The Contempt I Bear for Waiting Tables

The Contempt I Bear for Waiting Tables
by Kathryn Novelli

The water in some towns is too stagnant to drink,
Run like hell until you learn how to fix it.
On any given night you can find me behind the hostess stand,
putting all my weight into a place that does not support me,
counting roaches to kill the time.
And no, I do not neglect the ones disguised as people.
Welcome to Mi Peor Pesadilla:
Authentic Mexican Hellhole,
Where your friendly neighborhood business proprietors
are fans of white wash and insconsistancy
masters of evasion
of tax collection, health inspections
and customer complaints.
Ethics are a far-cry but the numbness that
y’all all crave
is a couple overpriced buds away.
Just take a left off
litter ridden
highway too far too gone,
you know,
the street that splays the darling little swamp
these folks seem to love sinking into so much,
the one they lined with the idols of their lifestyles,
convenience and complacency
and awh, they call it quaint.
“Family Style Dining” at it’s finest
by the family that buys the luxuries I can’t afford
then loses my paychecks,
pilfers my tips, exploits my persistence,
But hey, we’re all chasing the dream of a well-insulated wallet,
caught by our tails in The Rat Race,
but I think you should know
watering down a culture, then overcharging for the product
has ceased to prove itself as a lucrative business combo
and I’ve lost the drive to sell my soul with that manufactured gusto.
The regulars:
a gaggle of drunkards and bigots
comparable to wriggling maggots
trapped under a rock but
suffering from illusions of grandeur
crafted on the back of ill-gotten privilige;
at the register they let me know that entitlement complexes
and camo print are all the rage this season.
I ask if they’d like a receipt and let them know
I haven’t felt the seasons change here in a while.
The cook will only speak to me in whispers,
tells me I’m pretty
so close to me I can see through his intentions
in the seclusion of the meat freezer
where the hanging animal carcasses really set the mood and I’m
overwhelmingly aware that he’s been staring at my ass
all day.
I know enough about cooking
to know that he’s not grunting about chopping onions
and enough Spanish
to know when he’s calling me a bitch
for not appreciating his compliments.
Then he asks me if I’d feel safer if he’d walk me to my car.
Coworker, server, friend
stands beside me
shimmering eyes,
seating people she’s known since childhood
at dirty diner tables.
They see her now as a personal servant and no more.
They don’t say thank you.
She doesn’t deserve this
they don’t deserve her
but in this place
our uniforms match
white shirt, black pants
the bows of our aprons pronounced on the smalls of our backs
synchronized cinching our waists
ought to be stretched tall and thin
bent into shape to please the men.
Your hourglass ladies
fulfilling your stereotypes
refilling your margaritas
and right now
I doubt
the man at the bar
wants that drink more than I do.
His slow southern drawl
stings my cheek, calls me honey
tells me to come closer to him
I shudder
like he appreciates the sweetness I’ve been demanded to provide.
like the dollars I’ve been lured with,
and I remind myself I’m getting paid to smile,
nod and agree,
quietly preferably.
Stay subservient
and resist what my better instincts know when
I don’t stray away from his beer vapor breath
made heavy with the stink of ignorance and
this tea isn’t sweet enough
this steak just don’t taste right
you look tense
and then his claws sink in and
Motherfucker get your hands off my shoulders
Motherfucker you’re lucky I didn’t spit in your drink
Motherfucker I’m fantasizing about destroying your truck
Motherfucker a gay joke is not a way to start a conversation
but a race joke is more than enough to end one.
Motherfucker you will never own me nor my body
and times are changing and
you cannot hide your filth in this sinkhole for much longer.
The customer is not always right
the server is neither a prize nor a punching bag
but I hold my tongue.
and I’m getting
Refuse to appreciate abuse,
tip generously.

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