A Waitress in the World

I am working as a waitress. Which is exactly what I wanted, when I projected myself into this brave new world. I have a friend that has been waitressing for the past few years and each time I’d talk to her on the phone, I’d feel a pang of jealousy. I wanted the in-and-out, the shorter shifts, the never-taking-work-home-with-you, the transience.

I came from a tiny office, filled with 10 co-workers (co-workers, who became friends, who somehow turned into family). I now work with 3x that amount of people per night — not a one of them desiring even mere conversation with me. I am just a pawn in the supper game. The chefs use my name — but only in the form of reprimand. My fellow servers have my back in every way…cleaning my tables, filling my waters, grabbing my checks…every way except any way at all, personally. Most of them don’t know my name, and don’t want to. They are there for their money; their friends are waiting for them to get off work and go get drinks and smoke some weed and just CHILL.

Sometimes you fall within the realm of the definition of your workplace; sometimes you stand outside of it. There are often tables with a couple ‘businessmen/women’, whose orders are always seemingly more serious (than those of the student or town folk dressed in their University gear). The ‘business’ tables are always hard for me — I fear my word use, my reach and overall approach. Button-down shirts, briefcases on the table — they alienate me. Their occupations become their defining presence. I had thought how distant I was from the definition of my current occupation. This is just a J-O-B, not a definition of me. But I was wrong. This job is most definitely a big part of a definition of me. This job is giving me a gateway into people — the nuts and bolts of my intrinsic need. I get to observe all day long. I take notes on everything. Live exhibitions every night!, in the museum of social interaction. I want to know how everybody ended up there, sharing a meal. I heard a mother talk to her tween about all the tween’s men. (Wanting to know if they’ll get back together again). I watch a long-married couple share just one entrée slowly, barely conversing, lightly watching the World Series. I see couples navigating newness — scared to share a straw — trying to figure out just exactly how many meals they think they’ll be sharing in the future…

Here, my youthful appearance is on my side. Everyone I work with thinks I am roughly their same age. I find myself not wanting any of them to know my real age — not because I’m ashamed of it (as aging = living, I LOVE it) — but because I’m scared that their juvenile dispositions may decide to shut me out. They wouldn’t blurt out how they’re going to do some blow later or drop the bombs on me that they occasionally do. (One particularly endearing young douchebag asked me — in ALL SERIOUSNESS — if I was a “legal midget”.) I don’t want them to stop talking shit about the managers, or smack about each other…to stop clueing me into the innerworkings of the currently college-aged people…because that is an EDUCATION, in itself, this door into their world.

I’ve also learned a ton about tipping. Some people stiff you, which actually feels like physical pain. Because we are getting taxed on the ASSUMED tip. More people than you would ever think pick up the ‘Merchant Copy’ – which means that even if they tipped you $100, you get NOTHING. Which again…means you are getting taxed on money you didn’t receive. It’s kinda wild; and by wild, I do mean sad, horrible and heartbreaking. But it’s how it is. And occasionally, someone tips me far more than they ‘should’, and my heart swells and my gratitude breaks through…and I feel a certain high I can’t get from a salary.

I’ll keep at this for as long as the getting is good.  It’s nice to have cash on hand (something I have not had ever since the evolution of the debit card). It’s fun to weave in and out of conversations with patrons and it’s interesting to tie one’s work duties to the physical body. It feels satisfying to move fast for hours on end. I’m sure fatigue will set in — both emotionally and physically — and I may someday end up craving a chair again…but right now, I’m a waitress – by choice, by luck AND by definition.

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