True Story: Mourning Flowers

“Im down…”  she replied. “My husband is dying” 

A few months ago, a regular customer of mine ( a lady of around 60 years old) came to the restaurant to eat.  I didn’t notice her until another waitress asked me “Does she usually take the small order or the regular meal?”  I really had no idea what she was talking about at first.  I quickly finished cleaning my section so I could go over and say hello.

She’s only been coming every Sunday for the past 2-3 weeks, and every time by herself, and always orders a Bloody Caesar (with double vodka) to start.  Last time, she offered to buy me one!  I told her that was really sweet, but we aren’t allowed to drink on the job.  She understood and told me that she was really thankful for the wonderful service.  I was touched.  She said she would come back to see me because I was a really sweet waitress.
Yesterday, however, when I went over to say hello she didn’t seem like herself.

“Hello there! How are you today?” I asked.

She shook her head and played around with a magazine and bouquet of flowers she had on the table.

“I’m…down.” She replied. “My husband is dying…”

I didn’t really know what to say, except  that I was sorry to hear that.  I’ve never really been good at knowing what to say in those types of situations, especially with people I don’t really know.  She proceeded to tell me that she didn’t know what to do.  She was so depressed, even though it had been a long time coming.   The way I see it, no one can ever be fully prepared for that, no matter how long you might know it will happen.

The woman also told me that she had no family around, no friends, and that she was alone.  I told her that I work during the day on weekends and it’s relatively quiet (not too many people at that time), so if she felt up for having a quick bite to eat she could come to the restaurant and we could chat.  She said she would really love that.  She promised to bring me pictures of her grandchildren that live in Toronto.  I said I’d love to see them.

“Enough about this, I don’t want to burden you at all,” she told me.

“It’s not a burden,” I explained.

“I’m so glad I met you!” she said sweetly.  All I could do was smile.

Her waitress came by at that point and we all chatted for a bit.  A few minutes later we passed by the table again to check on her and she told us that she wanted us to have her flowers.  We denied them at first, saying it was too generous and she deserved to have some beautiful flowers around her house.  She explained that she already had too many.

“I’m an old woman!  Don’t argue with me!” she exclaimed as she thrust the bouquet into our hands.

So the other waitress and I accepted and thanked her for her generosity.  She headed home after…I hope that she got home safely.  She seemed pretty down.  I haven’t seen her since, but hope to see her once again to know that she’s okay.  I at least hope that maybe I cheered her up a little bit by lending an ear.  Everyone needs someone to talk to.

The Waitress Confessions

Keeping Your Smile: Working Through the Pain

Skyviews of Texas Tech
Photo by: Give2Tech

Whoever said that being a waitress these days is easy? 

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with as a waitress was learning how to smile through anything and everything that happened in life. Personal problems were checked at the door as you entered the restaurant and especially never came out when dealing with customers.  Sad eyes had to dabbed with a Kleenex, bags under the eyes from lack of sleep were covered with makeup, and a smile had to be permanently placed on those lips no matter how much you felt like just throwing in the towel.

“Learning how to smile through anything and everything that happened in life…”

Of course, conversations about personal problems with close coworkers always happened.  I would tell stories about my personal life with those I felt comfortable divulging that sort of private information to and end up feeling a bit better.  Sometimes I even needed to tell my bosses if things weren’t going well, so they’d know why I wasn’t as focused as I usually am.

“Recently, something happened. It seemed as if the whole world around me was crumbling.”

Recently, something happened. It seemed as if the whole world around me was crumbling. From a series of matters or the heart, life, death, and illness the mess just piled up until I couldn’t imagine anything else happening.  Yet, the restaurant business holds for no one.  People keep coming and eating.  Coming and eating.  The world doesn’t stop for your problems.  And neither rarely does your job.

“But I got through it, put on a carefree smile and saved my sadness for when I could cry it out later at home.”

Needless to say, I had to go into work, despite all the horrible things going on in my life.  No matter how sad I was for myself and others, I still had a position to fill.  Being short staffed at a restaurant on the busiest night of the year isn’t exactly the ideal situation for the bosses, so I didn’t even consider calling in and asking for a personal day.  It was difficult, to go in and see couples holding hands and sprouting words of love, but I got through it, put on a carefree smile and saved my sadness for when I could cry it out later at home.

The next day was a day of being ridiculously sick and receiving some heart breaking news.  The day after that, I went into work yet again.  I explained to my boss the situations that were unfolding and he gave me a small section of four tables.   That whole night, customers were telling me that I have a lovely smile and that I must be so happy to have a smile like that.  The whole night I was dying inside.  Sick to my stomach, aching for the loss of a loved one, and my heart torn to pieces.  Yet, I continued to smile.

“I walked away from the table, a couple of tears in my eyes but brushed them off.”

At one point, regular customers were seated at one of my tables and said “Hey! The waitress who always smiles!  Are you ever sad?”.  I wanted to burst out crying, right then and there. I wanted to yell “Yes! I am so incredibly sad!” then collapse onto the seat next to them in a bundle of tears and sobs after which I would curl up there for the rest of the night. I couldn’t put that on them, of course.  That would be unprofessional.  So I smiled and said “Hardly ever, but when I’m mad…watch out!” and we all laughed together before I took their drink order.  I walked away from the table, a couple of tears in my eyes but brushed them off.  There’s no time for tears when serving customers.

“The amount of strength and control that it took.”

The amount of strength and control that it took.  The amount of energy I put in.  All of that and just for a smile, something that usually comes so naturally to me.  It was incredibly intense and one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.  To pretend to be the happiest person in the world.  It’s so unlike me.  It felt fake and wrong, like I was conning these people into thinking that their waitress is one of the friendliest they’ve ever had.  I don’t know.  Is that wrong? Is it right?

People really don’t seem to realize that behind a smile may be someone who’s hurting.  Someone’s who is in emotional turmoil and in need of help.  Whether physical or emotional pain, it sits there behind the small, shy grin of the hostess at the front desk or the beaming ear-to-ear smile of the waitress serving you your plates.  You may not realize it, but it’s there.  And what is incredible is that through all the hardships and troubles, there they are…keeping their smile and working through the pain.

The Waitress Confessions