Last night at work I was told I am lucky. It was meant to be a quiet night with the expectation of maybe one or two groups and an early finish. I prepped all the tables, slowly washed dishes left over from the lunch hour and greeted the first arrivals with the enthusiasm of a person deprived of conversation.
Initially it was a restaurant with only four people, the cook and I being two of them. As the night progressed people continued to spill through the door and the restaurant quickly filled with the sound of conversations tumbling over one another, scraping chairs, my footsteps and glasses clinking.
After the second banquet order of the night and an onslaught of take away orders and main meals I returned to the kitchen to retrieve plates. ‘You’re lucky’ the cook/owner said with a half grin. ‘Yesterday, you’re not here and the restaurant is empty, today you here and the restaurant is full. You relaxed, calm and people come. You lucky’. I laughed and mused, ‘maybe I am’. I returned to the restaurant floor, the door sprang open and a table of five walked through a few minutes to 9 pm. I sat them down with menus, returned to the kitchen and concurred, ‘you’re right, I am lucky’. He laughed and smiled with dollars in his eyes.
The frenzied pace continued and he offered me food; a lamb cutlet, Gaziantep salad, falafel balls, a prized racehorse fed and watered for the next event. The restaurant emptied, I stacked the plates and carried kilograms of dirty dishes down stairs to the wash area and stacks of clean porcelain back up. He gave me a key, ‘you can wash the dishes and clean the kitchen’, his intonation didn’t have the upward lilt of a born and raised Australian accent but I knew from experience it was a question and nodded in response. ‘Thanks mayte, see you tomorrow’. Hours passed, I scrubbed, dried, swept, mopped, sang, swore and eventually finished half an hour past midnight feeling more than a little Cinderella as smatterings of drunk women in stilettos stumbled past the shopfront window. I shrugged my apron, took a beer from the fridge, twisted the top and slung it back like a larrikin sucking on a VB.
I arrived home a little before 1 am, sunk my tired frame into bed and soaked up the silence. My whole body and mind acutely aware of the simple pleasure of rest.