|Photo by Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer | The Daily Herald|
"Anyone is too good to be a waitress," she told him,
after he asked if she thought her new job was beneath
her. "At 30, I never saw myself making minimum wage
working multiple pink collar jobs." The thought made
her cringe. It was a slap in the face. An affront to her
dignity, her values, everything she stood for. Like her,
I didn't believe in wage slavery. If it kept up with some
combination of inflation, worker productivity and executive
pay raise, minimum wage would be $20 an hour today.
It's not the work, it's the pay that's the problem, we agreed.
She is in a perpetual state of amnesia, trying to forget the
hard facts of her life while maintaining a small degree of
hope. Which is easily dashed when male customers call
her honey or proposition her, like when the amateur
photographer offered to take "professional" photos of her.
He got a strange pleasure from watching her fill orders
and waterglasses and empty the bus bin because there
was no busboy, only her. Like an intrepid reporter in
search of a sad story he asked her nagging questions that
haunted her, that he wrongly assumed would help her see
his depth. But there was no depth to a man who dined with
his camera, toting it around like some big statement. She
knew she was nothing but a walking plot device in this
man's pathetic universe, a keeper of his manhood, a
mirror that doubled his virility. She hated him. And hated
me too. As a patron, I could never be fully on her side
even though I threw a fist up and railed against the system,
even though we exchanged world-weary, knowing glances
as she went about the room fulfilling the obligations of
her dead-end trade, smiling and tolerating stupid questions,
like if she was too good for her job.
Michelle Marie has written for Infita7 and Bluestockings Magazine and is currently a Stop Street Harassment blog correspondent.