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Tables and Chairs

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Tables and Chairs Empty Tables and Chairs

Post by Saturdaynite Fri Dec 23, 2022 2:24 pm

This is going to be a longer story that I've mostly mapped out in advance.  I hope you all enjoy it.  

Tables and Chairs

Chapter 1

Mackenzie had been waiting tables in restaurants for years but had only started at Antoinette this week.  Among the perks was the free meal before her shift.  Management at the restaurant wanted waitstaff to be familiar with the menu and viewed the free meal as a cost of doing business.  Besides, the cost was hardly prohibitive for a fine dining restaurant like Antoinette where guests often dropped two or three hundred dollars a seat.  As you might expect, the gratuities on those bills were similarly appreciated by the staff.   

Today, Mackenzie was running late.  On top of waitressing, she tutored students on English literature at a nearby boarding school, Briarcrest College.  Briarcrest's campus was close to her apartment, but today her tutorial session had gone long.  Her dinner shift started at 5:30, but she wanted to arrive by 4:45 to allow enough time to enjoy the meal before her shift.  She glanced at the alarm clock on her nightstand, saw that it was already 4:40, and realized that she wasn't even dressed yet.

She texted the chef: "Sorry, running late. Be there around 5:00.  Can I just get the special?" 

She walked to her closet, grabbed a crisp white shirt off the hanger, and started buttoning it up.  As she did, she heard her phone ping with a message.  It was the chef, who had texted a reply: "Sure, see you soon."  

Mackenzie continued buttoning her shirt, leaving only the top button unbuttoned before fastening her cuffs.  Then she rolled up her black stockings, zipped up her long black skirt, and buttoned her vest.  After spending a few minutes fixing her hair in a tight bun and touching up her makeup, she stole another glance at the alarm clock.  4:55.  Not too late.  

On her way out the door, she noticed her roommate, Breanna, who had already changed into her pajamas, found her favorite spot on the couch, and turned the TV on in the living room.  

"Looks like it's a Netflix night for you, Brea?"  Mackenzie asked as she slipped on her black wool overcoat and a pair of black heels. 

"Yup, I'm on call tonight, so no partying for me tonight."  Breanna worked as an internist at the hospital.  Her shift ended at 4:00 on Friday, but there was always the possibility of being called in.    

"Have fun," Mackenzie said.  "See you later!" Mackenzie added, as she slipped out the door.  

The restaurant was only a 10 minute walk from her apartment, even in heels, so Mackenzie relaxed a bit as she made her way there.  

Along the way, she recounted her week in her mind.  

Her tutorial sessions at Briarcrest were on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  On those days, she had one in the morning from 11:00 to noon, and another in the afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00.  She also did some grading for the English teachers.  Briarcrest was an elite boarding school that could well afford to hire tutors like Mackenzie to supplement their regular classes.  The school used tutors like Mackenzie to relieve some of the work for their full time teachers -- and it was an opportunity for the school to try out potential teachers.  From time to time, tutors were offered full time teaching positions at the school.  Mackenzie lacked a degree in education, but she had a degree in theatre from Yale, and a Master's in English literature from Harvard.  That was enough to teach at Briarcrest.  

Mackenzie wasn't sure if she wanted to teach full time, but she appreciated that the students at Briarcrest were attentive and motivated, and the school paid well.  At the same time, it was only a part time job, and Mackenzie still had debt to pay from her own education.  She couldn't rely on Briarcrest as her sole source of income.  

Waitressing allowed her to supplement her income from Briarcrest, and waiting tables at Antoinette was going to be more remunerative than her last waitressing job.    

She had started at Antoinette on the characteristically slower Tuesday and Thursday lunch shifts, but tonight was her first dinner service.  She mostly knew what to expect from her previous experience at other restaurants, but Antoinette was easily the fanciest restaurant she had worked at with the strongest emphasis on service.  It had white table cloths, a dress code for guests, and formal uniforms for staff.  She had been a bit anxious about starting there.

The restaurant provided most of the uniform, but Mackenzie had to buy a suitable shirt herself.  The only requirements were that it be white and have a stiff collar.  She had never had to wear a stiff collared shirt as part of a uniform (or otherwise) and might not have known where to buy one except that the uniform shop at Briarcrest had plenty in her size, and at a reasonable price. 

Mackenzie expected that working at Antoinette's would be a good job, and it worked well with her schedule.  That was the attitude she had adopted when she walked into the restaurant at 5:05.  

When she walked in, she saw that the waitstaff had already started their dinners.  There were two male servers and three females servers, as well as Mackenzie.  Like Mackenzie, everyone was dressed in uniform.  

"You're Parker, I assume?" The hostess looked at Mackenzie.

"It's Mackenzie, actually.  Parker is my last name."

"Ah, well, have a seat at the table, Mackenzie.  Your dinner is ready."

Mackenzie greeted everyone at the table, but immediately felt a bit self conscious.  Everyone else was wearing a tie.  

