I was perusing one of my favorite cookbooks the other day, hoping to find some kind of dinnertime inspiration. I came across a recipe for shrimp scampi, and it made me smile.
You see, shrimp scampi and I have a history. I loathe the stuff.
Years ago, when we were newlyweds, Dan was still a grad student. We needed money, but I was having trouble finding fulltime work. To make some quick cash, I took a job as a waitress in a seafood restaurant while I continued to send out my resume, hoping for something to come through. It wasn’t so bad there. The uniforms were polyester jumpers with oversized, geeky looking collars, but I’ve seen worse.
It wasn’t long after I started working there, though, that I discovered I was pregnant. And sick. So very sick.
I still don’t why they call it morning sickness, but I am convinced it was a man who named it. For those of us who suffer from it, it’s not morning sickness. It’s not feel a little queasy in the morning but get over it by noontime sickness. It’s all day, all night, every waking moment sickness. Horrible sickness. Can’t keep anything down sickness. Always gagging and spitting in the sink sickness. Wanting to sleep 23 hours a day sickness. Can’t stand the smell of coffee, cigarettes, or dirty dishes in the sink sickness. Lose 12 pounds in your first trimester sickness.
Which brings us to the shrimp scampi. Between bouts of vomiting, I somehow managed to brush my hair into a ponytail, put on the polyester jumper, straighten my oversized collar, and show up for work. I pretended my face wasn’t green. I took people’s orders and brought them baskets filled with bread and butter, boiled lobster with plastic bibs, and steaming cups of clam chowder. I managed these things alright. I even convinced myself that work was a helpful distraction from the constant sickness.
But then someone ordered the shrimp scampi. And the scampi was positively garlic-a-rific. The strong odors of shrimp, garlic butter, and parmesan cheese that wafted from the platter as I carried the large tray from the kitchen overwhelmed me. I set the tray down on the nearest surface and raced for the ladies room.
After that, every time someone ordered the shrimp scampi, I would cringe deep down inside. I would try to hold my breath and look away as I delivered it, but the smell was overpowering. A quick “Here you are!” and I was running–gagging all the way–to the bathroom.
Now there was another waitress there named Mary. Mary was a long-timer at this restaurant, with a little bit of pull with the management. And she noticed me. After one of my gagging scampi deliveries, she cornered me in the kitchen and asked if I was feeling alright. When I poured out my tearful tale of sickness and scampi, she took pity on me.
Right away, she rearranged the schedule so that the two of us would work most of our shifts together and instructed me to let her know if I needed her to deliver any scampi. She switched our section assignments so that I never had to work in or near the smoking section. She took on a few of my weekday lunch shifts that no one wanted to work (because there wasn’t much money to be made) and told me to stay home and nap during those times instead. She made certain that I always got the easy side work jobs, like refilling ketchup bottles, while she took on scrubbing trays in the kitchen, vacuuming, and cleaning bathrooms.
With Mary’s help, I managed to make it through that rough time. A couple of months later, as the sickness was dissipating, I finally received an offer for fulltime work and I left that restaurant for good. I thanked Mary for her help many times, but I’m sure I didn’t thank her enough. I don’t even know her last name. But Mary was an angel to me and her kindness is unforgettable.
So today, since I can do nothing else to repay her, I am going to pray for Mary. I am going to ask God to shower her with blessings during her life on earth and to call her home to live with him forever when she dies. And I am going to ask you to do the same. For Mary. And then for someone you once knew like her.