The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
Serving is a high-stress job. I often dream that I can’t keep up with my tables, or that I’m trapped in the walk-in refrigerator while guests impatiently wait for their food in the dining room. I dream about dozens of customers trampling me as they pile through the door, shouting for beef tartare and poached fish. I drop bowls of steaming clam chowder on Versace dresses, get quadruple-sat by a conniving hostess, and realize, just as I’m about to take the order from a party of 53 restaurant critics, that I can’t find a pen.
When the job isn’t overtaking my sleep, it’s keeping me from it. I’ll be in the middle of a lovely dream involving Anderson Cooper and a bubble bath, when my subconscious remembers the bottle of Pellegrino I forgot to bring for table one, or the oyster fork that never made it to the real-life food critic on table three. Suddenly, I’m transported from Anderson’s arms back to reality. It’s four in the morning, and I’m counting oyster forks instead of sheep.
With all the anxiety inherent to fine dining, it’s important to keep a good sense of humor. Luckily, no matter how stressed they are, restaurant employees are always up for a laugh. A cook might take a well-deserved break during a 14-hour day to fashion an obscene sculpture, using only potatoes and a freakishly long carrot, on the boss’ desk. I’ve seen office supplies despoiled with Saran Wrap, pieces of stinky cheese hidden in desks, and pictures of our chef’s face Photoshopped onto half-naked models from a gay travel magazine.
These may seem like juvenile shenanigans for a Zagat-rated establishment, I know, but they help keep the collective stress level in check. On a busy Saturday night, after the VIP has sent back his entrée for the third time and his date has started screeching because she’s found a bone in her monkfish, stumbling across a piece of risqué vegetable art is a nice reminder that this is, after all, only dinner.
I have succumbed to this kind of immaturity once or twice myself. Looking over the reservation list, one comes across some pretty unfortunate names – like Carl Fuker, Harry Hyde, and Richard Seaman, party of ten. I can’t help but snicker when I hear the inevitable: “So we’re expecting a lot of Seaman tonight,” or “I hope everyone’s prepared for all the Seaman coming our way.” Of course, when Mr Seaman does arrive, we welcome him, poised and collected. It’s only behind the scenes that we revert back to giggling schoolchildren.
Who can blame us? Amid all the collared shirts and expensive wine of a fancy dining room, it’s nice to delight in some silliness. Adulthood, like fine dining, can get pretty stuffy every now and again – and that, like a sweet dream about Anderson Cooper, is no laughing matter.