Other People

When I waited tables I dreaded the Customers From Hell. The CFH did not believe the world would bring them what they wanted. They placed their order, and as soon as I left the table the confidence I would return with their drink, their salad, their dinner, declined with every passing moment. I would see them craning their necks as I kicked the kitchen door open, and every drink and dinner was received with tepid thanks, my momentary timeliness merely delaying their inevitable disappointment. Oh, the agony of waiting: To give your order and then rely on other people to bring it to you. Other people. The world is filled with other people, and how we need them to do anything, and yet how little control you have over them. Servers, husbands, wives, agents, editors, readers – all these other people, these souls who are not you and without whom you cannot be happy, without whom you cannot create a single thing of meaning. You give your order and you wait, and any dream of control you ever believed you possessed leaves with that sovereign servant.

For years I hated and feared the CFH. Why visit your misery here? Stay home where you can cook your every meal, clear your every dish, and be freed from the torture of trusting another human being. For ten years, for fifteen years I tried to soothe them with competence, but to no avail. No drink could be brought fast enough, no steak could be cooked Medium-Rare enough. There was always another opportunity to screw up, and so their fears confirmed, and so their unhappiness complete.

Until one evening a CFH sat in my station, and I stepped to the table, and looked into his fearful eyes and thought, “Be not afraid.” I was thinking it for myself so that I need not be afraid of him, but as I thought it, I saw something melt behind his eyes as well. For that moment the illusion called other people dissolved, and he and I were not in hell any longer.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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