Being a waitress makes you greedy. There is no getting around it. I am not above admitting I will do anything, within reason, for the extra dollar or two tucked under a dirty plate.
Since I first tied on my trusty apron, I have come into contact with every kind of customer and can now categorize them the moment they walk in the door.
The man in the bowler cap and striped tie will leave at least a five dollar tip, I can tell from his flashy smile. The woman with two kids, though, does not look like she wants to be here - I will be lucky to get three dollars. But the most popular sort that I encounter in the fine restaurant where I am employed is the Marine.
The Marines come in either by themselves or in hungry packs, with buzz cuts and tucked-in shirts. The younger waitresses fight over them like greedy buzzards. It is what we are, what I am. Marines are fresh meat to pick apart and use for all that is in their front pocket. Marines are suckers for cute smiles and batted eyelashes. It is amazing what a sweet smile can get you. One time a Marine brought me a dozen roses.
One night I was blessed with not just a pack but a herd of Marines - six of them sat at my corner table. I worked myself into exhaustion, flashing them big smiles, batting my eyelashes, and working my charm to its full potential.
I was pulled away from the herd for a break and was thankful for it. Ah, kick up the feet, take down the tight bun, unbutton the shirt, and relax in the break room. Every bit of me relaxed as I settled into the hard plastic seat. Yet Rachel, a fellow waitress who had taken over my table, interrupted me just as my eyelids were getting heavy and my headache was disappearing.
“They want to order a piece of strawberry supreme pie, and I don’t know where their check is.”
I groaned. My almost nap was interrupted over a piece of pie.
I stalked angrily toward them, loose hair flying and top button still undone. As I approached, their idle chatter ceased.
“Can I get you something besides that slice of pie?” I smiled at them so big my face ached. I bet if they tried, they could count every one of my teeth, and even see the scarring from where I had my wisdom teeth pulled.
There was a moment’s hesitation. I felt like they were looking at me strangely, as if they did not recognize me as Elisha, their waitress.
After a silent head shake indicating no, I ordered the piece of stupid pie and hid in the break room to salvage what was left of my free time. I had barely sat down when more waitresses came charging at me. I was ready to throw down my apron, exclaim my resignation and leave in a huff.
“Elisha! That table of Marines is going to leave you a huge tip!”
My fingers and toes started to tingle, my heart rate escalated. I bit my tongue, ignoring the greedy hunger starting to growl in the pit of my stomach. I had to control the beast within me, birthed of the job and a wage of $2.13 an hour.
I was not sure when my feet hit the ground but before I was thinking clearly, I was sprinting toward the table. I had no self control.
“You all have a nice evening!” I cried out.
The youngest Marine, stocky with a cute smile, was holding a thick stack of money. I barely heard what he was saying as he waved it in front of me.
“One more thing,” he said. His eyes betrayed his own anxiety and yet my desperation for that money was all I could think about. He probably thought the hunger in my eyes was attraction, but it was just greed.
“Could I get your number and call you sometime?”
What should I do? If I rejected him, what would happen to that tempting pile of money? First I was flattered, but then I became offended. I was there to serve him turkey and mashed potatoes, not be subjected to the desire of a pedophile! Yet still, that greedy monster inside of me rebelled, trying to break out of my stomach to steal the money and run around the restaurant flaunting it.
So what did I do?
I gave him a number - a fake phone number - with the cheesiest smile possible.
I figured it was not too terrible of a decision. He left thinking he was potentially hooking up with a cute waitress, and I was left with a satisfied monster in my tummy, savoring the $21 tip.
Not ten minutes later, just after I had finished recounting my tip for the sixth time, a cold horror struck me.
“Oh, God, Jason,” I rushed over to the grill cook in a panic.
“What?” he hummed with his smoke-coarsened voice.
“Remember that Marine who asked for my phone number?”
“I just realized I gave him my mom’s cell phone number!”
Jason threw his head back and laughed, and I could only pray the rest of the night that I got to my mom’s cell phone before she did. If I didn’t, she would have a lot of explaining to do to my father.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.