Sunday, November 23, 2008

I never really thought about the day when the insanity of waitressing would seem like routine. The learning curve was not as long as I thought it would be, which leads me to believe that this all has a lot more to do with inherent qualities, like a level head and thick skin, than the ability to remember a PLU. But it's hard to be introspective about something nobody ever really thinks about. Most customers look at me the same way they look at the giant plant in the middle of the dining room.

But at any rate, it has all become quite routine. My fingers know how to roll cutlery without me even having to look at what I'm doing. My apron is beggining to wear at the hips, where it rubs when I walk across the dining room; I can balance just about anything in one hand and use the other. I have bad ankles, and even on my days off I half expect them to start hurting at around noon, and I'm always surprised when they don't and feel a bit off kilter. I've become accustomed to a little lift when I pick of a plate and feel it warm on my palm, because it's always cold in the restaurant.

G. likes an extra egg on his croque madame. S. likes her cappucino extra hot.

I try not to notice that my tips are higher when I wear a particular skirt of mine that rises well above the knee. I try harder not to notice myself wearing it more often shortly before rent is due.

It made my day on Tuesday when Austria complimented my service. I remembered his small water glass and extra napkin to hold his sandwich. When he gruffly told me that I "may serve him again", I actually grinned from ear to fucking ear and bragged to eveyone in the kitchen. It took Coworker, who Austria once brought to tears, telling me not to take that bullshit from him for me to realise that that was, in fact, bullshit.

I serve people high quality food all day, and tonight I had dinner at a fast food place after counting my change to make sure I could. Austria had been weighing heavily on my mind. I haven't saved a penny, and I only went out to escape the fact that I float on the surface of my house, trying not to notice how out of place I am. Nobody ever philosophizes about waitressing, nobody ponders the effects an eight-hour day without breaks might have - if anyone is thinking that hard at all, it's about Bigger Questions, sitting in some cafe, looking at their waitress like she's that goddamn plant.

I don't think about Bigger Questions much anymore. I only think about remembering to fold the napkins. Every once in awhile, though, I sit in this tiny bedroom on my broken bed and wonder what I'm doing when I can't even tell the days apart.

I'm reading a book, slowly, that is the memoirs of a waitress. It wasn't exactly a big seller, obviously, and I don't think anyone except other waitresses ever read it, but every once in awhile I nibble through it when my brain is too tired for the Shakespeare I promised myself I wouldn't stop reading. I was reading it over 'dinner' tonight, and I almost cried when I read this passage:

"Perhaps, when he first met me, Dominic mistook me for an image of some diner waitress he had in his imagination: a poor working girl struggling to raise a kid on her own and desperately in need of a man to fix everything for her. I couldn't fault him too much in this. For a brief while, I thought I was that waitress, too. In any case, though, I'd been paving my own way for much too long to become the 'girl' Dominic was looking for."

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