The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
I always follow the rules. I wear my seatbelt. I floss. I don’t play hooky or kiss on the first date. I’ve had one tattoo, and it came from a box of Cocoa Puffs. I’ve never been a rebel, at least not until recently.
Goody-goody that I am, I’ve been a good fit for fine dining, where there are plenty of rules to follow. I serve plates on the left side only, and clear from the right. I say “Cape May water” instead of “tap water.” I’m told to smile, so I plaster one on no matter how cranky or, if I’ve been to the Boiler Room, hungover I’m feeling. But there’s one thing that always puts me into a funk. There are never enough teaspoons.
By seven o’clock on a Saturday night, I’m not in the dining room decanting wines and reciting specials as I should be. I am, instead, on a recon mission for silverware, ravaging the dish pit with the fury of a Parisian commoner storming the Bastille. Eventually, buried under a pile of bread plates and chicken bits, I find the coveted and elusive cutlery. It’s the Holy Grail of dessert service. I do my best Doberman impression, growling at the other servers who’ve spotted my find. I roll up my sleeves and get to work at the sink, my blood pressure rising as surely as the pastry chef’s chocolate tarts. I picture my customers, who’ve been waiting 20 minutes for a single espresso or Tiramisu, tapping their watches and branding their comment cards with scathing reproofs about incompetent service.
And so, finally, I make a vow. No more digging through sea bass skins and soggy calamari. I take a stand – the fine dining equivalent of burning my bra. I serve a decaf coffee not with a teaspoon, but a big, whopping, oval-shaped soup spoon. It doesn’t fit on the saucer. It barely fits in the cup.
I put the coffee in front of my guest and brace myself. In a restaurant whose patrons complain because the gentleman at table two is wearing jeans (God forbid!), this is a big deal. The light from the table’s candle bounces across the spoon’s silver handle, accentuating this blatant affront to proper coffee etiquette. The guest, a gray-haired lady dripping in costume jewelry, looks at me as though I have a Cocoa Puff tattoo across the center of my forehead. I shrug my shoulders, knowing I’ve crossed over to the dark side.
If spoons are the gateway flatware, God only knows what’s next for me. Saying “tap water?” Clearing plates from the wrong side? I might as well buy a motorcycle and a pack of smokes right now. I’m a radical, a mutineer. Maybe I’ll dye my hair black and start listening to angry pop music, a little Alanis Morissette, perhaps. After all, in the restaurant, it often is like ten thousand knives when all you need is a spoon, or something like that…