I am a career server. This was not my intended vocation — I certainly never lulled myself to sleep as a hopeful adolescent with fantasies of taking 15 tables at once or screaming at adult men over unequal salad portions — but I also never had a feasible career in mind. The “future” seemed like something that would never arrive and my parents didn’t pay enough attention to me to force me to set a goal and adhere to it. All I wanted to do was be in a band, but I never even had the drive to learn an instrument, and Slipknot already had a steady member who hits the keg-drum with a baseball bat during “Duality”; I’m terrible at math; science classes consistently felt like watching a movie in a foreign language without subtitles; I pass out at the sight of blood and most body fluids; I lack the artistic eye required to see something and “vision” to be something else, something better; I loved reading, but I never considered writing as anything more than a way to organize my thoughts and calm my nerves.
I trudged half-heartedly through college, taking the basic required courses with a shrug, assuming I was heading in the only direction available for someone like me: Teaching English… What else was there to do? I am very vocal about despising the “normal” 9-5 lifestyle, but that is now, not then; though I didn’t feel “normal,” I hadn’t a clue that there was a different kind of normal out there for people like me…. until I stumbled into a job in the restaurant industry.
I found my home, man: the debauchery, the stress, the cursing, the heated emotions, and the chaos were addicting to me. I was thriving financially, making “adult” money for the first time in my “adult” life… without a degree, which most of the other full-time employees had. Many even had the exact degree I was slowly working towards, so why were they working there?
…I doubt I need to explain why. Once I read that the starting salary for English teachers in public school was less than what I made a year as a hostess, I dropped out. I started serving and making twice the amount of money. It’s been five years, and I bought a house and a car and everything I needed; I’m nearing 30; I’m an “adult,” I guess.
Restaurants have this magical quality (some could argue “delusion”) that make you feel like you never grew up: drinking, drugs, partying, staying up all night, and sex are rampant and accepted as normal. Everyone I love has a similar lifestyle because if they didn’t, we would drift apart; to some, we’re barbarians, and they’re not far off. My mom loves to bully me about only dating “losers” — line cooks — and I argue back, “Where the fuck would I find someone ‘normal,’ Mom? I don’t go anywhere but work.”
“I am sure you wait on plenty of good catches a night.”
Yeah, and they don’t want shit to do with me as soon as they find out that I am not in school to be a dental hygienist: I only do this… and oh, yeah, Rose is a writer, but a quick investigation performed by anyone who isn’t a complete idiot will unfortunately reveal that “writing” is still only a way to organize my thoughts and calm my nerves. Rose is also never available until about 10pm most nights, and Rose is a fucking drunk, so please make certain to work readily-available refreshments into the date we will never have.
I lost the crux: I’m a server because being a teacher sounded like a fate worse than death and I didn’t know what else there was to do. I can’t fathom arguing with teenagers that they should read a fucking book, if for no other reason than if they read the fucking book, they will pass the fucking test, only to fail to convince a single one. I have been the only student to raise their hand every time a teacher asked a question because I was the only person in class who read the fucking book, and how frustrated and exhausted and disheartened the teachers were was palpable enough for me to recognize even as a teenager, no less selfish or shitty than the rest of my peers… English was just the only class I enjoyed, and I pitied them, and wanted to put an end to their miserable and hopeless spectacle. I read the books they assigned during my other classes and pissed those teachers off, too.
….Now, I felt this way before the world ended and teachers were thrown into the hellfire to — quite literally — die. Restaurant workers were not spared, either, but I clock in every day with the blind hope that at least a decent amount of the dozens of patrons who breathe on me are vaccinated as I touch countless things they put their mouth on and sometimes have the time to wash my hands after, but children are not eligible for the vaccin. (Welcome to Planet Shit.) I intentionally do not read too far into the discourse surrounding the hellacious catastrophe the government forced our educators to walk into this school year, though not in a way that suggests “La la la! I can’t hear you! Teehee! What? Bad things are happening in the world? Not mine! Who cares!” but La la la: I care, so I’m afraid that if I hear too much, I will want to die.
Unfortunately, teachers go out to eat, and eavesdropping is a skill quickly developed by not only all of us so-called “writers,” but bored restaurant employees. Teachers also want relationships, and their “normal” schedules (that I so vehemently oppose) render them capable of going on “normal” dates (such as to a decent restaurant to get dinner and not a seedy bar to drink your dinner) at “normal” hours (7pm: the busy rush for people like me).
I ran food to a couple that was obviously a first-date; you can’t ignore the bubbly nervousness, the awkward giggling to fill any potential silence, the meticulous attention-to-detail paid to their every movement… and the refusal to make eye-contact with me as I call out their entrees like we are not all goddamn adults.
Ah, whatever, I thought as I dropped their plates and scurried off. You remember what it’s like to be nervous and excited around someone you’re interested in, right? Somewhere in your rotted brain, Rose? And I did! I do! I love love!
…Alas, I was standing near that same table when I heard her say, “Well, it’s been… Hectic. Four children in my class have tested positive, but I think they were exposed from their bus-driver, but I don’t know what that means for me…”
Oh… Oh, no… What that probably means is that this poor fellow is deeply regretting agreeing to sit a foot away from her in this rather busy restaurant instead of, oh, I don’t know… yelling across an empty field at each other using megaphones on a day where this is no wind, but maybe I am just a dick. Maybe I am just upset that I had to be reminded of how many helpless children are falling extremely ill and our government couldn’t give less of a shit, all because I overheard this depressing first-date discourse between some adult dweeb that ordered a plain cheese pizza and a poor girl who already works one of the most thankless and torturous jobs on the planet and has now taken upon herself the grueling burden of finding someone to love her.