Did you say Shish Kabob?
My eighteen year old eyes were just as wide as my eighteen year old mouth. I looked at the old guy, who was about thirty-five and sitting at my table. He was wearing a suit and he was staring at me. I looked at the boy, who was also sitting at the table. He was about fourteen and he was staring at me too. I wanted to run and hide. What was I doing working in such a fancy place? My carefree days of youth and slinging hash for a living, only a few weeks ago, were already a distant past. There would be no more dropping off eggs over hard with wheat toast to Old Robert. No more running past all those tables of regular customers, to warm up their cups of coffee with a quick splash. Why had I left it all behind? Was it that damned Ruth Buzzy hairnet, that had me out on the streets, handing in applications? No. Was it Margaret wearing lipstick that matched her moods and always barking orders like a marine sargent? Nope. Did I just want to make a statement? Maybe. But I think it was mostly simple greed. You see, I'd turned the almighty legal age and I'd heard that one could make big bucks, serving expensive dinners to inebreated people. I had decided there would be no more pockets of jingling change weighing down Millie Noe. Paper money. I'd wanted paper money in its place. I was filling out application after application. One stop was the Chinese restaurant across the street from my teenage livelihood. "What?" said the owner, who was sitting at the bar. "What makes you think you are qualified to work here? You think working in a soda fountain is experience?" I felt my cheeks start to burn. "Hey, don't pick on her," said a patron a next to him. "That little girl is a damn good waitress. You would be a fool not to hire her." "What an ass," I thought, as I drove away. The very next day, a professional voice on the telephone said, "Millie Noe, you are hired at our fancy steak house. Please report in on Thursday at four o'clock." I did a happy dance all around my bedroom. Well, it was just a little bit of jumping up and down and clapping, in a small spot, where the capret was visible. Two hours later, the Chinese guy calls. "Is this Millie Noe?" he says. "Yes," I say. "I want you to come and work for me." I said, "Well, fuck you very much Mr. Cee, but I have been hired somewhere else." And that is one reason why I am standing here in this fancy steak house with my eighteen year old eyes and mouth wide open. The other reason is the fact that I have just managed to shoot a Shish Kabob across the restaurant, at warp speed. I looked at the silver spear in my hand. It was empty but for one lonely tomato. AWKWARD. "Well, I don't think it hit anybody," I offered. The innocent by-seaters at the next table, were unaware that chunks of steak and peppers had just whizzed over their heads. The old man in the suit began to chuckle. Then the kid started to giggle. Then I started to laugh. Pretty soon all three of us were doubled over. "Did you see that?" I hung onto the cart handle for support. "Sorry about that," I finally managed to spit out. "Are you new?" asked the suit, between grunts and snorts. "Why do you ask?" I say, almost audibly. "No reason," he says, wiping his eyes with the fancy linen napkin, taken from his lap and he begins to regain his composure. I stood up straight and I took a deep breath. "Would, you care for some au juice?" I say all professional like. "On what?" he says. "My steak is way over there." "Oh. Well, how about just some au juice then?" Again, we are all in hysterics. "I will get you another Shish Kabob." "Don't worry about it," he says. "I'll just have a couple more dinner rolls." If you have ever been a food server, you know that cooks can be egotistical maniacs, with hot tempers. And you also know that there is always that one waitress in the bunch who would just as soon stab you in the back with a serated steak knife than, let you help them out. And this fancy-dancy place seemed to loaded with all kinds of both. On my very first day, I was sitting in a messy break room, on a metal chair, nervously waiting to start my training. Two, twenty year old girls came in. I thought they were going to be my new friends. But they paid no attention to me. They were too busy blowing smoke rings and arguing over who was going to let the kid tag along with them all night. They flipped a coin. The loser got me. And then the loser applied her mascara with her stomach grazing my face as she leaned in to look in the mirror that was hanging above my head. "I should have said thank you very much to Mr. Cee," I thought. "One should not burn bridges." I followed different serated knife bitches around the steak house like a little puppy dog, for a week of nightmare shifts. And then praise the Lord, I was set free. But my new life as a waitress in a fancy place was not how I'd pictured it was going to be. I couldn't show off any of my skills. Back at the soda fountain, I could carry five Cherry Colas without even using a tray. When customers sat down, I was just like the road runner, "meep, meep," and I was there with water and a pad and pen ready to fire. When an order was up, I grabbed it from under the heat lamp and dropped it off to the patron with a big smile. I could whip together two new pots of coffee, wipe down the counter and take an order, all during the one minute that my milk shake was shaking on the shaker behind me. And nobody ever left my section without their fill of free coffee refills. At fancy steak houses, they want you to push around a cart, even if you get the one that has a squeaky wheel and it is hard to steer. And then they want you to ask everybody if they want au juice with their fine cuts of meat. And did you know that you are not supposed to run up to a table as soon as people are seated? And did you know that you are not supposed to turn a ticket in to the cook until your customers are almost finished eating their soup and salad? And do you know that means that you have to spy on them and make up excuses to stop by their table to see how fast they are chewing? That is the reason waiters are always bugging you and saying, "And how is everything?" right when you are in the middle of telling a great story. And did you know that it is frowned upon if you do not use a tray, even to deliver one little drink with an umbrella in it? I walked into the kitchen to confess my newest sin. The cook was leaning over the grill, with his back to me. I had to practically yell to be heard above all the sizzling meat. "Hey Mark?" He turned around. "Is there any way you could make another Shish Kabob for me?" He gave me the cook stare. "What happened to the one I just made?" "Well, it shot across the room like a torpedo." "Oh jeez, Millie. Did you push it from the back?" I just looked at him. "You do know that you have to loosen up the first piece and then you gently slide the rest off the spear, piece by piece, from the front to the back, right?" I didn't say anything. "If you force it all from the back, the pressure will be just like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne."