Maximilian, our head busboy, is having a baby. Well, sort of.
Max’s daughter Isabel, who also works at the Bistro, is six months pregnant. Max is only a few years older than me and this will be his first grandchild. When Max discovered the stork was paying his baby girl a visit he started packing on the pounds in some sort of paternal “this can’t be happening yet,” sympathetic pregnancy syndrome. Of course, I tease him unmercifully.
“How’s your baby Max?” I ask.
“Good,” he says patting his stomach, “How’s yours?”
“Muy bien” I reply, rubbing my not inconsiderable belly. “I was five months pregnant, now I’m only three.”
“No dinero no comida?”Max asks. (It’s an old joke.)
“You’ll never starve working in a restaurant Max.”
“So what happened to your baby?”
“I’ve been trying to lose weight,” I reply.
“Me too,” Max says.
“When Isabel has her baby you’ll have yours,” I quip.
“You’ll be burning mucho calories chasing little Pedro around.”
Max laughs. You might think I sound like Uber Gringo, but I’ve been kidding around with mis Mexicanos for years and they haven’t killed me yet.
“Well, I don’t think she’s gonna call him Pedro, “Max says.
“Has she decided on a name?”
“She knows it’s a boy so that narrows it down.”
Hey Isabel, I call out, What are you going to call the baby?”
“I don’t know,” she replies softly. She’s a shy sweet girl.
“How about Ramon?” I ask, rolling the r. “That’s a name with cojones ”
“That’s nice,” she admits.
“Well for crying out loud,” I say, “Don’t name him Jose!”
Max laughs, “Half of Puebla’s named Jose.”
“How about Jesús?”
“We’re not Puertoricanos!” Max says.
“Oh snap!” I reply, taken aback.
My mother grew up in Spanish Harlem. My godmother’s Puerto Rican. I still remember my consternation when, as a little boy, my godmother introduced me to a friend named Jesús….
“But there’s only one Jesus Mommy!” Little Waiter furtively whispered. “I learned that in Sunday school.”
“Not in Puerto Rico, my mother replied…..”
“How about Montezuma?” I tease.
Max cracks up. “NO!” Isabel shouts.
“Mmmm, something fancy,” I ruminate aloud, “Something that will drive the girls crazy when he’s older.
“Maximilian,” Max suggests proudly.
“Isabel shakes her head. ”
“How about my name in Espanol?” I offer, “It’s classy and muy sexy.”
Now it’s Isabel’s turn to crack up. “No way!”
“Thanks Isabel,” I grumble, “Thanks a lot.”
“Oh well,” Max sighs, “Sorry cabron.”
“Some people have no taste,” I say, feigning outrage.
Isabel shifts in her seat. “I like Felipe,” she says.
I look at Isabel. She’s twenty years old and having a baby. I’m thirty eight and all I have is joint custody of a dog. She’s a brave girl.
“Felipe is a nice name,” I say.
“Maybe,” Isabel shrugs, “I’m not sure yet.”
‘You have time,” her father says soothingly.
The annunciator chimes. Customers are waiting at the door. We get up from our chairs and go to work. As the evening progresses I watch Isabel as she cleans tables, fetches customer’s coats, and dumps their half eaten food in the garbage. Some of those customers look at Isabel and dismiss her as just another knocked up Mexican. You know exactly what kind of people I’m talking about. People who think money and education afford them the privilege to wax cynically about other people. The ones who think wealth equals wisdom. But those cynics don’t know Isabel. She’s handling her pregnancy with a grace and courage that most of her self appointed betters will never possess. Why? Because character is something money can’t buy. And Isabel has it in spades.
Her son’s gonna be all right no matter what his name is.
I’m glad to read your blogs about bussers. So many of us treat them as subhuman, merely here to clean up after us. I engage them in conversation, am truely interested in the lives and struggles they have to come to this country, to earn a better living and life, and when they get here they earn less than minimum wage. It’s a terrible world we live in but people like you make these people feel appreciated and accepeted in our society. congrats on the book i read the entire thing in two days!
For years, I have always personally tipped my bussers above and beyond the tipshare. They get 10% of my takehome every shift I work. I have met some of the most wonderful persons who work as bussers, and honestly wouldn’t make the cash I do without them. I am currently learning Spanglish from one now.
BTW, if I would stop reading the blog, I may be to purchase the book! Love ya!
10% is not above and beyond! What the hell?! Almost every restaurant I waited tables at 15% was the minimum tip-out. I usually tipped my bussers close to 20% if they were awesome; my total tip-out for the night was between 30-35%
Bartender, can you not READ?? Chocklit said 10% “above and beyond the tipshare.”
Actually klg19,he does say 10%. But Bartender, I’m sure that tip-out percentages vary around the country.
Waiter- Simply superb! I’m currently bar tending/managing a small, very rural bar & grill in Wisconsin. Homemade pizza, 1/2 lb burgers and the requisite Friday Fish Fry.
Short handed, I was pressed into service to waitress last Friday. After reading your blogs for the previous few days I was really psyched! Too bad it was a slow night. Had a great time anyway, thanks to you!
At this rate it’s going to take me weeks to catc up to the current entries!
I was really enjoying the day you portrayed in this post except for the last post, but before I venture onto that, I just wanted to point out a few things. One is that it is quite difficult to be pregnant with a baby at such a young age. In many ways, the mother isn’t even mature enough to handle that type of responsibility. I know I wasn’t when I gave birth to my eldest at 23. I thought that I wasn’t even close to ready to take on such a huge task such as raising and caring for a baby. My young husband and I buckled down and we worked and worked ’til we dropped. Then we woke up to do it again. I just wanted to save for all of the costs having a newborn will bring. At the same token, I knew that I had a good support group around me. As for names, I named my boy after the one person who helped us the most: My father William. Now on to the last part of your blog. It absolutely does pain me when people of better financial status think they can come into any joint and treat people like garbage. Trust me when I say that it doesn’t even have to be verbalized. In a lot of ways, all it takes is one disparaging glance at you. The thought was put forth and the “victim” feels that pain like none other. I would never with that kind of discrimination on anyone. Unfortunately, it happens. I felt so bad for Isabel because it’s obvious that she’s working just as hard as I did when I was first pregnant. I hope that since this blog is a bit old that the baby is not only doing great, but so is the mommy.
I remember my first job which was a hostess but I occasionally enjoyed bussing tables because I didn’t have to deal with customers as much and could keep to myself. It’s not too bad and hey it’s some money.
Here in Canada, you are put on preventitive maternity leave quite early when you are in a job like that. Too risky.
Ah, I remember this. One of my favourite posts! Thanks Steve.