Waitressing Guts and Glory

Musings

I have held my fair share of waitressing jobs. Some more frightful than others. My current one has its fair share of pros and cons, though mostly this isn’t a bad gig. However, I have been bowled over as of late by some of the things that have happened to me as a waitress. Or more recently as a promoted waitress. Oh yeah, did I mention? I am now the dining room manager at the resort I work at. So ya know: Pretty important. Pretty posh. Pretty big deal.

Nah, I kid. I mean, it’s a pay raise and all, but really the only difference from the me who waitressed before and the me who waitresses now is that I get badgered a great deal more and get a little more ticked off when people show up late for their shifts.

I have decided, however, to do a small-ish round-up of my most interesting/ridiculous/downright jaw-dropping happenings whilst waitressing.

Let’s start with my personal favorite which was a good indicator of how unrelenting motherhood will be.

As the new dining room manager I find that people like to update me, ask me questions and generally hound the hell out of me, from the moment I walk in the door until the moment I beeline for the door again at the end of my shift. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the responsibility and ability to put my neuroticism and obsessive compulsive tendencies to good use, but days like today for instance when all I want to do is shove a morsel of marinated chicken breast into my mouth—while in between getting refills for my tables—I want to do it in peace and quiet. No such luck. While attempting to take frenzied bites of chicken, I had at least four interruptions within three bites. I tried to strictly look involved with my chicken, so they would get the message and yet the onslaught ensued, until I gave up my mini break, hunched over the back waitress station, while people scraped plates and hurried past, and instead went back to waiting tables, giving up hope that I could eat while on my shift. Trying to eat while waitressing is the equivalent of trying to sneak a twinkie in prison while other prisoners furiously eyeball you while you choke down the sugar worrying all the while about being shanked. At least that’s how it is in my mind. I’m sorry if I have insulted prisoners with this analogy, but again, that’s just my mind.

Oh anyway, I derailed there. I was going to give you the happenings. So I am mostly so busy at work that I don’t even allot proper timing for bathroom breaks. I just wear my body out running around, that I dehydrate myself to the point where I may have had to go to the bathroom once, but all my moving—which for me inevitably means sweating—causes my urine to just reabsorb, or whatever the hell it does when you are so dehydrated you no longer pee in a ten hour waitressing shift. Also note this level of dehydration is actually something to be avoided as I nearly passed out at work the other day due to this practice, so uhh… don’t follow my lead here on that one guys. Anyway.

Instance Number 1: I actually decide to go to the bathroom for once. I tell one of my coworkers where I will be for the upcoming three minutes and head out of the dining area to have what I presume are mere moments of rest and relaxation while I take a much-needed pee break. Just as I sit down and haven’t even begun to contemplate toilet paper, I hear the door open and a hesitant tap on my stall. I freeze midstream, while wondering why on God’s green earth I am being summoned in here of all places. So help me God, this better be an emergency, I think.

“Yes?” I say with controlled patience. It is the co-worker I had just told I would be in the bathroom.

“I am so sorry to follow you in here, but the cooks have a question about your ticket.”

Now I am seething. I cannot imagine this was an emergency worth trailing me into the bathroom over, but ask her instead what it is. She explains. I clarify and she then thanks me profusely and leaves the bathroom. That’s what motherhood is like right? No longer getting to piss in peace? Well, I gotta say moms, I am not a fan.

Instance Number 2: While in the middle of a weekend breakfast rush, the equivalent of an IHOP stampede, one of our breakfast cooks goes missing. I note this amongst my frantic running around, seating tables, refilling coffees and trying to load people up on Belgian waffles and hash browns. I run to the back to communicate with the prep cooks and head chef that we need backup. Backup, people, we need backup! 

The head chef proceeds to tell me that the other cook left.

“Where? J is floundering up there. he has like 13 tickets.”

“He has one table,” the head chef tries to correct me.

“Wrong. He was like 13 tables. We have been sat repeatedly for the last half hour. So, could someone help him?”

“I don’t know where the other cook is,” HC insists, making no move to go and help J himself.

“Could you find him?” I practically bellow.