The tie was optional for the lunch service and for female servers during the dinner service, but Mackenzie was apparently the only one exercising the option not to wear one tonight.  Still, she knew she was within the rules and quickly turned her mind to the delicious food on her plate, as she introduced herself to the servers she hadn't met on Tuesday and Thursday.  

They were all very friendly, offered Mackenzie lots of advice about what to expect, and made her feel right at home.


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Post by Saturdaynite Fri Dec 23, 2022 3:56 pm

Chapter 2

"How was work, Kenzie?"  No one but Brea called her that, but Mackenzie and Breanna had known each other since grade school and Kenzie had been her nickname back then.  Mackenzie dropped the nickname in university, preferring the relative formality of Mackenzie in adulthood, but she remained close friends with Breanna through university and later became roommates when Breanna started her residency.  Mackenzie had always been Kenzie to Breanna, and Breanna had always been Brea to Mackenzie.

Evidently, Breanna hadn't gone to sleep, even though it was past midnight.  

"It was good but definitely different from what I'm used to," Mackenzie replied.  "Very upscale guests and high expectations all around.  But I made about $50 an hour tonight after tips, so I really can't complain.  Plus, the staff share the rest of the wine from the opened bottles at the end of the night.  I can't imagine paying for that wine myself, but I'll happily drink it!"  


Mackenzie asked, "What did you get up to?" 

"Oh, I basically just binge watched a Korean drama.  Just finished it, actually.  There's some leftover Thai in the fridge if you're still hungry."

"Thanks, but we had some snacks with the wine.  I'm just going to go to bed."

"Me too.  Good night, Kenzie."  

"You too."

Mackenzie walked into her room and took off her uniform.  She hung the skirt and vest in her closet and threw her shirt in the laundry basket.  Her shirt had come in a package of three at the Briarcrest uniform shop, and she still had a clean one for tomorrow.  She looked at the tie Antoinette had provided when she started and was reminded that everyone else but her had worn one tonight.  Mackenzie hadn't really thought about it since she sat down for dinner.  She had been focused on the food and the service.  

"I don't even know how to tie one of these, even if I wanted to wear it," she said to herself.  

She put it out of her mind as she put on her pajamas and went to bed.


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Post by Saturdaynite Fri Dec 23, 2022 4:16 pm

Chapter 3

The next day Mackenzie and Breanna went for brunch.  It had been their Saturday morning ritual for as long as they had been roommates.  

As they sat at the table, they talked about Mackenzie's new job and their plans for the week.

"So you're working at Antoinette tonight, Kenzie?"

"Yeah, they're throwing me right into the busiest nights right away."

"Maybe I'll come in to eat one of these days," Breanna suggested.

"I don't think it's your scene, Brea."  

"What, you don't think I fit in with the upper crust?  I knew lots of those types in med school."

"Yeah, and you spent half your time making fun of them!"

"Okay, fair enough.  Any plans for tomorrow?"

"I have an audition, actually."

"Oh?"  Breanna knew that Mackenzie loved acting on stage -- it was her real passion.  It was why she had majored in theatre at Yale.  Even her Master's degree in English focused more on theatre as literature.  

"Yeah, it's a bit odd that it's on a Sunday, but the role is interesting."

Breanna asked, "What's it for?"

"It's an original play set in 1899, right at the turn of the century.  The theatre company putting it on is fairly new, but they're well funded, and they focus on period pieces like this.  They gave me a scene from the script and asked me to read for a part as an early suffragette in New York."

"You'd be the heroine, then?"

"You might think so, but no!  The notes they gave me suggest that it's a Taming of the Shrew story set at the end of the Victorian era, with the suffragette being the Katherina of the play."

"So it's not exactly a woke narrative, huh?"

"Doesn't sound like it."  

"Well," Breanna said. "Good luck!"


The conversation turned to Breanna's dating woes, as she recounted her recent date with a guy she had met online.

"He was nice enough and easy on the eyes," she said.  "But I got that feeling I often get on dates -- he works for the government, and I felt like he was a bit intimidated by me being a doctor.  I don't know.  He seemed insecure when we talked about work."

"Are you going to see him again?"

"If he calls, probably.  Like I said, he was nice enough and easy on the eyes.  What about you?  Thinking about trying your hand at the dating scene?  You've been out of it for so long!"

"I don't know.  I mean, you went to med school and became a doctor.  I hear you on the challenges that creates in the dating scene, but I don't even feel like I have my life figured out, you know?  And if I get this part I'm auditioning for, I'm not sure how much time I'll have for anything else."

"Well, as long as we still have time for brunch, Kenzie."



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Post by Saturdaynite Fri Dec 23, 2022 10:13 pm

Chapter 4

Mackenzie spent the rest of the day reading the script and practicing her performance for the next day's audition.  As the afternoon wore on, her confidence grew.  Finally, at 4:00, she decided that she had better get dressed for work.

She went to her closet and pulled out the last brand new shirt she had bought at the uniform shop.  The shirt may have been meant for a high school girl, but Mackenzie's girlish figure slipped into it nicely.  She slowly worked the buttons into the buttonholes, only hesitating as she reached the top button.  It was a snug but comfortable fit at the collar, but she decided against buttoning the shirt up all the way.  The stiff collar, anchored by metal collar stays, had a nice shape to it and it held that shape nicely.  Besides, if she wasn't wearing the tie -- and she still didn't know how to tie one -- she preferred the look of an open collar.  

