A Magical World Among Words and Pages

Birthdays? They were never a big deal at my house. Not because we weren’t special but because Mom really couldn’t afford it.

Problems? We didn’t share over dinner and talk things out. Instead we bottled feelings up. Emotions nicely pickled, to be opened up later when it was ripe and explosive.

Shit. We didn’t even really eat dinner as a family. Sure, we ate at the same time but it was my sister and I at the dinner table. Mom would sit in the living room watching her Latin soaps or eat standing up as she would hold down fort in the kitchen, making sure we didn’t over eat.

We never did anything cool after school. Mom was always too tired to ever really want to go out, so I looked forward to the weekends when I would go to work. That would be my social time.

My dad was never around. Even once my parents divorced and he had to pick us up every weekend he wasn’t around. For this daddy’s girl it was heartbreaking to have to go spend time with your father to only later realize he didn’t want to spend time with you. He spent every waking moment in his bedroom, watching Tv or listening to music and it was a rule that us kids were never allowed to knock on the bedroom door, unless it was a real emergency. If he wasn’t locked away in his room, he was downstairs on his computer. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized he was talking to women online, while his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner or out back doing laundry. Needless to say, the few memories I have of him are bathed in feelings of heartache so I tend to never drive down memory lane.

In school I had only a small group of friends which over time I came to slowly realize I didn’t fit in with. They were rich, sophisticated, white girls with the privileges I could only dream of. They went on cool holiday vacations like skiing up north or Disney trips down south. They had the designer labels. The pretty hair. The expensive make-up. They cheered for the school’s teams. They had the good looking guys falling at their feet.

Me? I was a frizzy haired Latina. My clothes were always from the clearance rack. I didn’t know how to really wear make-up but it didn’t matter because Mom wouldn’t buy me any anyways. I dreamed of joining the cheer leading team but to join any after school activity was an impossibility. With Mom always working, car rides to and from the games and school, it was a no go. Plus, who would take care of my sister??

It wasn’t long before the differences between my “friends” and I were too much for them to bare. I was, one day randomly, excommunicated from the group. Hours turned to days. Days into weeks. Weeks into months. I was alone in school. I was alone at home. My friends didn’t want to deal with me anymore and my poor mother working two and three jobs just to be able to raise my sister and I wasn’t able to deal with me. At this point in my life I saw the world as everyone else’s except mine. For some reason it was as though I didn’t deserve the world and I couldn’t figure out why.

It was a shitty time in my life, those pre-teen years of mine. During that school year in which I had been excommunicated from the group, that was also the time in which I was sexually molested by a distant family member. You know what they say, “when it rains it pours..” and for me that year was like a goddamn tsunami. I didn’t speak to anyone about what was going with me but I didn’t have to speak verbally for my demeanor spoke volumes. Unfortunately, the fact that I had shut down emotionally was chalked up to what was me entering my teenage years and this attitude I carried was to be expected. Why hadn’t I spoken up?? I was scared. It’s true what they say, many abusers threaten their victims into staying quiet. They threaten them and their family, most times shifting the blame from themselves onto the victim, stating that if they talk to anyone they will be hated for ruining the family. That was exactly what happened to me.

It was the very next day of when the molestation happened that I received and early morning phone call. It was Saturday morning and my mom was at work. I was at home babysitting my sister when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey Nata, is that you??” I recognized his voice immediately and it froze me into place. Where was he? Was he outside?? Was he watching me?? He was military so I imagined him having these crazy super powers like being able to get into my house to violate me without anyone knowing.

“Nata, you there?” I couldn’t speak so I just nodded my head.

“Listen, about yesterday, you have to be quiet. I know I already told you that but I just need to make sure you understand. You know I have a wife and my daughter. If they were to find out what you did you would get in a lot of trouble with them. Your family, like your mom and your abuelita, will stop talking to you because you let a man touch you. You hear me?? You cannot say anything or else everyone will get mad at you. You understand what I’m saying?” He spoke quickly and quietly.

“You get what I’m saying to you??” he repeated.

“Yes. I won’t tell.” I told him and with that I quickly hung up.

It’s weird because looking back I feel like I knew that what he did and what he was doing now by calling was wrong. I knew I should have told someone and that most likely my family wouldn’t get mad but the fear of the slim possibility that they might hate me and too excommunicate me, was huge. So I stayed quiet. I held that secret in for an entire year. It was the longest year of my life.

Anything that had to do with growing up and evolving I did on my own, independently. After a few weeks had gone by and still no word as to when my “friends” would be talking to me again, I dove head first into the world of words. I read and wrote from the moment I was settled on the school bus all the way through the day and way into the evening. The books that I read or the endless amount of journaling I did is what saved my life, multiple times. I’d get lost in these fictional worlds, headed out on these amazing adventures with these characters I wished were real. I wasn’t worried about paying attention in class or about having to get my homework completed. Did any of that really matter in the grand scheme of things?? Not in my world. What mattered to me was getting through my days with the least amount of pain as possible and school work got in the way of that. Some days were of course better than others, but in my mind, without the books, without the journals, my pain could have been a lot worse. Looking back on everything, it is no wonder that today it’s hard for me to personally connect with anyone. From a young age I grew up with the knowledge that people will always let you down, no matter who they are. To be honest, it was one great lesson to learn and better to learn it sooner than to get blindsided by disappointment later.

Today, although I love people and do consider myself quite the people person, I also know that I suffer a lot from the anxieties of having to deal with social and personal relationships. I call myself an extroverted introvert, meaning, it’s no problem for me to strike up conversations with strangers. I’m ok with going into a room full of people I do not know and having to mingle, yet at the same token I hate having to do so. I’ll go as far as to say that I absolutely dread it. It wasn’t until I had to start seeing a therapist as a part of my probationary conditions that it was pointed out to me my level of anxiety when it came to people and relationships. I suffer from social anxiety with strangers but also with the closest people in my life. I can make plans with family or friends and from the moment the plans are made I am in panic mode. I can’t make up my mind on whether or not to go through with the plans or break them. Most times, any plans I make with others I break. I begin to run through all of these different scenarios, all of which are negative, and before you know it I am talking my way out having to participate. I’m getting much better at dealing with this, through the help of books like the Secret, The Four Agreements, and other teachings that I have within the last few years discovered. Yet, I still find security at home, alone, with my pets. That is really the only time I ever feel comfortable. When I’m surrounded by others, buried deep within my mind is the fear of, which of all these people will hurt me next? How long will they be around for? How long will they be able to tolerate me for? My defenses are always up and to be honest it is quite exhausting. Yet as time passes I am grateful because throughout all the pain. heartaches, and let downs, I have become very strong.

