The six-pack of wine rested on the mats at my feet. This half-sized wine case, so petite and easy to lift, had become a hurdle. It was over-zealously taped together, as though whoever had shipped it was a chronic tape-waster or simply took delight in envisioning a box monkey somewhere trying to wrestle this package free. Normally I would mount an efficient assault on such a mess, but this day was different.
Somehow I hurt my lower back this week. This is in spite of a mellow schedule this holiday season, where I haven't had to do any doubles or banquet events, only a few extra shifts. Yet Wednesday I was lifting plates and felt an uncomfortable pressure in my back; By Friday the same motion produced a "Holy hot Chihuahua, that hurts!" Bending down was the worst, feeling like half a dozen miniature pitchfork-wielding elves were stabbing my lower back. Fortunately walking around was only minimally painful.
Naturally, however, everything I had to get to in the wine room was low to the ground. At the end of the month, and end of the year in particular, the wine room is a ghost of itself, with the remaining cases lingering in bottom cubbies. It seemed like these survivors were either hiding or taunting me, like the mummy-taped six-pack of wine. Every time I reached down toward the small case to swipe at its wrappings with a butter knife, the pain shot back. Once I'd finally maneuvered it open, I had to try and get the bottles out. I lifted one bottle, ok, then the second, hmm, but by the third it was, oh hell no! I got down on my knees and set the bottles on a low shelf, then transported those bottles to their home cubby. A one-armed kangaroo could have handled this process about as quickly and efficiently.
The boss man came in to help for a second, ripping open a couple cases of wine and throwing them into a cubby in no time. Meanwhile, I was dinking around, stuck with my one bottle, two bottle shuffle. Doh.
Every server knows the pen game. By the end of the day, half of those tawdry buggers will be in someone else's apron or purse; If not, it must have been a slow night. It is fully possible to walk in to work with ten black Bics, only to have them all vanish or curiously be replaced by some glittery clickers or others that are sporting some off-the-wall company logo.
Last night, instead of a slow dwindle, my pens took more drastic measures to escape. My work apron has developed a giant hole in one of the pockets, so I had my kit and server book all stuffed into one side. Every other time I pulled out my server book, a pen came flipping out. I started feeling like I was pooping pens everywhere. They dropped in front of my tables, in the kitchen, in the bus station... I would gaze at them forlornly, knowing that the stabby elves awaited me if I tried to bend over to pick them up. So low, I admonished my writing implements. Running away while you know you can...
A pen popped out onto the server station's floor, and I stared. It was one of my last pens left. I said to a coworker, "If you want to pick that up, it's yours." I would never ask them to get it for me. It was the way of the pen game- If they went to the effort of picking it up, it belonged to them. Nevertheless, I had the tiniest hope that this person might take pity and offer it back. But alas, the server picked it up and threw it in his pocket without hesitation and walked away. I sighed, thinking, Don't hate the player, hate the game. I would have done the same thing.