How Depressing…

September 9, 2009

Working at a restaurant that primarily serves the elderly can be extremely depressing at times. Solo diners sit at counters and tables, their posture and behavior belying the fact that eating alone is something they’re not quite used to doing. A few bring books, but the majority bring newspapers. With pens in their withered hands, they scan the obituaries, looking for friends and acquaintances who have joined the choir invisible. The resultant circles and x’s are reminiscent of a macabre lottery ticket. What strikes me is that none of these people seem at all fazed, and I can’t help but wonder, at what point in their lives did they gain this seeming indifference to death? At what point in my life will I behave the same way?

Many of these apparently grief-immune people are regulars. Many of them have been coming to The Restaurant for years. As a result, we often get to know them very well. When a regular stops coming in, the first thought that comes to mind isn’t of how I might have driven them away. Rather, I wonder if they’re all right. Sometimes they are–the elderly are prone to health issues. Sometimes, they never come back.

I had one, a sweet old man, who came in every Friday and ordered two swiss steak dinners with mashed potatoes and gravy and side salads. He always called them “two of ’em li’l lettuce salads,” which I found extremely endearing. He was always friendly, cheerful, and tipped well. He hasn’t been in in months. I hope he and his wife just got tired of swiss steak every week.

The Friday before last, a man came up to the register to pay. “How are you doing?” I asked him.

“I’m okay…” he mumbled. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t ever get old.”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t ever get old. It’s not worth it. I just got back from the doctor. I spend more time there than anywhere else.”

Once again, I felt like a jerk wishing him a nice weekend.

3 Responses to “How Depressing…”

  1. PurpleGirl Says:

    My first restaurant was like that. It’s strange to think that most of my regulars from there are probably dead by now.

  2. That is one place I have never worked is a restaurant where seniors eat regularly. I don’t think I can do that. It’s tough.

  3. Rantingchef Says:

    That’s a tough one. Sometimes you wish you never opened your mouth. We have a group of regular oldies and they reduce in numbers every now and then, but still nice to be able to cook for them.

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