I am never late. I never call out. I do it all and as close to perfect as I can. Although I was sure on day one four months ago that I couldn’t possibly do the job for which I was just hired, I was equally sure by day 14 that I am better at the job than all but a few. Just look at my sales. My tips. Do the math.
My biggest fault at work is that I expect everyone else to aspire to achieve the same unreasonable standard of perfection that I outwardly project to have but inwardly know I never will. This makes me a bitch at times, guarded with everyone even as I laugh and joke with them, and a judgmental imbecile the majority of the time. I suspect that my co-workers think they know that imbecile in me, but I am so damn good at what I do, mostly I am sure I just confuse them. Because I ring the most most days. They should do the math.
I work six days a week, awaking at 5 a.m. to get to work on time to feed the break-fasting hungry ones. I work seven-plus hours each shift, happily, even as I begin the countdown to home time the second I punch in. I loathe and despise the four separate alarms I have programmed into my iPhone because I need none of them. I am up when I need to be, because I am perfect, remember? No math needed on this one.
I actually like my time at work. I truly adore my manager. The chef makes me smile every single day.
I like the ease with with I tackle each mundane task, and I welcome the familiarity I feel with the now-boring routine. In a twisted way, I especially like the heavy trays that I hoist because each one forces me to suck in my “core” self, and in my mind, every egg-and-waffle laden tray counts as a mini upper body workout with a bonus–the bonus being that I would never work my core under any other circumstance. When you do the math, I am winning big time in the work-out world with this one.
My biggest fear when I started this job was that would drop one of these heavy trays full of food. I haven’t dropped a tray to date, even last month when I walked into and then tripped on a cart that was left misplaced directly in my path. The sight of me flailing and fighting to maintain my balance as I caught my airborne tray one-handed on my flat left palm might have even impressed “Waiter” or at least a few former managers. The bruises on my right shin were nothing short of black-and-blue medals. I counted them–three big ones, two small ones. No math necessary.
My great guy encourages me every step along this mathematical path. “Pick up those on-call jobs!” he says, even when he knows the doubles exhaust me for days afterward. “You get off at 1:30 p.m. Maybe you could get a night job, you know, part time,” he prompts me, even though he knows I can barely get through a day without a two-hour nap afterward on this one. “No, no, it’s okay that you turned down that Kendall wedding,” he says, even though he would have picked it up in a second after working eight days in a row. I laugh and tell him to do the math–I am a working zombie making less and feeling more tired than I ever have. Ever. Do the f—ing math! I never shriek.
After many months of self-perceived perfection, I have attained workplace benefits. Cheap ones. Good ones. Great ones. Incredible ones. Maybe the multiple alarms programmed into my iPhone are worth it, after all. Doesn’t take math to know that.
“How are you?” asks a close D.C. girlfriend in a quick call. How much time do you have, math wizard? How do I tell you how little of anything I feel? How do I tell you that I am not sure I am any better off than I was almost four years ago, when you listened and helped me every step of the way, and when I knew anything had to be better?
Instead, we talk of kids and how well they are, and how tired I am, and how I just can’t talk too much longer, you know, because, well, I am beat from work. But I suspect she knows. She knows me. And she’s done the math.
“I’ll see you soon, and we’ll talk soon, I promise,” texts my best sister friend from Montana whom I miss beyond all belief and desperately need to talk to, as she fills her time with work and school and more work and more school in an all-out effort to not miss the husband she lost almost two years ago. Time isn’t the healing balm it was supposed to be for her, it turns out, no matter what math on the grief scale tells her it should be.
I run once a week, if that, just to say I still run, if only to myself. Should I buy new running shoes, I wonder when my great guy and I have an odd and unexpected hour to run errands together. It’s been at least six months since I bought a new pair. Yeah, no. Running shoes can last forever when you work in non-skid black shoes that have nothing to do with running, and when you walk in circles and never run. No math needed.
My face is a stranger to me in the mirror. Who is that old girl, anyway? She looks tired. She looks like she smokes, and that’ll age you! She looks too thin, but not in a way to be jealous of, just in an old way. She’d better do the math, but quick.
I don’t feel like writing. I wonder how it is I cannot write for almost two months. Do the math: This is not me.
I left D.C. four years ago in July to start fresh. I have never looked back, except every day. And again, today. Because I did the math.
Take it from me: Don’t ever do the math. You will think you are worth more money than you will ever have to show for yourself. You will think the job you do or the one you are about to take is worth far less than what you are worth. You will wonder, then quickly quash the thought, was it all worth it? Was it all you’d hoped it would be?
Sadly, I was never good at math.