Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Summer of 84
I was a waitress. Having decided I would like to go to Hotel and Restaurant School at OSU, I found a job in a restaurant. It was called The Fig Tree Atrium and was a hotel restaurant inside the Midwestern Inn on Van Buren in Enid, Oklahoma. At the time, it was Enid's nicest hotel and one of the nicest restaurants. The manager of the restaurant was an exacting man who promised to teach me the correct methods of food service.

I was on the breakfast - lunch shift, which required a 6:00 a.m. start time. (How's that for a summer break?) There were 2 other waitresses who had worked together for a long time and had a system down. The promised to teach me the tricks of food service. They didn't warm to me very quickly. They even told me they would be waitresses their entire lives and they new I was just passing through on my way to bigger and better things. To them I was just a brat. In many ways they were correct. When I started working that summer I had no idea what kind of lives they led or how lucky I was.

Though pleasant and hard working, I never was a very good waitress. I just don't have the memory for the job! Waitresses are constantly interrupted with small requests. None of them are particularly difficult, but I would often arrive at the kitchen knowing I need an extra napkin, sugar, a knife, butter and a cup of orange juice, but I couldn't remember who needed which item. And, in the middle of all that, I was supposed to be on top of the cooks to get my food out, take orders, refill drinks, seat guests, tabulate checks and make change. All this while attempting to look happy and in control. It is a very difficult job, really - and I was not made for it.

My co-workers both had young children and were always stressed about day care and childhood illness and husbands and not having any sleep and not having a car to get to work. I don't know how they did it. All I had to do was go to bed at a reasonable hour and clean my uniform. I still think of them often and wonder about their lives. I took one of them home once because her car broke down, and I was shocked when I saw her house. She always came to work with her hair done and with a neat uniform - and she was the best waitress by far. She lived in a shack. I could literally see through the boards into her house. That was the day I realized why they thought me a brat. I didn't even know. I didn't even know.

Be nice to the waitress. You probably don't even know, either.


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