Last night hot espresso shot out of the machine and onto my face and neck. It was my first attempt at making an espresso in an espresso machine.
Last night was my third night training to be a server at a local Italian restaurant after deciding a new career path. The first training shift was a lunch shift that got so busy I had to be pulled from following behind my trainer (who walked so quickly I literally had to run at times to keep up) to run food out to tables (something I had a month's practice doing in December). My second shift was a hosting shift where I learned how to take reservations of all varieties, accomodate walk-ins, handle menu changes and other not-so-physical duties. Last night I trained behind the bar.
I was a bartender for lots of years in my twenties, but that was in my twenties. And it was at an Outback. The best wine we had was Kendall Jackson.
The bar I was working behind last night serves only beer and wine and appertifs. It also has an extensive non-alcoholic menu of fancy coconut water drinks and other sophisticated "dry" beverages. The wine list is about 120 wines deep, and half are Italian, and I can pronounce about half of those. My knowledge about them is faint, at best.
So, last night I tried a whole bunch of wines. In a row.
My trainer looked at the training sheet and read aloud, "Go over wines by the glass." He pulled down two glasses and said, "Okay, let's get drunk."
We tried sangiovese and prosecco and chianti and pinot grigio and many more. The sips washed over my teeth and tongue, and I took down notes about their fruit forwardness or their low acidity or how well-balanced that cab is, but I felt a little like a fraud. Sure, wine is subjective, but I need a crash course in Italian wines and STAT. Waiting tables really well requires you to have extensive knowledge of what you are offering and know it like you know your own name. I feel intimidated presenting wine lists I know little about. That means I'm about to begin research on Italian wine and wine in general, which is something a good Northern California-dweller should know anyway.
I changed a keg. I squeezed lemons for their juice (which should always be avoided if you have a fresh cat scratch, for the record). I attempted to muddle sugar cubes in two champagne glasses and broke them both. I watched a man order a liter of wine and drink the whole thing. I cut my finger cutting a lemon peel to garnish an Italian soda just a blinding second after thinking, "You are going to cut your finger."
I type this with a band-aid on.
It feels good to work in your body. After seven years behind a desk for 8-10 hours a day, it feels incredible to feel a little sore after working hard. I don't mind the espresso burn or the back ache or the cut hand. It's a challenge and a blessing to be able to do this kind of work, and this reinvention makes me feel all tingly and alive and breaking a sweat means I'm making an effort, an effort I can touch.
They say we reinvent ourselves several times over the course of our lives. This reinvention is a new twist on an old thing, and I'm only three days in but I've never been more sure this move is the right one.
[Photo by Robert S. Donovan]