I am slowly working on me. I finally have the time and the fortitude to simply let everything else go and just focus on myself and the things I need to get through. During the roughest moments of my life I have had only reading and writing to really help me get through. I sometimes hear of cases where kids are being bullied full-time, meaning at school as well as in the safety of their own homes, driving them to commit suicide. I see myself in so many of them that I cry with the pain of knowing how they felt. I often wish that they had had an outlet. I often wish that they had found a magical world within the pages of a book to save them. Something so simple and so obtainable as that and yet these kids couldn’t find their way towards survival. I guess maybe that’s why I write about everything and anything. Who knows who will end up coming across these words, who will scroll down these pages and find that comfort they needed. The comfort of knowing that one truly isn’t alone. That there are many others going through similar experiences and that only by sharing with one another will we be able to find solace not only within others, but more so within ourselves.

Maybe within these words someone will figure out that we are our own biggest project and it’s a project one must never quit on.

11380976_468219776660004_1021574899_n Photo Credit: Arturo G. Muse: Natal Galvan

 

 

Effing Hormones

She sprayed me. Right in my face. She took the hose that she uses to spray the crap off of dirty dishes and sprayed me in the face with it.

She’s my work hoe. I love this girl. She washes the dishes at the restaurant I work at and her and I are inseparable. Whenever we have shifts together, usually every Thursday, her and I are fucking around the entire day. We gossip. We play pranks on each other. Whatever needed to make the work day flow with fun that’s what we do.

Work gangsters is how I’d describe us. We’re good at our jobs. We never call out. we go hard and play hard….

Except on this day.

I went to sleep the night before feeling emotional. I woke up the next day with a headache, my boobs hurt, and emotionally sensitive. Yes, if you’re thinking that these are the symptoms of a girl’s menstrual you are correct. I hadn’t gotten it yet but these symptoms always start up a few days prior. I knew it would be a long day at work but I mentally prepared myself for it. On my way into work I repeated my morning affirmations that would allow me to positively get through the day.

But then… I get to work and the mood sets in.

I clock in and look around. The place is empty. It’s that time of year where school is back in session and so the tourists on the island are gone. It’s going to be a slow day and if the rest of the week is looking like this I for sure won’t be able to pay my rent on time…again. Normally, this fact wouldn’t bother me so much. Things get paid when they can get paid, but today is different. My “friend” is coming to visit so therefore I’m suffering of multi-personality disorder. There is happy me and irritated me. Right now I’m irritated me.

There are four servers scheduled to work today so we definitely won’t make money. I’m thinking about talking one of my co-workers into letting me close for them so that I can make every dollar I can make while here, when I walk into the kitchen and my work hoe says, “Mija, what’s wrong?? I can tell you’re not you.” and she pulls one of my curls that dangles by my ear. I inform her about my “friend” arriving in the next few days and she understands. I mean it is the one thing that no matter what kind of girl you are, we can all relate on this one issue. So she got me, or so I thought.

A couple hours pass and although I’ve only had a few tables I am exhausted. Another one of the many crappy symptoms of this desired yet annoying monthly visit. It’s 10:30 am and since I did end up talking my co-worker into letting me close (which really didn’t take much talking) I still had about 5 hours left. No matter which way I looked at it, today was a no win-win situation.

I clear the empty plates off my only table and run them to the overflowing bus tub. I do this of course, while getting their nasty, double-dipped, ketchup all over my fingers. One of my biggest peeves at work. I head back into the kitchen and wash my hands. As I walk back to the trash bin, throw out the paper towel I used to dry my hands and turn around,

……..SPPPPPLLLLLAAAAAAAAASSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH……

I am struck in the face with a steady stream of water. I stand there with my eyes closed for what was probably a millisecond but felt like 5. All I hear are the laughs of my co-workers. My work hoe got me good.

Typically I can appreciate this type of prank. Hell, it’s something I would to her. Today not so much. I opened my eyes and saw her curled against the corner laughing. “Lana!” I yelled half serious half jokingly and as I stormed passed her to grab another paper towel I took the opportunity to slap her hard in the back. I head straight to the ladies room to check on my make-up. I didn’t have much on but I figured my hair already looked a mess, Florida humidity does NOT play, my face should at least look decent. I get to the door, locked. Of fucking course.

I walk back into the kitchen to finish wiping my face. Lana is still back there laughing. “You hit me so hard I think you knocked a lung out!” She says through her giggles. “Good!!” I say “I can’t believe you hosed me in the face! The FACE! I still have the entire day to go and not only do I feel like shit but now I look like shit!” She begins to laugh harder, “Oh shut up. You got me back good with that hit. Plus, you always look like shit.” It took all of my strength to not hurt her. I was so annoyed. It was like my blood was turning into little annoyed rage bubbles that were expanding through my veins. I had to walk away.

I spent the next hour refocusing my energy on cleaning and taking care of what few tables I had coming in. I needed to distract my hormone ridden mind and decompress. I knew what I felt earlier was an over reaction. Normally I wouldn’t have cared. Lana and I had joked around like this every day since the day we met. Today was no different. Yea maybe she ruined my make-up and didn’t feel sorry about it. Who cares!? Isn’t that what friendships are all about??

Guilt started to set in. I felt like a douche for reacting the way I did.

I get sat another table but before I head over to greet them, I run back into the kitchen, head straight towards Lana and give her the biggest hug. I seriously squeeze the shit out of her. I then plant a huge kiss on her cheek and say sorry for being a twat. She laughs, “Will you just get your period already!!” she says. I smile back at her and head out to see what measly tip I can incur from my new table.

