Category Archives: waitressing

ask questions. people will tell you their stories if you promise
to listen
roll “history” around in your mouth
and see how it sounds when you say it out loud

test it out for righteousness
and the metallic taste of propaganda
coated in sugar

understand that the difference between those hours and these is not a flat timeline

the past inhabits the present
and the present inhabits the future

and you feel your familiar ghosts crowding in;
unknown ancestors
dreams of your former self
storied poets
anonymous nannies
and private photographers
college dreams
and immigrant fantasies,

Americana writ thickly across the land

and you in the midst of it
becoming a part of the past


Leave a comment

Filed under Americana, art, basic goodness, Change, fathoming, History, howard zinn, meditation, memory, photographers, stories, waitressing, watching it all go by

ordinary friday (list)

sure signs of spring in the yard

sure signs of spring in the yard

morning snuggle
tiny boy in fleece footie pajamas
three way hug before Poppa leaves for work
morning diaper change (a wrestling match on the kitchen floor)
breakfast debate settled
pot of oatmeal and toast prepared and served to a toddler who deigns to eat them
trash out
coffee made
comfort boy after a fall
take the mail out
notice birds singing as I walk back down the driveway from the mailbox
freshly turned garden earth glistening dark in the morning dampness,
waiting for my tweaked back to mend
so i can get out there and rake out the weeds
mop the latest iteration of muddy dogprints off the kitchen floor
move laundry into the dryer
3 emails answered
pack bag for boy’s weekend with Grandma
turn the house upside down in search of his Other Rainboot, (again), fruitlessly
edit press release for client
continue the great family paperwork Filing project
remember to feed myself around 10:30,
cold oatmeal with maplesyrup and soymilk in a wooden bowl with a kid spoon
boil water for the chickpeas I soaked overnight
change the sheets
check the chickpeas
make the boy more toast
help him fix a car
flip through Gary Snyder’s Collected Works while picking up the bedroom
stare for a little while at notes I scrawled in the margins when I was 21
and then put it on the shelf
and drop to my knees to look for the Other Boot
under our bed
add oil to the car that burns oil
grocery shop for the boy’s weekend away
deal with several separate tantrums, in various locations
pass two different people crying on the sidewalk,
5 miles apart from each other
and practice tonglen
realize I’ve added too much oil to the car
research the implications of this
and schedule an appointment to have it drained and changed before work
file more paperwork
make lunch
(kale chickpea quesadillas with vegan cheese and appleslices)
visit with Ma
bundle the boy off to Grandma’s
“I be back,” he assures me from his carseat
and I am glad that I feel like laughing instead of crying
If our son is independent
if our son is compassionate
if our son knows something about fearlessness
then we have done well.
get the oil changed
recycle the mail, because it is all irrelevant
dress for work

and practice gratitude
for all of this

even when its hard

its beautiful

"Beep beep."

“Beep beep.”

tilled and ready

tilled and ready

loves kale.

loves kale.


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, doldrums, facing east, Family, Garden, Gary Snyder, gathering, gratitude, Labor, motherhood, Ordinary, photographs, poetry, spring, stories, unrepentantly unedited, waitressing, watching it all go by

Josie B

“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Josie B,
Josie B.
how many shifts has it been
how many married ketchups and quiet moments of sadness
how many big trays
how many tickets stabbed
how many laughs that we drank down like water
to sustain us
how many slights
how many sweetnesses
have we shared
in the last five years

This past Sunday,
you folded your apron neatly
rolled it up
and slid it across the table.
i’ll take it for now,
i said
but someday i’m gonna follow you out

Out into the uncertain world of
the Good Work
we went to school for

you are setting out to do art
with people who have been discarded
people who struggle to make peace with their own minds
people who battle addiction and incredible pain
you are frightened, and justifiably so,
and you are brilliant, and ready
and so very loved.


