Maine’s First Lady, at your service.
Workboats and sailing skiffs glide in and out of view on Boothbay Harbor. By 11:30, a row of sunburnt necks is already stooped over cocktails and beers at the bar. The stereo plays the same Bob Marley song twice, with a Neil Diamond number in between. The air smells of equal parts fry batter and ocean brine. Sitting with my wife on the deck at McSeagull’s restaurant, I think this might be the quintessence of midcoast summertime dining.
We hear our waitress talking with another couple at the next table. “Now, are you going to treat your wife to dessert today?” she joshes the middle-aged fellow, flashing sky-blue fingernails as she snags an empty glass.
That waitress is the reason we’re here.
Ann LePage, governor Paul LePage’s better half, is working the front end of a double shift, as she does three days a week. When news outlets from the Boothbay Register to CNN broke the story of her summer employment in late June, it sounded like a PR stunt — a way to highlight her husband’s low pay (at $70K, it’s the lowest gubernatorial salary in the country) and play the hardworking partner. But — after greeting us with a “Welcome to paradise!” — Ann explains that she actually started the job in May, toiling in anonymity until customers started to recognize her.
I ask for a beer recommendation. She flips through her notepad, suggesting a “local” Otter Creek hoppy lager, which I order, even though it’s from Vermont.
When it’s time to order, we have to at least ask about a menu item called the “McSeagull’s Lobster Chicken Bomb.” No one, Ann admits, has ever ordered one from her, so she has a colleague fill us in: it’s basically a $30 mountain of fried chicken, crustacean, feta cheese, and lobster alfredo sauce. I demur that it might knock me out for the rest of the day, and I have to head back to the office later. “You might be asleep,” she ribs. “But what’s wrong with that?”
We decide to start with an order of sweet-potato fries, which (to my pleasure) arrive with a puddle of grease already soaked through the lining of deli paper. I order fish and chips and my wife fish tacos. Ann recs both as popular orders but can’t personally vouch for them — she doesn’t like fish. In fact, she can’t even stand touching the stuff, covering her hands whenever she makes seafood at home for Paul and the family. “I’m a meat-and-potatoes gal,” she says.
I waffle when she eyes my nearly empty pint glass and asks if I’d like another. “I won’t tell if you play hooky,” she prods. I give in.
Ann says Paul has come in to eat just once during a shift, when he was down from Augusta to mow the lawn at the First Couple’s Boothbay home, which they bought in 2014, planning for life after the governorship. (“He left a good tip.”)
Since we arrived, tables have filled up fast. Ann races about in pink-trimmed, pink-laced sneakers: running orders, clearing dishes, wiping down counters. My wife notices her Fitbit. Logged 9 miles working a double yesterday, Ann tells us. Then she suggests warm blueberry pie à la mode for dessert.
Watching the tables around us as we grapple with the last few bites of pie, it doesn’t seem other customers realize their waitress is Maine’s First Lady. Or if they do, they aren’t making a big deal of it.
News reports had it that she took the seasonal gig — her first time waitressing — so she could buy a Toyota RAV4. That was partly true; she’s actually inheriting the car from her mom, who passed away last year, and the restaurant money goes towards the remaining payments.
And that’s not the only reason Ann’s spending her summer at McSeagull’s. She kinda loves the work, and it shows. After the tourists have gone away and the restaurant has cut its waitstaff for the off-season, she’ll go back to her day job as First Lady. But she’s already told her manager: “Sign me up for next year.” — W.G.
Photograph: istock.com | MASARU UEDA