For the rest of the day I felt amazing. The restaurant never got busy. I ended up walking out earlier than anticipated and even though I still wasn’t my super cheery self, I still walked out feeling alright. Sure my body was getting ready to bleed for god knows how many days this time around, but one thing was for sure, it felt good having someone in my life like Lana. A person who can hose me in the face when I’m feeling down and even through the rage I still have love for. It’s those small little relationships that people constantly overlook and take for granted. The fact that as human beings we feel a  range of emotions, one of them the feeling of guilt, speaks loudly of human consciousness and once we take the steps, human kindness.

I love my Lana. She taught me a valuable lesson that day, or a lesson I had once been taught but she reinforced. Sometimes just simply saying sorry can be the best spa treatment you could ever give yourself.

“Alternative” Living

So then it begins. The story of the girl and her dog. She sits alone at bars and although she never intends to, she gets way too drunk. She meets all sorts of personalities while she’s out and even though legally she’s not supposed to be out drinking and mingling, following the rules was never her forte. Let’s just call her a rebel. Others would simply say dumb.

It wasn’t too long ago when she heard herself being described on the radio for the first time. It was when she first arrived to Florida some 8 odd years ago. The radio host was saying how in today’s world, the term used for a girl like her was “alternative.” It was then that she realized she’s gone from being just “ordinary” to something but.  With her funky hair color and her piercings, along with her tattoos that cover about 75% of her body, in this Florida region she stood out. It’s not like she lived in Miami or Orlando where youth is prominent and so is the “alternative” life style. No, she lived in an area where the senior citizens are the ruling class followed up by the middle class to wealthy families. The types of people who look at her and wonder why?

“Why would such a nice girl like yourself, with so much going for herself do that to her body?” They ask. Funny. Old people never feel the restraint of prying into your private life. It could be the fact that soon they’ll be nothing but a mass of decaying flesh and bones six feet under that gives them the balls to ask such intrusive questions. But I don’t mind. My life and who I am is an open book. No invitation is needed. Just having an open mind and a civil, respectful approach is all I care about. I usually try to counter that question with another question like, “Well, why do you drive the kind of car you drive?” Or “What makes you choose to wear that shade of lipstick?” They laugh at me because of course nothing of what I asked them is remotely close to being like a tattoo on your body. But those are my build up questions. I then ask them, “What makes you want to have children?” Or “What makes you decide what political party to run along with?” To every single one of these questions no matter the level of permanency, the one true answer that fits true to all is the same answer I have for them. Ultimately it is because you want to. It’s because you like it. You do it because it’s you, it’s your dream.

Just recently I had a lady ask me, “Honey how are you going to find yourself a nice young man to take care of you when you’ve got all this going on?” and she points to my art. I of course had to be a hard ass in my response because with people like her that’s just how I naturally react. So I say, “Well HONEY, if I was looking for a man to take care of me then I may be a little worried but seeing as though I am not…” She cuts me off and says, “Oh I get. Well a “partner.” How will you find a “partner” then?” Naturally she assumes I’m a lesbian.  “Listen lady, I’m not a lesbian. And if I was that wouldn’t even be the issue at hand. The issue you’re having are with my tattoos and although I’ve got no need to explain anything to you, I will use this opportunity to maybe enlighten folks like you a little bit. The fact that I’ve got tattoos doesn’t effect the kind of people I meet, because the kind of people I want to meet won’t have an issue with the tattoos. We can call them a filter. If anything, I have met the raddest people because of my tats and those whom are judgmental just simply stay away. That’s how I like it. Let me just add by saying that some of the most clean cut individuals are the dirtiest people on this planet. Take a look at Ted Bundy for instance or Jeffery Dahmer. Keep them in mind the next time you judge someone for their “nice guy” appearance.” Needless to say this lady didn’t continue on the conversation with me. She turned back to her “clean cut” husband never uttering another word. Hopefully I left her wondering what sort of skeletons he’s got hidden among the Tommy Bahama clothes hanging in his closet.

Was I a little too harsh in my response with this lady? Maybe. But catch me on a day like that day where I was a couple drinks in and I’m going to get as real with my answers as your are with your questions. I think a lot about this older generation and how sometimes I cannot wait for them to dissolve. It may be wrong of me to say but I blame a lot of what’s going on in the world due to their way of thinking. The fact that so many are set in their old ways and cannot conceive of things changing or evolving.  Much of their way of thinking so ignorant and small minded, killing so much of the potential this world has to offer simply because it doesn’t fit their way of thinking or the way things have always been. Maybe I was a little harsh with her, and not only her but with others like her, but it was actually one of the rare moments life presented me with, an opportunity to maybe spread a message that normally wouldn’t have been given a chance to be expressed.

In reality this blog piece isn’t about the adventures of a girl and her dog. It’s about the realization of the way life goes for not only me but for those out there who are similar.

In today’s world, if by your mid twenties you’re not married, with kids, living in your own home, working in a set career, you’re looked down upon by the older generation. Truth be told, if you look at the statistics out there, you’re actually doing just fine. You’re in sync with the way life is evolving around you. Many are staying in school longer, actually taking their time to decided on their true passion in life. Others aren’t even going straight to college after HS because their intent is to travel and experience life before making long term dedications to ideas that in all honesty were more imposed on them than actually being wanted. Having a full blown family by the age of 25 is now pretty overrated. I’m not taking any credit away from those who actually have one and wanted to have one. That’s a great achievement when you get to accomplish a dream, no matter what dream it is. All I’m saying is to those of you who are out there still drawing up that blue print for life, don’t feel bad. Don’t feel like you’re behind in anyway. Don’t feel that you have to have this title hanging over your head of the “alternative” lifestyle, no matter what definition it holds for you. Who are these individuals coming up with such a label? Who are these people coming up with the rules and guidelines for society? Other human beings that’s who. People who are no more inferior or superior to us, to you. They are just regular Joe Shmoes so why care about living your life by their rules? Set your own standards and live your own life by them. Care about yourself, and make sure to try to go along your path with inflicting the least amount of pain as possible. Those should truly be your only two “set in stone” guidelines. Everything else can be written in sand and washed away by the sea allowing you to write and rewrite as many times needed.

