A very public, very complete meltdown

My fifteen-year-old sister, Kendra, worked for most of the summer as a hostess at a restaurant in Lake Placid. But now, at the tail-end of the season, as the elitist college kids head back to their elitist universities to continue their elitist educations, and the restaurant finds itself shorthanded in the wait-staff department, shes hustling tables. Kendras been understandably nervous about waitressing, but as Ive told her again and again she shouldnt be. Instead, she should be terrified to the very core of her soul. Sure, she stands to make mad cash, but she also stands to suffer a very public, very complete meltdown. My experience in the workforce is admittedly limited (all of my jobs, in the order Ive held them: incompetent waiter, semi-competent lifeguard-living-in-terror-that-hell-be-called-upon-to-save-someones-life-fail-and-earn-local-scorn, incompetent newspaper-reporter-living-in-terror-that-someone-might-write-a-letter-to-the-editor-pointing-out-his-incompetence, semi-competent waiter, incompetent teacher, competent lifeguard-living-in-hope-that-hell-be-called-upon-to-save-someones-life-succeed-and-earn-local-acclaim), but I feel confident saying that the only job as simultaneously spirit-crushing and lucrative as waiting tables is being Charlie Sheen. And I should know, because while Ive never starred in a sitcom as god-awful yet inexplicably successful as Two and a Half Men, I did wait tables for the first time during the summer of my sixteenth year and though I made more money than my dishwasher friends, I spent the entire time in abject terror. Nonetheless, despite my constant fear of screwing up and facing the wrath of disgruntled customers, I handled the job well enough to justify my continued employment. Until Rugby Weekend, that is. Rugby Weekend did me in Saturday, in particular. I started at ten in the morning, and by nine that night, I felt as if Id been tossed from a high-speed train three or four times over the course of the day. My meltdown began in earnest when the hostess assigned me a party of nine mere seconds after assuring me she wouldnt assign me any more parties of anything. Heres how I wish things had gone with my new table: Me (grinning and running a comb through my hair like a 1950s greaser): Hey, guys Im Dan, and Ill be your server tonight. Rugby Player #1 (giving me a high five): Hey, Dan. Nice to meet you. Me (shooting a hipster finger-point at an acquaintance across the room): Im sure it is, chief. Now, can I get you fellas nine pitchers of beer and a heaping platter of the rarest beef weve got? Rugby Player #2 (nodding in approval): You sure can, Dan you sure can. Heres how things actually went with my new table: Me (in a hoarse whisper, shivering like an octogenarian in an air-conditioned condo): Please, for the love of all thats sacred, help me. Rugby player #1 (giving high fives to his friends): Well take nine pitchers of beer and a heaping platter of the rarest beef youve got! As I scrawled the order down on my tattered notepad in a hand so illegible that I wouldnt recognize a word of it thirty seconds later, I realized I would need every fiber of my will to keep cool. Sadly, Id shed the final fiber of my will three hours earlier, when I dropped an overloaded tray of cold beverages on a customers lap. Thats why I decided to throw my notepad at the hostess and abandon all eight of my tables post haste. I limped out back, sat down on an overturned bucket, and stared into space as a single tear rolled down my flushed and clammy cheek. On the up side, though, I crawled home that night two hundred dollars richer. Of course, I was no longer capable of experiencing joy, but still two hundred dollars aint too shabby when youre sixteen. Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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