“Why don’t you?” He counters.

I fear at this point he may be able to read the homicide that is clearly visible in my eyes.

“I don’t have time! I don’t even have time to be back here having this conversation with you!”

“Well I don’t have time either,” he sniffs with his haughty air and turns away from me to continue chopping vegetables.

“Oh that’s cool. That’s great,” I mutter under my breath loudly as I walk away thoroughly ticked off, “all my tables can just wait an hour for a bloody pancake…”

After the rush peters into a lull, I have time to search for the missing cook. I go to find him in his quarters located beneath the restaurant, where some of the staff reside. He opens the door casually no longer in his chef coat and work pants, but in a ripped tee and jogging shorts.

“Yeah, hi,” I start. “I know the head chef probably royally pissed you off and you think you’re sticking it to him by walking out, but really you’re sticking it to us waitresses because we are slammed and the other cook is drowning and HC won’t help. And so I would really love, if at least for me, you would suit back up, come upstairs and help.”

He nods his head like there will be no argument and in minutes is upstairs helping cook. Oy. Fuckin. Vey.

Instance Number 3: Waiting on Viggo Mortensen this morning. Yeah, who would’ve thought Hidalgo would meander on into my place of employ in the Big Horns? He apparently came in last night and my sister waited on him first, while he was hounded by customers vying for his attention. When he came in this morn, I had naturally already prepped myself on how to handle celebrity sightings and ya know be super cool, collected and couth. Which is exactly what I did. Bringing his wife tea, his son a hot chocolate loaded with whip. And generally just letting him enjoy his meal without me gawking and asking him about being Hidalgo. Oh but I wanted to. Of course I can pretend to have couth, but lord knows that is entirely not so. Anyhow, when Viggo pointed to the hash browns and asked if we had potatoes, I nodded profusely and said, “Yes, we have hash browns!”

And he shook his head and said, “No, do you have some sort of potato…”

“Like home fries…?” I ventured. “We have those on the buffet…” but even as I said the word buffet I was embarrassed. I didn’t want Viggo Mortenson to have crap buffet home fries. Or even have our frozen hash browns. If I couldn’t pose with him for pictures or pepper him with questions of glitz and glamour in Hollywood, then I damn well wanted him to have a proper potato for breakfast. And yet I feared we didn’t serve anything that he might prefer.

I nodded however, and assured him he would have potatoes. I ran back to the breakfast cook and asked if he could do a breakfast potato. “Yeah, hash browns,” he answered with a slight smile, like I was dense.

“Yeah, but more like a home fry,” I clarified.

“We have those on the buffet,” he said.

“No, but not those either…”

Another waitress intervened on my behalf at this point, and said, “We have those one potatoes J, you could cut those up and fry them and do something with those?”
This was the same waitress who had followed me into the bathroom. She had just redeemed herself in my attempts to win over Viggo Mortensen’s approval as a competent and classy waitress.

J looked slightly perturbed at this insistence for breakfast potatoes we don’t have and don’t serve. But like the solid and reliable fellow that he is, he didn’t say another word and instead simply complied. When I saw the potatoes in the window, looking fancy and sorta French like with a little flower shape cut through the middle—well maybe the Americanized version of French because what do I know—I beamed my satisfaction and thanks feeling much more proud to walk back to Viggo’s table with proper potatoes.

The rest of the interchange was mostly my silently refilling their coffees and teas and when he and his wife went to peruse the gift shop, I asked their son about the animals he’d seen on his vacation.

He politely entertained my eagerness, expressing his delight at seeing bison and moose. His accent intrigued me and I asked where he was from.

“Spain,” he answered.

“Wow! I have always wanted to visit Spain!” I started to gush, but when I saw that he was only politely indulging me to get rid of me, much like J with the potatoes, I relented and nodded, instead clearing the rest of their breakfast plates. “Enjoy the rest of your stay in the Big Horns,” I said as I walked away while stealing more glances at his famous father.