Never allow others to make you feel like who you as an individual are worthless. No one is worthless.

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Photo Credit: Angie M, Muse: Natal Galvan ’13

 

God Damn The Server Life pt 3. Are You @#$%ing Kidding ME?

The title today explains it all. I felt like it was a phrase that I found myself repeating over and over again, not out loud obviously, but oh how I wished I could.

It’s season here in FL. So what does that mean when it comes to the server life? It means expect your shift to be chaotically busy. Expect short fuses, rude customers, shouting children, bratty teens, exasperated parents, all sprinkled with a few kind people here and there whom are actually enjoying their vacation. God forbid it happens to be a rainy day in the state of sunshine. The sweet lack of sun that mother nature decides to bestow on us makes everyone crabby, everyone excluding me. I see it for what it is, a chance to rejuvenate life around us but like I said no one every really sees it that way.

Today at the restaurant the power went out. It was an hour before closing time so I thank mother nature for doing it when she did. Any earlier and a normally chaotic day in season would have been a day of utter hell. We’re a small cafe. We’ve got ten tables in doors, four counter seats, and eight tables out on the patio. The kitchen is about the size of a living room, not very big at all so space is limited. Many restaurants have generators for moments when the power goes out. Not our place. We’re too small for that. By the time the power went out we were no longer on a wait and had only about 3 tables enjoying their meals and two who had just sat down. The lights are out, obviously, and we only have about 5 mins to quickly put an order in and get the food out before heat from the appliances starts to wither down. For staff, we are used to this. We have a a plan to go by when the power shuts off. First we of course apologize for the inconvenience and for the tables who just sat we offer the options to quickly place an order or they can get their drinks to go, free of charge and try their luck elsewhere. Most of the time people decide to stay. Most of the time people decide to also complain. I’ve discovered that more times than not, people choose to stay in a situation just so they have something to complain about. This shift was no different.

The two tables that sat decided to stay and quickly order. Table one was easy. A two top. A wonderful and adorable elderly couple who ordered without even glancing at the menu. They chose one of our combos, cup of soup and half a sandwich, easy breezy. The second table not as easy. Five out of the six people were ready to order right away. One of the teenagers at the table was not. She was debating over a few items which is understandable considering our menu has quite a selection. I told her I’d give her just a couple mins but I wouldn’t be able to give her more than that because soon our appliances would be powering down. I went off, began closing some of my credit card checks that way once the computers powered out my checks wouldn’t be wiped away. I came back a couple mins later as promised. The girl was still not ready. Her mother, who was sitting directly next to her, says to me “How about you just start with me and by the time we go around she should be ready?” Sure thing, I say to myself, but the look on her daughter’s face told me a different story. I go around, taking my time taking everyone’s order just so this young lady could have a few extra mins to decide. I make jokes and enjoy off topic conversations with everyone else in the family. I now get to her, and what a surprise! She is still not ready. I patiently stand there, staring at her. I’m hoping that my gaze inspires her to just fucking pick something but to no avail. I suggest that maybe I place in everyone’s order to guarantee they get a hot meal, and that once I did, I would be back to get her order. Everyone is in agreement and so off I go and ring in their orders. Once I send it off into the kitchen I tell the cooks that there is still one person at the table that hasn’t ordered yet but that they would be soon. “Well they need to hurry the fuck up because everything is starting to cool off already.” the head cook says to me. It’s the end of the day. It’s our last table. The restaurant is starting to get hot because the air conditioner is now out. We’re all irritated, sweaty, and ready to go home. This girl HAS to order. I walk over to the table. Her menu is closed, a universal sign that signifies she is ready to order. AMEN! “So what have you decided on?” I asked. “Well, What’s good here?” she counters.  Are your fucking kidding me??

I just want to take a moment to explain  a precious point that the regular person who may have never worked in a restaurant  should know. As a server, we loath that question, and for many reasons. For one, we all have different pallets when it comes to food. Things I find delicious, others hate. I can usually gauge a table and I have learned to use this to my advantage. They ask me what’s good, I take a look at who they are and try to figure out what type of person they are. For example, if I can tell your a person who enjoys to work out and “healthy” is just written all over your demeanor I will probably suggest one of our delicious salads, maybe topped with our lemon peppered chicken, or maybe our grilled chicken sandwich with blackened chicken, sauteed spinach and garlic, with roasted red peppers, all grilled on our fresh sour dough bread. Or let’s say they’re good ol’ country folk, I’ll suggest any of our dishes with the homemade sausage gravy, for instance our country friend steak or our homemade biscuit breakfast, maybe even our smoked out pulled pork sandwich with a wonderful side of our homemade coleslaw. Anyhoo- I can usually figure out what people like but still the having to do so is a bit annoying. Also, many people who work in the service industry don’t really give a fuck. All they want is to go into work, make their money, and leave. Most servers could careless about what you as a customer are in the mood for. We just want you to order so we can move onto the next  meaningless point of our job. For you to ask us “What’s good here?”, when in reality you probably won’t follow our suggestion is simply wasting out time.

