I’m getting ready for work when my mom gets a call from my middle sister, who is in the back-end of a high risk pregnancy. The phone call precipitates an emergency room visit; two months prior to her due date she is in labor.
I consider not going to work. I’d rather go be with my sister. I go on in to work, though. I figure that she’ll be in labor for a while and that given the circumstances, they’ll let me go after dinner rush.
Things progress rapidly with my sister. She’s all dilated and stuff and I go tell my manager that the situation is more than I thought when I told him what I was dealing with tonight. There are more than enough servers who can take over my section. Usually if someone calls in or something, they dole out the section piecemeal to strong servers who can handle an extra table.
This manager, in particular, will not cut me loose. I try to remain all peaceful and calm. I breathe deeply and know that I’ll get to my family when I can. I think, too, that it’s not the fault of those I serve that I’m stuck in all you can eat soup salad and bread sticks hell. Then, suddenly, I stop thinking.
I stop thinking that my hard headed bottom line manager is a Buddha to be. I no longer consider the people I serve can be Shiva quietly testing a devotee and I do not care if the lady who insists on one more bowl of soup could be a Brahman in disguise seeking alms.
I don’t think of any of this.
I only think of all of the worse case scenarios involving my sister and this baby I haven’t met yet. I think of my niece there and wanting to be with her. I think of my mom. I do not think of these damn people who keep filing in the front door of the restaurant and putting their names on the list to be seated.
Scratch that. I do think of them.
I think all of the thoughts I usually put out of my head. I think all of the thoughts I refuse to think because these thoughts don’t reflect who I want to be. Quite suddenly, with ferocity I didn’t know I possessed, I decide I hate them all. The young couple, with the woman who speaks in baby talk, who don’t want to pay for their soup and talk about “complimentary salad” and leave me a three dollar top. I hate the people who want soggy lettuce boxed up and extra “rolls” in their to-go bag that I know good and damn well they are not, in fact, going to eat. They just want to take it with them.
I see the patrons as hoarders and infidels and people who are chastising me, personally. I decide this manager who will not for the love of god let me leave, has it in for me. I just know, secretly, someone is going to order a well done steak (thank you table 35, that I had to wait on that well done steak to be prepared for you, only to have to send it back because it was over cooked).
Conversely, I feel closer to my co-workers than ever. Everyone knows my sister is in pre-term labor. I’m walking around with my cell phone out in the open, answering calls from my mom right where we go for one million diet coke re-fills. Everyone is excited and well wishing my family. Everyone seems to understand. Everyone is, maybe, a little put off by how unhinged I have become. Maybe I seem more human than ever.
The inevitable happens, I fuck up pretty bad. I close the wrong check out to cash. The people who paid the wrong check leave and the people whose check I closed are still eating their unfathomable re-fills. I have to dig around in the trash for the gift card they used to pay for part of the bill. This manager who unrelentingly keeps me in my section has to pull up this check and re-ring that item and I end up costing myself about fifteen dollars.
Then the son of a bitch pulls me off the floor. He sends me to be with my family with his blessing.
While I’m running my sales report and trying to get out of this imitation of Italian hell, my sister delivers a small, screaming baby who they immediately put in an incubator and roll away.
My heart sinks. I have missed it. I was not there.
Yoga is about being present for what is, and I wasn’t present for anything. I missed everything. I missed recognizing all the nice people I hustled in and out of their dinner so I could leave and I still missed the moment Maxwell Douglas leapt onto the scene. What is really interesting to me is that I do not care. My only regret is that I didn’t fuck up sooner and far worse, showing that really, my heart and mind were elsewhere.
I decided, quite sincerely, that I would fuck up the entire world if this little dude ever needs me to – ironically this feeling feels like Mega Yoga. But just look at him. Can you blame me?