Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our Hearts Were Young and Sanctimonious

Once I had summer holiday work as a live-in waitress in Perisher Valley, a winter ski resort. At that time an Australian summer holiday meant the beach, so the guests here were all European migrants sensibly seeking the cool. I had never before come across women who were both mature and pampered.
We wore dirndls with eidelweiss (!) and long socks; we were well paid, well fed, and, apart from serving three meals a day, had plenty of leisure time. The guests were exquisitely courteous, and undemanding - until She arrived. At one of "my" tables.
Beautifully coiffed and Elizabeth-Ardened though she was, I could not estimate her age, sensing that she was not as old as her facial lines suggested.
Guests had a choice of 3 entrees, main courses and puddings. From the start she wanted more. Her eyes would skim around others' selections, and she would whisper: "Can I have some xxxx also? And a little....xxxx? Perhaps some xxxx? And xxxx?" This gave her some very odd combinations, but she ate every crumb.
I was sanctimoniously appalled by her greed.
Instead of adopting the numerous small ways a waiter can undetectably disadvantage a customer, I went to the other extreme: no matter what she ordered, I suggested more. I offered her cutlets to go with her roast beef. Apple pie to go with her souffle. They were often accepted.
I was of course ridiculing her.
When she left she sought me out. She tipped me generously, and thanked me lavishly.
She had, she said, been in a Siberian gulag for many years. The cold? You get used to that, she shrugged. But, the hunger: you never recover from that.
I still feel a little ashamed.

1 comment:

JahTeh said...

We were money poor and food always came first. It accounts for my addiction to books, paper, pens, paint boxes and the odd very pretty colouring book. Presents are wrapped in used paper because I can't bear to see my beautiful wrappings torn asunder so I understand this lady's not wasting a crumb.