So here I am presented with the most annoying question a customer could ask, I begin with my standard questioning. “Well are you looking for breakfast or lunch?” She shrugs her shoulders and says, “I don’t really know.” Ok well….that helps. So I go to the second question that usually helps me narrow down the menu to a few options, “How about salty or sweet? What appeals more to you?” Again this girl shrugs her shoulders. I’m getting tired of her shoulders doing the answering. I want to grab her by them, shake her, and yell “JUST FUCKING ORDER SOMETHING!” but I can’t. At this point, tabled one, the cute old couple, have already received their food and are halfway finished with their meals. Out of the corner of my eye I also notice that this table’s food is beginning to slowly come out. The cook is staring at me. I feel his eyes burning into the side of my face. Now I begin to just spew random things from the menu. I don’t care. This server who normally cares is fed up. If she, who is the one that is going to be eating, doesn’t care enough to give me feedback in order to steer her into the right direction, than I don’t care enough to care about whether or not she is going to enjoy what she eats. I spend another minuet going over the menu and another minuet waiting for her to make up her mind. She finally settles on a bacon cheese burger, well done, with fries. Great. All items that need high heat in order to cook and that heat is almost all gone. I quickly go to the kitchen and verbally tell them her order just so they can get it started as quickly as possible. By the time I verbalize the order, go back to the computer and officially ring it in, the table’s food is up. I run it, giving each individual the meal that they ordered, everyone but the girl of course. They all begin to eat. I refill the drinks for those who need it. I notice the elderly couple is finished. After asking them whether or not they’d like dessert or drinks to go, I drop off their check. They’re ready to go, no change needed. As I walk over to table two, I’m in the middles of asking them how everything is when the mom says, “It would be good if my daughter got her food soon.” BITCH! Calm down. I give her a slight look and say, “Ma’m I’m sorry but she ordered a well done burger. It’s going to be a minuet. To be honest it’ll probably take a little longer than normal simply because we are out of power and the heat off the flat top is cooling off.” She doesn’t even look up to acknowledge what I say. She turns to one of the men sitting at the table and says, “How’s your toast? Mine is a little cold.” Her tone has an attitude. She takes a bite out of her toast, stares and it, and drops it back onto her plate. I want to kick her in her shins. “No, My food is really good” he answers as he looks at me and gives me a smile. “Thank you,” he says, “Everything is really good.” I smile back, say “You’re very welcome!” and turn to go.

I begin to start my side work. By the time I’m done restocking the to-go station, the girl’s burger is up. I quickly run her food and as I get to the table mom says, “Honestly, it is about time. The rest of us are pretty much finished and now we have to wait for her.”  In reality, SHE is the only one finished. Literally. Everyone else that is seated at the table is just about halfway done their meals. The guy from earlier just smiles at me and says, “No, I’m still working on mine. It’s Ok there’s no rush.” and he continues on with his meal. I set the plate in front of the girl who is obviously in no rush either for she’s swiping up on  Instagram for minuets before even touching her meal. Whatever. I go back to doing my side work. At this point I begin to roll silverware. I’m standing directly in front of the table at the counter that’s maybe 6 feet from where they are. The table is enthralled in conversation, all except two, the daughter who is still engaged in her phone and hasn’t even looked at her meal yet, and mom, who is beginning to pick at her daughter’s fries. She throws one back on the plate. “These are cold! Honey have you tried these fries?!! They’re cold!” The daughter finally looks up. She stuffs a fry in her mouth and says, “Mom, they’re fine.” and chomps away. The girl begins to work on her burger. I continue on to rolling my silverware. The kitchen is closing up, the little power they had is now completely ran out. Customers try to come in to grab a bite to eat but unfortunately we have to turn them away. One family says, “But it says that you’re open till 3. It’s only 2:20..” says the dad looking at his watch. “Yes sir, but if you haven’t noticed we are out of power.” says my boss. “Yes, but they are still eating.” He says pointing to my table. My boss pauses a few seconds, staring at him in bewilderment, then says, “Sir, that is because when they got here the power had JUST gone out. Our appliances are now completely out of heat. There would be no way to make you anything now.” She continues to calmly stare at him and after a few seconds he mumbles, “This is unbelievable.” and storms off. No sir, YOU’RE unbelievable.

My attention goes back to my table. They should be finishing up soon. The mom catches my glance and waves me over with her finger. She doesn’t look happy, but then again she didn’t look happy the moment she sat down. I walk over to her, “Yes my dear?” I say. “She cannot eat this. The fries are cold. They need to be reheated.” She grabs her daughter’s plate, meanwhile her daughter has her burger halfway to her mouth when she utters, “Mom! Stop, they’re good!” and she snatches her plate back. I try to not let my irritation with this lady seem obvious. I tell her that although I would love to be able to reheat the fries, it would be an impossibility since there is no loner power. I’m also thinking to myself, “If your daughter would have put her phone down and actually ate when the food was brought out to her, it would have been a lot warmer too”. I began to gather any empty dishes that I see on the table, while the entire time listening to this grown lady grumble. Her daughter could careless whether or not her food was cold, and actually seemed to be used to her mother’s antics. As I’m about to turn to take the empty dishes back to the kitchen the mother asks, “Can I get a cup of coffee?” She has GOT to be kidding, right?? WRONG. We hold each other’s gaze for what seems for way too long. I’m thinking that she’ll realize that her request was ridiculous considering I just told her that the power was out, if one couldn’t already tell. She asks me again, “Can I have a cup of coffee?”…. “I heard you ma’m, but the power is still out. There is no coffee.” I counter. She points to the pot that is halfway full of coffee, the one that is sitting on the powerless burner. The pot of coffee that has been sitting there untouched for over an hour. “There’s coffee right there.” She says, as if I was the one being ridiculous. “I’m afraid it wouldn’t be very good. The burner is out of power and that pot has been sitting there for quite a while.” I say slowly. She must not be all there is what my  time spent with her has led me to believe. “So you’re not going to give me a cup of coffee, even though I see a perfectly good pot sitting right there?” I sigh. I’m over her. I want her to leave. She wants coffee… let’s give her coffee, no? “You’re absolutely right. Let me drop these dishes off in the kitchen and I’ll be right back with your cup of coffee, ok?” I said just a little too cheery. She seemed satisfied with my answer. She obviously felt like she won the battle. Inwardly I laugh.

I take the dishes to the kitchen and before I grab her cup of coffee, I print out their check. The quickest way to relieve myself of this thorn in my ass is to just drop off the bill when I drop off the coffee.  I pour her cup and I notice that it’s not even lukewarm. I smile to myself because I know what’s coming…

“Alrighty guys, I’m just leaving this here!! Take your time, just let me know if you need anything else.” I smile as I set the check down as well as her cold coffee. As I’m walking away I hear her say, “Are you serious?” I keep walking. “Excuse me Miss??!” I stop and turn. “Yes?” She’s obviously had a sip of her coffee, her facial expression said it all. “This coffee is cold! And you didn’t even ask us if we wanted dessert!?” This whore… I swear. Keep in mind, the kitchen is now closed up. Food is no longer available. At this point most of the cooks have already left. I take a deep breath and allow myself a Zen moment before answering. I’m really trying to kill her with kindness but her dumbass-ness is making it truly difficult.

