In 1977 I was spending my first summer post college graduation in Maine at my parents newly purchased beach cottage. The plan was to hopefully find a job and attend summer sessions at a local university as I needed 3 more credit hours to make everything official. Also, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart who had just graduated from Maine Maritime Academy and was soon to sail to South Africa for several months. When he heard my idea along with my somewhat anxious tone around job hunting said, “No worries. I’ll talk with my buddy Pete. He can probably get you a waitressing job at the local seafood restaurant & lobster pound. He knows the owner.”
A lobster pound? What was a pound?
Once I arrived in Maine, it didn’t take long to locate the restaurant, fill out an application, answer a few questions and be hired! Starting pay was $2.00/hour plus tips, benefits were 2 white polyester zip up the front dress uniforms, a name tag, and an opportunity to start right away on the lunch shift Memorial Day weekend. What I quickly discovered as a newly hired waitress, from away, living temporarily in a small coastal town in Maine, was that I could hustle and laugh my way out of most situations, but my seafood naivete would eventually leave me as red as the boiled lobsters I served.
It soon happened while delivering a table of four the 2 for 1 lobster special, complete with bibs, plenty of napkins, melted butter, and chips. After setting everything down on the table, and preparing to move on, one man at the table called out to me, “Hey. Wait a minute. You forgot the crackers. We need crackers to go with all of this food.” I recall quickly scanning the table, my mind on fire – crackers? Who eats lobster with crackers? And what kind of crackers? Saltines? Chowder crackers? Looking up, I managed to smile and stammer, “Uh. okay. I’ll be right back”. Running for the kitchen I immediately grabbed another waitress asking her where the crackers were for the lobster. She pointed to the kitchen counter where I saw a small mound of cellophane packages. I grabbed them and headed back to my customers who appeared to be waiting patiently for my return. “Here you go.” I smiled as I laid the small packages in the center of the table. “That should be enough for all of you, and if you’d like more, just let me know.” I turned to leave. “Hey. What is this?” one of the men calls out. “We need lobster crackers. You know. The ones you use to break open the lobsters. Not these soup crackers!”
Well, what I recall happening next was the heat of embarrassment turning my cheeks ruby red while several diners close by dissolved into laughter. This also included my new boss leaning against the nearby kitchen door jamb laughing so hard, he was crying. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again and by the end of the summer could easily produce with a flourish a shiny set of metal crackers alongside a diner’s eagerly anticipated downeast lobster feast.