Busted With Green Phlegm On Black Pants

The First Essential Scary Truth

In some circles I’m known as the Zola, in others as Aleek or A-lex and then there is the small but influential circle in which I am known as the Booger Boy.  No, this nom de plume doesn’t date from 3rd Grade, it dates from December of 2007 while I was behind the bar at a Gramercy steakhouse and up for a high profile column at a women’s media outlet.

The possibility of attractive young editor’s with sex on their minds coming in to check me never occurred to me, although it should have.  The bar was crowded.  The two other bartenders and I were running over each other trying to turn and burn with efficiency.  There should have been four behind the wood but an Upper Respiratory Infection had knocked out most of the bar staff.  Although sick myself, I elected to work that fateful night.  The inevitable occurred when the Mucinex finally took hold an hour into the gig: I hacked up a large green piece of my lung – right into my hand.  At this point my options were to wash my hand immediately, find a napkin or use my black Levi’s Docker’s.  I, of course, chose the latter and kept on serving drinks, getting to a hand sink some ten minutes later.  After all, infection loves company.

The next day, I got a screaming voicemail from Susan Crain Bakos calling me on the carpet.  “We are having lunch and you are buying again,” she said sternly.  The message left no clue just how badly I had screwed up this time.  Once at Blue Smoke, I looked over the crowd trying to find her read hair through the lunch suits when I heard Susan say “I saved your lazy ass a seat over here Booger boy.”  That was my clue that this brunch was going to be like a Seder: different from all others.

Once seated, Susan filled me in on the disgusting details of my horking of the phlegm.  It turns out she got a call early in the morning from her pal Joe, well connected in the media world, who had already heard about my social gaffe and couldn’t resist the laugh.  Instead of seeing the natural humor in my actions, I decided to run straight into Kubler-Ross rule number one: denial.  I blamed the restaurant for making me work sick, my work ethic or greed whichever you prefer and the damn bartender I was covering for.  I even went so far as to goof on the three women who were so sickened they left right after I wiped my hands on my pants.

“Alex, why didn’t you just swallow it, like anyone else would do in that situation,” she asked. 

“Come on Suze, you know straight boys don’t swallow,” I shrugged.

“You are disgusting,” she said, passing the soggy cheese fries.

Of course she was right but who wants to admit they were actually caught doing what I did?  The whole thing would have been easier to explain away if I had been caught picking my nose.  And with Susan continually berating me and demanding I man up to my grossness, I finally felt the shame I suspect every 8- year-old feels when their teachers/parents/friends let them know what they have done.  Fantastic, it’s over with, move on.

Then, three weeks later, an inside media newsletter that people pay hundreds of dollars a year to subscribe to, ran a blind item on the ‘Boogie Woogie Booger Boy.’  In retrospect, I understand just how Nixon felt. 

Later that night, at a local bar, I ran into my neighborhood pal Jimmy Fallon.  He wondered why I seemed so down and I told him about my issue.  Except, I omitted certain key facts, like wiping my green phlegm all over my black cotton pants.  When I told him I wiped my nose on my sleeve he was supportive and changed the conversation to Radiohead’s new CD.

When I realized the disgusting moment I was so dreading could be so easily erased, I omitted the green on black all the time.  The thing about not manning up to the issue right away was the anxiety it created.  And frankly, now I wonder why I even avoided it in the first place.  Jesus, I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard writing something in years.  I seemed to have forgotten that I love a good joke, doubly so when I am the brunt of it.  

To those of you that sit at my bar I would like to say relax.  If you wonder why I wash my hands 15 times a shift, now you know.  And to those three hot and chic young ladies, who pulled out their hand sanitizers and walked out turning gray, I want to apologize.  I realize now, it was my form of pre-teen disgust that drove you out, not the mortuary-esque décor of the joint I worked.   And I am not a spokesperson for the sophisticated urban male. 

Check out what Susan Crain Bakos has to say about my adventures in phlegm land on her blog SexyPrime.  Do you think it is really the most disgusting thing a man can do?


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