Monday, April 25, 2011

serving out of body, searching in a mind.

I jotted most of this down in between tables at the Boathouse on Easter Sunday.

An out of body experience. I don't believe in them, or at least I didn't believe, because of the sheer impossibility that is, 'being out of my body.' To me, 'out of body' seems like a near death experience, not a surreal or visceral or whatever you want it to be experience.

The journey at a higher altitude is unique. I'm caught looking at my unkempt hair, the (hopefully not growing) bald spot on the top of my head, my table manners, my serving etiquette. I have never noticed, until yesterday, the way that sarcasm has snuck it's way into my professional demeanor, every table greeted the same, served the same. I reuse the same jokes. I try to say 'dubious' to as many tables as possible. I'm usually successful, rarely a stretch.
"what's your soup of the day?"
"today we have french onion, and it is delicious."
She looks at her husband with an unsure glance, turns to me and orders the french onion.
"No need to be dubious, ma'am, you'll really like the french onion."

A stretch?

This isn't a bad thing, as the tables leave happy. No complaints to the manager. Excellent tips to me (37.5% of which will later redistributed to my coworkers), and it's been a full calendar year since any old people have burned themselves on the hot water in which they steep their teas. Things go as they do, and I go as I do, to and fro. I feel like a dropped document or letter on a windy day. Blown down the street, hurtling end over end until resting, waiting, for the next gust to send me on my way.

Up the stairs. Grab the pitcher, return to table, refill beverages, up the stairs, return pitcher, return to resting place by the bar window. Stand.

I stand in silence, and I listen. I listen because, as is the case in most places I've worked, it's far more beneficial to listen to what others have to say, than to speak yourself. I know who drinks, who drinks too much, I listen, not just hear. I listen because I learn about everyone around me. I know who to trust. A glance around the corner. Plates to be cleared. Grab, carry, scrape, drop, repeat.

And so goes the rhythm of the shift, not unlike a road race, pedal stroke after pedal stroke, up and down across the land, hugging her curves, for better or for worse, unending and, as unsettling as it may be, unrelenting until the finish line.

The last table leaves, the bill is collected, and I can feel myself slowly deflating. Almost on cue, my position 5 feet above my head returns to that space 5 millimeters inside my skull. I can think. I look around. I am aware of what I've done today, what I will do, and where I will go. As I drink with my friends, listen to the jokes, and discuss poor tipping, I realize how unique this job really is. I realize how fortunate we all are to be in the position to have such a job, as auto-pilot as it may be. I can't explain why I feel this way all of the sudden. I've long been trying to coin this term (maybe it still needs time to be defined by others):

Server Euphoria : a state consciousness, post-shift, when a restaurant worker takes a quick moment to analyze, synthesize and evaluate whatever the hell it was that just happened, counts her/his tip money (good or bad), and smiles.

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