[Editor’s Note: It’s been a while since we heard from our friend Dave Manheim. Why? In his triumphant return to HEEB, Dave explains how even geopolitical crises and international hacker collectives can’t keep the Last Jewish Waiter down.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, or aired anything on the old website, thelastjewishwaiter.com. I can give a whole list of excuses, but what’s really the point? I guess I’ve been lazy. But to be more accurate, I’ve been toiling away at Katz’s slightly unmotivated to come home and write about toiling away at Katz’s. But I have been thinking about writing, and that’s something. Right?
Anyway. I was drinking my incredibly sweet morning coffee when my dear friend informed me that The Last Jewish Waiter website was down. What had happened? I figured I had forgotten to pay the bill, or some other irresponsible maneuver that I was usually known for. Nope. Shockingly, everything was in order. So I contacted my web guy, Sandy. He looked into it and told me he thought that the site had been hacked and I’d have to set up on a new server. Hacked? That’s not good. How were people going to get to the site? How could I set up a new one? When would I set up a new one?
I get to Katz’s and I set up the tables, thinking the usual bullshit I often think about when I set up the tables; How long was I going to be at Katz’s? How could I get out? Was this dismal, bleak super cold and snowy winter finally going to give us some customers? All of this with an overlay of anxiety about the website. My phone buzzed – It was a text from Sandy.
“Hey David. The hack attack came after your site specifically. Not sure why. Have you said anything about Syria in the past?”
“This was left in the file directory.”
‘Wow.’ I texted back.
The Syrian Electronic Army??? Why would I have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army? I guess because my site and web series has the word ‘Jewish’ in it. But I’m not a political, nor a religious man. And this was crazy. Had I recently served some Syrian customers poorly and not remember it? I could remember a Palestinian family that had come in, but we got along famously. What was this about? Was I finally getting some recognition? (It may be the Syrian Electronic Army, but recognition is still recognition.) I told the guys at Katz’s about it. I got the usual playful anti-semitic slurs that the guys at Katz’s were famous for. ‘Ha! Jew! They’re coming to get you!’ When I tell Lenny, my fellow waiter, he tells me this is my opportunity to get into the newspaper and reignite some interest in the old brand. So I contact a friend at the Daily News, and I call the NY Post.
I’m taking care of a woman and her young daughter, they get two hot dogs, one with ketchup, and one with sauerkraut when I get the call. It’s the Daily News! I am excited. The Daily News ignored my web series when it first aired, but now it was time to finally get into my favorite hometown paper. I tell them what happened. They ask if I’m frightened for my safety. I say no, not really, should I be? I never even considered what being targeted by an infamous group of cyber terrorists meant. They tell me to send the above image found in the code and to stand by the phone in case they want to send a photographer down. “Cool,” I think, and send them the picture. I get back to work when a young German woman orders a Knoblewurst sandwich with American cheese. I am too distracted to say anything but ‘ok’.
The Daily News reporter writes back and tells me that in order to print the story, I’m going to need the FBI’s confirmation that this was in fact the work of The Syrian Electronic Army. Fuck. Now I have to call the FBI. Do I have to call the FBI? I like to keep a low profile, and do not really want to exist on the FBI’s radar. Call me a conservative, call me a pussy. I deal with more customers, make sure they’re satisfied for the moment, and duck into Kenny, the executive chef’s, office.
‘I don’t want to call the FBI,’ I say as I’m dial their number.
‘Why?’ asks Kenny, the executive chef at Katz’s. ‘Are you scared they’re gonna smell weed over the phone?’
Indeed. I dial.
A shrill woman’s voice greets me. ‘Federal Bureau of Investigations. How can I help you?’
I’m nervous, and I sound like I’m in high school, calling a girl on the phone. ‘Hi. My name is David Manheim and I have a website called thelastjewishwaiter.com that was hacked by the ‘Syrian Electronic Army.’”
Kenny bellows a heavy smokers laugh.
…And I’m disconnected. The FBI thinks I’m playing a joke. Shit, what a revolting development. I call them back only to find out that all I can do is place a complaint, and that they have no interest in confirming that it was indeed The Syrian Electronic Army who shut down my beautiful website.
Kenny reminds me that I have tables, and that I should call the FBI on my own time. I go back to work. Neither the Daily News nor The Post ever get back to me because I have no proof it was The Syrian Electronic Army who had targeted me. It was starting to sink in. I was another little guy trampled in the machinery. Another faceless victim of cyber terrorism.
I went back to the tables, ready to slip back into my day to day. ‘You forgot my potato salad,’ a heavyset business man in a black suit reminds me.
I sure did.