On Waitress Patrol with The Pink Sisters
If anyone had told me that the best girlfriend of my adult life would present in the package of a small, cranky, funny Dutch woman 20 years older and a foot shorter than me, I wouldn’t have believed them.
We met in Destin, Florida. Ellie lived in my condo complex, having moved in a couple of months after I did. She was there because her beloved husband of many years had died and she’d sold their home. I was there because my Mom got sick and I came to be near her during her final year.
Ellie and I lived a couple of floors from each other for two years and never went beyond polite hellos in the elevator. One evening we started chatting out on the dock in front of the complex during sunset happy hour, and my husband and I invited her to join us for dinner. The hub was coming off of a 24-hour journey from Singapore to the U.S. and wound up with his head practically in his plate, so Ellie and I sent him off to bed while we continued eating. He began throwing clothes out of the master bedroom into the living room while humming striptease music because he’s crazy and fun like that, and then Ellie started bantering with him … and before I knew it, she’d pulled her shirt over her head and thrown it at him. At the time, she was in her late sixties.
The hub passed out, and our dinner continued with Ellie dressed in a bra and Capri pants. I attempted to maintain some sense of normal hostess-like aplomb in the midst of gasping for breath while laughing. I eventually proclaimed my undying love for her, and from that moment on, we became best friends and our adventures began. We were best friends like you are when you’re young: holding hands, sharing secrets, laughing and loving and easing each other down the path of life. In the midst of our friendship, we came up with the idea for The Pink Sisters of the Waitress Patrol.
The Pink Sisters were kind of like The Blues Brothers. It’s the name Ellie gave us when we were expanding upon our latest brilliant idea, a TV show called “Waitress Patrol.” We were at The Donut Hole in Destin, munching on some fries while we watched the lone female server try to deal with an onslaught of customers who all arrived at once. She was so far in the weeds that we even told her that Ellie used to own a deli and I was once a fish house waitress — and that if she’d hand us each a check pad, we’d help her out of the jam by passing out menus and taking orders.
She declined our assistance, but an idea was born and we had to talk it through. Dressed in official pink uniforms, including the special hat, frilly white apron, big plastic name tags and thick-soled white shoes (think of the classic sitcom “Alice”), The Pink Sisters of the Waitress Patrol would hit the highway to lend a hand to our sister (and brother) servers in restaurants along the Gulf Coast. Fine dining places or down home diners, we’d do it all.
We’d ease up to the door in our big boat of a convertible, simultaneously slip on our dark black rhinestone encrusted cat-eye sunglasses and walk into the establishment shoulder to shoulder. Well, more like shoulder-to-elbow, because as I said earlier, Ellie was about a foot shorter than me. That’s why she felt like she needed a beehive hairdo, like “Alice’s” Flo: “I need the height.”
In true men-in-black, Jake-and-Elwood deadpan style, we would announce to the manager in a deep monotone that we were the Waitress Patrol, and we had heard they were short-staffed. We’d case the room, pull off our shades, and with tear sheet order pads in hand and pens tucked into our hair, we’d hit the floor to serve the unserved. We were on a mission from God.
“Hi, I’m Lori of the Waitress Patrol. What’ll ya have?”
Once we’d gotten the kitchen and dining room caught up, we would pocket the pads, slip on our shades and nod at the hugely grateful staff as we strode back out to the car and moved on in search of the next restaurant in dire need. We are the Pink Sisters of the Waitress Patrol. Superheroes of the service industry.
This is the kind of thing that went on when Ellie and I started talking. She was every bit as crazy as I am. We probably shouldn’t have been allowed to hang out together unsupervised.
Ellie died, quietly, in her sleep while visiting at my house, not long before her 71st birthday. She had seen me through a year plus of treatment for breast cancer, and I’m almost certain that she hung around long enough to see me to the point where she knew I’d be okay. I couldn’t have done it without her. The night before she made the big transition we’d had festive beverages and watched old episodes of Johnny Carson on DVD prior to saying our goodnight I-love-you’s.
And I know she’s out there somewhere — dressed in her pink Waitress Patrol uniform, saying “Kiss my grits!” to some poor soul who stepped beyond the boundaries of acceptable patron behavior.
I sure do miss that woman.
PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR