It was a great summer; one of the best. It was the first summer I stayed at school with my college friends and without adult supervision. It was the summer of tennis every day. It was the summer of the decrepit brownstone by the park. It was the summer of the West Point cadet. It was the summer of the shotgun beer drinking championship, held in my buddy Bob’s bathtub. You know who won.
It was the summer I became a waitress.
It was a short-order, burgers and fries kind of place. The menus were laminated. The food, not so great; but the coffee refills, on the house. Perfect for the student budget. We wore checked polyester uniforms with matching aprons. Mine came down to my ankles. The manager told me to take up the hem. My roommate Nancy made the alterations. A few snips, a few stitches, and I was soon modeling a mini. There were no more complaints.
The orders we wrote on paper pads which we tucked into our aprons. Some of the waitresses — there were no waiters — stuck their pencils behind their ears, but not me. Not after the No. 2 pencil-stabbing incident in high school; my graphite scar remained a painful reminder of those dangerous days.
We carried the dinnerware stacked on our arms. My child-sized hands, my short wing span, several hot plates, a swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room; you get the picture. Every shift put my agility, balance, and strength to the test. Though food delivery was not my long suit, I won each of the weekly sales contests. Even the Liver and Onion Lollapalooza. The unfortunate consequence of my success was evermore food to fetch.
The job was memorable for many reasons, but three remain most vivid in my mind.
First, it was the summer of my personal homeboy. Fred was a busboy. Tall, skinny, black kid. Sixteen years old. Saggy baggy pants with his boxers sticking out the back. He would romance me every day in three acts. Act I, he would serenade me in rap, the key line being “yo, cut me some slack, Jac”. Act II, he would plead for a chance to show me that he was the kind of “man” who knew how to treat a woman. All I could do was to roll my eyes, which led to Act III, a reprisal of “cut me some slack, Jac”.
Second, it was the summer of my starring turn at the improv. Most nights, my friends came to watch me work, insisting it was better than I Love Lucy. There was the scene where I chased down the street and tackled the party who left without paying their check. The scene where I was using the stall in the Men’s room and had to silently crouch atop the toilet seat while an endless stream of men took aim at the urinals. The scene where I commandeered the grill and ordered the patrons to cook their own meals. There were quips cracking, dishes dropping, and prats falling every shift.
Third, it was the summer of my fan club. I don’t know why it happened, I don’t know how it happened, but it happened. There was a group of kids, boys and girls, high school age. They came in a few nights a week, very late, just before closing. They would have dessert, always with complicated instructions involving whipped cream topiary. I would bring a few canisters to the table and customize each dessert to order. With artistry and flair; think Tom Cruise in Cocktail.
In the beginning, they would just ask the hostess for me to be their waitress. No one else wanted their table anyway. A group of kids means a very big mess and a very small tip. Then, things started to escalate. They would clap and cheer when I came to the table. Finally, it got really strange. Upon arrival, they would start jumping and pointing and shouting “She’s here! She’s here!” At first I thought there was some celebrity in the house but it became clear that the adoration was for me. I prayed this would not be my 15 minutes.
The days passed quickly and the summer ended and though the manager begged me to stay, the new school year brought a new job opportunity. Interviewing students for management internships. It was a no-brainer. Clearly, this would be a position better aligned with my natural talents. You know, sitting and talking.
© 2016 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.