hi, my name is Abigail Grace and I am a closeted introvert. of sorts. honestly, I don’t know exactly what I am because if I don’t know you, there’s a chance that I will run up to you with a face breaking smile or I will go into anxious shock, my heart will send my lungs into panic, and suddenly I will disappear through the closest door faster than you can say, “Hemingway is superb.” there’s no in between. (I dare you to check with my family, The Guitarist, or Anne-Girl… they will all attest.) that is why I stared at my mirror reflection in shock when the first job I got last summer was… a waitressing job.
waitressing: a job which requires you to 1. greet 2. talk to 3. generally socialize with and carry food to people and 4. generally deal with random people’s crap with a smile or risk a really lousy tip. I can see one benefit in that straight off and it’s the food: I’m not paid $2.13 an hour to smile my way into a good tip from the food. oh, well. at least the pizza is friendly.
from the ripe age of 1 or 2, I have known that I’m not quite as “normal” as other people. (insert a scoff at normalcy here.) I soon gained the reputation of being the eccentric waitress who sang all the time and had the apron equivalent of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. (pocket 1: sandwich, generally ham and cheese — pocket 2: booklet and notebook — pocket 3: book, varying from Plato to Harry Potter — pocket 4: pens). this was more endearing than I thought it would be. I gained several regulars who would ask for me, check to see which book I was currently reading and order the same thing every time. honestly, being the waitress that easily memorizes and can ask with a wink if you want your usual calimari, 1st St. Ale, Ridgeback, eggplant parm, and other item of choice is kind of cool. (shout-out to the Cosbeys.)
I grew to love my job. the friends I made were wonderful and strange and I would not have met them if I hadn’t been a small pizzeria waitress. matt and steph were my saving grace, the love on the nights when my anxious got to my head. maddy and tarin were my laugh when I needed to cry. and gabby… well, gabby knows how to keep my stomach happy. heck, I even picked up some Spanish. I still have a long way to go, but every bit counts. and last night, my last night was so bittersweet.
last week, I realized it was time to move on. still waitressing, but sports bar is a different kind, a new adventure. and last night when I got home and sat down crosslegged on my bed, I was thankful for this last year. for the crazy and the paid bills and the training and ultimately the bravery.
I needed a job that forced me to be myself and talk to people. even if it was to get money. one that would encourage me to laugh and joke and enjoy life, enjoy food. and it wasn’t all fun and games — it taught me hard life lessons on how mean people can be and how to manage not to cry in front of your manager who was deciding to be a jerk. how when the floor is disgusting, the best way to fix it is to buy your own pine-sol and scrub brush, stay a little late, and clean it yourself. that a kind gesture can make someone’s night and leave notes on your copy of receipts.
it taught me to pray for each person who sat at each of my tables while I poured their drinks. I bet the hundreds of people that I’ve served over the last year didn’t know that they made it onto my prayer rope every time I saw them. that each kiddo got a prayer for their school day, each couple for their relationship, every business man for his job, each family that they would hold each other tight, every lonely girl that her heart would hold together. I’ve prayed my way into every corner of the establishment. it taught me some kind of crazy love for all these people I don’t actually know.
this job taught me some kind of brave. I’ve got a ways to go, but waitressing is an art form of happily putting yourself in a position to be a bit broken. cause people will be hurtful and people will be wrapped up in their days & come off harsher than they meant. and you’ll meet all levels of petty and jerk and kind and gracious and you’ve gotta learn to keep on loving. because people don’t just come for the pizza/pasta/heaven: they come for the love and they come for someone to care and it’s not often that they actually get it.
the next place I go will be an interesting new kind of an adventure. a new kind of crowd to work my way around and head tilt my head in a way to figure my way out. a new kind of food and a new kind of way to smile my way into a tip. but the prayer habit can stay and the being myself kind of brave can stay. and I’m excited — that’s it’s own kind of new courage. so, to all my friends, to all the jerks, to all the kind, to all the pizza: thank you. thank you, thank you, for growing me into a sunflower with its face to the sky. I wouldn’t be 2017 me without you. and I love and will pray for each of you.
last night, someone told me I was the best waitress they’d ever had and it about made me cry. I’d gotten something right here and my heart aligned a little in that moment of seeing empty plate joy written on someone. it was a perfect ending.