“Order up!”, they shout. A bell rings. I turn to my right. “Service!”
Someone passes me, hits me on the shoulder with their body, physically tells me to get out of their way. Another bell.
The phone is ringing. I can hear it, but I am not ready to face whoever is on the other line. I want to look busy. I try to find my way back to the kitchen. I think that is where I am supposed to go.
“Phone!”, someone shouts. A bell is rung a few times. The hand that is doing it seems angry. My pace quickens.
After bumping into different people and getting cursed in different languages, I find the kitchen. The woman at the pass looks at me as if she wanted to set me on fire. Three plates lay in front of her, and she is clearly over it.
“Lamb salad. Fish of the day. Soup.”, she tosses a piece of paper at me. “44.”
I can feel the tears pressing to come out. I take the first plate, place it between my thumb and my index, it is heavy, I go to take the second one, which is heavier, and turn around to leave the room.
“A monkey could do a better job! What are you going to do? Come back and take this cold plate letting a person wait for their food when it’s ready only because you are incapable of doing your job? Why are you even here?”, my hand is trembling, and I put the plates back on the pass. I know she wants me gone. She presses the bell obsessively until someone else shows up behind me. It’s a dark-haired girl with glasses. She looks slightly annoyed but doesn’t say a word. She takes the fish plate with her whole hand, the thumb and the pinky finger up, lifting the plate with her palm. On her wrist, she positions the salad plate. Her pinky finger holds on to that one. With her free hand she takes the soup plate.
“Wait”, the woman behind the pass says. She looks at me and hands me a cheese plate. “It’s complimentary. Excuse yourself for making them wait.”
I follow the dark-haired girl down the few steps, into the dining room and out to the garden. We reach the table; two businessmen and a younger woman. The other waitress places the plates in front of them, without asking who they are for. She must have taken their order, and remembers. When she is done, she doesn’t leave the table, but stares at me instead. They are all staring at me. The two men, looking like twins, one with a bald head, and the girl, with too heavy make-up for this time of the day, they look at me intensely, or maybe they are not looking at me, because I realize I am still holding the cheese plate in my hand. I feel a rush of blood hitting my cheeks.
“We apologize for the wait. This is for you.”, I place the cheese plate on the nearest empty space I can find, dangerously close to the edge of the table, and even though I am aware of the possibility of its fall, I look away and start walking with no direction in mind. I feel the girl following me. She grabs my bicep and forces me to turn.
“First of all, you need to place the plate in the middle of the table. You have to tell them it’s complimentary. They need to know they won’t have to pay for it, or some people won’t even touch it, these cheap asses. Also, you never stroll in the kitchen. You go to the pass, never look Andrea in the eyes. You take the docket. You look at the names of the plates, you check if they are correct, you learn the table number, you take that stuff and you leave. Don’t wait around. And, for fuck’s sake, learn how to carry three plates.”
I look at her without saying a word. I don’t feel like myself today. Everything is new and it’s a mess and I clearly have no idea of what I am doing. I was told it would be my training day. I was ready for chatting with the girls, polishing cutlery and doing minor tasks, but instead I have been thrown in the tank with the sharks. And I am not sure I know how to swim.
She looks at me. She is waiting for an answer, any kind of response. She doesn’t think I belong here, but again, neither do I and I think I am showing it.
“I’m sorry.”, it’s the only thing I say.
Her face softens. I can tell she is feeling less stressed. Customers are leaving, the rush hour is turning into a calmer moment.
“It’s okay.”, she says, “First days are hard for everyone. And everyone in power around here is an asshole.”, we both giggle. “I’m Juliet, by the way.”
I smile back at her. It’s nice to finally make a friend.
About the author:
I am a lesbian intersectional feminist who loves to read books and write thoughts down; I mostly travel around in search of new adventures and cultures to learn from!