People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I enjoy my job.
“It’s a job, innit”, is the reply when I say what I do, followed by ‘oh really’ when I say how much I enjoy waitressing. As if it’s somehow beneath me.
They don’t understand how the concept of time changes when you’ve spent hours lying in bed, either your own or in a hospital, looking at a wall.
I used to be one of those people that snap their fingers in quick succession. Hurry up, lets get this over with!
I’m bad at subscribing to a certain set of rules or dogma but I guess I’ve inadvertently subscribed to mindfulness. I’ve become very mindful of time.
That stops me from getting upset over somebody queue-jumping or a traffic jam.
It’s fine, there’s more where that came from. I could spend this time getting wound up over something that’s really arbitrary, or I could look at ducks swimming in a river. Many Asian countries use specially trained ducks to eat weeds at rice paddies. Rice grown in this way has been shown to be more resistant against hazardous weather. This also removes the need for farmers to use pesticides.
I wonder how you train a duck, let alone a flock of them. I haven’t even managed to get my dog come to me when called.
A group of ducks is called a team.
There is no task that I dislike in my job but I do have favourites. Vacuuming is one of them. There is something incredibly rewarding about seeing crumbs and other shite disappear from the floor just like that. It’s a task where satisfaction is imminent. It looked awful when I first started but look at it now!
Three generations of women in my mum’s family have at some point in their lives worked both of the following jobs: Modelling and cleaning. I broke the pattern in both but I’m sure neatness is in genes. Some of my friends happily throw their clothes on the floor while I have to physically stop myself from picking them up.
Crisis team workers visiting my flat could never believe how clean I’ve kept it.
I also enjoy polishing the cutlery. You put knifes and forks into a big machine and then sort them by kind and size. I make it into a little game, like one of those colouring tasks they gave you at school. Find all the forks. Now find all the spoons.
I think about a Finnish poet who said that someone probably came up with numbers because it would otherwise be too difficult to purchase nine bread rolls in a bakery.
Otherwise you’d have to say bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll, bread roll and who’s got time for that?
I go tea spoon, tea spoon, tea spoon instead.
I wonder do people using heroin eat with the spoon they heat up their drugs with or is that beneath them. Is that when even other addicts start to get worried about you?
One of the dish washing guys has a t-shirt that says ‘Let’s rock’ and the misplaced apostrophe makes me want to claw my eyes out with the said spoon.
There is no person called Let who has a rock, is there?!?!?!?!
Despite getting wound up over so little, I’m good at letting on that I’m not bothered. I don’t tell that I like vacuuming for example, otherwise I’d be always doing it because others hate it. That was always the case in school. I ended up doing things others hated.
My other favourite job is doing the water jugs, not least because I make jokes about everyone loving my jugs or only being into my jugs when they have water in them. It’s really not that funny but especially men seem to find it funny when a girl can joke about their tits.
I like the order of it all: getting a bucketful of ice from a big machine and pouring a cupful to the bottom of the jug. The clink clank against the glass.
Cutting lemons. The smell that makes your nose itch a little from the inside. I always cut more than is needed and put the extras into a little bowl. The person refilling the jugs can pick the pieces with a small pair of sugar pliers.
I love the word sugar pliers. It makes me think of children’s books. You’d think that things like sugar pliers only exist in make-believe, like parasols or roly polys, like it’s not one hundred percent real.
Or maybe it’s just me. I still put forks the wrong way around sometimes, even though I know it with my rational hat on: from small to bigger.
I’ve never eaten in a restaurant where you have more than one kind of fork. Now I deal with three.
I don’t dislike morning shifts but I prefer evenings and functions. More formal the better. It’s funny because I hate making a fuss about anything. I’ve already planned that my wedding won’t be anything but a lunch break at the registry office and back to work by one.
I’m nosy though. I love looking at all the intricate details: decorations and setups and makeup and clothes. It doesn’t surprise me at all that I trained as a journalist. I’ve always been a bit of an observer in life. It’s good because so many people want to be at the centre of attention. Who’d be looking at them if it weren’t for us?
Sometimes a guest goes through the trouble of looking at my tag and thanking me by name or placing their hand on my arm.
I’m weird in a way because I like being treated like I’m air by them. Those gestures remind me I’m not.
Why are they doing that? I asked my counsellor. I’m just the waiter.
“You’re not just a waiter”, she said. “You’re a part of their day.”
I like that. We’ll go with that.
My favourite thing however is folding napkins. Which is odd because my dyspraxia usually makes any task like that impossible. However, I find repeating the same patterns over and over again calming. It grounds me.
I also like the fact that this sort of thing doesn’t come to me naturally but here I still am doing it.
I love that moment the most when the restaurant isn’t open yet. Tables have been laid out ready for the evening, beautiful, perfect. The building is old and you can almost hear the laughter and clinking of glasses across decades echoing from the walls.
But just almost. For now it’s quiet and for a moment, I’m at peace as I fold one napkin after another. Another job you don’t have to do later. A part of a chain of tasks that builds up my colleague’s future shift and from there, mine.
In a few minutes someone is going to come in and start talking to me, but not yet. For now I can just stand here, look at this room and think how far I’ve come to be folding these napkins right here right now.
This moment is here. Given to me.