The Worrying Waitress

By K. Eric Pohost

Grown up now, her dreams long since shattered.  Her downfall began with the birth of her younger sister.  Before then, she had at least received the attention of her parents.  But when her sister was born, she played second fiddle.
Her junior sibling was smart, stunning, and charismatic.  In contrast, she was of average intellect, plain, and introverted.  It was, therefore, her sister whom the boys noticed.  It was her sister who was the pride and joy of her parents, while she lay hidden away.  It was her sister who possessed all the talents: the piano playing, the academic achievements, and the awards for athletics.  While the younger of the two sisters attended a university, her parents concluded that their first-born should join the workforce directly from secondary school.  And her parents decided given her limited abilities that any job would do.  But the elder sibling worried that even her parents’ low estimation of her was too high and that no one would find anything of value in her.

    Nevertheless, she overcame her self-doubts and set out to apply for the type of employment she felt best suited her: waitressing.  After all, the young woman reasoned, she had considerable experience in serving and cleaning at home, and much to her surprise a small, run-down Chinese restaurant hired her.  But everyday at work she feared that the customers would complain because she mixed up an order or that her boss would berate her because she was too slow.  If you examined her facial expressions, you might detect a perpetual battle with self-loathing because she was under the impression that she just wasn’t good enough.  The young woman was haunted by the idea that those around her would discover that she was nothing but a fraud and so each day she had to work painstakingly to keep up the charade.  She raced to the restaurant to arrive one hour before opening.  She diligently jotted down what customers ordered.  She nervously waited for the split moment the kitchen had finished preparing each meal and then immediately carried it off to the impatient customers.  She hurried to wipe clean the tabletops and set up the chopsticks, teacups, and soy sauce just so for the next group to patronize the restaurant.  Everything was done with a desire to please, but she could never do enough to satisfy her own uneasiness that she just wasn’t good enough.
Even though, in the grander scheme of things, her labor was unimportant to those around her, to the young woman it was as if each fork placement, each pot of boiling water, and each bill was a matter of life and death.

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