Waiter Dreams 

You're on the top of a hill, wearing your black pants, black soft-soled shoes, black apron, and white shirt. You're next to a station set up with a silver rectangular bucket of ice, plastic pitchers of water and iced tea, straws, sugar and artificial sweeteners, creamers, coffee warmers, stacked glasses, piles of napkins, and sliced lemons. You can't squeeze the lemons into the water anymore because the juice stings the tiny cuts in your fingertips from opening twist-off beer bottles. Carefully, you balance seven waters and a plate of lemons on your tray for your new table, then you realize that your tables are no longer at a convenient distance but at the top of a neighboring hill. You try to remember how to walk downhill in such a way as to control your speed. You see your tables far away, occupied by thirsty, hungry customers, and try to smile and call (but not shout or yell), "I'm coming! I'm on my way!"

Somebody's turned the dishwasher spray nozzle so far that it can't be shut off. The water is flooding the kitchen, and slowly spreading across the dining area's hardwood floors. Your manager brings you a mop, then sits at the bar to watch you try to soak up the water, saying, "Those floors will splinter if you don't work faster. You can't go home until it's scuff free, clean, dry, and polished, and ready for tomorrow's breakfast." Meanwhile, the only waiter you really can't stand is clocking out, taking off his apron and saying good-bye, ha, ha, ha, throwing back his head, leaving, walking, laughing, swinging his arms beside his enormous belly. Your manager reminds you that you have to roll 60 silverwares and restock all the sugar caddies before you too can go home.

The restaurant has printed new menus. Somebody at one of your tables asks you to describe the spiced Asian vermicelli, and exactly what spices are included, and in what proportions, and can broccoli be added to the plate.

You try to play it cool and reply with your best guesses.

Your customer has an allergic reaction to the taro. His eyelids swell, his tongue fills his mouth, he has trouble breathing and gets rushed to the hospital.

You finally get cut, are told not to take any new tables, drop the checks on your last tables, do your checkout, take the bus home, and fall into bed. When the sound of your own voice, asking "How would you like your burger cooked?" wakes you, you open your eyes to try to prepare yourself for getting out of bed. But you find all the tables from your section are in your bedroom this morning. They're all so close together that you can't get to the doorway, and naturally, you're not allowed to step on the tables. You get new bruises on your hips, shins, elbows as you're jostled back and forth between table corners and chairs, your nightstand and your bed.

Your boyfriend brings his turntables and speakers and whatever else he needs and starts setting up on a stage in the center of the restaurant. He pours drinks and spins records. You pull a poem out of your apron. As you prepare to perform, your old boyfriend walks in with his new girlfriend and starts shouting drink orders for the two of them. He looks good. She looks like a skank. The other customers say, "I've been waiting for a drink for an hour! Get her off the stage!"

Eight drunk thirtysomethings stumble into the restaurant and sit in your section. They're going to a Jethro Tull concert. As you take their order, one of the fatter men suddenly says, "Didn't you used to work at the Gap?" He pulls out a folding board and the woman next to him grabs a white V-neck T-shirt out of her bag. They tell you if you can still fold a perfect T-shirt, they'll give you a good tip. You say, "How did you find me?" After they leave, he comes back to ask you to go out for coffee sometime. Your fellow waiters snicker but do not save you from replying, "Are you kidding? You must be older than my father!" Then one of them says, "Come help me take this trash outside," just a minute too late.

There's a bed in your section and it's the one that's supposed to be in your bedroom. You're kissing someone you know in your bed while your tables are eating and when they're done they give you the leftovers. Your bed blends in pretty well, not too many people say anything.

The beautiful bartender stops flirting with all the women on the other side of the bar and asks you to go "somewhere warm" with him for the winter. You get discovered by a record producer while singing your R & B version of "Happy Birthday." You make enough money to fly home. You sleep without remembering what happened to your tables. You go to the dentist. Your old customers see you on the street and stop saying hello to you by name. You throw away your black soft-soled shoes. Your feet aren't swollen anymore and they have propellers, not blisters.

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