Of Hidden Knowledge, Buried Ambition, And Secret Sonnets Scribbled On Cocktail Napkins

This post takes it's title from the Tom Robbins poem, "The Genius Waitress" which my friend Emmy has tacked up on her fridge. It always makes me smile. It is an ode to the creative power in all of us, sometimes hidden in plain sight, invisible to the naked eye, an ever-present spark in the most seemingly unlikely places. 

It also makes me smile, because when people ask me what I do for a living, I like to tell them that "I'm a waitress." even though this isn't strictly true. How people react to this statement, is very telling to me of the caliber of the person I'm dealing with. If it makes them uncomfortable, it's pretty much guaranteed that they're a secret snob, someone who doesn't deserve my time of day anyway.

Working in the "service industry", is actually a great way to observe human character in general. How people treat waitresses, baristas, and bar tenders, often reveals them for who they really are. I've watched some of my dear friends behave abysmally in establishments, simply because they fell pray to the common misconception that just because someone is a server, it means they're a "servant".

I love watching friends, or family, rush to explain all the other things I do to whomever is asking about my profession. I love listing it as my occupation on official forms, in front of other groovier-sounding jobs and accolades. I love the puzzled faces of patrons at the restaurant we work at, as they catch snippets of our conversations as we prep food; on politics, religion, language. 

This past weekend, we talked a lot about the genius waitress, the genius carpenter, the genius check-out clerk, the genius farmhand. We discussed them publicly and privately, in the spotlight and under the eaves. Here we were, two waitresses who'd just made a movie while still waiting tables, teaching kids, tending gardens, and volunteering in our communities. How could we not talk about it? 

It kept coming up, because many of the people around us were urban professionals, wealthy island part-timers, people in who's worlds the boundaries seem to be less fluid, who have less exposure to the articulate working class, because no one ever asks the janitor what he thinks of art, culture, or the state of the union. And more importantly, the janitor rarely dares to speak up to them.

Well, this movie, our little effort, has its roots in those very conversations; the idea that creativity doesn't just belong to some privileged "creative class", but that everyone has the right and duty to tell their stories, and that those stories ought to be more universal than our own narrow experience.  

I guess that's my definition of "art". 

We did other things too, of course, while we were there. We hung out with our favorite genius carpenters, and arborists, and landscapers, adventurers, wild women, dreamers, island folk.

We delivered bread, met a little girl with my name (this never happens!!!),we watched amazing movies (more of which later!)... 

We wore our best dresses, and flower crowns, and insane headdresses from flea markets.

We danced like it was some other, less inhibited decade.

We stayed up too late, talked too inappropriately, and went to all the yard sales.

We listened to records, learned about boobs, and woodcarving, and some of us played the dulcimer.

We made mandatory wagon-viewing stops.

We watched the birds and the albino deer; flickers, ravens, snipes at dusk. 

We drank too much...coffee.

We slept outside in a windstorm, and watched the whitecaps form around the little tidal island. We tipped well (the first step towards enlightenment, or at least not being an asshole), and ate well.

Oh, and did I mention: WE WON THE BEST FILM SHORT! The Commute will be shown at the Seattle International Film Festival, next spring! Because everyone loves a genius waitress, or at least one with a heart of gold and her feet on the ground...