Since I am terribly verbose I wanted to share more instances of waitressing guts and glory—like the time I was working at a bar in New York City and I walked into the bathroom to find a man doing a line of coke off the counter—but alas I have thoroughly overshared here. So I shall leave it at a mere three. Also, how can I top waiting on Viggo Mortensen? I fear I can’t, so I ought to leave it at that.

Searching for a Story

Musings

I was freaking out the other day—like I am wont to do—over the notion that maybe I was out of stories. Maybe I had nothing more to say. I had said it all. Which okay, that in itself is quite laughable because I am the most verbose person I know, and I find that I know a lot of people, especially other verbosers like me.

I really had a fret about me as I tried to go about my day enjoying myself, whilst still searching for a story. But when I find that I may not have a story, inevitably a story finds me. Because life is beautiful and happenstance like that.

And surely a few things unfolded. First of all, I did find a story, or more appropriately, I located Story, Wyoming: a darling little village with a population of about 800 people. I suspected right away with a name like Story that I was going to fawn. And fawn I did as my sisters and I wove through the back country roads of Story while it drizzled and the windows fogged. A river wound past us and tall pines lingered in our peripheral.

If that weren’t enough to elicit love—which I’ll be honest, pines and rivers are always enough to elicit my love—what’s more is when I happened upon a quirky little guest house in Story’s dinky downtown, named the Waldorf A Story. As a lover of words and stories—duh, I also greatly admire wonderful plays on words. I was delirious. I popped on over into the library after fully devouring the Waldorf A Story, which was built with bright logs and as warm and charming as Story itself. I chatted with the librarian about the Waldorf A Story, about the town and how I was very enchanted and maybe I just might have to move to Story.

“We actually have a lot of writers who live here,” she smiled.

Naturally I had worked into the conversation that I was a writer. And why wouldn’t I consider living somewhere that appreciated words as much as I did?

The whole ride home I would not shut up about how wooed I was and how conflicted I felt. I loved this place, not just Story, but Wyoming. I loved the mist coming off of the mountains and how nice the librarians are here, not uber grouches like they seem to be in Michigan—come on gals, don’t you know you have one of the most cherished jobs in the world—and I liked the cowboys and their ruggedness and how seriously they seemed to take their ruggedness. I liked seeing them lasso in the middle of the day when I was out shopping, because that is the kind of thing you see in Wyoming. I also liked that my customers understood my Wyoming love and even encouraged it, asking me questions like, “Well, why don’t you just marry a cowboy?”

To which I always responded with, “I’m trying! Why haven’t any proposed yet?” Cue 90’s Paula Cole crooning, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.

Then I got to thinking, no but really, why hasn’t a cowboy asked me out yet? I posed this question to my girl friend at work today and before she could answer I mused, “Well it could be that I give myself only 17 minutes to get ready in the morning and then I go back to bed for five of those minutes and then run out the door letting my hair frizz out and only having put on one dab of mascara… but that can’t be the only reason…”

So what’s the dilemma then? If I love the mountains and the mist and the librarians and the rivers and the pines and the ruggedness of the men, then what is the problem? Well I suppose it’s that I know deep down I am not ready to let anyone or anything claim me quite yet… even Wyoming and so I feel a bit of melancholy over the whole ordeal, whilst at the same time feeling deep wells of gratitude for my good fortune of being in a mountains embrace dreaming of cowboys.

Do you see? Or maybe you don’t see at all, because I am a slight crazy person, but it’s like this: Wyoming wooes me so much of the time that I genuinely want to sob. I told this to my sister and I hammered on the point of sobbing so much, especially over this ballroom I had recently visited in an old Wyoming senator’s home, that my sister asked if I was pregnant.

“No, I am not pregnant,” I proclaimed, “not even possible! You have to have sex to get pregnant.”

But I had gotten to thinking after seeing the ballroom with the steepled ceilings and stained glass windows in a mansion perched on a hill, and the Buffalo farm nearby, and the town of Story and living atop a mountain, in a place where I felt others understood not just the beauty of the land but the magic of moving Westward, that it was grand I had moved on. Wasn’t it grand and maybe worth a sob or two?

