The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
By the end of the season, I’m sick of talking to diners. I’m sick of explaining the menu, commenting on the weather, and, most of all, discussing my life. Yes, I live here. Yes, all year round. Yes, really.
I grow tired of hearing about my own future plans. Table after table asks what I want to be when I “grow up,” so I start inventing things, annoyed that anyone could be so intrusive. Perhaps I’ll build desks for needy Peruvian school children. Perhaps I’ll rescue endangered sea turtles in Guatemala, or guide bamboo rafting trips in Chiang Mai. I might be a mail-order bride, a professional wrestler, a harvester of black pearls. For fear of telling a guest that my true calling is something like exotic belly dancing, I keep my mouth shut. I become anti-social, anti-small talk.
Then September hits. I go from claustrophobic in an overcrowded dining room, to lonely and longing for company. All of the sudden I’m starved for social interaction. When people finally do come in to eat, I’m all over them, hawk-like, for the duration of the meal. “I’ll have the beef,” says the guy at table seven.
“Well of course I’d love to tell you about my second cousin’s wedding,” I reply.
I overhear bits and pieces of conversation as I refill water glasses, and I can’t help but interject. “Oh, you don’t want to see that movie,” I say, or, “I read that book, too!”
Suddenly, I’m eavesdropping with the same enthusiasm with which I used to read my big sister’s diary. “For crying out loud,” I say to the ladies at table two, “When are you going to dump that loser, Cheryl?”
In between polishing glassware and detailing this sparsely-filled dining room, I find myself missing the chatty summer crowds. That pervert in the corner who put his hand on my thigh every time he ordered a martini, he wasn’t so bad; he just liked me, he really liked me! And why did I roll my eyes every time his wife barked an order? She was just trying to talk!
On really slow nights, I confide in the Spanish-speaking dishwasher. “I just feel,” I find myself saying, “like I need to date a man who is emotionally available, you know? Somebody who will appreciate me for me.”
“Si,” Roberto says, shoving a rack of dirty coffee mugs my way.
Finally, feeling as though I might explode with unrequited conversation, I wait on a couple who is anxious to chat. I eagerly fill their glasses as they ask me about my life, my plans for the future. “Do you live here?” they ask.
“Yes!” I tell them, “All year round! And you know, I don’t really want to be a professional wrestler.” The couple smiles – kind, interested smiles – and suddenly, I’ve got all the gratuity I need.