The restaurant had been taken hostage by some invisible organism/s which may or may not be present.
The siege occurred five days ago.
Ever since the onset of the hypothetical, immediate threat of possible hostile occupation, the front of house staff has stared out the restaurant’s windows with tea saucer eyes like anxious animals in ASPCA advertisements.
Please, sir, won’t you come inside and have another?
Prisoners of a war that may or may not need fighting.
In the back of house there is a shell called the ‘skeleton crew’.
The chef runs the silverware through the industrial dishwasher twice when we run out of clean spoons with which to reset tables.
The absence of the spoon in her settings, distresses.
So, a hostess gets uppity when she runs out of spoons.
She gets especially uppity when it happens on slow days.
But, today it does not matter.
So, she cares not, just notes it needs doing and notes whose rotation it is to eventually do it.
Today there is no dishwasher. They called him off.
We take turns with the task.
She simply sets tables without spoons;
knowing full well, no diner will be seated at the incompletely set table for quite some time.
No patron will arrive to suffer this mild inconvenience.
Aesthetics suffer almost imperceptibly while the bottom line suffers devastating loss.
But, she goes through the motions automatically.
There is no need to increase hygiene standards.
That shit is always first and formost.
Global freakout or otherwise.
“Funny how the WHO’s commercial guidelines for handling this threat are exactly the same protocols we already follow,” she mumbles to the owner.
“Who do you think is actually the problem?” he asks, through a thick Vietnamese accent.
“Let’s all just wash our hands, not touch our eyes often, and get on with the business of being alive,” she thinks.
She brings him oatmeal with his favorite fixings, without being asked.
Just like everyday, she makes sure a table is spotlessly clean, disinfected with properly diluted commerical cleaning agents.
“What is the real price of convenience and luxury?” she wonders.
The hourly wage of one dishwasher’s full shift.
The daily hourly wage of a line cook and sous chef.
Two hours of a hostess’ time.
One hour of the second in server’s time.
The present guests receive the best service possible.
Everyone plays dead for fear of becoming dead if they don’t; but,
a few diehards refuse to sacrifice quality of life for speculative quantity.
And, she bebops, dreamily hosting the modest volume of today’s lunch service.
She notes a newly added sign over the hand washing sink at the server station.
It says: <insert restaurant name here> EMPLOYEES. PLEASE WASH YOUR HANDS. IT IS GOOD FOR YOU <insert punctuated, smiley face here>
She knows the sign is not for the benefit of the restaurant’s staff.
Your server is far more worried about catching something from you.
They wash their hands to keep you off them, not to protect you from them.
Her energy always turns over when the clock reads 3:33.
She doubts her shift will last this long.
Her focus refreshes at each daily 11:11.
This occurs approximately eleven minutes after her clock in today.
She renews herself everytime she recalls her own selfhood.
A startling state.
A man at the bar counter suddenly catches her eye.
Her mind wanders and the tray perched above her left hand, rocks like a drunkard trying to walk.
A drinking glass full of used water falls and shatters.
Bomb of contagion spraying soaking shrapnel.
It soaks her entire left side.
It sounded crisp. Quite pleasing.
It is her first time dropping a glass in the restaurant; and, she fears she might quite like breaking another.