“Ma’m I told you that the coffee wouldn’t be very hot. The power is out. That goes for the burner that the coffee pot was on. The reason I didn’t offer you all dessert was because the kitchen is now closed and all food, including dessert, is locked away in the cooler.” I stare at her. She stares back then says, “So what you’re telling me is, if we wanted to order something else to eat we wouldn’t be able to?” as if this was the end of the world. “And I assumed that although the power is out, the coffee sitting on the burner would at least be lukewarm.” She shakes her head as if she was exhausted by having to deal with ME. “That’s correct. If anyone wanted to eat anything else you wouldn’t be able to and to be honest, that pot of coffee has been sitting on that burner for about an hour or so. I tried explaining that to…” She cuts me off. “You’re unbelievable! Serving me a cup of coffee after it’s been sitting there for an hour!” She grabs the bill and takes a look at it. “After all this you couldn’t even give me a discount?! This is ridiculous.” While this is all going on, my boss is standing close by me filling up our jugs of syrups. She’s witnessed the entire thing and when hears the fact that this woman expected a discount she then decides to walk over.

“Ma’m can I help you?” says my boss who doesn’t look like a boss. I’m looking at everyone else at the table. They seem embarrassed. The few that still have their plates have buried their faces in whatever food was left over just to not have to be a witness of what is going on. The others are just staring at the woman like she’s literally jumped off the deep end. “Yes, I’d actually like to speak to the owner if you don’t mind.” The woman doesn’t even look at my boss as if she were a mere peasant. “Well you’re looking right at her. I heard your interaction with the server and wanted to see if there was anything I could help you with?” She says calmly. The lady decided to take this opportunity to let her have it, “What I need help with is understanding is why you all would allow customers into your restaurant while the power is out?! Our food was terrible. All of it was cold. My daughter’s burger didn’t arrive at the same time ours did. Your server served me cold coffee and dropped off the bill as if she was trying to get rid of us,” I was… “and I take a look at the bill at least expecting some sort of discount for all the inconvenience and nothing was done.” Fortunately for me, I have amazing bosses. They’ll defend a server when needed be. This time she was all for it. “Pardon me ma’m, but you were already seated when the power went out. I gave you the choice of whether or not you wanted to stay. I even offered your drinks to-go free of charge if you decided not to. You all chose to stay. Your daughter took a really long time ordering even after the server told your entire party that time was of the essence if you wanted to get a warm meal. She also expressed to you that the coffee had been sitting there for quite a while and after repeating multiple times that the power was out, you decided to still go for the coffee.” With that my boss takes the bill and looks at it and continues on by saying, “Servers are not allowed to discount any checks without my authority. I see that she didn’t charge you for the coffee you decided to order, so I guess that can be considered your discount.” She sets the check back onto the table and looks at the lady who is now digging through her purse. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” My boss stares at her. The lady is avoiding eye contact. Embarrassed are we? No, not enough to keep her snide comments to herself. The lady drops exact cash onto the table and says, “That’s fine. But I am not tipping for this horrible service.” She gets up, and whether the others were finished or not, demands that everyone gets up to leave.

Bye Felicia!

As they all march out of the cafe,  I think to myself, “VICTORY!” because even though this lady didn’t leave me a tip I felt like the rest of her day was completely ruined. That for me was enough of a tip.

As I sit here and write about this one incident, I can’t help but think about all the other “Are you fucking kidding me?” moments as servers we’ve had to endure. I literally have a list going and I cannot wait to write about each and every one ofthem.  With each shift that passes the list grows longer and longer. I wonder if the outrageousness of customers has a cap or if with time it’ll just get worse and worse? I truly believe that now-a-days people go on vacation and forget to pack their common sense as well as their manners and that’s only if they had any of it to begin with. One way I see that I may be able to better the situation is by writing about it. We may not all work in the service industry, but we are all customers at one point or another. It’s time that I start shedding some light on not only customer service from the server’s side but customer etiquette from the customer’s side.

Stay tuned. You’ve already been alerted that there will be more to come 🙂

Simply Side Notes

In life you meet people, all sorts of people. They either stay in your life or they simply trickle in and then back out again. The amount of people that I can honestly say that have stayed in my life as a permanent fixture are very few. The funny thing? I have met so many people, and I have a list of acquaintances a mile long, but only just recently have I realized that they are merely that… acquaintances. Skimming through my list of FB friends I noticed I hardly talk to any of those listed. I mean seriously if it weren’t for FB we wouldn’t be updated as to what’s been going on in each other’s lives. Would we even remember that each other existed? Probably not. I think about the people I have met just this year alone and where as before I would say “Oh yea.. I know so and so.. They’re my friends! I love them!” now I just wonder, how could I have ever honestly of said that? Just thinking back to the circumstances I have met some of these people under, I don’t know how I could have been so delusional as to actually call these people my friends. Literally since I moved to FL every person I have met since being here, not including co-workers or people that I’ve had to do business with in one form or another, are people that plain and simply just served a purpose and are now nowhere to be found. From girls to guys, I’ve met quite a few, and in all instances we have called each other friends at one point or another. For fun and excitement or for a little advice, or even for a night of mischief.. friends. We were there for each other. Right?

