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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Rosales

Boston Globe: I Used to Wait Tables

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Published for The Boston Globe Magazine March 29 2020 Issue

I came to Boston from the Philippines to go to college at Emerson. Waiting tables at the Legal Sea Foods in Park Square, I’m used to busy shifts cracking lobsters and serving chowder to a steady stream of locals and tourists. At lunch I might make $120 in tips.

Melissa Rosales in her uniform for waiting on tables.

Our supervisors were quick to respond when the first Massachusetts cases of COVID-19 were announced, requiring bussers to wear gloves and sanitize tables and chairs after each guest, and all of us to sanitize our hands right after washing them. We took this seriously — in my job, I have to touch other people’s plates.

As business slowed, I worried about covering my rent. My parents told me they were concerned about how my work brought me into close contact with many strangers. I put a tiny hand sanitizer bottle inside my apron.

On Thursday, March 12, I was scheduled for a double shift. I was sent home after serving only three tables, with $50 in tips in my pocket. My manager called an hour later and asked me not to come back for the dinner shift; they were expecting it to be slow. I wasn’t scheduled to work again until the following week, but then Governor Baker shut down dining rooms.

I’m blessed to have parents who can financially support me; I won’t lose my housing. My friend Pamela Espinoza is moving back to Puerto Rico after losing her restaurant job. She’s stunned. “I really want to believe that the US is going to give us always an opportunity to work, right?” she says. “This is what this country is about: working.”

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