the inside of a waitress apron

those of you who know me well know how meticulous i can be about certain things, especially my belongings. everything in my apartment has a place where it lives — the orange scissors live in the kitchen drawer, the white ones on the desk in the study. the hammer lives in the right junk drawer, the nails and thumbtacks go in the left one. coffee filters, for some reason, live in the refrigerator.

i’m particular about my apron, too. here it is:

my apron, the whole thing
the pens live in the left pocket (my right). the pens go in order from best to worst, with the best one closest to the middle, and the worst one on the outside edge. i usually have between six and thirteen pens. my order book goes in the middle pocket, always facing the same direction so that i can pull it out and open it in one quick motion. one of the guys at work always pulls his out of his apron, flaps it open like a police badge, and says, “conrad camp, waiter.” it’s funny. mine’s covered with stickers, which are not pictured. the right apron pocket holds everything that is not a pen or an order book. more on that later.

here is the inside of the order book:
my apron, with order book

the right side is where i keep scrap printer paper to take down orders. each order is a list numbered according to where each person is sitting at the table. seat one is having the chicken, seat two the salmon, etc. usually i can remember tables of two and three and even four, unless everyone’s having burgers, in which case i have to write down cooking temperatures and whole wheat buns and no tomato and such. the left side contains, in order from back to front, each shift’s credit card receipts, my tabc certification, a map of the restaurant with table and seat numbers, a scrap of brown paper i found at a table once, a photo of wes anderson from new york times magazine, and a very stylish version of my name that one of the hostesses drew in red pen.

here is the brown paper i found:
an odd scrap of brown paper i keep in my order book

i saw this when i was cleaning off a table and i’ve kept it in my order book ever since. it’s a rather interesting combination of words for someone to write down. maybe the person grabbed that day’s newspaper and was reading the international news and the society pages at the same time. but then, why did they underline hasbeens and elite, but cross out mel├łe? the world may never know.

here is the stuff i keep in the right apron pocket:
my apron, stuff i keep in itfrom left to right: my wine tool (it’s the fourth one i’ve had since working at this restaurant), a book of matches i use to light candles, the finger puppet heather gave out at sxsw this year, and this little metal thing i found on one of my tables once. this baby had been chewing on it, and i picked it up after he and his family left, because i didn’t know what it was. last week when i was cleaning out my apron, andy saw it and said, “alison, why do you have a rifle shell in your apron?”

so now the rifle shell freaks me out a little bit, but i still keep it in there, because that’s where it lives.


the clouds today were melted down and spread across the sky, a thin layer of butter on toast.  you know the ones; you can look through them directly at the sun.  i spent a lot of time today driving with the windows down and the sunroof open, listening to ben folds and the cd jonathan made me for christmas.  everything seems so large when i’m driving; even at red lights and in traffic i can feel the   s p a c e   around and above me, so enormous i want to cry until i hit a bump in the road and the cd player skips.  just before it skipped today i remembered you blowing bubbles across my line of sight as i drove.  the rainbow sheen of trees.  the road visible through a thin film of soap.  bubbles popped on my hands and arms, and we grinned like idiots.

sometimes i can’t do anything but drive.

a note to the seven-top that walked their check today:  when you don’t pay your bill, it’s not the restaurant that has to cover it, it’s the waitress.  your ninety dollars’ worth of salads and entrees and too many bloody marys nearly always comes out of her tips.


on the way home this afternoon, i passed a grocery store with a large white tent in the parking lot.  cars were everywhere.  shopping carts.  balloons.  at least fifty cardboard signs were stabbed into the grass between the parking lot and the street.  “love!” they said.  “flowers!”  “candy!”  “valentine’s day express tent!”  which is sad, because love has nothing whatsoever to do with flowers or shopping carts.  it has nothing to do with candy, either, or jewelry or money or going out to dinner at a restaurant where the bored waitress watches as you kiss and feed each other dessert right there at the table.  because the bored waitress knows that actual romance is not even remotely related to appetizers or entree salads, and it doesn’t take place inside a parking lot express tent.  it’s especially not about the word express because, hey, it’s much better  s l o w.  it’s falling asleep watching old tapes of the simpsons, while the early-afternoon sun slants in through the blinds.

it’s sharing wine straight from the bottle.