So what happened? Why are they just acquaintances? Well like I said, the relationship was purpose driven and once that purpose is gone, what are you left with? Nothing. The girl friends that I once had, we were partiers. Any given day of the week, if we felt like boozing it up.. BOOM… at the bar we were, racking up beer tabs like nobody’s business. It became so customary that bartenders knew us not only by name but our preference of drink. “Regulars” as you might say. As friends we went out, had our drinks, discussed the petty dramas in our lives, gossiped, oh how we gossiped. Maybe we’d go out dancing here and there, meet a few people, then go home and in a few days repeat the whole thing over again. We had fun, for the most part. We were girls so of course there were little hiccups here and there but nothing to truly sever the relationship.. or so I thought. Amazing how the lack of one being able to go out and drink can really filter out your group of “friends”. Once I got my DUI in December, “friends” started dropping like flies. Hmmmm, Could I even say flies? That’s not much of a saying really. I’ll describe it more as, they were dropping like bombs. Atomic bombs, destroying the entire friendship that was built over the course of a year. There were no more phone calls, not even to see how things were going. No texts to see what I was up to or even to send me a funny updates, jokes, or whatever like we once used to. It IS a two way street and although I surly tried to reach out it was almost like talking to a complete stranger, with nothing to say other than “Hey, how you’ve been?”…”Good. You?”… “Good..” Good. I even went as far as to question the one girl I was closest to (I say closest but I really mean who I had known the longest)  as to what was going on. Instead of being able to talk and reason with me, she blamed ME for “distancing” myself, got angry, and dismissed the entire conversation stating she “has a lot of important things going on in her life and this was the last thing” she needed. Ouch. Ok. Well, I gave up. I always find it quite amusing when people project their anger for the role that they may have played in making a situation more difficult than what it needed to be. I didn’t take it personal. As Vince Vaughn  said in “Couples Retreat” …”I know my truth..”, I know I didn’t distance myself because in moments of crisis and stress I never like to go through it alone. Even though I have found myself doing so many many times before, if I can help it, I like to have people I care around to be a buffer between me and my rough times. I don’t know many who wouldn’t. It made her feel better to blame me? So fine. Peace out trout! Yes, she paid my bail and even though I was super grateful, and expressed to her repeatedly how grateful I was, she still decided to throw that in my face during our last short but very clarifying conversation. Another thing I find amusing as well as distasteful. Never have I ever helped an individual out, be it a family member, friend, or stranger, and then rub it in their noses later. Ever. What would be the purpose? To do so takes away all kindness behind the gesture of helping the person out. I have helped many people throughout my lifetime.. to this day I have not once ever brought it up. So needless to say, once I quickly paid her back, I dropped her like a hot potato.

Cioa! The purpose was obvious. Party Pals. You take the partying away from one of the pals? Bye-bye gal! On to the next group of “friends”.. so here we go. Since a kid I have always had more boy friends than girl friends. I grew up with 5 step brothers. I used to play football with the neighborhood boys. I have always considered myself a “guys” girl for sure. To this day I can count on one hand the amount of lady friends I’m actually close to. Unfortunately none whom live here, meh. Guys? They’re fun, but what I have recently come to discover, and maybe this is a bit naive of me as to not have noticed it before, but guys tend to be friends with ulterior motives. Yes. I know. I told you…I may have been dumb to not notice it before. I just always assumed that I was that cool that a friendship was what they were after once it was clear that there would be nothing more. All the guys that I have met here were true cool kats. I loved them. Some I casually dated, others I wouldn’t have ever even considered, but a friendship for me is everything and I truly believed that these dudes were my friends. Some of them were drinking buddies. Some of them were day trip pals. Others it seemed as though we could just chat on the phone and talk about each others weird and twisted lives, without judgment, just for shits and giggles. Today none of them are around. The purpose is gone. I can’t party like I used to so bye-bye party pal. I officially began seeing someone in January and there went everyone else. Apparently, if the hope of getting their dick wet is gone, then so is the friendship. The sucky part is that I met other people through these guys and now those too I have lost contact with, simply because the thread that held us together no longer exists.

It’s comical because I have since stopped seeing the guy I was dating. We broke up about two weeks ago. Just yesterday I made it official on social media. I’m not one to blast my personal life like that but I wanted to see what would come of it. A social experiment if you will. I wanted to see how many of those lost “homies” of mine would resurface once I made it known that I was “on the market” again…. Well low and behold, out of the blue people started texting me, “Heeeeyyyyyy, how have you beeeeeen??!!! Long time no chaaat…” Go suck your own measly little pecker. I don’t want anything to do with you. It’s one thing, if you acknowledge your shitty disappearing act, maybe even apologize for it, “Hey.. Sorry I haven’t hit you up in a while. I saw you were taken and didn’t want to start trouble….blah blah blah…” Ok. But if you’re going to act like it was nothing, you were just AWOL due to being busy or whatever BS excuse you have…. save it. I want none of it.

I take my friendships seriously. They’re like likable full-time jobs for me. I enjoy being loyal and being there when needed. I truly make sure I dedicate time and energy in the relationship. Friends, these people I keep around and let in to my personal little life, I love, just like I would love a significant other or a family member. It’s a different kind of love, but it IS  love. So whenever I find myself going through a friendship break-up, my heart aches because it’s one less person I have around to share my life with and one more person I add to the list that have failed me. Today I sit here in my room and think how I truly have no one. All my childhood friends are back at home, my family too. I live in this state, physically and mentally, and I live it alone. People I once shared things with, built few memories with, are now gone. All I have is my dog, my books, and my stories. I read and write, while I go through the motions of life here on my own and think, if anything else, if not friends, they’re at least now Side Notes. Little characters that played a role, they served a purpose, and will live on to do so, in the pages of my books. I can thank them for at least that much.

God Damn the Server Life

The frigid mornings I wake up on the days in which I have to work KILL me. I call them “frigid” because there is no other word better to describe them. They’re cold and dark and I shiver as I pull the blankets off of me, even though I live in the sun shiniest state in the U.S. I make sure to set my alarm HOURS before having to go into work because I need my “me” time and it doesn’t matter if I had two days or four days off that week. I can’t seem to find enough “me” time to better prepare myself  to go in to battle.

It is a war out there in the server-life. Between hungry customers ignorant to how the restaurant business actually works, to the incompetent hosts who are usually too young to serve and therefore too dumb to care, and then to the unhappy, unsatisfied, servers who must at every second of their shift put on a facade and switch vibes and characters from table to table to better fit their customer’s needs… One must say we must be insane to work in this type of environment.

