“Dear God, Please Burn Down Table 32.”

You know you are a writer when it is 3 a.m., and your mind will not rest until all your coworkers have names associated with dogs. Yes, it is neurotic, but mind you, I am used to it. I am always writing in my head, and I admit, I am the lady you are honking while sitting at a yellow light, the one frantic for a napkin to write “Calamity Jane” down, a blog name you can’t afford to forget, dropping the pen under my seat, right as the light changes.

Honk away, assholes.” That is the bumper sticker I would like to have, but don’t, because I know the only thing harder than being a writer, is being behind one in Atlanta traffic.
I have a new project.

Over a period of time, various coworkers, mostly my good friends, have asked me to write a blog about work. Somehow, it keeps being brought up.

Even my boss, at the chip machine once said, “You should write a blog about those people.”

I believe he was referring to that particular day about the man who called himself “The Country Fried Steak Connoisseur.”

His wife followed me into the kitchen, asking my shoe size, not partly, but fully in the kitchen, at the ice machine, to be exact. It was an entertaining moment for sure, to pretend everything is absolutely normal as I fill ice into cups, nodding my head to her I am listening, the cooks all staring, as she babbles on and on about my name, one she gives me in fact, in the Native American Indian tongue.

I repeat it with her slowly, her hand clasping mine.

Funny enough, I am wondering if Table 32 has wing sauce, while she whispers, “You have been just given the chosen name for “Happy One.” I nod my head in appreciation, wondering where the hell I am and how did I get here, this woman a reflection to me I have gone to some place of no return when you are willing to rain dance if that is what it takes to make a good tip, to not get fired.

“You have been given the chosen name of “Crazy Asshole” is what I would like to say, wondering if my manager is still around the corner, discussing Country Fried Steak and the fact today it is chewy, with her husband, who is the “Connoisseur” after all. Rain dances and Steak experts scare me, but if you order an Arnold Palmer (1/2 tea, 1/2 lemonade), I don’t trust you. I do not care for you if you are a man who wants lime in his diet coke, and I don’t want to have a play date with you if you give your kid five cokes at 7:00. I just want you to give your three year old a choice between two sides, not forty, that’s all.

Who are you people anyway?

Sorry, I was talking about the staff before, not the customers, and the fact is, we can’t even judge any of you, because the truth is that restaurant people are total wack jobs.
I don’t even know what that says about me, because personally, I love waiting tables.
I may have lost friends over that last statement, but sadly, it is true.

Every night is really about survival, which is why we understand how creatures in the animal kingdom sometimes eat their young. We know this after weekends of 14 hour doubles, 500 silver to have rolled, 30 million birthday songs. We are the ultimate performers, even after salsa ranch gets splashed into our mouths at dish, some dumb ass throwing it in without thinking, walking right by the empty ice bin, which is how rage begins to settle in, the manager asking why you didn’t bring full hands in from dish, already calling for runners before you even get a chance to respond.

So, I have been going over these requests very carefully, knowing full well after a night of rednecks and ten percent tips, my tires could be slashed over giving the wrong person on the wrong day, the wrong blog name.

That is why I decided to write from a different angle.

I decided we would all be dogs, each named for particular reasons only we would know, an idea everyone jumped on. It was hilarious to realize dogs really do carry personality traits so closely to our own, some small and yippy, others playful, some potentially vicious, but all unique, with important roles to play.

I plan to write a story on a bunch of dogs, surviving in a big corporate Puppy Mill, and how it begins or ends I don’t know.

Just know if you see me at a yellow light, prepare to honk.

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.

Origami Shout Outs

In my entire career of waiting tables, I don’t think I ever got a tip that made me smile quite like this.
There is nothing like being appreciated by a little girl who brings you something her daddy saves just for the special waitress. I was so glad I recommended the ribs and kept his Diet Coke full.
The heart was made by my favorite bus boy, who I gave a dollar and threatened his life because he had given one to Amber and not me.
He laughed and his neatly folded heart made my own melt.
It kind of makes me want to take up Origami.
I could give change back in the form of a steak or a neatly folded wet nap.
The woman who asked for only one piece of ice in her water demanded different bottles of Merlot because they had been “handled” poorly by our bartender.
What does that even mean?
Smelling her wine opened up her psychic abilities to suddenly see him stirring with his finger or popping the cork with his crotch? The third glass tasted a little bitter but at least it had been opened correctly. People are nuts.
I wonder if a neatly folded middle finger could be arranged? Hmmm. Just a thought.

