Tell your customers they have pretty hands, even if they don’t, especially if they don’t. Good breath means good tips. If you get sad, go into the break room and stick your head in the pickle bucket filled with the Mexican nail polish and you’ll get happy real quick.
Some of us work 10-6, some of us work 12-8. When you are done with your shift, go down the block to CeeCee’s and make eyes at the steelworkers and they’ll buy you free drinks. Drink them fast so they know you are serious about a good time. The steelworkers hate women but they hate women who savor things the most.
If you’re sad and you don’t feel like huffing from the nail polish bucket, go and cry at the coffee shop next door. If you cry loud enough, Charles, the manager, will bring you extra napkins and try to cheer you up with a dumb joke.
“Why did the cookie go to the doctor?” he’ll ask.
“Because he was feeling crummy,” he’ll say.
When a customer tells you a story about her dead husband that reminds you of your dead husband, use the bucket. When a customer asks you to add a decal of a bomb on her middle finger to compliment her road rage, use the bucket. When the diabetic with the missing toes comes in for a pedicure say “Back in one sec,” and bury your head in the bucket.
Don’t ever smoke around the bucket, okay? Ask the other girls about how your tips are when you do not have eyebrows or eyelashes. Ask the other girls how your tips are when your hands look like the insides of your mouth.
There is a book of word jumbles in the break room that everyone solves together. There is a mini-fridge where you can put your diet pop. Sometimes we all order lunch from How Fung, the Chinese place down the street, and ask specifically for the cute guy with the neck tattoo to bring it.
You’ll do all right most days, but other days will be bad. The bucket will do nothing to make the grief that rests between your shoulders float away. When this happens, go to the coffee shop and order mint tea and press your palms around the cup for warmth.
“How do you get a donkey on the city bus?” Charles will ask you softly, setting a pile of napkins down next to you. “How do you get a donkey on the city bus?” he’ll whisper.
After Charles asks you this, take his hand. Grip it tight enough to feel the push of the blood underneath his skin. Stare into his brown eyes. You’ve probably shown him too much sadness for him to love you, but do not tell him that. Let him be the one to decide whether or not that is true. Look into his eyes and smile through the tears falling down your cheeks and then ask him what the answer is.