Sometimes we luck out and have amazing managers or restaurant owners who make work a little less like “work” but those are too and far in  between and though one may have cool bosses or alright co-workers, a server never really knows what a work shift will bring. It could be a day where it goes smooth like butter. A cake walk one might describe it as. All of your customers are easy going and maybe one could even go as far as saying they’re pleasant. Other days it seems you have waited on every coo-coo that breaths on this planet. Some days you’ll have a barrage of amazing tippers, setting up the trap to disable you from walking away from this job you loath so much. Other days, your self worth dies at every moment you close out a check and realize you have literally slaved yourself for someone else’s pleasure for a measly couple dollars. Cheap fucking bastards.

Many of you may be reading this and are thinking “if you hate it so much why do you do it?! QUIT! Find your true passion! Do what you love!” I say to you, Fuck off. Obviously that’s something to strive for…yet it takes time, no? So until then, am I to not eat? Not maintain a roof over my head or clothes on my back? Am I not to try to finish an education or at least take steps towards achieving my happiness?? Maybe these years of hatred for what I do currently will feed the fire for what I will achieve later on in life. Who knows?! All I know is that I have an opportunity right now to tell it like it is, while also maybe enlighten some people out there. Yes, at times we make good money. Most of the time we are whoring ourselves to our tables, bending over backwards (some may say “over”), eating up all the disrespect you customers dish out, all for a 15- 18% tip…20% if we lucked out.

One myth I would like to bust right here, right now, is the saying, “The customer is always right..” Let me enlighten you folks out there. The customer is not always right. In all honesty, they are hardly ever right. Most of the time we give into your shenanigans because it is easier (and looks better for the restaurant) to take the higher road and walk away peacefully from any sort of confrontation with a customer. The fact that in today’s world with online reviews dictating whether or not a business prospers or fails, one can’t run the risk or arguing or even remotely debating with a customer on whether they are right or wrong. For us people working in the industry, this is the biggest lump of BS we have to swallow, the fact that customers think they’re always right. It’s like saying, “Pedestrians always have the right of way.” Think about it. In a normal situation it is true. There’s someone standing at a cross walk, you yield to them and let them go. Now take someone who is crossing in the middle of a busy intersection, and doesn’t even bother to look both ways, they just walk out in to traffic and assume that because they are a pedestrian all traffic will come to a screeching halt just to let their inconsiderate asses cross. A car hits them… Guess what? You know who gets in trouble?? THE PEDESTRIAN. Each party in any given situation needs to recognize the part they play in whatever altercation or scenario they find themselves in. So let us put this example in a Server-life Vs. Customer prospective.

Scenario #3786- A table sits down. Mom, Dad, their two Kids. In today’s world technology has completely taken over, even those precious family moments that everyone wants to cherish so much. Kid#1 lets say, is a preteen who honestly could care less about spending family time, is on their cell phone checking FB, IG, Tweeting to her Twit friends, they are doing everything possible to stay connected while disconnecting. Kid#2 is a younger sibling who can’t stay still or focused for more than seconds at a time so to keep them calm and quiet are given a tablet in order to keep them occupied. Mom is on the phone speaking to Auntie Sharon telling her all about their awesome vacation, detail to detail, nothing missed, with the exception of telling her how awful of a time she’s having. Dad seems to be the only one focused on settling down and zeroing in on the menu, but in a reality, is back at the office thinking about all the work that needs to get done in order to make the money for next year’s family vacation.  Insert Server Here… “Hey there!! (insert whatever lame introduction they’re told to say..) What can I get for you drink today?!” CRICKETS…

Alright, let’s try this again…

“Can I maybe interest anyone in one of our specialty drinks or maybe you’d like to start with a round of waters while you decide?” Not one person at the table even acknowledges her/him. So now it’s awkward to say the least…

Or we can even switch the scenario and say, Server walks over, “Hey there!…My na….” “We’ll just take some waters with lemons..” says either parent without looking up.

Either scenario has already set the tone for the entire duration for both customer and server. If it’s a seasoned sever they’ll handle it with the utmost professionalism and will slather them in kindness throughout their stay, while inwardly killing them with machetes and machine guns. But for the majority of the servers out there, they will semi-neglect this table and focus on the others who DO treat them like a human being and not some worn out shoes strewn  over a cable wire to be ignored. They will provide this table with the most basic of service which in turn aggravates the customer who sees this server happily and attentively serving other tables around them. Here is where vicious cycle begins because once the the customer becomes aggravated, they will find everything wrong from that point on from the food.. to the atmosphere.. anything and everything will be sub par. They’ll complain to management, which in most cases will fall on deaf ears, for servers are very vocal and would have most likely already mentioned what “douche bags” the people at that table are.  No one likes to be ignored. No one likes rude individuals. So who in their right mind would want to be attentive to such people? People who have proven within the first 15 seconds of interaction don’t care enough about them to even acknowledge them as human beings.

Like I said before, it is a vicious cycle. It’s not just seen in the Server-Life but in all areas of customer service. It’s very difficult to deal with the public especially in an age where values, morals, and respect for one another is almost nonexistent, and technology and disconnect from the real world around you is prominent. If only we took more credit for our own individual actions..owned our “mistakes” or lack of education.. We could all move on, be better people, and make everyone’s life around us just a tee bit better.. and the things we wouldn’t want to do (such as work) could at least be a BIT more enjoyable. There wouldn’t be such a sense of dread when it came to going into work or doing the other countless things in life we may have to do instead of wanting to do.  I mean that’s the way I see it, and for most of whom I speak to.

This is my first official “blog” piece. I’ve been a writer for more than half of my life but today starts a new wave for me and my writing. I will not only speak of my Server-Life.. but of all Life around me, as I see it. My mission is to change an outlook, to give people the opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

Stay tuned for not only more Server-Life stories, but also stories from the day to day encounters of Life around us, as I see it.

My name is Natal Galvan and I am here to write to you.

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Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Location: Vagabond Tap House, A.C, N.J

If you ever find yourself in Atlantic City, NJ make sure to stop by this place!! AMAZING food and a wonderful selection of craft beers, and let me not forget to mention an incredible sunset view 🙂