I’ve worked in restaurants before, vowed never to return, and recently found myself in the warm, bitter pool of restaurant redux.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in …”
Some things have not changed, like the genetic makeup of constituents: the hostesses are attractive young girls and/or in/out gay men; the waiters are mostly younger guys with hopes to become something better or defeated and hollow versions of themselves fifteen or more years later; the waitresses are young, catty, and full of complaints (mostly about one another); the kitchen is stocked with those who can’t find a job that pays better; and, the dishwashers speak Spanish, some illegally working in the States.
Some things have changed, like the ability to leave with cash in your pocket (Now, the IRS, growing clever after decades of restaurants being in existence, ensure tips and gratuity are properly weighed and measured…); my youthful age; and, the dignity that went along with working at a restaurant while going to college and graduate school.
Fifteen years before, I just joked about crying myself to sleep over being a waiter in his early twenties. Now, I actually weep before sleeping and dreaming of a better life beyond that of a busboy who makes minimal wages at thirty six.
One astute waitress recently asked, “Why are you here?” The question carries so much weight that answering it sincerely would surely crush my ego along with my tongue that only had the patience and dignity to rest idle in my mouth contorted in a smirk.
It’s not that I believe I’m better than the $4.25 an hour I make aside from tips. It’s just that the reality of the situation is a reminder that dreams do not come true and Mickey Mouse is probably just a fictional character created by a capitalistic entity fanatic about making money at all costs.
Maybe I’m just goofy or the world has turned my Cinderella ending into a smashed pumpkin filled with dirty dishes of the elite and barking commands of waiters who are significantly younger than I but above me in the restaurant’s visceral pecking order.
“This sucks,” may be an apt description of my present state and yet I feel there are further circles to descend and even more hope to abandon. I’ve seen sightless gluttons described by Dante but maybe this hell won’t be over until I shine Judas’ Bordeaux glass a few more times.
There are fringe benefits. I get to live vicariously through a younger cohort who has a way with the ladies of the house and reminds me of my former self who would be so proud to see me in my polyester tuxedo jacket, frilled bow tie, and long flowing apron that serves as a fashionable complement.
Also, I get to drink free limited amounts of espresso from a semi-cleaned press that makes the self embarrassment go down smoother. I’m sure it would taste the same if I was to order it while sitting on the porch, dressed dapperly, and joined by a beautiful young woman who respected me.
This is not a declaration of defeat. Sometimes you are are up and sometimes you are an unknown sticky substance dragged along and discolored by the emotionless, endless trudging of life’s underfoot.
At least I have something to look forward to, what it will be like to be fifty and returning to the restaurant business for a charming third roundabout. Wheeeeee!