1 Comment

Filed under basic goodness, Ordinary, poetry, Uncategorized, Waitress, waitressing

orderpad notes, 4.17

dim brewpub on a tuesday night
in the foreground,
the hiss of meat being slapped
on the grill
murmured Spanish
directing the assemblage of meals
the ceramic whisper of clean plates
being pulled from stacks

in the background,
the pleasant din
of people enjoying themselves
voices rising and falling
silverware clinking against plates
the weight of pint glasses coming to rest
on wooden tables

And here, in the space between,
hovering in wait
for a full caeser and a bowl of chili,
for the next request, or demand
for the end of the night
for some time to myself

I do not resent the people who eat the food
or drink the beers
but sometimes i think about asking them
if they realize
that every full pint, and every empty one
and every clean fork, and every dirty one
and every full plate, and every picked over one
is borne by these arms
my body knows the weight of that pint glass
as intimately as i know the shape of my son’s hands

I share dinnertime with certain restaurant patrons more often
than i eat that meal with my husband and my son
and while I am grateful for my job, and my coworkers,
and my kind patrons, who are many, and my good tips, which are frequent, and the lack of a bill for daycare,

i cannot help but think of something Josie said the other night
we are surrounded by food,

and yet we hunger


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, doldrums, Family, Food, Labor, Ordinary, poetry, stories, waitressing

The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs, Most Days

The poet Richard Hugo, who grew up in this neighborhood when it was still filled with woods, once wrote:

The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall

the lines are from the poem “degrees of grey in phillipsburg”
i sipped espresso earlier and wanted to write my own degrees of grey
the baby loaded canned food into a miniature stroller
and trucked around the house
i thought maybe i’d write after i got some Things done
paid bills, and laughed with the baby as he fed me raisins,
both of us laying on the kitchen floor
talking about birds,
each in our own language.
later i watched a raven alight on a power line in the wind,
then stubbed my toe on a can of tomato paste
scrubbed the diaper bucket
extricated a penny from someone’s tiny cheek
measured our unfinished windows for trim

that night while my husband fed the baby beans and rice
and the rain came down sideways
then paused to let a near full moon glow through wind driven clouds
I heaved opened the garage door
and laid out long pieces of smooth pine on sawhorses
Annie the dog laid by my feet, keeping a close eye on the outside
and i learned how to stain wood.
which turned out to be a much more mindful task than i’d expected
i made mistakes, noticed where i’d applied the stain too heavily
or where the shadow my body threw had fooled me into using too little
i think of my craftsman father while i work,
and Roger Lyons, who built things for his mother in this garage
when they were both old

these boards will become trim around the windows in our bedroom
which is drafty like a barn.
(on cold days we can see our breath before we get out of bed)
Once this piece of land had a barn,
with cows, chickens, pigs, and rabbits.
Annie Lyons raised 6 children in this two bedroom house
which she and her husband purchased at the height of the Great Depression
Maybe she went to church with Richard Hugo’s grandparents,
who raised him
and said little.
Maybe they shopped at the same neighborhood pharmacy
in a brick building that is, most recently, a Cambodian grocery.

i want to write about living in his old neighborhood
and being a waitress whose hair shimmers in the dark of a brewpub
moving in between close tables with a master’s degree
and a grace that she lacks outside of work.
She met ranchers with this kind of grace while doing graduate research in Nevada
men who could shear a sheep without nicking it once,
handling the hundred pound animals like armfuls of silk
who became all knees and scuffed boots in the kitchen.
she is a waitress who ten years ago kept the phone numbers men left
never intending to call a single one of them
just quietly flattered because she never thought anyone would find her beautiful
Now she knows the truth:
every waitress in the history of waitresses
has been loved for the duration of a meal
by lonely hearted diners
who coudln’t help but
“instantly feel a tender regard for her” as Abbey wrote.

I want to write about the timeless poetry of the unrequited waitress crush
and the quiet satisfaction of knowing that someone is a little awed
every time you hoist a tray to your shoulder
and take the stairs
but first i need to wash every dish we own
the baby is wearing soft pajamas with nonslip feet
and stacking blocks while the dog watches with her head cocked.
i am listening to ambient unclassifiable music that claims to be
moody and dynamic instrumental indie rock
or something
ought to drink tea now
but my espresso percolator is calling darkly to me from the burner
stained by a thousand rounds over the heat
handle missing, angular spout pointing toward an empty mug.

the car that brought us here still runs
most days
although the return of the check engine light is as certain as the oncoming fall.

1 Comment

Filed under Assata and Annie, autumn weather, basic goodness, Family, motherhood, on writing, Ordinary, poetry, Poets, waitressing, watching it all go by

Fellow Waitresses

They are part of our equipment
indispensible as our aprons,
our pens,
our expensive well-made work clogs
and our smiles (mostly real, but often feigned);

:the wrist braces
the tiger balm
the icy hot patches
the band-aids
the ankle braces
and knee braces
and the kingsized bottles of ibuprofen

we share these supplies,
and others
freely with each other whenever someone is in need
we have all been there.