The One Who Got Away

 

I was waiting tables six years ago when he wandered into my section with a mutual friend, and I believe he ordered a couple of draft beers, something dark, and later, a cup of coffee, black.

He was very quiet, with a plaid shirt, tats, a hat he took on and off his head nervously. I noticed that he stared at me a lot.

Even more, I noticed how much I liked him staring at me and it made me flush deep shades of red, my hands shaking every time I filled his coffee.

He stared right through me, like he could touch me with his mind.

I didn’t know you could feel naked completely clothed, not like that.

He was there a few hours and I don’t think I noticed one other person in the smoky bar but him. Our mutual friend chit chatted about this and that, my stomach turning as I talked, feeling him stare straight through me.

And then, out of nowhere, as I talked fast and nervously, he interrupted,

YOU’RE MARRIED?” He asked it like he had just found out someone shot his favorite puppy.

I blushed. “Yep!” I shoved my ring out in front of the table, shaking, wanting to cry, not really understanding why.

He laid his head down in quite a dramatic way, and I felt this horrible rush of guilt as I wondered for the first time as a married woman what it would be like to be completely free, having not made any vows, any commitments to a mortgage, a child, and a husband. My husband and I had long began the process of leaving one another when this gorgeous stranger appeared from nowhere, reminding me what it was like to feel again.

Our mutual friend kept telling him it was time to go, and it was. We were smiling way too much, connecting in a way that felt uncomfortable, and we both knew it wasn’t right. When he got up to leave, he put his arm around me in a friendly way, and leaned over and smelled my hair.

Mmmmm. God, your hair smells nice.” And just like that, he walked out the front door.

I relived that moment in my mind over and over for years, after having another baby, a separation that ended terribly, and finally, a divorce. I wondered about him a lot, but knew all hope had been lost, feeling for sure he was married himself, and that moment had been built up in my mind, completely forgotten by him.

And then he found me. He lived hours away but he still found me by searching my name through Myspace, and had just gone through divorce himself, and on top of everything, he was convinced that I was the only woman for him. It was a fairytale, and I was finally Cinderella. We fell in love over texts, hours of phone calls, and a trip promised, planned, just like our future together.

I waited for him in the rain, freezing, as he jumped off the train to see me. I felt like my life had just jumped off the pages of a romance novel, and everything I experienced with this man was so magical, so breathtaking. It was like I finally realized what I had been missing.

Until our last day together. He was distant, nervous, anxious to get home. I didn’t know what had happened or why but something had completely switched, and I knew by his eyes that something was so wrong.

I can’t do this, I’m sorry. I can’t.” He could barely look at me.

I started to sob, and he just left. He left me there without even turning to say goodbye. Just like the first time he walked out of my life, but this time, his steps haunted me.

It was brutal for me and I could hardly get out of bed for the next three months, my grief so heavy and my heart completely broken. Every day was a challenge, and I didn’t know it could hurt that bad to just be alive. Its a testament to the human spirit that just when I thought I couldn’t go on, I did. And slowly but surely, things healed and my laughter returned. Days turned to weeks into months and now more than two years later, having nothing but that biting moment of being left by a man I loved with everything I had, I get this text from work.

U were never meant to be mine but I love you. It has always bothered me that you weren’t sure about that. I’m moving even farther away- I wont be back.  I just pray you know how much hugging you would mean to me- how smelling your hair would make me feel eternal- how watching you eat would make me feel alive. I have lived on the memory of seeing you two Springs ago. Your an amazing woman. I will pray to cross your path once more. Be blessed.

Two years later and I can finally receive the closure I have always wanted. I can’t be angry anymore or sad that the fairytale he promised didn’t exist.

I can finally stop blaming myself for somehow not being enough, and I cried tears of relief that I had not been crazy, that he did love me indeed.

I can finally breathe gratitude for a boy who stopped me dead in my tracks. Its like a ghost from my past has stopped by to remind me how deeply I am capable of loving, how much I have to give.

He will always be the boy who stopped to smell my hair.

He will always be the one who got away………………..