I didn't have my usual day of writing this week because I had to take care of some estate business. So I found this little corner in this quiet Thursday evening, battling kittens trying to drink my coffee while biting the corner of my computer. This is all right. This is my life, chaotic and sweet, calming and anxiety filled just the same. My husband and I were out and about yesterday, discussing life. The question came up of how do our twenties now gone compare to our thirties? And how then will our thirties stand up against our forties and so on? In May I will turn 37, a crazy age that back in my twenties I thought was ancient but now that it is so close? Now that it is so close I am actually indifferent about it. I don't feel old but I feel aged, feel that I have indeed lived a life. I'm not quite a fine wine but I am certainly not a cheap beer either.
So how do my thirties compare to my twenties? My twenties quite honestly were a blur. I had a kid. I got married. I got divorced. I had jobs and problems and drank too much and didn't do enough. I was confused and lonely a lot. I had some good friends and lost some better ones. I was responsible and erratic at the same time, completely unsure of who I was and yet so confident in everything I was. I had dreams and goals and everything terrified me. I was untrusting and funny and sometimes just plain mean... but I believed in fairies, I did, I did. There were things I wish I had done, things I wish I hadn't. There were times I wished I had stood stronger, times I wish I had backed down. My twenties had nothing to do with me and everything to do with raising my kid. I don't have a single regret about that.
My thirties have been, simply, wonderful. I feel like something started to happen when I turned 28, some kind of weird calm or an understanding of who I finally was. I think I started to accept my life for what it was and started taking steps for what I wanted it to be. I met my husband when I had a 7 year old daughter. I met my husband at a time in my life where I had finally accepted being alone, at a time when I had decided that I was no longer looking for a partner. And then this man who I had no intention of meeting comes into my life with his silly little grin and his Dill charm and I finally was at a point in my life where I was whole enough to love him back. In my thirties I married this man. I quit a fairly well paying job that I hated to pursue a dream that had been in my pocket for years without knowing if it would work. I started waiting tables and went back to that coffee shop to write secrets and dreams in a journal that people may never see. I have good friends, lost some more, gained a few more. I am kind now and I am unafraid to show it, something I hid for a long time. I am patient and controlling and will offer you a hand even when you don't need it. I think before I speak, analyze before I react, observe before I report. I lost my father in my thirties, held my husband's hand as we lost his, too. I will lose my dog, and will gladly take a bat to a car that has long deserved it. Some heart breaking things have happened in my thirties but so did they in my twenties.
I don't know how my forties or fifties or sixties or whatever will stack up against each other but I know that life will always be a beautiful mess. It isn't black or white. Most the time it is an ocean of gray with no clear point in sight. Age is relative. I can say that right now in my life I am the most content I have ever been. Sure, my job is frustrating. Yeah, I get tired of the drama that happens. Absolutely, I wish things would be simple, just simple... but I would be a fool to get upset every time they were complicated. I think back to my teenage years when my parents told me I had to buy my own car and how I thought that was horribly unfair. I was just a kid, right? But then I said find then, I will do it myself. I got a job. I saved my money. I got my car. So sometimes when I'm having a very rough day and I feel like the work I have to do to do something simple is ridiculous, I think of that car. I think of all the hard work I did to get that car and how good I felt for the reward that I received for it, how it was all mine and no one could take that away from me. The point is life isn't easy. It is never going to be. We are going to lose our fathers and our mothers and our hearts are going to break over and over again and that's all right. But you know what? We're going to have babies and we're going to laugh at our kittens that just fell off the back of the couch and we're going to have books published and our adventures will be many regardless of our age. In my thirties, I finally understood my own humanity, accepted my beautiful vulnerability, learned to laugh at my own follies.
I just published my second book this week, Pocket Dreams. It's a collection of Poetry. These poems were written probably ten years ago. It was a time in my life before I met my husband. That time in my life when I was a single mother trying to figure myself out. As I go back over these poems, it becomes clear why I am the way that I am. I started thinking about scars and the residue that we carry with us over the years. A man hurt me, many men hurt me but I can still love. I can still look at my husband and feel an insane amount of healthy emotion for him. My kid is a teenager and sometimes (a lot of times lately) she's mean as hell but I still love her. I can still look at her and remember there is a sweet girl in there beneath her very confused age right now. I think these scars that we've accumulated, these wrinkles that we wear are a part of our beauty, a part of our story.