Next, she slipped on her stockings and then her skirt, tucking the tails of the shirt into her skirt.  She completed the look with her uniform vest, fully buttoning it up.  She left her tie dangling on a hanger at the end of the closet.  

There was simplicity in having a uniform, and Mackenzie liked the way she looked in Antoinette's.  The uniform also had a way of putting her in a different frame of mind, similar to how getting into costume put her in a different frame of mind as an actress.  There's an aspect of role playing involved in wearing a uniform -- and in waiting tables too, for that matter.  Mackenzie liked that part of the job. 

Breanna was out, so Mackenzie put on her heels and her overcoat without a word, locking the door behind her.

Today Mackenzie arrived in plenty of time to enjoy her free meal with the rest of the staff.  Again, Mackenzie noticed that all of the servers were wearing ties, even the waitresses.  Again, she felt a bit out of place -- the odd one out.  

But those thoughts were soon interrupted by one of the kitchen helpers, who arrived at the table to take everyone's orders.  Mackenzie requested the duck breast.

Everyone chatted as they waited for their food.  By now Mackenzie knew most of their names, but there was one waitress who arrived just after everyone else had ordered.  Mackenzie hadn't yet met her.  She sat down beside Mackenzie.  Like everyone else, she was wearing the uniform tie, which was tied in a perfectly dimpled windsor knot.  It jutted out from her vest, embracing her snug-fitting collar.
"My name's Annabel.  I'm sorry, but you look very familiar.  Have we met before?"

Mackenzie thought she had recognized Annabel but didn't immediately recognize how.  However, as soon as Annabel spoke, Mackenzie knew who she was.  Annabel had been in Mackenzie's English tutorial last year.  She had graduated and was obviously working at Antoinette's.

"Well, I changed my hair, so I can understand why you might not recognize me, but I was your English tutor last year at Briarcrest."

"Ms. Parker?!"

"Yup.  Well, here you can call me Mackenzie."

"Oh, wow, you really did change your hair!  You used to be as blond as me!"

"Yeah, I went back to my natural brown."  

"Well, it's nice to see you again, though this is a bit awkward, meeting you again like this.  But I really enjoyed our sessions last year.  You really helped me get through that Melville story.  Billy Budd.  Not an easy read."

"Glad to hear that!  And yeah, I didn't expect to run into an old student like this.  I only work part time at Briarcrest and have waited tables for years, though I just started here.  Antoinette's is close to my apartment, the money is good, and I enjoy the work."

The kitchen staff brought out everyone's dishes.  Mackenzie noticed that Annabel's was among them, though she hadn't noticed Annabel requesting anything.  Perhaps she had texted her order, as Mackenzie had the night before.  

"How long have you been working here," Mackenzie asked.  

Annabel replied, "Oh, I just started a few weeks ago.  The restaurant lost a couple of waitresses who resigned at the same time.  Sounds like they were involved romantically and the relationship fell apart.  I have some experience in more casual restaurants and the owner is a friend of the family.  They were in a bit of a jam, but there may have been some nepotism involved," Annabel admitted sheepishly.  

"Anyway," she continued.  "I guess they hired you around the same time, huh?"

"Yup.  This is just my second dinner service at Antoinette's."  

"Well, I'm looking forward to working with you Ms. Park--er, Mackenzie."

After a bit more conversation with the rest of the staff, they finished up their meal and got ready for their shift.

Tonight, Mackenzie and Annabel were working in different sections of the restaurant.  Understandably, the manager didn't want two new waitresses dealing with the same section.   

By night's end, it was obvious that Mackenzie was the more experienced waitress.  Annabel wasn't bad by any means, but Mackenzie's instincts and tableside manners were better.  Her tips reflected her effort, with one particularly generous table tipping 35% on a $340 bill.

After all of the guests had left and the tables were cleaned, most of the staff stuck around, most unbuttoning their shirts and loosening their ties, as they shared the opened but unfinished wine with some snacks from the kitchen.  

They all chatted about their plans for the following day.  Antoinette's was closed on Sundays, so no one had any shifts.  

Annabel was visibly tired and while she shared in the end of the day merriment, unlike the others, she hadn't unbuttoned her collar or loosened her tie.  Her uniform was every bit as smart as it was at the beginning of the shift.

Mackenzie noticed Annabel's stiffness and wondered if she might feel a bit self conscious about how she got the job.  Mackenzie guessed that Annabel may feel the need to compensate for any nepotism by being a bit more fastidious and a bit more devoted than everyone else.  She had that eager-to-please personality at Briarcrest, Mackenzie recalled.

Finally, after polishing off the last bottle of wine, Mackenzie left Antoinette's and made her way home.  

As she walked into her apartment, she didn't see any lights on.  Breanna must already be asleep.  

Mackenzie went to her room, took off her uniform, washed her face, and fell right to sleep herself.


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