'Sometimes we throw off our aprons and realise our dreams'

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The Independent Culture

"Is that it?" The woman at table 25 leans back and snorts, giving her friends room to peer at the two scallops staring back at them like boiled eyes. They shake their heads and tut, then turn to me expectantly.

"Well it is a starter, madam," I explain. The woman lets out a dramatic sigh: "Well, I asked for the scallops as a main course." She's incredulous.

Earlier, when I'd taken her order, I told her we didn't serve scallops as a main course, but we did have the option of ordering extra scallops, at a listed price per scallop. "Just bring what's on the menu as my main course," she said.

As I walk away I hear the woman say: "Fucking stupid waitress, someone that thick probably can't do anything but wait tables."

I smile to myself.

I tell Carlie what's just happened. "Not much longer, baby," she laughs.

Carlie works behind the bar pulling half-pints of Italian lager, popping wine corks and pouring G&Ts five or six nights a week. Mixing the perfect margarita is not her main ambition; mixing the perfect jazzy track to match her husky voice is. Carlie is a super-talented musician, vocalist and songwriter.

Table 25 complain. The waitress was rude, they say. "Sorry," I say, feeling sheepish. No one has ever complained about me, and it's ironic, that on my last night as a waiter, someone does.

The staff laugh. "Who cares," they exclaim, "you're out of here." And I am. That day, for the first time, I held the bound copy of my novel, ran my fingers over its embossed title, my name raised up like gooseflesh on the glossy orange cover. It was the last night I would take orders, scrape plates and lug crates of wine.

Being a waiter is hard work. The hours are long, the pay dirt and the customers, at times, exceptionally rude. Waiters are public relations experts and genius problem solvers. And, sometimes, they manage to throw off their aprons and realise their dreams.

So, next time you're in your favourite restaurant, think. The waiter taking your order today might be the one whose opinion counts on Newsnight Review next week, because no waiter is just a waiter. They're always en route to somewhere.

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