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Reflections of a Waitress


How strange I find it that in all this time of working in the café, I have never actually written about working in the café! I’ll have to put it down to busyness… on top of no internet access for months on end– yeah, I have plenty more excuses, but I’ll spare you:-).

I started working in Skirlies just before Christmas. I’d never been in the place before, but it had a good aura (so to speak) about it so I thought, “Hey, I could work here.” I popped my head in, left my details, and by the end of the week I was an official Skirlies waitress. I’m sure it usually isn’t so easy, but for me, it was the right place at the right time.

At the time we were still living on Kerr Street and it took me 20 minutes to walk to work. Within two months we’d moved to Queen Street and it took me all of two minutes (if that) to get there. How nice it is to know that even though I have to be at work at 7:45 a.m., I really don’t have to get up until 7:15 if my night’s sleep wasn’t all that it should have been. Mind you, this means that not only do I live in the rough end of town, but I work there too. But this is okay… I’ve only had one major happening in these past nine months:

It was closing time and myself and the assistant cook were just getting ready to do the floors. Our boss had been in that day- a no-nonsense type person who is small, yet strong–she spent a few years in the Edinburgh police force. Anyway, a tall, unshaven, unwashed, older man came in and I tried to make out from his stuttered speech if he was making an order. Amy (the boss), seeing that I was having trouble understanding the man, came over to assist me. His white hair on both his head and face seemed greasy, his jacket was dirty, and his pale blue eyes had an almost vacant stare. I was nervous that he perhaps had some medication that he needed to take; Amy was reading it differently. Anyway, he didn’t seem to have any money so she told him that he needed to leave as it was now past closing time, but she did offer him some scones that would just have been thrown out the next morning. She seemed to have the situation under control so I carried some dishes back to the kitchen. Suddenly I heard a sound almost between a growl and moan and my first thought was “Oh my goodness… he’s attacking Amy!” My mind propelled me toward the cash register where I knew the panic buttons were located and as I came into view, I saw Amy struggling with him. He fell against the counter and sent some plates crashing to the floor before Amy was able to guide his collapsing body down. It was then that I realized that he was having a fit. Amy knew just what to do, the ambulance was called, and in the end, the unconcious man was revived and taken away, leaving me, at least, feeling badly shaken. Apparently it was alcohol related. I have since seen the man twice from my kitchen window: the first time he was being pushed in a wheelchair by a younger woman and still seemed rather out of it, but the next time there seemed to be an improvement in his spirits and two women and children were with him and both his hair and beard were trimmed. I didn’t feel disgusted with him as my boss and co-worker had, but rather I felt a sympathy for this man who’d caused us such a fright. Anyway, that’s been the biggest happening so far in my career as a waitress!

I always wanted to work as a waitress in a café… I just didn’t see it happening anytime in my twenties as I have wee kiddos to care for. However, the dream was there. I think I liked the idea so much because of the joy that I’ve found in many different cafés, both in North America and Europe. I’ve always liked seeking out the one that fits me best and then frequenting it to write and sip something hot– cappuccinos, pots of steaming tea, or hot chocolate. Ahh, yes- relaxing in a place and working in one are entirely different things altogether. But usually, I enjoy my two days a week being a waitress. I wear all black on those days–the standard uniform of Europe–and a little red apron with pockets takes a lot of abuse as it’s smeared with butter, caramel, or other such things that end up on my hands. When it’s busy, I’m constantly in demand and am amazed how much serving customers can be like being a mum to toddlers (i.e. it matters not if you’re busy with a large amount of other things, everyone wants to be on the top of your priority list!).

One of my biggest joys in working in the café is that I have learned the art of making a good coffee. Yes, somedays the milk foams better than others, but for the most part, I can turn out a beautiful latté or cappuccino and that feels like a great accomplishment!

One Response to “Reflections of a Waitress”

  1. Jessica
    September 25th, 2008 10:43

    hey rachel, it’s so nice to read some of your writing again. i can totally relate to some of your waitressing experiences… it’s a good job… too bad it doesn’t pay better! enjoy it while you can.

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