebook, chances are you’ve at the very least exchanged an email or two with me and/or read this blog before.  You probably have some relatively positive concept of what kind of person I am.  Please take that positive concept and increase it by a couple of orders of magnitude when you think of John Waszilycsak.  Feel free to friend-request him, so that the two of us can have more Facebook friends in common.  If you’ve met John in real-life, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, please take my word for it: John Waszilycsak is a true friend.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ppaz April 21, 2009 at 01:43

It’s frustrating working with people who aren’t “perfectionists”… it has caused me problems before, so much so that I just make sure I have control over anything I need perfectly done.


Tomers April 21, 2009 at 15:27

I’ll go one step further ppaz: it’s frustrating working with 98% of people out there. Maybe more, but I’m going to be optimistic enough to think that I could have respect for the work ethic of 2% of the people out there.


Erin April 22, 2009 at 23:12

What is a meat suit? Is this to mean the human body?


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