Friday, October 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea = POOF! A New Respect for Waitresses

So...  Today at 1pm I knew Sara and I had agreed to help Pat with "Afternoon Tea" (scheduled from 3-4:30 PM) but I had no idea something that sounded so quiet would wind up being so boisterous - at least it felt that way for those of us on the servicing end of things...  Fridays in general are kind of quiet, so it came out of nowhere that I wound up being busily on my feet for 5 hours straight.

A woman named Angela (new acquaintance as of today) helped me get 12 square tables out of the closet in the Cedar/Sycamore room (that's the title of the big room that gets used the most, btw; it has a divider to be used when necessary) and put 4 chairs at each table, i.e. for 48 people.  Then we covered them with paper table cloth (much easier to clean up, btw), a single rose & table number in a vase at the center of each one, menus, advertisements for a sale on Sunday, plates, utensils, teacups & saucers.  And then we went into the kitchen to prepare sandwiches & plates of various cake slices.  So much around here is either buffet or cafeteria style (they get up w/ their empty plate & we serve the line until they've all gotten dinner) that I was completely surprised when Pat told me I was going to be her only waitress and handed me a small notebook & pen.  Luckily, Sara was able to join me about 15-20 minutes later from another job (we'd been accidentally double-booked) but even though Sara, Pat and I were all taking people's orders and adding up the totals (it was a cancer foundation benefit, apparently) it was a perfect beehive.  However, something happens to me in events like this: I switch into a mode where I'm practically a robot for whatever needs doing - personal thoughts or taking anything personal isn't an option; it's not even on my mind to realize it's not an option!  This robot state of mine has developed as a nifty side effect of "baptism by fire"/being dropped in the deep end (as a friend here put it when he assigned me two extensive/big responsibilities for Parallel Service 2 Sabbaths in a row during my very first month here) in regard to what is expected of me as a student missionary.  It certainly makes the time fly...

Before I knew it, things were winding down and I was amazed I'd been on my feet for 4 solid hours without realizing it.  The kitchen was a perfect mess and we were still clearing the tables of all their trappings & dirty dishes.  But when people leave and it's just cleanup time - that's actually becoming my favorite.  The frenzy is dead and what's ahead is predictable: perpetual whirring morphs into constant, steady movement of either vacuuming, one of a myriad tasks to do with dishes, packaging food or something else that I'm possibly forgetting.  There's so much to do for cleanup purposes when these events are over that it's actually easier than something less hectic.  That may sound confusing, but let me explain: if the event was less busy or massive, there would be less to do and less of a mess, so there would be lulls in the process here & there.  Whereas, after events like this, a random cluster of people band together in this remarkable spirit of teamwork and since the mess is so obvious and extensive, everyone just does what needs doing without stopping and for you realize it, everything's been taken care of and the kitchen is serene.

But in closing, I'll revisit the title: a new respect for waitresses: seriously, during the first 5 minutes I was scared to death that I wouldn't write things fast enough, that I'd mess up details or forget them or whatever.   I slowed down a tiny bit and just kept breathing in & out and putting one foot in front of the other.  The more people's orders I took, delivered and the more bills I totaled, collected & gave change for, the less scared I felt.  But it didn't feel like it was something I always knew how to do; it took a stretching - I'm grateful for my robot mode because in retrospect if I was in any sort of a personal mode, I would have freaked out for sure.  It was my first and comparatively brief stint as a waitress, but I felt like I learned skills of a bigger comfort zone than I previously had and that it happened very quickly.

Waitresses are my new heroes.  They keep their cool, rapidly take down large orders in what must be an unbelievable shorthand and manage to do it with a smile, calling you "Honey" as they do so, whether you're a good customer or a jerk.  Seriously.

I'm so glad it's Sabbath.
I'm so glad this is the Sabbath we don't have the responsibilities of Parallel Service, though I love it.
I'm so glad that I can go to bed earlier this Friday night than usual.

I'm just so INCREDIBLY glad it's SABBATH!!!

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