Service and Therapy, With a Smile


If you ever wonder what your relationships look like, don’t pay a therapist, ask a waitress.
Good servers give food correctly and timely, but great servers are intuitive, feeling out the emotions and needs customers unconsciously demand all the time, knowing who wants to joke and chat, who wants to sit in silence, who is anxious to have the table cleared and the dirty napkins gone, and who wants to sit and graze until the chairs go up, the plate of fries slowly touched, but very much enjoyed.
The way people live life can be measured in how they order food.
I see the husband rubbing his temples with his head between his elbows, mumbling for chips, not even hearing you ask the original question, which after giving a name was, “Hi, What can I get for you to drink, sir?”
I get this 20 minute window into people’s lives, and it is fascinating to observe how incredibly different and unique people are, how they interact with each other and the world around them, the symbols of life lying right there in front of you, obvious to everyone but them. The way you feel about life is not only on your face, but it is in your body, in your tone, in your eyes, and words never deceive me, not after years of observation.
I see countless couples never speak through entire dinner conversations and yet I feel a peace, a connection, a way of life that is comfortable, relaxed, and enjoyable. It is in a plate being cleared by a wife who needs not hesitate and ask, clearly half the steak is gone, but she knows him, and smiles lifting and passing it to me, while he pats his tummy. It is her glass he notices is in need of water, catching me with his eye, holding it out for her as she chats, not noticing the act that says it all.
It is how they communicate with their eyes, looking and knowing by a nod and a head toss if they want desert, his hand over hers when she digs in her purse for the Visa. It is in the moments in between breaths, the silence of a moment cherished, not with words but with her feet touching his, the one yawn that leads the other to yawn, both in agreement to go home, and so I drop the check, his hands holding her keys, her hand on his shoulder all signal me hello and goodbye, an effortless team, a communication built on trust and time and love.
I also see countless people who never speak through entire dinner conversations and the look she gives him while he orders, the tense way he shakes his glass, in mid air, a subtle repetitive motion he does every time he puts his lips to the glass, the folded arms, darting eyes, the relief when the meal arrives, not from hunger pains, but for something to do so they don’t have to just be.
I am always amused with people who believe words have weight.
They say they don’t have the baby, that they are so pleased to have a date, finally, and her big eyes beg me to stay, her chatter endless, his phone in his hand, his eyes locked to the television behind her. There is a relief I feel each time I come to the table, like they are so excited to be checked on a hundred times, both believing they are having a conversation with each other, but not at all. They want random talk about the food, the news, the loud children, personal questions shot out one after another, like if I have children, where I am from, and I communicate for them, aware they believe in talking to me, they think they are having a conversation with each other.
I see emptiness in grand gestures, beauty in soft glances, big plastic smiles just applied with red lipstick, rude and angry comments tossed to each other in front of me, but I know in those moments, I am only allowed to look in this window because I am not a friend, a pastor, or neighbor. I am just a person serving food who doesn’t matter.
I am aware I will not always be a server, but I am certainly grateful to be one, to realize real eyes see real lies, and that at the end of the day, I may have witnessed the beginning of the most beautiful romance, a horrific divorce, a relationship built on friendship, an affair started over one glass of wine, a marriage blessed, a marriage trapped.
I may be seeing the best or the worst 20 minutes on a given day, the most important or boring time of your life spent, and yet, I am only there to collect your tips, watch you hate or love your life, an attachment I have nothing to gain from.
It is the ultimate study of relationships, of watching what people are by how they behave which for me can sound like nails going down a chalkboard, a scream that two people can both hear, and at the same time, both deny.
Perhaps you just thought you were hungry, and both felt like having steak.
If that is the case, go have dinner and have fun, get full, and tip your server.
Dinner is just life on a platter so if you want to fool someone, I would suggest take out, or drive thru, but don’t think you have a chance of fooling your waitress.
Domino’s Pizza always delivers.

4 thoughts on “Service and Therapy, With a Smile

  1. It’s amazong to see what you took from the experience… You get it.

  2. im trying to get a job in a restaurant now. i love the mystery of different peoples worlds, reading body language and figuring out where they are at that time in their life, makes me feel small because there is so much more going on outside of my four walls…

  3. it’s so true that you learn a lot about the way people behave, misbehave, interact, ignore, communicate in subtle ways, simply by working at a restaurant. you learn about the regulars and parts of their lives that you don’t want to know. it’s quite interesting. love it, katie. 🙂

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