Monday, January 21, 2013

The Cherry On Top

At least once a week I go to the Village Grill for lunch.  The cafe is just a block away from my office (although I still drive; walking even just one block in heels can really cut into a one-hour lunch break) and I've never had a bad meal from their large menu.  I think my favorite thing about lunch at the Village Grill, though, is that the waitresses pass out mini-ramekins of cobbler to every customer until they run out.  My favorite is cherry.

I sit at the counter, because it makes me feel like I'm sitting at a bar, and that makes me a feel a little naughty.   I love my job, but it's not exactly what I saw myself doing with a law degree - I saw myself marrying up, and baking cookies as a stay-at-home lawyer mom.  In any case, sitting at the counter makes me feel like I'm doing something subversive, and I guess I need the cheap thrill.

My favorite server is Samantha.  She's friendly, and she's either good at her job or she's figured out that if she gets me in and out swiftly, I'm good for a pretty fair tip.  She's also seemingly learned to recognize when I'm goose-necking for cobbler because she usually brings it to me with my check, complete with a little smiley face.

Last week I found myself wondering about what she must be like outside of the Village Grill.  She wasn't my server last week; another girl who is nice enough but who is no Samantha was.  Samantha seemed to have the day off, because she was no where to be seen.  Somehow, after the years in the service industry myself, it struck me as odd that Samantha should have a day off, that she should have something else to do during the lunch rush.  Maybe it's because on my nights off, I can still frequently be found bellied-up to the bar at the Wright Place.

I found myself wondering how old she might be.  She looks 25 years old, at the most.  I wondered if she is a student, and if she is what she is studying and what she'd like to do with her degree.  I wondered if maybe she's got kids and if she does what the story behind all of that might be.  I found myself surprised at how little I've thought about the stories of the people who serve me.  I wondered if people every wonder when I'm serving them what my story is.

It's easy, so easy, to forget that everyone's got a story.  Or that we don't usually know what's going on in someone else's head.  Every day my colleague in the office directly next to mine calls her two-year old son from her office.  She frequently puts him on speaker phone and through the pre-fab walls I can hear them carry on.  I wonder what it would be like to talk to a two-year old Gabriel.  I wonder what it's like to have a child live longer than ten days.  I wonder if someday I actually will die from the sharp pain that pierces my heart between 11 and noon when these calls generally take place.  I try to acknowledge to myself that her life hasn't been a cake walk, and that there must be days when her son is the only reason she keeps carrying on.  I don't resent her.  I just wish I still had my reason.  I wish I had someone to call at noon.

But I don't.  So I head to the Village Grill, intent on eating my way through the whole menu eventually, and savor the new-found joy I've discovered in dining alone. Sometimes I bring documents or a case to review.  Sometimes I bring a legal pad and draft the opening paragraph of an upcoming blog.  Sometimes I chat with the patron next to me.  Always I hope that dessert today is cherry cobbler.  The apple cobbler's good too.  But with no one to call, and no one to come home to, I find that digging beneath the whipped cream to discover cherry cobbler can make my day.

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