Friday, August 27, 2010

The Only Boy

When I switched to working days at the pancake house, I was almost always the only waiter among four to nine waitresses on a shift (we had two dining rooms). Though I was still pretty young, I was growing up fast around these women, fetching birth control pills and tampons out of their purses, helping them pull up their pantyhose, and being the brotherly shoulder to cry on in the women's employee restroom plenty of times. Once, I even re-set a waitresses knee that popped out of its socket. I still can't believe she asked me to do it and that I was stupid enough to try. Thank goodness it popped back in and that I didn't break it.

The gals played plenty of pranks on me, but it was all in fun. Once, Debbie sent me out to one of her tables on the pretense she was too busy to ask a customer, "Are you ready for you Baby Apple?" A smaller version of the German Apple Pancake, usually ordered for dessert, had gotten the nickname "Baby Apple" among some regulars and the staff, but it didn't occur to me just how stupid that sounded until I mentioned it to someone who hadn't even ordered one and didn't have a clue such a thing existed. When I got back to the kitchen Debbie was in a fit of giggles. "Did you see the look on his face? Did you see? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!" That same waitress used to steal a piece of bacon off my side orders sometimes just to get the cooks to yell at me when I said I was short a slice. I knew damn well she had bacon in her pocket, but I didn't tell on her. I liked working with her and she had a fun, off-beat sense of humor. We worked a graveyard shift together once when she gave me five bucks to walk around the dining room with a kids toy wind-up radio on my shoulder, singing along while it played "When You Wish Upon a Star." It was easy money. Woulda taken me at least two tables in that place to make as much.

There was another waitress, Becky, from Alabama. She was really sweet and didn't mean any disrespect at all when she told me that I was the first gay person she'd ever met. Though it made me a little uncomfortable when she'd introduce me to her tables as "My gay friend, Guy," she was a good sport about the pranks I pulled on her. I knew Becky wore half slips, so from time to time, when she had the juice machines as part of her sidework, I'd wait until she climbed up on a milk crate to pour the juice concentrate from a huge carton into the top of the dispenser and I'd run by and yank her half slip down to her knees. The crate was too tall for her to jump down so she'd wail until someone would take the carton out of her hands so she could pull up her slip and climb down. My other favorite was to linger behind a couple or three waitresses when they were gathered together talking and tie their apron strings to each other or to one of the legs of the counter. It was rare to get three at once, but funny as all heck when one or all would start to walk away from the group. They got to where they were so panicked about it that they'd flinch if they saw me walking away and reach back to make sure they weren't attached to anything or each other.

Sometimes we fought like barnyard cats, and those women could swear better than anything I've ever heard at the movies. The fights rarely carried over to the next day because we couldn't afford to let them what with all the grumpy morning customers. The only way to make money on that shift is volume and we had to be able to count on each other. I'm sure I'd have a stroke if I tried to work that hard now, and it's probably just as true now as then that the men in those places really prefer a waitress instead of a waiter with their morning coffee, but I do miss being the token boy in that pink collar world.

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