Table 103 needed two sides of ranch, yellow mustard, a water, pickles, bagel chips and a sourdough toast, lightly buttered. Then they needed syrup. All while table 101 needed his cup of chicken noodle soup, easy chicken, and the patio table outside needed an everything bagel toasted well with jam, cream cheese and butter. And Joe wanted to order. Joe needed to order, because he was in such a hurry. It was a Friday afternoon, he needed to get back to the office or back to one of the mistresses he keeps on a rotating schedule that I meet intermittently on nights when his wife is otherwise occupied.
“Yeah well, I told him to bring by the paperwork–Shay, I need to order,” he says, tucking the phone into the crook of his neck, away from his mouth.
“I’ll be there in a second, Joe.”
“Gimme that salad I like, you know how I like it made.”
“Yeah, Joe, gimme a second I’ll be right there.”
As I skate around the corner he lets me know he’s been sitting there for twenty [*actually two] minutes. That he’s hungry. That he’s a busy man. That he needs that salad and a large Bud Light. Like he hasn’t eaten in weeks and I am the key to his survival.
Like an indegenous woman I stand balancing that ranch and mustard and bagel and toast and water in my hands, plates stacked all the way up my arm, typing away instructions into the computer. Custom salad, half sized, blue cheese crumbles, croutons, cucumber, tomato, iceberg spring mix, chopped and tossed with blue cheese dressing and there is sweat dripping down the corner of my brow and I am losing my sanity all for a two dollar and fifty cent tip.
He needs it now.
That 2.50 is my rent check and my car payment and my tuition bills. It is my livelihood and my only hope for getting a degree that will, just maybe, get me a job I actually enjoy doing.
For half the cost of a latte at Starbucks I’m losing my damn mind.
But Joe, the average Joe, doesn’t care about anything but the fact that he’s been sitting at the Bartop for a minute longer than he would have liked.
And I get it. It’s my job to service him. It’s my job to service all of you. To feed you and make you feel satisfied. A whore of the food industry. I will leave you feeling complete and fulfilled at the end of our transaction.
And at the end of my day I’m sucked dry by all these exchanges and interactions and I’ll wake up at 2:00 in the morning in a dry sweat, sitting up in bed in a panic and realize that I never brought table 103 that yellow mustard.
I get it. You don’t understand that my brain is a flow Chart consisting of who needs what at exactly what moment-constantly prioritizing sides and condiments and toast so as to make your experience as efficient and mine as painless as possible.
But I’m not your slave. I’m not your servant. You getting off on treating me as such isn’t justified by two dollars and fifty cents. Because I don’t feel fulfilled when I’m balancing out my checkbook later that night. I feel empty.
Welcome to the restaurant industry. Where men and women of all ages scramble to satisfy customers who are incapable of satiation. Where we walk a fine line of keeping you happy and keeping ourselves sane. We’re all whores here. We just keep our clothes on. We’re on our feet instead of our knees but we’re working it for your money either way and I’ll bat my eyes and smile and that is always the difference between 18 and 20 percent.
Just like the stripper hates the man that slips the singles into the lone string of her panty line I hate the man who makes me dance with bottles behind the bar.  And at the end of the dance the stripper collects the singles from the floor and I collect them from the lacquered surface of the bar but either way I’m paying my tuition with the one dollar bills that sit in your back pocket, wrinkled and warm from the sweat of your ass against the vinyl seat. If I’m lucky I’ll get a crisp five dollar bill fresh from the mouth of the ATM. If I’m lucky. But this industry isn’t geared around luck. We leave that to stock market gurus and investors and the men on Wall Street in their fitted suits with pants that present a perfect crease and shoes that were designed in Italy and procured from a novelty boutique shop that cost a month of my rent. No, this industry is all about keeping up. About how much you are worth.
Welcome to my kingdom of whoredom, where I’ll sell my worth with every compromise I make to please your royal highness. I’ll treat you like a king for that crisp five dollar bill. Come into my castle, Joe.  For two dollars and fifty cents, I can show you the world.