The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
THE cynical waitress has become her own archetype, a stock character complete with acrylic nails. We’ve all seen her on TV, toting her coffee pot and chomping her bubblegum as she fields advances from crude truckers and overweight line cooks. She rolls her eyes with the air of a woman jaded. Her tips, like her hairstyles, are never quite big enough.
While I can’t attest to the nails or the bubblegum, the cynical part is true enough. A waitress is bound to come across some curmudgeonly patrons, some of whom will leave her questioning her faith in humanity. Soon enough, she’s rolling her eyes with the same frequency as her TV counterparts.
Recently, a man at table five bombarded me with sexual innuendoes. I finally asked him to stop, and he told me I wasn’t that good-looking anyway. He put me into such a funk, nobody at any of my other perfectly lovely tables could do right for the rest of the evening. A little old lady asked me politely to point out the bathroom, and I gave her the stink eye. “Oh yeah, Grandma?” I wanted to say, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Out of the dining room, while preparing silverware or swiping credit cards, servers often discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of a given evening. Lately, I’ve been so consumed by the bad and the ugly, I haven’t cared to notice any of the good. At a wedding I worked, I hoped the best man would hurry up with his heartfelt speech already, so we could finish celebrating this blessed union of love and I could get back to Seinfeld reruns on the treadmill.
Then something strange happened. I had my own stink eye shot right back at me, and from an unlikely source. On my way into work, undoubtedly annoyed by all the smiling window shoppers obliviously shuffling their way through the Washington Street Mall, I came across a little boy’s lemonade stand. He squinted up at me, his nine-year-old cheeks flushed in the midday sun. His cardboard sign read “50 cents a cup.” I pulled two crumpled dollar bills from my uniform pocket.
“No change,” I said, sure that he would be pleased. Instead, he scoffed. I thanked him as he handed me my drink, and he didn’t respond. I caught a glimpse of his money jar, full of fives and tens. Obviously, other customers had been more generous.
My lemonade friend and I were both lacking something important in our line of work – gratitude. It’s easy to let one nasty table or one poor tip ruin an entire evening, but when we focus on the negative, I realize, we miss out on the positive, too. There will always be a jerk on table five with a nasty comment. But I still believe that people are fundamentally good, children are still innocent, and waitresses, well, maybe they’re not so cynical after all.