Correction: working in the restaurant industry is hard, period. As a hostess in a popular middle-of-the-road chain restaurant attached to a mall food court, my food service experience was especially brutal, because it mostly consisted of seating dozens of cranky hungry people and explaining to furious fathers of screaming children that no, I couldn’t seat them in the table they can plainly see is open, because fire codes prevent us from putting a high chair there; and yes, sir, you would absolutely be arrested for addressing me the way you’re addressing me now in any other context.
On Valentine’s Day, though, the crowd suddenly shifts to the worst of them all: teenagers.
I was working on the East Coast, so February is pretty cold. The first thing you notice about east coast teenage boys when they start arriving en masse is that they INSIST on wearing shorts, even when it’s snowing. The second thing you notice when they start showing up with their dates is that teenage girls spend so much time on their appearances, and oh my god, girls, do you deserve better than those shaggy-haired rumple-shirted nightmare boys. Among other things, it was super depressing to watch all of these polite, well-dressed girls slide into booths with loud, obnoxious boys in pajamas.
But in general, walking around a restaurant watching couples giggle and ogle and swoon over one another while dressed in a men’s t-shirt, non-slip shoes, and smelling heavily of burgers and fryer grease was one of the most depressing experiences of my life. I’ve only ever once had a date on Valentine’s Day, and it wasn’t a good one, so it wasn’t like I was missing anybody in particular, or comparing this Valentine’s Day to any other, but WOW.
I generally think of myself as an independent person. When I do date, it has to be a guy who knows that I sometimes don’t text back when I get caught up and has his own plans that don’t always have to coincide with mine, and so I don’t particularly dread Valentine’s Day like I know some of my single friends do. But seating a bunch of two tops holding hands and listening to a bunch of older couples tell me how many Valentine’s Day dates they’d been on together makes you feel some kind of way. I think it was probably the first time I had a genuine fear of dying alone and getting eaten by my dog so that nobody would even know what happened to me.
I watched one of those teenage couples throughout their visit, because I wanted so badly to go up to that teenage boy and shake him and say YOU ARE SO LUCKY THIS GIRL IS GIVING YOU THE TIME OF DAY NOW GO BRUSH YOUR HAIR, so I saw the awkward exchange when they were brought the bill. After an argument I couldn’t hear, I watched the girl finally nod and agree to something…and then I had to help another customer. Next time I looked up, the boy was running out the door, pulling up his basketball shorts as he made his way into the snow, and the girl was shoving a handful of bills onto the table before running after him.
Pretty sure her boyfriend tried to dine and dash on their Valentine’s Day dinner, and she footed the bill. Girl, wherever you are, I hope you’ve found somebody as good as you.