I had a conversation with a co-worker today. A brief exchange of words as we're standing at the beverage machine like trained monkeys, pouring Diet Cokes and lemonades for people that don't realize we are actually human beings beneath our starched white disguises. I'm having a bad day, or a great day, or the worst day of my life. And you complain about pasta that isn't al dente. Salmon Picatta that doesn't have enough capers. I had a woman today ask me to microwave her tea. I have a bit of news for you, hot tea drinker. Liquid usually cools to room temperature, when it is left at room temperature for a period of time. In laymen's terms, if you take an hour to drink a cup of Earl Grey, nature dictates that it will eventually be cold.
But the joy I had in walking your tepid tea back into the kitchen, sidestepping the line cooks to find a microwave, and standing there for the 45 mind-numbing seconds it took to re-heat it, despite the fact that I had 4 other tables of rational customers. Yes, that unadulterated joy made up for the fact that you only tip the bare minimum and have the audacity to request microwave cooking in a restaurant. Would you like a Hot Pocket while I'm back there? Can I nuke your leftovers, did you bring Tupperware? Perhaps a Pop Tart would be to your liking, I'm sure I can waste 5 more minutes of my time finding you a toaster. It's my pleasure, I say, inserting a fake smile and cursing life. It's not a problem at all.
Two tables and 25 minutes later I'm at the soda machine scooping ice into a glass of Sprite and this guy tells me he feels like a robot. I'm thinking about the tips in my pocket, about paying my phone bill. He says, "I'm exhausted." I'm calculating my tip percentage, worrying if I brought ketchup to the table with the three cheeseburgers. "I wake up at 5am everyday. I go to class, I go to my job at the office and then I come here." I'm dropping a wedge of lemon into an ice water and wondering if my appetizers are ready. "I drive home, and then I go right to sleep. I wake up the next day and do it all over again."
I'm bent over by one of the mini-refrigerators, grabbing half-and-half for an espresso. "Why do you do it," I ask. Meanwhile I think of tigers in cages. Standing in front of John and Jane Doe with a notepad in my hand as they explain their allergies or their low-carb diets. Wanting to pounce and devour the very spirit of the overzealous consumer. He replies, "I have no idea." And I smile because it is the one fact that actually makes sense. We're here to make money to spend money.
We are God's practical joke. Self-sufficient only for our need of self-sufficiency, our neccesity to order bottles of wine and expensive cuts of beef. To say please and thank you to some stranger who only wants gratuity in their pocket. Some mornings I wake up and think we are fooling ourselves. Most mornings I feel like the court jester in a room void of laughter. Still dancing. Still smiling.
The saying goes that there is a means to an end. No one has an end. Novels have conclusions and in movies the credits will roll, but when it comes to life, the end is nothing but ambiguous desire. It is biased, altered by third parties who never want you to succeed, pray you fall from grace in pretty little pieces. We are nothing but animals. Chomping at the bit, climbing the ladder, pushing each other from the frying pan into the fire.
My co-worker, my friend, he said, "I just want to finish school. I just want to get some real rest."
I smiled. I smiled a mouthful of white teeth that would make any orthodontist proud. And I said, "Good luck with that." And then I asked him to make change for a twenty. These chardonnay-drinking-side salad-eating ladies need singles for the valet. I'm hoping they leave me some rent money.
We have these lovely law abiding citizens punching clocks, arranging carpools, buying shirt and tie combos by the pack. Slaving away at keyboards, guiding powerpoint presentations, collating reports. Your salary manages to slowly absolve a debt, maybe pay a few bills, keep a condo and a sensible car from being repossessed. They sit at high-top tables close to the bar, ordering dark liquors neat, vodka on the rocks, doubles, talls. They nibble on finger food and for 65 minutes forget the 9 to 5 misery that affords them luxuries like brand names. Drop a gold colored credit card and feel liberated. But no.
Hi, how are you? Have a coaster, a napkin, a basket of bread and butter. Have a fork, a steak knife, a straw. Let me get you what you need.
Here's your Veal Saltimbocca. Here's your martini, your calamari, your French beignets. Here is your self preservation on a bed of bean sprouts and arugula.
Some mornings, I wake up. After a strong sip of coffee it all makes sense. And sometimes it doesn't. So much sugar and cream but I still don't get it.
We're always moving towards something, somewhere, someone. It isn't always about your pay stub. But most of the time it is.
Self destruct in 5...