I had loved Virginia in a way that I thought couldn’t be topped. I had also loved New York City, but in a different way. In a desperate sort of manic way. And I love the U.P. with the whole of my being. All these places have become a part of me no matter where I go, but what if I had stopped at the U.P. and never discovered the beautiful insomnia of late night runs across the Brooklyn Bridge, or endearing myself forever to beer, cheese and cows in the heartland of Wisconsin? Or the rolling horse country of Virginia, and Appalachia, and whale watching and falling in love with my nation’s capital and a man all at the same time?

So the conundrum is I can’t stop here in Wyoming. Not yet anyway. Now is the time for lingering. Oh and gosh darnit if I don’t want to linger with cowboys and mountains. But I also want to linger in Italian vineyards and along seaward coasts and wade through cranberry fields and dance at moonlit festivals.

I guess what all the fuss and fanfare is about is that I want to be a little morose already over potentially having to leave another love… because trust me, it ain’t easy folks. But at the same time, damn if it isn’t all so beautiful and worth every one of my seconds that I could simply sob. And I probably will. And no I am not preggo. I am just an emotionally overwrought kinda gal—or as one of my friends would say: a rollercoaster of emotion—and I like to cry over ballrooms, mountains and towns called Story.

Some Version of Camping

Musings

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About a week ago, after a six day work week of ten hour days spent hustling between tables and scraping leftover bites of pancake into the trash, it was imperative that Kirst and I escaped the lodge for a bit. And truly escaped, meaning no day spent off catching up on cleaning, or paying bills or driving two hours down the mountain to go linger in coffee houses. No, none of that. We were going to instead be one with Mother Nature. We were going camping. Or as my good friend Francis would say, campin’.

We left our trailer in the early afternoon as I wanted to spend an unhurried morning lazily flipping through one of the 12 books on Hemingway I picked up from the library. As I readied the car and looked at the directions drawn out for me by a forest ranger for our designated nature adventure, I spotted Kirst coming in and out of our laundry room—which really doubles as one giant dressing room—with multiple bags. The route we needed to take was what the term “off-road” was coined for. We would need to cross a river that had washed out the road and then go straight up into the mountain, over various rocks and potholes big enough to be considered small gorges. I watched as Kirst loaded clothing piece after clothing piece and bag after bag into the living room.

“Do you want me to pack body wash?” she asked in passing.

“Why on earth would we need body wash for one night of camping?” I asked.

“I don’t know…” she said as she stuffed more clothes into her already heaping bag.

“Kirst, where do you think we’re going? Paris? Why are you packing so many outfits? We are coming back tomorrow.”

She disregarded me as she loaded up another bag with paints and books.

“You do realize we have to carry all this stuff across the river if my car can’t make it across.”

“Oh really?” she looked surprised that any work would be involved in this camping trip.

“We also have to carry the tent, the air mattress, the cooler, the food bag, the fire wood, the blankets, the pillows, the hammocks…”

“Oh…” she seemed contemplative over this information but still unwilling to downsize on any of her “essentials.”

We were going to have to cross the river in the car. Or camp elsewhere. Or I would simply have to accept that camping with Kirst meant some version of glamping where she put on her white wedge sandals for the ride to look the part of fashionable summer gal.

At this point I should note that my tire had all but disintegrated a few nights prior and my good pals had to put the spare on… which was still on. I meant it when I said no errands and no runs to town on my day off, even for tire repair. Which left us with the question of do we ford a river in a somewhat sissy SUV with a spare on to get to Calvin Lake to camp?

Well ya know that joke, Why did the chicken cross the road… To get to the other side. I think the chicken must have worked a whole bunch of overtime, waiting tables at a mountain lodge and had this one beautiful coveted day off a week and he had heard of this pristine lake on the other side of a road that had been flooded and so naturally he was getting to that other side. My only confusion is why this is considered a joke. This is no joke, man. I totally get why that chicken was willing to get plowed down by a vehicle to see what was over yonder. I was willing to risk getting stuck in a river, on a mountain, with no cell service, just for a glimmer of what I knew was tucked into the Big Horns.

