The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
When I was a little girl, I would daydream about a studio apartment in Manhattan, an igloo in Alaska, and my very own hut in a Polynesian kingdom. I thought I’d learn Spanish in South America. While my friends flipped through Cosmopolitan, I clipped photos from National Geographic. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cape May. It’s a beautiful place, and I’m proud to call it home, but it’s not exactly a portrait of cultural diversity. Sometimes, a gal finds herself craving a little culture shock.
When I was 12, I begged my parents to send me to Peru. They sent me to North Jersey for summer camp instead. I hated it, but reveled in the change of scenery. I was away from home, and that was enough to make up for a few mosquito bites.
For someone who’s caught the travel bug, waiting tables in a fancy restaurant can be difficult. Last week, I served a couple in the midst of a three-year long hiatus sailing around the globe. “Take me with you,” I said. They chuckled, until they realized I was serious. “Please,” I said, “I’ll swab the deck! Cook the meals! Amuse you with silly pirate impersonations!”
I ended the night ready to quit my job, take what tips I’d earned, and board the next flight to Nepal or Brazil or any place with more culture than this fine little restaurant in this quaint little town. I realized that I have yet to see a Polynesian kingdom, and the only Spanish I’ve learned has come from hanging out with line cooks. “Molly,” Alberto reminds me nightly, “your Spanish is not muy bueno.’”
So there I was, fed up with this provincial place and feeling very sorry for myself. Self-righteously mopey, and wanting to drink away my sorrows, I attended a party with all of my coworkers. Five beers deep, I had an epiphany.
What looked like an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore – 15 of us drinking cheap beer in a hot tub – was more like a meeting of the culinary UN. I work with Ecuadorian cooks, Brazilian chefs, Romanian waitresses, and Bulgarian busboys. On a hectic Saturday night, I hear an array of curse words, in different languages and dialects, coming from all corners of the kitchen, like profane music to my ears. I sit down to a pre-shift meal with bartenders from Latvia, hostesses from the Philippines, dishwashers from Mexico, managers from New York, and pastry chefs from Russia. Were I to leave this fine little restaurant in this quaint little town, I’m not sure I’d ever find this much culture at my fingertips.
And that would be a terrible shame, I think. Having the opportunity to connect with so much diversity, to share a beer with people totally unlike myself every now and again, is a good thing. In fact, it’s more than good, I’d say. It’s muy bueno.