Friday, November 17, 2006

favourite waitress

I don’t need another admirer. Slobbering drunks, squandering their miniscule paycheques. The calculated arrogance of wannabe kingpins. Ignorant frat boys rehearsing for a lifetime of buffoonery. So easy to drop these people into tight little categories. No, I don’t need another admirer. Not here. Not them. Not now. Not ever.

A waitress hears things. A lot of stupid things. Oftentimes, not very nice things. Piggish remarks from loutish losers in their one nice shirt. Their going out shirt. You can spot it as soon as they walk in, all stiffened gait and awkward poses. Soon, one beer turns to six and the loud-talking begins – and everyone’s a winner, then.

“Hey, sweetheart – ‘nother round here?”

Sweetheart. I’ll never play sweetheart to any guy who would wear his sunglasses indoors. I toss him a nod, and—

“What time you off, anyway?”

“An hour after close,” I say, hurrying to scoop the empties from the table.

“You busy later?”

But the desperate words are spoken to my back as I rush away to the next batch of washouts. I don’t hear him when he calls me a cunt – or at least I’ll pretend I don’t this time.

To the bar now with a tray full of empty glasses drained by empty people. Finding humour, I’m mentally checking off all the things these guys do wrong, ignoring the Five Tips For Picking Up Your Favourite Waitress:

1. Don’t be a drunken idiot – I see enough of these. Stand out by not standing out. If I have to pick you up off of the floor, tell you to put your pants back on, or clean up your puke, you are getting anywhere with me. Seriously. You know what they say about first impressions, right? Well, I’ll tell you right now that you’ll do best to just not make one at all – let the losers around you be the ones to highlight your strengths, making you look good.

2. Compliment. Don’t tell me I’m hot – I already knows this. It’s my job. You’ve got to tell me something that I don’t hear thirty times a night. However, if you insist on mentioning my looks, just tell me that I’m pretty. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of that. I can’t stress this enough, though: forget about using those lines you’ve got stored away. You’re dealing with a professional, here. A girl who’s heard everything you could possibly throw at her. Don’t even try to be cute.

3. Tip well, but not too much. You’re not trying to buy me, here. You want me to know that you’ve got class, but that you’re not slimy. Get it? I’ll be impressed because you know how reward me for my services, not because you know how to use a bank machine to fill your wallet with twenties. A buck on a drink tells me that you appreciate my hard work. Five bucks on a drink tell me that you’re hard up.

4. Be witty – and by witty I don’t mean sarcastic. Everybody knows that sarcasm is just a dull man’s wit. Release your inner Oscar Wilde. Make me laugh. If that means verbally trampling on your mates, calling them out for acting like complete cretins, then so be it. You’ll be saying the things I wish I could, and the things I would if I wasn’t on the clock.

5. Finally, ask me to breakfast. Waitresses love breakfast. We work late, closing the bar until well after three in the morning, so we tend to work up an appetite. Invite me to that all-night diner you know about, the one tucked away down a quiet side street downtown. Chances are, if you followed the other four rules above, I’ll reply, smiling, “Sure, pick me up out front a little after three.”

I was once told that if one ever gets to the point of thinking she is better than her job, then she has reached that critical point where she needs to quit. Well, I know that am better than my job. I am better than this cage, and I am better than the beasts which reside within. But I’m trapped here by a steady flow of tips from the idiotic masses. See, it’s the money which has me donning this fake hair and fake smile night after night. These fake clothes, this fake perfume. It’s not me. None of it is.

A waitress hears things. A lot of weird things. Oftentimes, outright bizarre things. Cryptic remarks from that strange, strange man down at the end of the bar. The one in the wide-brimmed hat, and too-short pants. Shirt opened a little too far; chest, a little too hairy for my tastes.

“So, I’m barrelling down this ravine in the backseat of a taxicab in Bujumbura – or what they call a taxicab anyway, the car being over fifty years old and driven by a man who could only have been its original owner – and we’ve got at least three cop cars behind us.

“I’m yelling at the driver: ‘Speed up! Speed up!’ – but of course he doesn’t understand a word of English, so he begins to slow down. Just as he slows to the point where I think I could survive a jump from the moving vehicle, I pop open the door and suddenly I’m tumbling out into the night, through the brush, and into the tree line, still clutching to my chest the item I had gone there for – the Crown of—”

Suddenly, he turns to look at me, having noticed that I’ve sidled up alongside him with my empty tray in hand.

“Well, hello there, sweetheart,” he grins with perfect white teeth. “Another round for me and my friends, here?”

Sweetheart. Yes please. Those eyes. Sweetheart – I guess it’s all in the deliverance. “I, uh, yeah, I – I’ll bring them right round,” I stammer. I’m about to spin on my heel, my face aflush, when I’m caught off guard again.

“Say – you busy later tonight?” the strange man asks.

“No,” I chirp, barely audible.

“Good, then I’ll pick you up round three o’clock,” he says. “Having a little thing back at my place. Some drinks, some stories, you know the rest.”

I’m not sure I do know the rest, but I’m game. I’ll be there, waiting for him a little after three. I’ll be there and I don’t even know why. Just now, I’ve surprised myself – but it’s a good thing I like surprises. Just another reason, above and beyond the money, that I stay at such a crummy job. A girl can learn a lot about herself living in a cage of beasts.

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