I have been before, and am currently a server at a restaurant. I like to refer to myself as a waitress, but for whatever reason the term is archaic and now we say we are servers. We also tend to say in unison that we are servers while we are working towards something better. Unless you are the managing server, you can’t hold your head high and say that bringing plates of food to the masses is what you want to do forever and ever. But I think I could. All kidding aside, I could choose the right shifts and make enough to support myself sufficiently. But then I would have to combat such inquiries as, “What are you going to do with your life?” Responding with “This.” would reap many puzzled looks.
I love my job. Not because it is a terrific job that I can brag about. I serve breakfast and lunch at a bustling restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. It’s fast and fun and I love my co-workers. But I can safely say it is the strangest place I have ever worked at. Certainly not on the surface, but deeply embedded beyond the swinging doors that you don’t get to see behind, it is very very…I don’t know the proper word. I am not going to focus on the bad. I am going to speak about the fun and funny parts of being a server, particularly at my place of business.
I have a few bosses. There’s the head chef. I won’t speak of him further because I would like to keep my job. His wife is the front of house manager. This means that she is in charge of the servers, bussers, and hosts. She insists that I show up ten to fifteen minutes early or else she will worry that I am going to be late. Yup. Just today she asked me if I would mind coming in fifteen minutes late tomorrow, because she does not expect a big crowd. So, tomorrow I will show up on time. But she’s a super nice lady and I am happy to work for her.
Someone at my job is usually drunk. We do serve beer wine and champaign, but none of the customers ever drink enough to get drunk. I am not going to elaborate.
The name of the restaurant is Hell’s Kitchen. It was around years before the television show. This does not stop customers from asking if we ARE the show. I understand it’s the same name so it can be confusing. Some of the funnier questions I have gotten from customers are:
Are you all actors, or is the cooking staff really cooks? –I think she was implying that I was not a server, but an actor. This is in theory true. I sometimes act as if I care about a customer because sometimes I really don’t care. But who would eat at a place with actors for cooks?
Does your boss really yell at you that much when there’s no cameras around?— I usually follow this question by pretending to hold back a fountain of tears.
Are we on camera right now? — I always say yes. I am sure they like that answer much better anyhow.
Can you ask the chef if he will make me a ____________? (fill in the black with something that we don’t serve) — I ALWAYS answer this with, “Yes, but he’s in a mood today and it’ll probably cost me my job if I go into the kitchen. I am not allowed in there.” This saves me extra unnecessary steps. And it’s partially true.
Is that Al Franken/Don Shelby/Leo Kotkke? (or one of the other local celebrities that are not really that famous but they are in Minnesota) — Yes, it is.
Is that man/woman drunk? accompanied with a pointing finger at one of the employees — *crickets* followed by my footsteps walking away.
One of the weirdest dialogs I ever took part in went like this:
Them;”Do you have a tattoo”
Me: “Uh, no?”
Them: “Yeah, I could tell by your shoes. Girls with tattoos don’t wear shoes like that.”
So apparently I have loser shoes or something.
But I wear the ugly shoes because serving is hell on your body. I am decidedly scrawny, I didn’t do anything to earn my puniness, it’s genetics. And if you want to see a puny little girl grimace, watch me while I am lifting a tray loaded to the brim with double plated Huevos Rancheros. I have a fellow co-worker who is 6 feet tall and two hundred pounds who mentions how he tries to rotate which arm he carries the big trays with so he doesn’t get a sore back. I wish I had the coordination to trade sides. In my interview there were the usual hoopla of questions and the final question was, “So, can you carry the big trays?” Panic Attack. I said yes like any jobless single mother would. But the first few days of my training I sincerely thought I was going to get fired for my outright lie. I could NOT carry the big trays, I could barely lift them. It was then requested of me to carry around trays of bread after my shift until I could lift a larger load. Now one of my arms is literally larger than the other, so I am half buffed.
I am kind of trading off the good with the bad here, aren’t I. Well here’s another good:
Free toast. I work at a place that is pretty much breakfast only. Much of the breakfast plates come with toast. We go through hundreds of orders of toast a day. Being that a slice of bread costs only pennies, we are allowed to eat as much as we would like to without having to pay. I won’t lie, I have gone many nine hour shifts eating nothing but toast. I’ll alternate the toppings. One with blackberry preserves followed with one topped with peanut butter. Makes you feel like a king eating all that free bread.
So, it’s my inner pessimist’s turn:
You don’t get breaks. And there’s really no way that you can if you work in a busy restaurant. I mean, they cannot shut your section down for fifteen minutes three times a day. People will always be sitting in the tables you are assigned and they will always need lemon for their water. I would like to know how many of these people actually use lemon in their water at home. I think it’s just a power thing, they know you have to get the lemon and they are very proud that they can make you do it. Sometimes I just want to go into the bathroom and shut myself into a stall for five minutes so I can check my text messages. No I am lying, I do that every day. Stop knocking on the door to see if I am OK.
I better go to bed now. I need to show up on time tomorrow.