If he’d ever have been tested prior to this day, Bill would have discovered that for all intents and purposes he was spatially retarded. No kidding. No exaggeration or overstatement. Eventually he would have aptitude testing and this would be the unadulterated result of his spatial relations test. He would score so low that his actual mark was below where the measurement scale began. The employment counselor suggested he steer clear of things like mechanical drawing, architecture and pretty much anything having to do with depth perception and eye-hand coordination. Suddenly Bill would understand why he had been so bad at art in school and why he misjudged distances and often bumped into things. But he was not privy to this information when he was handed off by Robert to the waitresses who led him onto the dining room floor to bus tables for the first time.
Bill needed this job. Bill was grateful for the job. Nevertheless, later on, in the midst of the dinner rush, surrounded by people he had to clean up after and serve, he found himself immersed in an internal struggle, a personal fight within his psyche. Goddamn college graduate busboy, he told himself. He unleashed a slew of expletives at himself and despite fighting to disengage himself from the internal battle, he sunk deeper into it. An overwhelming sense of less than overcame him. He felt conspicuous, self-conscious, uncomfortable, and all this going on inside his head distracted him and made him more clumsy than he already was.
He did the best he could. He’d never carried a tray full of dishes, never balanced a tray on his shoulder. He didn’t know where anything was. The discomfort level shot up and up. He realized he simply hated it.
The waitresses helped him along as much as they could. But the more discomforted he felt, the more gawky and awkward he became. At war with himself and hating what he was doing, he still persisted. He plodded on.
Maybe it was inevitable. Maybe not. The busier the dinner service became, the worse it was for Bill. When the customer called him boy, he bristled, but he went to the table and asked what he could do. He even called the customer sir.
“Take this soup away, boy. Now.”
The customer lifted the soup bowl to hand it to Bill, but Bill misjudged the distance between them and while he was able to retrieve the bowl on its saucer, a bit of soup spilled on the customer’s suit. Bill saw it and apologized immediately.
“Sorry, sir. Excuse me.”
“You clumsy little bastard,” the man said. “Ignorant little shit.”
“I said I’m sorry,” Bill said.
“Kiss my ass you little twerp.”
Bill was still holding the soup. He toyed with spilling more, even fantasized about throwing it on the man. Only survival, truly and unequivocally needing the job, stopped him from doing it.
The waitress came by. She interceded best she could, but when the customer repeated that Bill was an ignorant shit and then called her a silly little twat, Bill stepped between her and the customer.
“I apologized,” Bill said. “I truly am sorry. But now you’re just plain rude and abusive.”
“F–k you,” the customer said.
Bill couldn’t help it. He let the soup go, all of it, all over the customer’s nice suit.
“Sorry,” Bill said. “It must have slipped.”
“Go into the kitchen,” the waitress said. “And don’t come back out.”
Bill did as he was told.