When we arrived at said river and the sign that said Road Closed, I hesitated for a moment staring at the water. It didn’t look too deep or fast flowing. Though my SUV is a baby brat, she does have one thing going for her and that is height. I asked Kirst her thoughts and she told me to just gun it. And so I did. I fucking forded a river. In my girly SUV. With the spare on. That’s exactly how Lewis and Clark would’ve handled that slight dilemma too.

Okay, so for making it across the river, my vehicle could not make it up the next road which was straight incline combined with jagged grooves of dirt and rock. I tried going up anyway and made it about halfway before having to reverse all the way back down.

Kirst and I decided to find a camping spot in the nearby woods and mountaintops and then hike up to the lake instead. While setting up our hammocks I went to retrieve rope from the car and felt a presence near me. I lifted my eyes to see a moose staring back at me from about 100 yards away where the grass dipped into a creek.

My heart stopped and I quickly ducked down so he wouldn’t see me. Kirst who was off to my left, tucked into the forest was oblivious. I loudly whispered, “Kirst!” several times until she looked at me and I motioned her over while pointing with big eyes at our visitor who now had dipped his head into the creek. Kirst came over and together we stood on the inside ledge of the car leaning over for a good look.

From time to time the moose lifted his head up, met our eyes, and then dipped back down to munch on grass and gulp water. We were giddy as we repeatedly looked at each other, then looked at him. Well as long as he stayed where he was and we had a ton of steel between the two of us as protection in case he decided to charge.

After hiking up our appetite on the way to see Calvin Lake, we discussed food on the way back down and how I forgot to pack the marshmallows while Kirst was busy packing multiple outfit changes.

“Is there anything else we could roast?” she asked as she navigated her way back down the trail. I followed behind taking photos.

“No,” I said.

“Well I am going to roast your fingers then,” she quipped. I smiled, delighted by her response. “Or we could roast some ants or cockroaches. You know some people do that… Actually I couldn’t be one of those wilderness survival people. I love the wilderness but if I was in that situation, I’d just let wilderness take me down.” I laughed as I watched her touch tree branches and observe Mother Nature.

We got nestled back in our tent just as it began to rain. We devoured our snacks. Now this is where maybe I didn’t get the memo on appropriate camping snacks as instead of buying some ballpark franks and mallows, I had packed proscuitto, goat cheese, hummus, pita crackers, veggies and dark chocolates. Errrr and maybe some mint oreos for extra chocolate measure. Oh and Leinenkugels. Lots and lots o’ Leinenkugels.

We lounged and read and napped and hammocked in the breezy Wyoming high country. We awoke to a clear sky and snorts from a nearby animal. I froze thinking the moose was back and surely would trample the tent with us in it. I peaked out and saw a deer meandering past.

I unzipped the tent and went to make the fire.

We sat beside it basking til dusk and then went back into the warmth of the tent to play Scrabble and await the midnight sky and the star show that would ensue. When we unzipped again, the sight before us was nothing short of Godly in its overwhelming perfection. We oohed and ahhed and shivered and took turns peeing one last time behind the car.

As soon as we were back in the tent we heard nearby snorts again and froze, looking at each other in girlish irrational fear. We each located the large and imposing knives Francis had sent with us. We told ourselves it was just deer and put one knife on either side of the bed and hunkered down in cozy abandon.

I awoke several times in the night shivering in the frigid mountain air, clinging to Kirst for warmth and more warmth, twining my legs around her, to acquire all of her body heat. I borderline wanted her to just lie on top of me, maybe even my head so I could get some relief from the chill, but I dozed in and out clinging to her, breathing hot huffs on myself to perhaps warm my nose.

Even though every time I camp, it ends up being the worst nights sleep of my life: I wake up on a rock, with a dewy tent on my face, my back is stiff, or I am chilled to my very marrow, it seems entirely worth it for the endless stretches in nature, free from Facebook or work concerns and then those happy run-ins with moose and abandoned fishing poles on mountain lakes.

Honestly, if you haven’t camped, or glamped as Kirst and I would do it—with tall wedge sandals and prosciutto—well then, you are missing something truly grand. Even if you have to sleep with a knife under your bed and your sister on top of you.

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