When I published Around The Bend, I honestly didn't realize the depth of what I had done initially. Sometimes I forget how open and honest I can be when I write. Sometimes I forget how deeply the scars go. I remember after I pushed the button to publish, I got scared because I know I had just given away so many of my secrets, so many reasons why I sometimes fall insecure, so many reasons why I succumb more than I should... but I am not sad or disappointed or ashamed of any of those words. One part of being a writer is taking from your own life, the bits of pieces of you to make the story more personal. Someone asked me the other day if I would revise Around The Bend. At the time, I said I would. I do always want to do my best. And then this morning as I was holding Pocket Dreams in my hands, I realized Around The Bend is beautiful just as it is. It is my scar that now I can share with the world, now my burden that I no longer have to bare on my own shoulders.
This is going to sound foolish but I have never written for money. Sure, I am extremely excited to have my books out there for purchase. I couldn't be more thrilled that this elephant dream came true. And thank you Amazon for making it an incredibly easy process. I understand that sometimes my grammar isn't always the best. I found quite a few errors in Around The Bend and a couple now in Pocket Dreams but it doesn't matter because within those lines, I see me. I would love to make a comfortable living off my writing. I would love to not have to wait tables and focus on doing this, doing what I love but reality is reality. I am not mad or disappointed by it. I am only just pushed further to keep writing. So, Around The Bend isn't perfect but it's an honest, beautiful story. I wouldn't change the purity of any of those feelings that I wrote out of such hurt, anger, loss... and hope.
I know last week's post was very serious but I don't apologize for that. It was what I was feeling. If I am any kind of writer, I am the kind that writes exactly how I feel. Sometimes I'm way more honest here then I am in real life, part of the beauty of the written word. Today, folks? Today we are not going to be Sally Serious. Instead of talking about death and loss and all the hard things that I have been going through lately, I am going to give you an insight on restaurant life :) I know, I know. Who cares? I certainly don't but I can't tell you how many times during a shift where I just want to straight lecture people and their lack of not just common sense but any kind of sense. I think there are a few basic rules that people should follow when going to a place of business whether it be a restaurant or a convenient store. Keep it simple, stupids.
Treat the restaurant as if you were going into someone's home.
I get it. It's a restaurant, not your best friends house but it's not cool to go into someone else's place and disrespect it. I certainly wouldn't go to my mother's house and put my feet up on her table and she's my mother who will love me regardless. This point came to me yesterday when a gentleman who comes in frequently sits down at the bar. It was 10:45 am. We don't open until 11 a.m. Now this guy should know that. I apologized that we weren't open yet and it would be great if he could come back in 15 minutes. The gentleman looks at me and says, "I know. I'm just going to chill." Hmmm.... not kosher. In my head, I was throwing pint glasses at his head. In reality, I politely smiled and walked away. Here's the thing. When my friends have a get together and they give me a time to be there, I don't show up 15 minutes early out of respect for them. They may still be putting things together. They may be taking a quick shower. They may plainly not be ready for me. I would never go, "That's cool," and then sit down on their unprepared couch anyway. These are grown ups, guys. Grown ups!
Along those same lines, how about we not let our children dump the sugar all over the floor? How about we control them just a little bit. I don't care if your kid cries. I had a small child at one point. I understand. Sometimes they are little, grumpy humans and don't have any other way of showing what entertains you does not entertain them. But when my kid went to dump the sugar? Or the salt? Or the pepper? Yeah, she didn't get very far. If she managed to sneak it past me, I didn't give the Server a look of pity that they had to clean it up. No, I made my kid put it all back the way she found it. You know why? Because it is not the server's responsibility to babysit your kid. As a Server, I've got 5 other tables and running side-work and food to run and beer to serve. My job description does not include child entertainment.
Now let's talk about adults who do the same thing. I give the kids a break. I do though I know what I wrote doesn't sound like I do but I do. I don't get as angry at a child as I do a grown man who takes my coaster and tears it up into little pieces and then leaves it on the table for me to clean up. I don't get as angry at a child as I do an adult puts gum on the bottom of my table. Again, would you go into your friend's house and dump trash on their floor? Would you go into your friend's house and put your nasty gum on their coffee table? No, you wouldn't and if you would you will not understand this blog.
Be Kind. Be Polite. Be Understanding.
