Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I spent the first few hours of 2011 at work, serving drinks, cleaning wine glasses, sweeping up confetti. Just before the stroke of midnight though, everyone who was working was given a small glass of champagne. All the customers gathered by the stage in bow ties and sparkly purple dresses, and all the workers huddled together a little way off.

'Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!!'

And for a few minutes we were allowed to drop our roles – waitress, bar staff, chef, dish washer – and just be people, toasting in the New Year. A few moments of excitement, hugging people you wouldn't normally, asking about ambitions...and then back to work.

...that is the thing about being a waitress, it is a role. Once I put the uniform on, once I button up the shirt and tie a bow at the back of the apron, I become: The Waitress. Which is fine, but sometimes (during the summer especially, when I’m working for months at a time) it feel quite anonymous, like my 'self' gets lost inside crumpled napkins and dirty dishes... 
There was one day, two summers ago, when the cafe was mobbed – clinking tea cups, piano music, talking, talking, a small child whining, laughing, cutlery rattling – and I had been running about all day bringing ice-cream sundaes and coffees to customers, when I came to a table I’d served earlier. Table 39: a lady, and a man with blue eyes, and their little boy, and his granny who was wearing a bright pink t-shirt. And the man said,
‘I hope they pay you well, because you work very hard.’
And then the granny asked,
What’s your name, love?’
‘Melissa.’
And soon I was back to whizzing about with more trays of drinks, but that was lovely. Kindness is beautiful, even if it comes in the form of a few words and a naming.
‘Melissa. My name is Melissa.’

Yes! I am not a uniform. I am a literature student. I had tuggy hair when I was a little girl. I am in love with the idea of love, but frightened of the reality of it. I am an aspiring ‘doer of good’. I am a person.

I try hard to see the customers as people, and not just table numbers. They are living stories, characters with quirks and ambitions. I like it when they remember, and remind me, that I am story too. Just now is only a chapter.
(pictures from Matte Stephens. The last one isn't related, I just thought it was funny...)

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the days of being a cog as part of the restaurant business. (Look forward to becoming a cog in a different way. Ha ha.) It can be quite stressful, but two good things: 1.) generally it is a temporary gig, assuming that the global & our respective local economies improve, and 2.) you meet interesting people as coworkers. (I have a great friend whom I met 15-years ago through a restaurant gig.) Congratulations on recognizing that people are people. It's easy to lose that and get one's self lost in the shuffle. Good luck! Keep writing: what I've read is very honest and reflective.

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