I waited two and a half years for one glorious moment; a moment involving a pair of scissors, and my choger (army ID) – the destruction of the latter with the former. One momentous strike of steel against plastic and I became a free woman – a soldier set free from duty into the world, with wide eyes, a light heart, and butterflies fluttering wildly from within. That snip into civilian life after years patrolling the borders of Israel, of not sleeping, of over training, of dreaming of the gold at the end of the rainbow – they brought me to where I am today.
“Would you like fries with that?” I ask with a fake smile plastered on my face as I try to prevent my left eye from twitching in sheer frustration as the lady before me decides she actually prefers salad but specifically with the dressing on the side and coarse salt instead of fine salt and make sure there’s no peanut butter somewhere in the kitchen because she might be allergic because peanut butter makes her feel bloated and can I bring her a spare plate, a glass of water with lemon and nana but actually cancel the salad and stuff the diet– she wants the fries instead. Yes you guessed it – I’ve moved on up in the world and become none other than a waitress – i.e. the butt of society.
It’s a heck of a gig – I practice my balancing skills with trays of beer and food likely to fall somewhere along the way to the table. I practise my ability to communicate in different languages, accents, tones, and gestures. Sometimes I like to pretend I don’t speak English – for shits and giggles. I walk kilometres every day around the same little bar tending to the needs of the hungry, thirsty and ever-so-slightly demanding citizens of Raanana. Sometimes I get a great tip and a “thank you”, and sometimes I get little tip and a simple head-nod goodbye.
It’s a real rollercoaster of a ride and despite the hours of hard work and the knowledge that I’m society’s butt – I’m actually enjoying my work as a waitress. There’s so much to learn from the people you serve in the waitering world and from the work involved in serving them.
Firstly you can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they choose to communicate with their waiter. Some customers want to know how I am and welcome my approach with genuine smiles. They thank me for my service and politely joke about this or that to engage with their waitress for the evening. Others prefer the cold-shoulder approach of give-me-my-food-and-leave. You learn to identify your customers quickly and adjust to their approaches accordingly. You know when to stick around a little and engage in friendly small talk – and you learn when to take the order, answer questions abruptly, nod your head with a smile, and leave to serve immediately.
You also learn to identify who you’re dealing with simply by approaching the table. You identify the soldiers who want to know if they can pay for a half serving of fries (nope) cause they live on like a thousand shekels a month. And you identify the player who brings a new date every week and gets the same half litre goldstar because he’s sitting across from a gold star (internally vomit/ externally fake smile and try not to vomit). You learn to open up your heart to the cute old couple who come to the pub at 7pm on like their forty thousandth date and hold hands across the table as they chatter (/shout) away – only half hearing each other with the blaring music and old age’s effect on their ears. You find yourself wondering about the life of the old man who sits at the bar almost every night by himself, orders a beer and silently watches the game. You see break ups and make ups, celebrations and clinking of glasses. You see life before you in all shapes and sizes and you serve the young, the old, the poor and the rich all in one shift of work and under one roof. It’s fascinating and frustrating, stressful and rewarding. You deal with all walks of life and interact with them for hours on end- a hustle and bustle of commotion, a buzz of chatter and clatter and laughter and music that continues in a cycle and every day starts afresh.
When my shift is over and my feet are aching and my eyes are heavy with sleep, and the bar is quiet and the tables and chairs are stacked and everything is suddenly silent, that’s when I take it all in. What I’m doing isn’t the most glorious of jobs. It’s tip-based and unstable and clearly not my long-term choice for work. But heck, it’s hella interesting, can be super rewarding, and it’s a fascinating way to watch, interact with, and learn from society.
So though I gave up my gun and got handed a note-pad, and though the gold at the end of the rainbow was actually a glistening bucket of soapy water to mop the floors with before closing the bar – I’m happy with where I find myself at this stage of life. Any experience that allows one to learn and grow is a good one, in my humble opinion. So until the next glorious stage of life arrives, I’ve accepted and adjusted to the task of being society’s butt. I’ll take your order in my stride and write down “fries” as the side dish option chosen. And you know what? I’ll do it all with a smile, because I’m genuinely happy with the flow that life carries me on, and the hectic, crazy, endless experiences waiting for me every shift, and at every stage of life.