As those of you who’ve eaten out with me know, I’m not always the most relaxed at a restaurant.
(For those of you who haven’t eaten out with me, maybe we should get together sometime! I love new friends.) For those who haven’t been privy to my behavior, here’s how it goes:
“Oooo, I hope we haven’t kept the table too long. There are people waiting. Should we see if we can pay? And just talk outside? Standing? In the rain?”
“I know. I know she didn’t give us our drinks ’til after dinner, but I could see that the bar was backed up. It wasn’t her fault. 25% tip? Everybody in?”
“Well yes, your hamburger was raw. And your salad was burnt. I know. I didn’t know they could burn salad either. But again, not the waitress’s fault. That would be the kitchen. I’m just gonna leave her a little extra.”
I have this compassion for waitresses, the way some people (well me, too) have a compassion for puppies in shelters. Look at their eyes. They need love. People have mistreated them. (The puppies and the waitresses.)
I’m now back living in my hometown, which is bringing back all sorts of memories. Newburyport is full of restaurants where I bused tables, scooped ice crew, served 5:00 a.m. coffees, and yes, waitressed. Recently, my family and I went out to eat at the restaurant where my two most traumatic waitressing episodes went down. As we sat on the patio overlooking the water, the memories came rushing back. PWSD. Post-Waitressing-Stress-Disorder.
“Oh my God!” I nearly shouted. “This is where I was when that band of drunken hooligans threw rocks at me!”
“Wha?” asked Dave.
“Remember? Remember I told you about those people throwing rocks at me when I had to shut them off?”
“This is IT?” said Dave.
“Yes! Yes! Picture me, a 17-year-old girl having to tell this table full of people who came in drunk that they couldn’t have any more drinks while my middle-aged manager hid in the kitchen? And he made me do it. And then he hid. Then they chewed up their rolls and spit them on the table. I walked away, and they left. When I came back on the patio, they were behind those bushes over there, and they threw rocks at me!”
Mia and JJ together, “What?”
“Yes! Rocks!” (I couldn’t stop talking. It was very therapeutic.) “And then the cops came, and the people took off in their boat. See? See why I say to be nice to waitresses?”
All three of my family members sat wide-eyed and nodding.
But there was more.
“Oh my God! And the front patio was where the lady smushed a meatball in my hand!”
Dave, “Wait, I never heard that one.”
“Seriously? Probably because I was too traumatized. Same summer. A woman was with her daughter, who was probably eight. The woman called me over in front of everyoone and said, ‘Put out your hand.’
“Put out your hand.”
“I don’t know why I did, but I did, and she grabbed a meatball off of her daughter’s plate and smushed it in my hand. ‘Would you eat that?’ she said.
Apparently, she had found some gristle in the meatball.
At this point, Mia was looking at me with total sympathy, JJ was looking like it might be fun to smush a meatball if he could only get ahold of one, and Dave was stroking my hair, saying, “Baby, I’m so sorry,”
“I know. I know you are,” I said. “See. See why I’m so crazy about tipping?”
I hope these vignettes explain my neurotic restaurant behavior to all of my dining companions (I’m so sorry I’m such a pain in the a$%).
May we all remember that our waitress might have just dodged a rock or wiped a meatball off of her hand.