This one is not going to be as ranty but my points are still valid. You know we all got jobs. We all have important things that we need to do, that we need to get done. We all have to make our money. I know Serving on the whole is not a very well respected career choice. You should know that it's not our optimal career choice either, at least not for a lot of us. Every now and then you will find those career servers and good for them. And you know what? Those people are awesome at their jobs and should be applauded for it. I am good at my job but it's certainly not something I want to be doing forever hence this blog :) I digress... Here's the thing about this kind of job. It's hard, guys. It's physically exhausting. It's mentally trying. We work on our feet for sometimes 12 hours a day. Sometimes we do that multiple times a week. Our feet hurt. Our backs ache. Our patience is worn thin. We've had to deal with entitled grown ups and cranky children and coworkers who drop the ball and managers who are oblivious to some of the stuff that happens on the floor. And it's stressful to know that our income depends on what kind of mood our tables are in. Now don't get me wrong. When it's good, it's good... but when it's bad? Well, let's just say your $3 on a $30 check does not pay my light bill. And to make something clear, I am not asking you to tip me $100 to actually pay my light bill. I am asking you to tip me 20% because that is the acceptable rate for good service. And if I drop the ball and give you shitty service? So be it. I deserve that $3 but if your drink stays full and your food is quick and you aren't staring at dirty dishes and we are laughing with other, $3 is a pretty huge slap in my face.
Here's the point. We want your experience to be awesome. We want you leaving our table feeling good. I want you to smile, to genuinely smile, at the experience that I just gave you... but it's really rough when you won't talk to me, when my existence means nothing to you. It's hard to turn the other cheek when I ask you how you are and you tell me Diet Coke. I didn't ask you what you wanted to drink (yet). I asked you how you were but ok, Diet Coke I guess. And I understand. Some tables just want to come in, eat, and go. I have just as much respect for those tables as I do for the tables that want to know about my kid. I get it but you can tell me in a nice way that you don't want to talk. I got other stuff to do, too. Peace. And here's the other thing I got a sch-peel. I will get to the food specials and the beer specials and what kind of damn soup we have today but first let me just introduce myself. It won't take that much time out of your life for me to tell you my name, to check in to see how your day is. I want to start our short lived interaction to be as pleasant as possible but when you cut me off? I will probably leave your Diet Coke emptier for longer then I should.
On that note, understand that if I don't get to your Diet Coke immediately, it probably means I am taking care of someone else at that moment. Understand that at times I may have 6 other tables that I am looking after and you are not my only concern. I would love to refill your Diet Coke... as soon as I can. And know that if you chug your Diet Coke 3 times? Again, you are not my only table. You are not my only Diet Coke. I was at work the other day for instance. We usually don't have a host for lunch, no biggie, but lately we have also been without a host at night. So the other night, I was seating 4 tables. I have a table in the corner that I could see from the host stand. These 4 tables that I was sitting were being particularly needy and extra annoying about where they wanted to sit and I was trying my best to get them all sat quickly when one of the women told me that the gentleman at my table was trying to get my attention. I look over and he is shaking his beer glass at me. Seriously? Because obviously I am a little preoccupied at the moment. I will get to your beer in a second, dude. If I was standing there picking my nose, I get it. Be annoyed with me that I am not paying attention to you but clearly I was helping other people. Grown ups, people. You are a grown adult. Behave like one.
We All Got Rules, Man
I have worked in a few different environments. I know that every job has their own set of rules, their own way of doing things. It makes sense to have a routine, regiments, a way to keep things organized. As much as a restaurant may feel like it's a free fall, good restaurants are well oiled machines. We have a certain way of doing things that makes it easier for the servers, quicker for the cooks, and more enjoyable for the customers. Things are a certain way because they work that certain way. In offices, there are protocols, checks and balances that keep the ball going. In government there is red tape (annoying but sometimes necessary) to make sure that everyone is protected. Again, I know restaurants are not glamorous and working at one doesn't get a lot of respect. You know what? Because I have worked in several different environments, the food industry jobs that I have had have been the most rewarding. When you get an awesome customer, it makes your day. They know your name. They ask you about your kid. They want to buy your next book. And then the Server starts to genuinely care about that person so they'll go the extra mile for them and ask them about their day, their job, their husband, what their daughter is doing. Those are the moments that make this job worth it, beautiful and genuine people. This blog is not directed at those beautiful people. You make my day :)
But this blog is directed to the table that comes in and won't sit where I tell them to. So that table over there is better than this table in what way? Please explain to me why that chair is different from this one. I honestly don't care where you sit but what I do care about is that I am making my money, that my coworker is making their money. We have sections and a rotation and we do it that to make everything fair and kosher for everyone. If you sit at that table, I might have sat that same section and now I have just that server in a bad position because now she has to run. Meanwhile if you would have sat in my section because it was my turn, you would have already had your Diet Coke and nobody would have been rushed. Again, it's like going into someone's house. If you went to your friend's house and they wanted to eat on the patio and had everything set up out there, would you tell your friend to bug off and go eat in the kitchen? I would hope not.
I know not everyone is going to get this. Many people have never worked a day in the industry in their life and probably never will. That's OK but it doesn't give people a free pass to judge the people like me who do this work to support their family. I don't want to be your best friend and I'm not asking to come to your house for Christmas but I don't think it is too much to ask for the most basic amount of respect. So when I seat you at a table, sit down. That's all. There is a reason for it. I'm not just being an asshole.
