No Matter What the Waitress Brings…

Do you ever have those moments when something that never meant anything to you suddenly does? And you wonder how you missed it so many times before?

It happened to me yesterday.

I was walking home, listening to some tunes, having just trekked to the pharmacy to pick up some items we needed. I was wearing a backpack to carry my stuff. (Do I need to prove they were essential? That I was justified in breaking the stay-at-home mandante? Because I feel like I need to prove they were essential. I can sense you judging me. It was medicine, guys. And vitamins. And okay, okay…I GOT HAIR DYE,TOO! And cashews to make this healthy snickerdoodle cookie dough I saw online earlier and suddenly needed to try. And I thought about buying nail polish, but I didn’t. Just look away. Mostly because my grays are showing).

As I walked, I began noticing the weight of the backpack. You know, because of all those non-medicine items I ended up buying. Like dry shampoo. (Who am I trying to impress?) And a bottle of Prosecco to make bellinis on Easter. (Because Jesus deserves a toast, right?) I wondered how hard it would be if I had to suddenly book it with all these extra pounds on my back. Like, what if I found myself face to face with a zombie horde at the next cross street, and I had to run for my life, but I couldn’t lose the backpack because it literally contained my whole life? Then I started wondering what if my whole neighborhood, my whole city, my whole country was deserted, and it was just me? Walking down a lonely sidewalk after ransacking a Walgreens on a supply run. The streets were eerily quiet, after all. Would I have what it takes to survive? To not feel defeated? To finally throw abandon to the wind and sing out loud to the kick ass song playing through my earbuds without the fear someone would see me and think I was crazy? The only question that received a confident yes was that last one…because there wouldn’t be any people to see me.

(Aside: Given my imagined zombie apocalypse walk and my previous run while pretending I was Marcia Brady, you might think I’m crazy anyway. I don’t always live in an alternate reality while exercising. Promise.)

Then I heard it. The tiny piece of wisdom dancing upon musical notes.

“But I know no matter what the waitress brings, I shall drink it and always be full.”

I’ve listened to the song Run-Around by Blues Traveler countless times since it came out in the mid-nineties. I know (almost) all the words. (“And I like Tuesday, I don’t mind” is pretty close to “And I’ll lie too and say I don’t mind.” Let’s not split hairs.) But for the first time, I understood what John Popper meant when he sang those lyrics. And it might just be my favorite way the sentiment has ever been expressed.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The art of being happy is to be satisfied with what you have. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. 

We’ve all heard similar words of inspiration getting at the same idea. But there’s something so empowering about that Blues Traveler lyric. Especially when you put it in context with the lines that precede it:

Tra la la bombardier, this is the pilot speaking
I’ve got some news for you
It seems my ship still stands no matter what you drop
And there ain’t a whole lot that you can do
Oh sure, the banner may be torn and the wind’s gotten colder
Perhaps I’ve grown a little cynical
But I know no matter what the waitress brings
I shall drink it and always be full, yeah I will drink it and always be full
It’s like, hey – life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, and maybe I’m gonna get a little crabby and Debbie Downer about it sometimes, but in the end I’m always going to take what life gives me and find a way to be okay with it. There’s a difference between satisfied and full. And it’s unrealistic to think every meal we eat will satisfy us, but that doesn’t mean we stop eating. Sometimes full has to be enough.


Because here’s the thing: there’s stuff that happens that can’t be made into lemonade. It just can’t. No matter how hard we try, it’s never going to turn into a sweet, comforting, satisfying treat that conjures up images of front porches in summer and little kids sitting behind homemade stands. But lemons can nourish us, too. It’s more difficult to let the bitter juice and gritty rind past our mouths. But once we swallow, they can fill us just as easily as the lemonade. In fact, the lemon actually makes us stronger. Anyone can swallow lemonade. It’s been sugar-coated for just that purpose, to make it more palatable. But a lemon? A lemon is harder to swallow. Yet doing hard things is what convinces us we can do more hard things. If we can swallow the lemon, maybe we can swallow the onion. Then the bitter melon. Then the elephant.


It’s a lie that we always need to be happy with what we’re given. But we do always need to be able to suck it up, suck it down, and let it feed us in a way that promotes growth.


I mean, if my strolling tangents about finding myself in survivalist mode amidst a deserted homeland ever came to pass, you can bet I wouldn’t be happy about it. A vise couldn’t squeeze the lemons hard enough to make lemonade out of being alone without my family and friends. But I’d like to think I would be able to swallow my situation and keep moving forward. And I’d be able to do so looking pretty fly, seeing as how I scored that hair dye while ransacking Walgreens.


We all have our lemons. And we’re all going to be given more in this life, each by different kinds of waitresses. Some will be the kind who forget you’re sitting in their section. Some will take your plate before you’re finished. Some will keep refilling your water even when you’re not thirsty. Some will tell you they are out of everything you want. Some will spit in your food. And while we should always be searching out the five-star menu with the server who deserves a 25% tip, we ultimately need to own it if that’s not what we get.


Be full, my friends.


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(Photo: “Waitress” by Scott Leighton T. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 via Commons)

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