I am here to serve you. I am. This is my job, this what I do. I am here to serve and you are here to be served. I get it.
But sometimes, I drank too much the night before because some guy screamed at me about the fact that his burger was cooked medium when he ordered rare and the cooks refuse to use their thermometers so it all comes down on me and I just needed to erase the memory of the ground beef flying at me from his open mouth from my mind. Sometimes, I was up until 3:00AM finishing the term paper for the college that will get me a degree that will, hopefully, get me out of this god forsaken job.
Sometimes, I woke up every hour on the hour with a recurring nightmare that I was going to be late for my 7:00AM shift. Twisted in sheets wrapped around my body like a straight jacket and frantically checking the time on my phone only to discover it’s 2:15 in the morning but the dream is so real that it takes me another twenty minutes to fall back asleep and this happens over and over and over again it’s like Chinese water torture.
And you don’t even know it. You don’t know that, somewhere in the middle of lunch rush, I am standing there looking down at my server book and there are so many orders that need to be sent to the kitchen that I don’t know where to start. And the words start blurring together and I can’t make heads or tails of anything I have written.
And in my mind, you’re all jerks. You with your scooped out bagel and you with your double toasted wheat bread and you with your chicken noodle soup, no chicken, and you with your sandwich cut in quarters. You want your tuna on a toasted onion bagel and you don’t even know that, at some point in the middle of all of this chaos, I have to toast that bagel myself and bring it to the kitchen otherwise the sandwich will literally never get made.
And then it happens. You order a Cobb salad with everything on the side and two sides of ranch and one of blue cheese and you want it chopped extra well and tossed and split into two bowls and you want to sub out the blue cheese for feta and the bacon for turkey bacon and you only want romaine lettuce and you need an extra plate and the order must be rushed because you have a plane to catch and you’re in a hurry just like everyone else in this bar. And I snap. Just like that, I snap.
My book snaps shut in my hands and gets shoved into my apron and my mind snaps like my book and I turn the corner of the galley and collapse into tears. Erupt into tears. I am mount Vesuvius and I am about to unleash a storm of ash and lava upon this place. And another server will rush up and ask me what they can do for me and I will just shrug my shoulders, throw up my empty hands, stare at the onion bagel in the toaster and try to remember what the fuck I was supposed to do with it. Scoop it? Butter it? Throw it at the wall?
It’s not your fault. But try to understand. For a job that requires no college degree this is, ironically, one of the hardest jobs you could ever work. It requires a mental, physical, and emotional capacity that 99% of human beings lack. It requires a strength unmatched by other professions. It ages you far too quickly. Not only the job, but the nicotine and alcohol we consume to get through it. From the moment we clock in, we are ticking time bombs. Emotional basket cases. We are mothers and we are students and we are working two or more jobs to pay the bills and we are struggling to serve you as you deserve to be served.
My plea to you is to understand this. I’m not a bad waitress. But I do have bad days. My feet hurt and apron is cutting into my hips and my pants are shredding as they drag along the floor and my supervisor is on her way over to tell me that I need to get them hemmed. My arms are shaking under the weight of all of these plates and my voice is hoarse and my throat is scratchy because I’ve spent the last five minutes arguing with the cooks over the fact that they poached my eggs hard when I wanted medium because it’s an Eggs Benedict and no one wants a hard yolk with that is this conversation even necessary and, for the moment, I am sick to death of being here.
Please understand. That when I bring you blue cheese and you asked for ranch or you get an egg bagel instead of plain because in the dim light of the galley all of these colors look the same, I don’t mean to suck. That when your sandwich comes on wheat instead of sourdough and your fries come out crispy but not well done and I bring you a coke instead of diet I’m just doing the best I can which, at this moment, is just plain shit. I’ll fix it if you ask me nicely and I’ll even fix it if you don’t—either way I’m going to fix it because you deserve to get your order right but I speak at normal speaking tones and I hear at normal decibels could you just try to do the same?
Please don’t yell at us. Please don’t slide your plate across the table at me I hate juggling and I have terrible depth perception and that’s part of the reason I got kicked off the softball team in high school. I also told my coach to shut up but that’s neither here nor there.
Definitely don’t throw your food at me this is not a cafeteria it’s a damn restaurant act like an adult not like the three year old child at the next table over who is, by this point, being very negatively influenced by your behavior and I only know this because she just picked up her sippy cup and hurled it to the floor. Now she should play softball. That girl’s got an arm. But I’m more concerned about the milk that’s curdling in the carpet. I’ll just add that to the list of things I have to clean later that I get paid, after taxes, about 1.08 an hour to do.
I know you don’t understand but please try to. The ache in your stomach doesn’t begin to compare to the ache in my back and my legs and my feet and my head. It doesn’t come close to the ache in my heart. Because your five dollar tip doesn’t make a dent in the cost of the therapist I now need to see to get over the last three minutes of your screaming tirade that I was forced to endure. Your voice could shatter a champagne glass. Imagine what it could do to me.