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This is my profession. I have turned taking care of you and your family into an art, an act that requires more than a little heart, moving beyond delivering your food and remembering what you like to drink, to deducing what your needs will be, simply by what you ordered and your personality, I'll know before you even know you need them yourself.
To guiding the atmosphere of your table: finding the flow, leaving you and your hot date alone or making sure that your children have crayons, keeping them occupied and picking up the plate that was thrown, ignoring the noise and calming onlooker moans. Noticing that Mom needs to cut her steak, but Dad hasn't given her a break from nurturing the baby. Maybe I take a second, and say: "May I hold him?" This is where you come to get away. The kitchen can wait.
I ensure that your napkins, sides of ranch and extra cheese are there before your meal and that your drink is full, your table is clean and that you don't have a single sign of onions on your salad. You wont have to ask me to remove your plate, or that the food that remains is what you want to take home: I already have it in a box for you, in my mind. Your bill is there, delivered inconspicuously with care, respectfully not tempting you with dessert: I don't want to say ice cream too loud in front of the youngsters.
I see everything, I hear everything: every comment and complaint and with complete restraint, I love you still and convince my manager to discount your bill. I am a part of your day, enhancing the quality of your stay, me reminding you and you reminding me of the humanity that sustains. I am so grateful for you noticing my day hasn't been great, our shared laughter and conversation truly made it better.
I don't have to do this. I know my skills, I know what my potential is. But I meant it when I said that I love you. Perhaps some time, some way, I may be able to say I am a part of your day outside of this disposable place where you come to have your dinner made and cleaned up for you. For now, Ill settle for you sitting in my section.
At the end of my shift, I'll drive 30 minutes, my name already forgotten, by the time I get home. I'll take my apron off and count my tips, put away that and spend this on this. Make sure that I pay my bills. Strip off my uniform and my non-slips, sit on the couch and try to get a grip on reality. Re-frame my mind, get out of the grind, remember what it is like living. When most of the time, I'm always so preoccupied, running around, remembering what other people like, and forgetting what I came in the dry storage for. I lose my sense of self, my sense of sight, lose my inner peace of mind. Even after I'm off the floor, I can't shed this way of thinking. I'm still waiting your table while I'm sleeping.
It takes a few days away, which is rare in that specific work pace, to get back to reality; weekends and time with friends are a commodity. A part-time position at 40 hours a week, back to back doubles, straight through, no sleep and not one benefit to reap for my loyalty to this company. When in this profession, your body and mind is misused. You suffer oppression, bullies, and verbal abuse. After so long, it's hard for emotion to come through.
Finally, I wake up some what well rested, almost disconnected, after nightmares of waiting tables completely undressed, and waking up from a dead sleep, from the pressure of stress, because I forgot to bring that wet towel to clean up your mess. After having spent time with my dog, my Mom and my online classes, and catching up on my Netflix therapy session, it is 3:00 pm, my alarm sounds cruel, reminding me I have work to do. This is my profession.
"What can I get for you?"