I have felt naked for the last three weeks. It’s as if I were missing a part of myself and everyone knew something was wrong with me. I was not whole. Well last night I became complete again because after three weeks of not waiting tables I tied on the apron and got back to work. As I positioned that black polyester piece of fabric with the perfectly placed pockets, everything seemed to make sense again. It was like I had clicked my heels together and been transported to a familiar and happy place called home. The sky was bluer, the birds were louder, and the glass of Chardonnay I had hidden in the drawer where we keep the paper towels seemed to taste even better than usual. I was a waiter again!
For the last three weeks, I have been training at another job so I took some time away from the service industry to focus on my new career which has no trays or aprons involved. The new job is great but I can’t tell you how many times I have reached down to a non-existent apron to grab a pen. I may have to start wearing one at the new job because people need to learn how handy they are. When I wait tables, my apron has the following in it at any given time:
- wine key
- pad of paper
- spare change
- cell phone
- tissue and napkins
- Trail Mix
- Justin Bieber
- notes for the blog
- a copy of Catcher in the Rye for when it gets slow
- several corks that I am saving to make one of these
- and Play-Doh (don’t ask…)
At the new job, I have no apron. I keep a pen in my ponytail, gum in my pocket and my cell phone in my locker. It’s difficult to do without my stuff, but I persevere. It’s just one of the things I have to get used to not being a waiter all the time. One thing that is totally inconvenient at the new job is the tray that is permanently affixed to my left hand. It’s very handy at the restaurant but a real nuisance anywhere else. My mom was right; I never should have had that surgically added, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Last night I realized that I missed being a waiter. It was nice to interact with customers again. When the lady at table 21 asked me if she was ever going to get to place her drink order, I was happy to tell her that she wasn’t in my station but Jasmine would be right with her. Two minutes later when I walked past the lady again and she sarcastically asked me, “Are you Jasmine?” the urge to burn her eyebrows off wasn’t even that strong. I simply smiled and told her, “No ma’am, I’m not Jasmine.”
When table 35 called me over during the show to tell me something, I was eager to go hear what he had to say. “Would you tell those ladies at that table back there to shut the hell up?” he told me. “Yes sir,” I replied and went right over to the two women. I didn’t tell them to shut up though because that would affect my tip. I just asked them if they needed anything and they quieted down. The man at table 35 assumed I told them to shut the hell up, but I am a professional and know how to appease two tables at once.
When table 27 stiffed me on $84 because they thought the tip was included, I didn’t mind. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’m sure it was an honest mistake. Maybe next time they will tip better.” They had also told me that they were coming back next week to see another show so I took a mental note to remember to not bust my hump if they happen to sit in my station.
Yes, it was good to be home again. There was a smile on my face, a pep in my step and a second glass of Chardonnay hidden on the shelf behind the coffee filters. Maybe waiting tables isn’t so bad. Could it be that I like it? Could it be that serving people makes me feel good? Possibly. When I punched out and was stumbling towards the F train (thanks to the third glass of Chardonnay I had in a paper cup with a lid and a straw so it looked like I was drinking ginger ale and I was able to leave it in plain sight right next to the credit card machine), I realized what I liked about waiting tables. I had $91 in my pocket for an easy four hour shift and I had a damn good buzz that I didn’t have to pay for.
I am a waiter and there’s no place like home!