Just now I had dinner at Chase’s Daily, Belfast Maine’s claim to culinary fame. I worked there for years, while building my massage practice. Being a server and a massage therapist is not mutually exclusive, something worthy of a blog post sometime.
Tough experiences bring you close to others who work at your side. If you can get through them together, you bond unbelievably. I know this is a small stretch, but there is a similarity between serving at a very popular restaurant in Maine in the summer, and boot camp. They are nearly equal, in terms of hours spent laboring in heat, under constant pressure, running like a madwoman, and being yelled at.
Although not from staff or owners. If I had to have a waitress experience, I was the luckiest to have it at Chase’s, for once I proved my mettle and that I wasn’t going to flake out on them, the owners (the Chase family) adopted me as one of their own. And if your employer is for you, who can be against you?
It was incredibly stressful working there in the summer. We would always get tourists who saw anything that happened there as an impediment to them having a good vacation, and they were (and are) breathtakingly rude. But I did it for four years: I did it for the Chase family, and my amazing co-workers, and the fantastic baked goods, entrees, and the art hanging on the walls (Perimeter Gallery).
I did it because I love Belfast, and Chase’s is in the center of town. You can see Alexia’s across the way, and the lights of the Colonial Theatre blazing down High Street in the dusk of evening…like tonight.
Every time I go into Chase’s now, I become infused with love. I can’t help it. I get hallooed and hailed and hugged by my ex-co-workers but forever pals. The owners nod and smile and inquire as to how I am. I ask kindly for a seat, but they know what I want: the end stool at the far portion of the counter where I can keep an eye on the kitchen, to harass Freddy if he looks up, and in general make audible yummy noises.
Even the littlest one, Romi, wanders out from behind the bake pan cooling racks and puts her arms around my waist. She can reach that high now: I first knew her when she was a toddler. Now in grade school and with freckles, she looks up into my face, close as can be, and says pitifully, “I waaaaved to you just now, but you didn’t seeeeeee me.”
“Well,” I said. “I see you now. Hello sweetie.” <<hug>>
Any of you who have ever waited tables know: once a server, always a server. It came over me in a crushing rush, while I sipped my red wine and sucked on warm olives: the kitchen, where I did everything, even sanded down and painted that washstand one March during their annual spring cleaning.
The cups that I organized. The coffee pots I washed, the espresso machine I cleaned. The grated cheese I refilled. I knew where every single one of those things needed to be, and where to get more of them should we run out.
And serving. I could hear that food needed to be run: could recognize server names, and translate the caller’s timbre from “urgent” to “This is VERY urgent, someone come get this food NOW.” I was so close to the pick-up window: it was everything I could do to not go over there and run a few plates out to the dining room myself.
But it wasn’t my place anymore. The urge had to remain so: just an urge. I had left two years ago, when I turned 40 and realized I was either going to go into massage therapy full time, or I wasn’t. I took the leap, but I did look back while leaping.
It was a part of my life that was over. Things come to an end, but you forget everything about it that drove you crazy. Only the love remains.
This has something to do with massage therapy, in that I have lived and worked in a small town for nearly 15 years, and while I have clients who are always discovering me, I have a significant amount in my “Inactive” file. For whatever reason, I was seeing them, and then I never saw them again.
Unless at the grocery store, or standing in line at the market, or by chance in another town. The temptation is, because I knew them so fully once, to behave as though I know them fully now. But I don’t. It’s no longer my place to inquire too vigorously, or personally.
In these encounters I know we both feel a little awkward, but it’s best to just be together in the moment, and not wait for apologies or promises. They don’t owe me a thing: their life and mine no longer intersect meaningfully: only just now, like this, looking at one another and smiling.
There is nothing else I really feel for this person: I have no agenda for them, no fear of why they left, no hope of their return to my office. Only the affection I felt for them once, and therefore always will feel, remains.
What you just read is not my fault. It’s because my friend, colleague, co-conspirator and pants kicker Rowan Blaisdell talked me into it, and also, because I cannot resist a write-off: 31 Posts in 31 Days August Blog Challenge, Business Blogging School. Caution snuffed, perfectionism cast off like a smelly cloak: this is blog #18.