When you wait tables you meet pretty much everybody. If you do it long enough, in a HALF-way decent place, you’ll eventually even wait on somebody famous. I’ve waited on Kenny Rogers (great tipper), Mike Tyson (stiffed me), and the dude from Def Leppard with the one arm.
Most days I love it. Even the days that bring the crazies provide those snippets of entertainment that I’m so hopelessly addicted to. It doesn’t even phase me when some half-crocked, socially inept, completely hormonal bee-otch with a lunatic bent the size of Milwaukee proper plops herself down in my station and starts raving. You know I go in the back and start talking about her in the kitchen, right?
“Can you redo this sandwich for the gal on table 24 who hasn’t had an orgasm in fifteen years? And send it out with one of those little, buzzing toy-thingies. We’ve got SOMETHING she can use, right? How ‘bout that spatula? Does it vibrate? Can we send it out with some instructions? She’s not too skippy. Who’s got a pen?”
Laughter ensues, and I am lauded by my coworkers. My boss shakes his head and tries to shush me in spite of the fact that he’s trying REALLY hard not to crack a smile, and then nobody balks at having to make a perfectly good sandwich twice in the middle of lunch rush.
I get the guy who brings his wife and kids in and sits at their usual table on Saturdays, and then brings his girlfriend in on the weekdays for a cozy, cuddly lunch. Oh, you don’t think I’m leaving THAT one alone, do you? I make sure to ask how his wife and kids are. Oh, shucks, I’m supposed to wait until hottie-girl goes to the bathroom before I ask about the family, aren’t I? My bad. No tip for me! Worth it, though.
I have the adorably enchanting elderly couple who come in three times a week like clockwork and sit in my station every time because they don’t want to explain to someone new that they need a third cup decaf, a third cup regular, the rest hot water, two creamers and an ice cube. They split the fish and chips, update me on the grandkids, and leave a buck-thirty-five every time. Then one day he comes in alone and sits by himself... just... anywhere... It doesn’t really matter where that much anymore. The whole place becomes a vacuum that steals everyone’s breath away, and he is lost and lifeless without her. He realizes he can’t eat a whole fish and chips by himself, and he doesn’t come back again.
And so it goes. People you meet. Those who breeze in and out of your life like wind through the leaves on a tree, brushing past you and through you. You’d barely notice if you didn’t pay attention. But they do ripple through you, and you through them, in a continual hum that you kinda have to listen for.
On some days, like today, cool people will come in. I like when they come in toward the end of my shift. Then I can sit down at the table with them. Kick back. Shoot that breeze. On the clock. I don’t know how many times my boss has had to come looking for me to get my cashout for the day. He rolls his eyes in exasperation and lifts his hands toward Heaven when he finally finds me sitting down at a table with my guests, blending right in.
“Can I get you anything, Daisy? A soda? A milkshake? A burger maybe?”
Everybody’s a comedian in the restaurant business.
Today, Jeff and Skylar breezed in and breezed out after a nice lunch and about ten limeades. OK. Maybe not ten, but they were thirsty boys. After their world travels, you can bet they were thirsty. And good for them. Their Spanish was amazing for a coupla’ North Pacific white boys. I’m sure all that flyfishing they did on the Patagonia in Argentina and Chile did wonders.
Skylar seemed eager to finish up his college degrees at U of I (yes, degrees with an “S”--that’s plural, folks) so he could hop back down to South America, and Jeff seemed to be contemplating jumping clean out of his lucrative, successful life to join him. Wait a minute... didn’t somebody else do that? Oh yeah, I did that! Except it was a little less lucrative, and my travels are still ahead. These boys half my age have done twice as much. They absolutely inspired me to stay my present course of burgers and beer, for now anyway, believing that the best is yet to come.
I’m happy. And you know what else? I have the gift of time and flexibility. My family is loving it, and so am I. I’m unstuck. I have freedom. You know what I told Jeff and Skylar today? That there are people in this world whose job it is to take other people snorkeling every day. You know where they live? Hawaii! Let’s go be those guys. Or let’s live up here in the mountains during the summer and Mexico or Argentina or Chile on the beach during the winter and take people flyfishing.
Think I’m crazy?
Did you ever hear about the guy that walked across a tightrope stretched out over Niagara Falls with a wheelbarrow in front of him? He asked if anyone believed he could cross over from one side to the other. Everyone cheered and screamed that they knew he could do it. He invited anyone who believed in him to get in the wheelbarrow and be pushed across the falls. No one got in.
Perhaps I should mention here that I’ve had two job offers to return to teaching. If I wanted to, I could go back this fall to that secure paycheck--such that it was. Insurance. Stability. Security.
I say bugger that. I’ll get in that freakin’ wheelbarrow because life is precious, and life is short. And I’m not going to waste any more time being stuck. I’m not wasting any more time thinking about the money I’ve lost or the money I didn’t earn or all that money I spent on all those pieces of paper with the names of colleges on them that I attended. I’m not going to waste one more minute of my life second-guessing the choices I’ve made or the path I’ve carved out for my life. If I’ve screwed up, that was so five minutes ago. Who can be bothered with yesterday? But if I’ve lived my life courageously and freely, then that is forever. I hear a lot of people cheering, and plenty of people say they believe in me. But I don’t see too many people jumping into wheelbarrows. And maybe that’s because it’s completely insane. But you know what? I like the fact that I’ll always be the chick who jumped in.
And it was nice to talk to a couple of guys who get it.
Thank you, gentlemen.