Once, during a busy summer waitressing shift,
I balanced an entire table’s worth of dishes
atop a hard-shell wrist brace,
and waited for the patrons to decide on a dessert.
They insisted I not go away, they simply had to order right then
And while two debated between the sundae and the pie,
one patron asked:
“what’d you do to your wrist?”
“This,” I replied, hefting the plates
by way of indication
and it was clear
he did not quite understand.

We don’t have insurance, generally,*
so we pay the chiropractor, the accupuncturist, the emergency room
out of pocket
and we come to work sick and injured
because we can’t afford not to

We understand this is part of the job
the way my father and his highway department coworkers
understand the danger of speeding cars and distracted drivers

We do what we have to to make a living,
we accept the risks, and do our best to take care.
But when damage is done
we slip through the cracks
invisible to the rest of society
invisible, sometimes, to the very people we serve.

A few weeks ago, one of my father’s coworkers was pinned by a car
while fixing a pedestrian crossing signal.
they took his leg.
Highway workers are killed on the job as often as cops,
but the news cameras rarely show up for their funerals.

I know a woman who waitressed with a broken bone in her foot for months
I knew a woman in her fifties who’d been serving all her life,
and who smoked pot to deal with the chronic pain;
when she spoke up about unfair treatment,
her bosses made her take a random drug test
and sent her home without a job
I know of a waitress with cancer, and a five year old son
it takes a lot of 15% gratuities to cover chemo.
I have known a lot of waitresses.
I have hundreds of stories in my apron pockets
and somehow “Union” is a dirty word
people my age do not say it
people in my industry do not say it

it was not always this way,

and i’ll tell you what

Fellow Waitresses;
Fellow Workers;
I may have a bunch of college degrees,
but my collar is blue,
and i’ve got a Little Red Songbook around here somewhere.

* * * * *

*Full disclosure. I now have health care through my husband’s employer (my infant son and I are insured for the low price of 700$+/month). I also work for what is hands down the fairest, most supportive restaurant I’ve ever encountered in 12 years in the industry. That being said, my experience still leads me to conclude blue-collar workers are getting SCREWED in America. People my age (I’m 30) have little to no concept of the importance or potential power of unions. The Reagan era wrote labor history out of the textbooks, big business and corrupt union leadership gave worker organization a bad name, and right-wing politicians are dismantling the gains of the labor movement bit by bit. Time to think about what Labor Day really means. A lot more than BBQs.

Ever heard of the Seattle Waitress Union Local 240? Headquartered on 2nd Ave downtown, they were once called “the red-hottest unionists in Seattle” by the Seattle Union Record. “Formed on March 23, 1900 by Alice Lord. This all white union was one of the first women’s unions to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Under the direction of Alice Lord, the Seattle Waitress’ Union is accredited with establishing the 8 hour work day and 6 hour work week for all female servers. The Seattle Waitress’ Union was also successful in their fight for a state sanctioned minimum wage.” Kept people of color out, which is no good, (pretty standard for unions/suffrage movements at the time), but damn they raised some hell (and wages). And we’ve never heard of them. “Before organizing the girls were compelled to work all the way from ten to fifteen hours per day for from $3 to $6 per week, but now thanks to organization, we are never called upon to work more than ten hours and receive in compensation thereof $8.50 to $10 per week.” (From the Waitress Union newsletter in 1902)

Here’s a little more on Miz Alice Lord:

and some more good hellraising waitress stories.

Check out UNITE HERE Local 8’s website to learn about labor struggles affecting fo and beverage and hospitality workers in Seattle.


Filed under aprons, blue collar, Change, Labor, Ordinary, poetry, waitressing


Sometimes it is possible
to be too tired
to notice a perfect crescent moon
slung over the treetops
in the cornflower blue july evening sky
rising up from the windows
of the metro bus
that is running late
and you and everyone else
just want to get home
because it is after ten
and your feet hurt
and you miss your baby

tired, but not too tired,
i stare at the bright sliver as the bus surges up and down dark Seattle hills
knotting my apron strings around my finger,
remembering a song my mother used to sing around the campfire
i see the moon
the moon sees me
the moon sees the one
i long to see

i wonder if anyone else on the bus is staring at it
but when i look around,
everyone seems to be gazing
doggedly ahead
like they aren’t sure they’ll ever get home
some are nodding off against the windows

when i step off the bus in our neighborhood
someone whistles from smoking area
of the bar on the corner
and i walk purposefully out of the streetlight glow
and into the quiet, warm dark of our neighborhood


Filed under blue collar, Ordinary, waitressing, watching it all go by