Thursday, May 10, 2007

Where have you gone, Betty Smith?

There's a framed portrait on the wall of the local Village Inn of a woman named Betty Smith, who worked as a waitress there from 1962 until 2006. 44 years as a waitress? In one place? Holy crap! I'm 43 so it's literally impossible for me to conceive of doing anything, other than maybe breathing, for 44 years, let alone doing it one place. The root word of waitress is wait. So Betty waited for 44 years. What was she waiting for? Mostly, for you to decide what you want with your pancakes already! Get a move on, sugar!

Anybody who has ever worked for any time at all in a restaurant and has been committed to an insane asylum will tell you that restaurants are just like insane asylums. But the picture on the wall features Betty in her Village Inn uniform (with apron) with a little bit of a beehive hairdo, little glasses and a sweet grandmotherly smile, which indicates she survived by being nice to people while being tougher than she looks and probably didn't sweat small details. The inscription on the bottom of the picture says "A valued employee". Well, no shit. She probably should have been given her own Village Inn. No doubt Betty saw (and took) a lot of crap from people over the years but I'm guessing it never really got to her. Of course, I could be wrong. I suppose it's entirely possible that on day one of year 45 she just snapped: "You know what, I have had it with this place! 16,071 days of this shit is all I can take!" and stormed out.

One has to wonder why Betty never got promoted. As noted waitressologist Mr White points out in 'Reservoir Dogs', waitressing is a hard job. But they do make tips, and Betty looks like the kind of waitress who had people coming to the restaurant and asking to be seated in her section for years and years. The kind of people who would rather wait than be seated in some other waitress's section also known as The kind of people who tip out the ass. Besides, as a waitress, where is there to be promoted to? Cash register attendant? Yawn. And no tips. Hostess? Come now. Is there a less apt named position than 'hostess' in a restaurant? A real hostess should engage you in lively cocktail banter while serving hors d’Ĺ“uvres and introducing you to other interesting people who are there, maybe playing a little piano. What kind of 'hostess' does little more than find a table that's relatively clean, gives you some menus before handing you off to someone else and then disappearing for the rest of the evening? A restaurant hostess, that's what kind.

I asked the cashier about Betty on my way out. "She was a waitress for a long time. Is she, uh, still around?" "Well, she's not dead, if that's what you mean. She's just retired." I said I was glad and she rolled her eyes and said "people ask that all the time". I was glad not to give her a tip; it's a fair bet her picture won't be hanging on the wall in 40 years. And I hope whenever Betty goes out now, she always gets a clean table, fresh coffee and never has to ask for refills.

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