I was at work Monday and this is where the inspiration for this blog came from. It was a rough day. It is hard to work in this industry and have so much of your job dependent on other people. If your coworkers aren't on point, you have to pick up the slack. If your customers are rude or needy, you have to pick up the slack. And that's what it was like Monday. I kept having these brilliant comebacks in my head with nowhere to go. It's not like I can honestly tell a customer to stop behaving like a neanderthal. So, I thought I will write a blog :) The restaurant industry is like a big family. Your coworkers become your family and the place itself becomes a home in a strange way. So, yeah, I care that you just left a candy wrapper on the floor. I care that you left the toilet unflushed in the ladies room. I care that you were incredibly rude to the bartender. You are messing with a family and as much as I know that writing is my first love, the place where I work means something to me, too.
Please don't take offense to anything I have said if you are one of the good ones. You are welcome at my table any time :) I just want people to understand how much work goes into your Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Diet Coke. We are hard working people with our own lives, our own children, our own spouses, our own dreams just like you. So I would love to get your Diet Coke, love to take your order, love for you to smile back, and for you to tip me in a appropriate manner while behaving like a normal, polite human being.
I realized the other night as I was standing outside, discussing life with my husband, that this year will go on the records as one of the hardest years. I have lost my father. I will lose my trusty companion, my Sherra. I will let go of a car that I bought 12 years ago on my own at the tail end of a divorce. I have cried but I don't know if I have cried the way that I should yet. I look at her now and I don't see my happy puppy anymore. I see a sad girl that wants so badly to hang on. I laid with her the other night, just rubbing her head,and I knew in that moment it was time to let her go. I didn't see the joy that I once saw in her eyes. And I know she is holding on. I know she is holding on for me, for Madi, for John. She has always been stubborn and I know she won't let go. I know we will be the ones to do this. I whispered to her that it was all right. It was all right if she needed to go. I was all right if she needed to go. Our baby would be all right if she needed to go. My daughter has never known life without our dog. Although we are all infatuated with our new kitty editions, we all know that we will soon say goodbye to a staple of our family. I haven't always been the best guardian to her, I can say that honestly. I never gave her enough attention, I can admit that. I had a baby right after I adopted her. I worked a full time job. I could give a million excuses and I could sit here and beat myself up over and over again for the all things I was incapable of doing for her, that I was too tired to do for her... but I always loved her with everything I had inside of me.
Let me tell you about Sherra, my wonderful princess of power puppy. I had moved out on my own. I was 20 years old. One night I had a dream. I had a dream that I was walking down the road with a black dog beside me. The next morning I went to the pound and Sherra picked me. I never had a choice. She always picked me. She was this tiny, tiny 10 week old puppy in a cage between these two giant dogs. She looked at me with her beautiful brown puppy eyes and I knew that she was coming home with me. A week later, I brought her home and she was a terror. She ate my furniture. She ate my shoes. She ate my pants. She ate nails and razors and crates. She sat in her water bowl and dug through her food... and then she would calm down and lay on my lap and lick my arms and snuggle in the crook of my elbow. She would greet me at the door every day when I got home, so excited to see me. She would go everywhere with me... at least until I got too pregnant and lost my mobility. And then my daughter came along and she became the Nanny I couldn't afford to that darling baby girl. She would coral her away from danger and lick her face, making the kid giggle. She would lay in front of my baby's crib while she was sleeping, protecting her from the things that bump in the night. She was always incredible gentle with Madi. And then at night when the baby was asleep and it was just my dog and me, we would sit outside together and I would talk about my day. And then at night when I was tired and lonely and felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, I would cry... I would cry and that sweet girl of mine would put her head on my lap and look at me with those puppy eyes and she would make me smile. She would remind me that I wasn't alone, that I was loved, that there was purpose to pushing so hard.
She is a dog, my dog, and the first soul that I loved unconditionally, that I took care of on my own. It will be incredibly hard saying goodbye to this beautiful spirit but I know that she will always be with me. I like to think that when she passes my Dad will be there, waiting with a treat. They'll go sit somewhere together and she will jump like she used to and play tug with him and chase those rabbits that she once dreamt about. I like to think that she will go back to that high jumping, energetic monster that used to destroy my house, to that sweet cuddling puppy that slept so soundly in my lap. I like to think that my father will take care of her and she will take care of him. I will hold on to the fact that they are both at peace and neither are suffering. I like to believe that they both have found their joy again.
Sherra, my sweet pup, thank you. I will always carry you with me and love you with all my heart.