City of Brotherly Love this may be, but it's also the biggest small town in America. Everybody's in everybody else's business, and you better believe they're talking about it.
My best friend and I play a game: Any time one of us leaves the house for the day, we try to make it through an entire outing without bumping into someone we know. Not too complicated, but not easy either. We haven't succeeded in months.
That's doubly true "in the biz." Whether it's drinking the hot dog water at the P&P and promptly throwing it back up on the bar or showing a boob for some free foie gras (both true stories), restaurant people's actions often become the stuff of local legend just because the biz is infested with incestuous busybodies.
Just this week my friend and I were at a bar we'd never visited before, enjoying a glass of wine and some oysters in relative peace and solitude, when we spotted a familiar face behind the bar. Turned out he'd been a busboy at another restaurant we both worked at years ago. Now he's a bartender--and more than happy to pick up a round of drinks for us. Small matter we couldn't remember each other's names.
Another time, even though my friends had expressly forbidden me to do so, I secretly agreed to meet a toxic ex for dinner. No sooner had we sat down than the hostess recognized me; we'd had a class together a few years back. Within a week my secret leaked, and I was getting the standard lecture from friends about having dinner with the dreaded ex. You can't get away with anything in this town.
Not that it's always a bad thing. All the gossip has a way of weaving itself into a sort of social safety net. When your friends manage to suss out an unsavory rumor attached to your name, you can bet they'll shut it down--and then call you to get the details.
Whether it's a drunken hookup with a married co-worker at the local dive after last call or scoring an industry discount because your server knows you're in the biz, restaurant incest is here to stay in Philadelphia.
And even though "in the biz" is as likely to mean "all up in each other's business" as "restaurant workers," it's nice to know there are friendly--or at least familiar--faces out there waiting to comp a round. Or report you to your friends when you try to get away with shady behavior.