Thursday, August 26, 2010

Neil Gaiman's Gives Advice

My creative well is running a bit on the dry side these days. My mind either jumps all over the place or it just shuts down and plays dead (kind of like a hyperactive puppy.) And whenever this happens, I'm tempted to hop on a plane to India (I've always wanted to visit India, my wonky digestive tract notwithstanding) or take up a new hobby like hang gliding (just the fact that they ask "are you man enough?" makes the ornery part of me want to do it) or find work as a waitress in a diner.

Believe me, you think bartenders hear a lot of stories and meet a colourful cast of characters? So does your small town waitress. I've worked in all kinds of restaurants in my life, mostly during my youth. There was the doughnut shop where our local Member of Parliament (a Conservative I feel compelled to point out) took his food and sat down with his wife at a table. He leaned over - this was inside the restaurant, mind - cleared his throat, then casually hawked a loogie on the floor in full view of the rest of the patrons and one horrified waitress i.e., me. On the floor, people. I held up my hand to the lineup of customers while I marched to the storage room at the back and grabbed one of those big, industrial rolling wringer buckets and mops, then dragged it, with much banging and clattering and sloshing of water, out to his table. Without a word and without breaking eye contact, I mopped his snot rocket off the floor. And I vowed never to vote for this man. Or serve him another doughnut, so help me Dunkin'.

I worked in a grocery store bakery where all the inmates of the senior's home next door would show up in pastel track suits and sturdy white sneakers to wait outside the door for the key to turn in the lock looking like the cast of Shaun of the Dead...

...then they'd all shuffle or wheel themselves to tables where they'd stake their claims and nurse a single beverage for hours. The men were dream customers. They'd flirt and wink and order coffee and a doughnut. Easy peasy. The women, oy, the women. They'd order tea, with lemon, the bag on the side, with extra hot water and another cup and hey, give me two bags because I like it strong (then they'd make a second cup for a friend for free) and some toast, but from a fresh loaf, not yesterday's, and don't toast it TOO long, and not too much butter and strawberry jam, not raspberry, too many pips, and.....gah. One woman practically threw her little creamers at me and said she only took her tea with skim milk, thank you very much, as she was watching her weight, then asked if I could please make it snappy and go get her a Boston cream doughnut to go with her tea. The men talked about their days in the war, and when I could, I'd catch snippets of their conversations. There were a few tears but always, always a lot of laughs.

I also worked in an A&W as a carhop for $1.35 an hour. Customers pulled up in cars and trucks (semi's were the worst because I had to scramble up the sides to the window while balancing a tray of heavy glass mugs of root beer.) We wore fetching orange and brown polyester uniforms that acted as mini-saunas, with a beret that made our heads look like giant acorns. At closing time we'd have to clean up the toilets where the drunks would come and go (literally) then sweep the lots with push brooms, wash down all the floors, machines, etc. Highlights were the American customers (a big tip was guaranteed, whereas with the locals, you were lucky to even get one) and when the Argonaut football team was in town for summer training. It consisted of strapping, good-looking, big-tippers who left a string of heartsick/pregnant girls in their wake when they left each Fall. There was one we all fought to serve. Joe Theisman. He always drove up in his Cadillac with the vanity plate "Number 7". He was polite and tipped well, but perhaps we should remember him for this famous quote, "The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Then there was the golf club snack-bar where I witnessed all kinds of small town shenanigans. My teenage self learned that private golf clubs and adultery go together like gin and tonic. That steam in the locker room? Not strictly due to the showers, is what I'm saying. And when the annual convention of Pipefitters and Sewer Workers asked me to dress up like a Playboy Bunny for an evening, I declined but my friend H. did it. (You know who you are.) And when the annual police officer's party ended up with carts in the pond and off-duty police officers sprawled in the parking lot, I turned a blind eye (but remembered names in case in I got pulled over some day.)

Or maybe what I should do is just sit my ass in a chair and WRITE.

That's what Neil Gaiman says:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cripes! Thanks for reminding me!

Love your blog,