I do love my job, by the way. It may be hard to tell, the way I go on, but it's like being a Red Cross worker: they may want to rend the skin from their cheeks sometimes because of what they see, but they are ultimately fulfilled.
For those of you keeping score, I just compared myself - a waitress - with a Red Cross worker. Does the tyranny of hyperbole ever end?
Okay, ask any high school teacher: it's the small victories. Last night, I waited on a couple, about my age, dressed nicely. Dressed in the attitude of respect for dining out. He in a dinner jacket, she in a gauzy shawl. No desperate cleavage, no gaudy fashion statements (though I'm a fan of both, for entertainment's sake).
They looked at me when I introduced myself. Do you know how rare that is?
As I went over the menu with them, they ooh'd and aah'd in the right places. They excitedly accepted my offer for an aperitif.
America! Drink your aperitifs! It loosens you up - which, believe me, you need.
Then the guy said something that will forever endear him to me. He said, "My experience is with California wines; I know little about the ones on your list. Can you help me?"
Such a simple thing, humility.
I'd love to, I said, and asked him what California wines they like, then I found him old world wines that would be a different experience, but up their alley.
I gave them a taste of a Corbieres we have by the glass - a stinky heavyweight boxer with a one-two jab of blackberry jam and horse sweat. They liked it but weren't quite sold, so I told them we had a Bandol that would make the night memorable. The Corbieres, I told them, is Hugh Grant - a decent actor, nice to look at, and entertaining enough; the Bandol is Sir John Gielgud.
They ordered the Bandol, bottle and all, without asking for a taste first (which would have been impossible anyway).
They loved it, keeping their noses in the glasses and lighting up with recognition at certain smells, memories. When they got their food, they were silent as they took their first few bites. Reverent. Feeling it, weighing it, knowing they were, right then, being changed just a little bit. They extended their hands across the table to each other with a bite of their own dish in each, and shared. These are people who live, you know? They don't grimace and conjecture and dissect the experience and scribble it on a $7.99 memo pad they purchased at Target when they joined Yelp. These are people who think and feel in equal proportion, you can tell.
The world has made easy choices of war, and has become comfortable with poverty and despair. Awareness, without contempt, is hard. It is rare. I envy it; every moment of my life I struggle for it. It is not what makes up the majority and it is not whose voices are heard and it is not the bright green light of televised victory when leaders choose to send missiles to schoolyards and villages - it is instead the small and silent glow of consideration. That this cynical girl can still find it - in a restaurant! - even just once every few nights, means the world to me.