This little story takes place in the 1960s, around the beginning of the second wave of feminism in Australia.
Not on the Menu
Short story by Iris Carden
Elsie saw them through the café window. “Oh not them again,” she groaned.
“Not who?” asked Margaret.
“Those three, with the excess Brylcreem and the loud ties.” Elsie explained, “They haven’t been in since you started, have they?”
“No. What’s wrong with them?”
“They think the waitresses are on the menu.”
Margaret smiled a little and winked at her friend. “Leave them to me,” she said.
“Be careful,” Elsie warned. “They’ve got big hands and small minds. I tried telling them I have a boyfriend, but it didn’t bother them at all.”
Margaret picked up a menu and met the customers as they came in the door. “Good morning gentlemen. Where would you like to sit?” She asked brightly.
They chose a table near the window, and two of them walked ahead of her, while the other followed behind – very close behind. He reached around her waist.
Margaret stepped down hard on his instep and twisted her heel. “Oops,” she said. “Sorry I stepped on your foot. I didn’t realise you were so close.”
“You’re new here, cutie,” one of them said.
“My name’s not Cutie,” Margaret replied. “I’ll answer to Waitress. Would you like to order now, or do you want some time to peruse the menu?”
They ordered their coffees and sandwiches, and Margaret dropped their order on the bench for Algie and went back to Elsie.
“I just loved that foot stomp. You’ll have to teach me,” Elsie said.
“Of course,” Margaret answered, “I’ve got a few other tricks I can teach you as well.”
A few minutes later, as Margaret was delivering the coffees, the biggest of the men pinched her behind. Margaret screamed, and dropped the hot coffee in the offender’s lap.
The man jumped up and yelled.
“Oh sorry,” said Margaret, “I’m not used to being attacked while I’m working.”
“I want to see the owner,” the irate customer yelled. “You’re going to get fired for this!”
“Hmmm, I don’t think I will,” Margaret answered.
“Where’s the owner? Is he out the back?” the man demanded.
Hearing the kerfuffle, Algie came out from the kitchen.
The man addressed himself to Algie: “I want this waitress fired. She just about broke my friend’s toes, and she poured hot coffee in my lap.”
“I really can’t help you,” Algie answered. “I’m not the boss.”
“Well who is?” the man demanded.
“Miss Jackson is,” Algie replied quietly, nodding his head towards Margaret. “She bought the place last week.”
“Yes, I own the place,” Margaret replied, “and in future you can keep your hands to yourselves, or eat elsewhere.”
The three Brylcreemed customers walked out, accompanied by applause from customers and laughter from Elsie and Algie.
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