It might have come up here in the past that, after graduating college, I got friendly with one of my former professors, a woman in her sixties who’d recently remarried (“You know you’re getting old,” she told me, “when people start referring to your marriage as ‘cute’”) and was now writing a memoir.
She would send me drafts of chapters and I’d make comments in the margins.
This professor is maybe five feet tall and, based on photos I’d seen around her office, it looked like she’d been maybe 100 pounds her entire life.
So I was surprised to learn from her memoir that she’d met her first husband in a church-basement meeting of Overeaters Anonymous.
To’ve even harbored “surprise” at this is the kinda thing I’m tryna work on: guessing at people’s private lives on the basis of their body.
This past weekend I worked two consecutive doubles at the restaurant in the company of a young woman, who, even though she’s only training, was also forced to work two consecutive twelve-hour shifts. She did an amazing job. Pulled through with stars and plaudits!
And, of course, in all of that shoulder-to-shoulder sweat and strain, we bonded a bit.
On Sunday night there was a couple at the bar who stayed there until forty minutes after closing time and, since the lovebirds were just chirping away and she and I were done with our sidework, I clocked out and popped a beer and sat with her, this new hire.
So we’re sitting there slumming it, talkin shit, when I noticed, at the pickup-desk across the restaurant, that there was a pizza someone had forgotten to pick up.
I tried to be cool about it but probably moved too quickly across the restaurant, grabbed the box, saw that it’d been ordered at 6 p.m. and, since it was 10 p.m., wasn’t likely to have anyone come around asking for it.
I brought it back to the bar and, alongside my beer, started eating the pizza. Offered some to the new hire but she wasn’t interested.
Then she bent her brow at me.
“You’re never not eating,” she said.
I squinted at her, chewing. “What do you mean?”
“I mean literally. All day. Every time I look at you you’re eating something.”
There was another colleague here (a corporate trainer, she’s auditing the store, helping expedite the hiring process to fluff out our anemic crew) and she chuckled and nodded, “You do eat a lot.”
I didn’t realize it was so obvious but, yeah, I seem to not be able to stop.
Or I could, of course, if I was just disciplined or had some reason to believe I’d get punished for snatching a breadstick almost every single time I pass the expo line. But no I just…do it. Is it because I’m hungry? Meh. Sure. The pedometer on my phone says I collect about sixteen or seventeen thousand steps in the course of a long shift, but that doesn’t account for all the squatting and heavy lifting I have to do (all of the coolers at my bar are waist-high, so I have to squat for every beer, every slice of lime, every cup of lemonade–and we sell so much fucking lemonade, good grief…). So ahdunno. Part of me thinks my body might just be needing calories, but another part of me is remembering my former professor, the memoirist who compounded her naturally small frame by often curling into herself whenever she was seated, sitting with balled hands between her knees in the basement assembly of Overeaters Anonymous. The tiniest person in the room. People asking her, “So why do you eat so much?” and her just shrugging.
Same as I’m doing at 10 p.m. with my beer and, frankly, my sixth or seventh slice of pizza that day. Sounds like a lot, I know, and it is a lot–but bear in mind that I have my first two slices at 11:30, and then another couple slices at around 2:30 when the lunch rush dies down, and then another couple slices when some disgruntled customer sends their pizza back to the kitchen at 7 p.m., and then another couple slices at 10ish when I’m waiting for the final stragglers to leave.
But another thing: when I’m a cafe, and my coffee or tea is down to the last quarter, I tend to chug it, and almost impulsively get up to order another. In fact, if my cup is down to the last quarter of its contents, and you’re talking to me, I’m probably not hearing you. Or not with my full attention. It’s different with alcohol because, frankly, I’ve been through the ringer with booze and I’m not keen to go back.
Is it any worse, though, that I’ll drink coffee to the point of palpitations? That I’ll drink tea until my stomach feels like a desert?Or worse, for that matter, than the habit of eating so much pizza and bread over the course of a shift that strangers take notice?