Why am I crying right now? I’ve worked at Quaint for just over ten years and this week I served my last two entrees there; a medium rare hamburger with a side of mayo along with a roasted chicken with potato gratin and green beans. Over the years, I’ve served those two dishes hundreds of time, maybe even thousands, but tonight, as I carried them to Table 24, those two plates held more gravity than any of the others that came before them.
When you work someplace for a decade, it becomes more than a workplace. It becomes a little bit of you, whether you like it or not. At first you resist it, then you accept, then you cherish it. And when the time comes to say goodbye to that place, you mourn for it. Like the mold around the caps of a soda fountain, it grows on you and you get accustomed to it. Ten years ago, the “old people” who’d come in on a regular basis were caricatures that were easy to blog about and make fun of. Last week, when they sat at Table 22 for their first post-pandemic outing, they were Joe and Ellen. When I told them that my final shift was fast approaching, I could see that they cared. When my eyes teared up saying good bye to them, I knew that I cared too. “I’m gonna miss seeing you,” I said as I reached out to touch them each on their shoulders, having never made that physical connection before. I pulled back, worried that my emotion was too much, but Mrs. Mandelbaum said, “You can touch us, we’re vaccinated!”
The combination of perfect spring weather and word getting out that it was my final shift made for a very busy night at the restaurant. We actually broke a record in covers and sales and it was the busiest we’d been since before the pandemic. Consequently, I had my ass handed to me on
a silver platter an old serving tray with the cork lining peeling off. The restaurant ran as it has every day for the last 14 months with just two people: Tim as the owner/chef/line cook/prep cook/dishwasher and me as the server/bartender/host/busser/to-go person. I had planned for my last night to be a leisurely affair drinking Sauvignon Blanc out of a water glass, but the opportunity never presented itself. The weeds made themselves known from the minute we opened until an hour after we closed. I hated every fucking minute of it.
And I loved every fucking minute of it.
But things change. Global pandemics sweep across the earth and force people to alter the way they live, think, and work, apparently. Choices lead to new jobs and so it shall begin; a new adventure/work environment. As I did so many years ago when I first started this blog and this crazy ride of Bitchy Waiter, I’ll keep my new place of employment a secret. It’s just best for everyone involved, especially at the beginning. Eventually, maybe where I work will accidentally slip out like a tomato from a hamburger stacked too high, but for the most part it’ll be a secret again. Rest assured, I will continue to bitch about waiting tables and use my daily experiences from work and from my life in general to amplify what servers wish they could say. I want to be the voice for servers.
Quaint restaurant has served that purpose for the last ten years and a little piece of my heart will always remain there. My boss Tim has has known all along that Bitchy Waiter is an online personae and not the person who shows up to his restaurant each week. Its hard to imagine I’ll ever find another restaurant job so perfect for me. It being only three blocks from my apartment has allowed me to become part of the fabric of my neighborhood. The people I waited on were the same ones I saw at the grocery store and waved to as I walked my dog. I’ve watched kids grow up before my eyes over the years. Saying goodbye to one family, I looked at at the now 15 year old girl who is just as polite now as she was when she she was five and impressing me with not just her manners, but her appetite for grilled salmon and calamari. “Go on, you can hug him if you want,” her mother said. And we did hug. I wonder if this young girl will grow up and remember me in the same way I remember a particular waitress from when I was a child. The restaurant has created a lot of wonderful memories for me over the last ten years and I hope I have created a lot of wonderful memories for my customers. I am grateful for my time at Quaint. My ten years there will alway and forever be a part of me.
No, seriously, I think there’s a splinter in my thumb from the bar.