So, for the record, I'm still sick, and should really be in bed right now with Nyquil slowly dissolving into happiness. BUT NO! Blog we must!
One of the let-down-the-hair joys of this job is dinner at the end of the day. As I've mentioned recently, I work hard at this thing, and this day has been a prime example, marked by a couple of curveballs to throw things off, and, of course, the aforementioned sickness. Nothing makes manual labor better than having to blow one's nose (and then disinfect, lest we infect the books and our fair customers!) every 3 minutes. GLAMOUR, this work.
But tonight, all was made up for. We Uber-ed our way into D.C. to a restaurant I'd checked out when I was in town a few months ago. Excellent company, in the form of a handful of hardy coworkers, was ascertained. An excellent, near-overwhelming menu was placed before us. All was in order for a very good dinner.
But something I've noticed about myself lately is that it takes a very precise element to take a dinner from good to great: a knowledgeable, bossy waiter.
I LOVE a bossy waiter. I've found this out about myself only recently, and Justin (at Zengo, just at the edge of Chinatown in D.C.) fit the bill perfectly. Of course, he was those other things a waiter should be--friendly, polite, attentive--but it was his bossiness that set him to a certain echelon on waiters. After only a few minutes with us, he gave strong recommendations for cocktails and appetizers. By the second bite of Salt and Pepper Shrimp Tacos, we'd set our menus aside, and with only slight prompting, he picked everything else for the night for us, with no mistakes.
We chatted. We talked about how he doesn't plan to work in restaurants forever. We told him the lines about how anything is possible and the world is his oyster, and if he wants to work at St. Jude's then what is he waiting for? (Answer: our billl, waiting eagerly on the table.) He's 24, and we unanimously agree that he is young enough for anything. But quietly, to ourselves, a coworker and I acknowledge the truth that is hip-checkin its way to center stage in our lives.
Twenty-four becomes 27, which becomes 31 which becomes 43. The days pass and people keep telling you that you hve your whole life in front of you--an adage that is never not true--but each day there's a little less. Each day we agree to keep waiting tables instead of stepping into scary unknown is another day in the history books. We know these things. We have lived them. We are living them now.
Another coworker has asked Justin what his dream job is, and I am flooded with thanks that the question wasn't directed at me. I used to relish this question. I was maybe 24 at the time. And now... To say I don't have any dreams anymore is self-indulgent and incorrect, but it doesn't feel like either. It feels like truth. It feels like I have let the world corral me into a place where it can label and identify and process me, every once in a while giving me just some little something--a new friend, an office--to placate me. Good grief, I even enjoy being bossed around by a waiter.
I was rushed with sadness just now, picturing a different Justin. One who was eclipsed and owned and brought into a drawer in the world's card catalog, perfectly known and handled. One who doesn't pause when asked if he enjoys working there, one who doesn't reply, "Do you want the frou-frou answer or the real one?" One who just smiles and says he loves it and doesn't feel the punch of the lie until later.
So this one goes out to Justin--and to the Justin in me, and you, and the Justin in the guy next to you on the bus: fight back. Live. Do the thing. And if you can't remember what the thing is, dream it until you do. But then, seriously: do it.