The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
I’ve waited tables in Cape May for two years and if I’ve learned anything it’s how to read people, especially couples. I can spot a first date from across a dimly-lit dining room. He puffs out his chest when he orders New York Strip Steak, rare, with potatoes cooked in veal stock. From her, there’s a look of regret for not having ordered the soup each time she carefully slides a messy bit of drippy, leafy salad between her painted lips. For these couples, the conversation is an exercise in sounding as intelligent and adorable as possible, which is so consuming they don’t notice if the wine is warm, the meal takes an hour to hit the table, or the dining room is too cold/hot/bright/dark/ugly/loud to enjoy.
Just as easy to spot are the couples who’ve been together for so long they’ve run out of things to discuss. They sit in silence, aware of every tick of the clock before their table is ready or their food is served. For these folks, it seems, the dining room is always just a bit too cold/hot/bright/dark/ugly/loud to enjoy. “How do they expect us to see in here?” says Martha, the grey-haired patron at table two, finally.
“If I’d known we’d be eating in a cave,” her fella responds, “I’d have brought my flashlight.” And just like that, out of a mutual disgust for sub-par lighting, or sub-par silverware, or sub-par food, romance rekindles.
My favorite couples are one part high roller (bald-headed, beer-bellied, and rich, rich, rich), and one part sexy mistress (long-legged, pouty-lipped, and young, young, young). He tries to impress her by ordering the most expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but she’s too busy gazing at the cute Bulgarian busboy, whose biceps flex each time he raises a tray of half-eaten tiramisus, to notice.
All this time around relationships can make a waitress painfully aware of her own single status. In the past year, I’ve arranged a zoo of stuffed animals for table six, I’ve brought dessert alongside a heart-shaped balloon for table one, and I regularly deliver complementary glasses of champagne to couples celebrating marriage or an anniversary.
Perhaps the most aware I’ve been of my own singleness is in fielding pleas from mothers who want to set me up with “my handsome little Johnny.” This isn’t always the easiest thing to tactfully decline, but I’ve been on enough blind dates to know that handsome little Johnny is likely overweight, under-worked, and really well-versed in Grand Theft Auto 2.
But it isn’t all bad. I’m grateful to be a part of so many strangers’ big moments. So even though I complain, I don’t really mind delivering your singing balloons or diamond rings to the table, as long as I don’t have to go out with your son. And who knows, maybe some day I’ll meet a cute Bulgarian busboy of my own.