They weren’t all Marines.
Some of them were a now almost defunct group of young girls called Candy Stripers. Auto correct keeps trying to tell me that “Stripers” should be spelled with two p’s, but that would be “Strippers”. Personally, I don’t think the words ‘young girls’ and ‘strippers’ should be in the same sentence. Anyway…
Years ago, groups of young girls were gathered at hospitals dressed in their finest; white short sleeve shirts with Peter Pan collars, (Yes, that was a thing.) and red and white striped pinafores. We were very chic and I was one of them. Contrary to what you might think, we did not stripe candy of any kind. We did odd jobs around the hospital, pushing carts full of reading material for patients, rolling babies back and forth to the nursery (before they were parked in your room full time), helping with patient care, and working in gift shops and cafeterias. Candy Stripers aren’t allowed to work directly with patients anymore. They have shed their pinafores and Peter Pan collars and now they are simply called ‘Volunteers.’ But, back in the 70’s…
My girlfriend Laura and I joined up when we were in high school. Our ‘boot camp’ was the little luncheonette in Riverside Hospital in Boonton. They somehow knew not to allow me to care for patients. I’m sure it was Providential.
Interesting side note, years later I would live around the corner from Riverside Hospital and years earlier I’d left a pair of five year old tonsils there, but those are other stories for other times.
As I said, Laura and I were given the job of working in the luncheonette at the hospital. There we waited on the few tables and took orders from people sitting at the counters. My very first waitressing job! I even remember our supervisor, a very sweet young lady named Linda, who wasn’t much older than we were.
On my first day, it was decided that I would wait on tables and Laura, would work at the counter. I didn’t think much back then, and so gave no thought to the fact that I’d never done this before. I just decided it would be fun!
My first guests arrived, a small group of nurses and a doctor. Linda took me aside and warned me that this particular doctor was a very important man. I was fine with that. I went over and took their orders, chatting it up with them as I did. The very important doctor wanted “a tomato stuffed with tuna salad”. Easy! I put his order together myself.
Linda asked me if I needed help. Of course I said, “No”. I stuffed that tomato full of tuna salad, put a piece of lettuce underneath it, and a pickle on the side. I was very proud of myself, and very detrimentally brave. I was having a blast and loving this job, and I wasn’t even caffeinated back then!
I carefully carried my creation to the doctor. The tomato seemed a bit wobbly, so I tried to be careful. I placed it down in front of the doctor and, wouldn’t you know it, the tomato, tuna salad and all, rolled right into his lap, tuna side down. The nurses gasped, the doctor was shocked, and I was kind of stunned. “Oops, I’m so sorry!” was all I could think to say but, unfortunately, not all I thought to do.
Remember when I said I didn’t think much back then? Well, turns out I’m kind of ‘reactionary,’ too. When something drops my natural inclination is to pick it up. And so, I did what no teenage girl should ever do. I reached into the doctor’s lap, scooped up the stuffed tomato, and put it back on the plate. I then proceeded to scoop up the tuna salad that had fallen into his lap. Yup, I did.
When I brought my now mutilated stuffed tomato to the back, Linda had squelched her hysterics long enough to prepare another. Hers had a little of the bottom cut off so it didn’t roll. I brought the new flat-bottomed one out to the doctor and very carefully placed it down before him. He thanked me and ate his lunch. Because, after all, it really was not that big a deal.