One of the reasons I enjoy my part-time waitressing gig so much is because I get to talk to strangers all night. For the most part, I truly love hearing about the lives of so many different types of people. It is amazing what you can learn about a person in between serving him tomato soup and a filet mignon.
Last night was an interesting combination of tables. At one time I had a group of rednecks, a business meeting, a birthday celebration, and an average couple in their late 50′s. The couple in their 50′s (I’ll call them the Smiths) loved their dinner and were raving about how delicious the oyster salad was. I said “Yeah, every time I carry one to a table I get hungry because of how good it smells!” The gentleman looked at me and said “Haven’t you eaten it?”
I stared at the sweet couple for a few seconds and was faced once again with the decision of whether or not to lie. My decision to lie or tell the truth while waitressing is based on several factors, the top two being how busy I am and how snoody the table is. Why lie? Because I am deathly allergic to egg, seafood, and nuts meaning I have not tried 99% of the menu that I sell to my customers night after night. When I tell a table all about the features and how delicious they are, it is not from personal experience. Does it make me a less capable server because I haven’t tried the food I am promoting? Absolutely not. My tables don’t have a clue that the crsip and fruit forward wine I am recommending to pair with the delicious and savory flounder have never touched my tongue. It’s sales.
I have found that sometimes tables react really poorly to my answer of “no, I have never tried it because I am allergic to seafood.” Their faces become twisted and their eyes wide as if to say YOU LIED TO US! YOU TOLD US THIS WAS DELICIOUS BUT YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT TASTES LIKE!!! So you see? Sometimes it is just easier to say “yes, the crab stuffed flounder is delicious it is one of my favorite meals.” They smile, I smile, all are happy. That being said, I would never recommend a meal to someone if I didn’t know for sure that it is loved by all who have had it. To this day I have never recommended something and had the guest dislike it (that I know of), so I think my system is working out.
Anyway, back to the Smiths. I went with my gut feeling last night and decided that they would not be upset that I hadn’t tasted the Oyster Salad. I was halfway right. When I told them that I was deathly allergic to seafood and egg (both of which are on the salad) they gasped and said “you poor thing!!!!” I’m used to it, it’s a pretty standard reaction. I told them that it’s okay, I used to eat seafood so I know what it tastes like, I am thankful for the years that I was able to eat it. Still looking horrified, they asked if I have ever eaten eggs.
“No, I was born with the egg allergy so I’ve never tasted egg”
By the looks on the Smiths faces, you would have thought I just told them that I am part unicorn and I live in a tree house at the end of the rainbow.
“That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You’ve never tasted an egg, not even one?!?! And you can’t eat cookies or cake or omelets!” I smiled and confirmed their worst fear.
I always try to find the silver lining in situations, why not look on the bright side? That is exactly what I tell people who think my food allergies are tragic. To the Smiths I said “it’s difficult but it’s really not that bad. I just never eat out and cook all of my own food. It could be much worse. There are people with serious mental disabilities, physical problems, and cancer. I am thankful that food allergies, asthma, and eczema are pretty much the extent of my medical problems.
The Smiths were not convinced. They continued to talk about how awful my life must be and they simply couldn’t imagine living with food allergies. I bit my tongue to not make a comment like “you do live with food allergies and you learn to accept it, otherwise you are doing the exact opposite of living, you are dying. Is a brownie or a southwestern omelet worth dying over?”
Maybe next time I’ll err on the side of simplicity and decide to lie.
It’s funny though, talking to people like this actually does make me feel better. Everybody has their own problems and you learn to live with them. You have to accept them or they rule your life and make you miserable. This is an extremely important lesson I learned in therapy with Ken. You can’t love yourself or be happy if you view yourself as flawed or always play the victim. You are exactly the way you are supposed to be and no matter what mental, physical, or emotional struggles you have, it could always be worse and you can live a happy life with them.