A year in the life of a waitress

Oh, waiting tables. We’ve all done it. And if you haven’t, you are one of the luckiest people alive.

Actually, after a year of waiting tables at a local restaurant, which will remain nameless because I don’t want them to sue me, I feel I should clarify something. I don’t hate waiting tables. I actually kind of enjoyed waiting tables. It was being a waitress that I hated. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first day as a waitress didn’t go nearly as bad as I thought it would. Getting used to welcoming people to the restaurant and acting like I cared they were there was the hardest part. I didn’t even break anything until three or four months into my “career.” Spills, on the other hand, were an everyday occurrence. I felt bad one day when someone spilled water on a baby, but in that server’s defense, that table was cursed. It didn’t matter how careful you were, you always spilled a drink if you sat people there.

One of the other things I noticed right away at that place was that people only like to eat there if they can do it at the exact same time. We’d be hanging out, filling sugar holders, and it would just turn into the March of the Penguins. In mating season. Three tables would come in at once, then another two, then five minutes would go by. Then six more groups would walk in. When you had enough people working, that was one thing. When two people are running around a restaurant with 15 tables each, well, let’s just say there were energy drinks behind those partitions that aren’t legal in about seven states. You don’t have time to freak out or call up a co-worker. You’re too busy running.

So much of my experience waiting tables depended on the people I worked with. Our restaurant was sort of divided into two groups; people who did their own thing and made their own money, and then a kind of mafia of friends that worked together, which made our jobs a lot easier. I can’t say much about the restaurant Mafia, because they are still around and they might come after me, but it always helped to be able to trust the people I worked with to watch my back.

In regards to dating people you work with, and I can’t stress this enough, people aren’t kidding when they say it’s a bad idea, especially in a restaurant. It’s a really bad idea. Awful. Idiotic. Bad bad bad. After a while, I did my best to see my male co-workers as Ken dolls, with no genitalia to distinguish them from anyone else.

As important as my co-workers were to how enjoyable my shifts were, the customers’ actions and attitudes were just as crucial. It was basically a coin toss when people walked in the door how they were going to act. Most of the time, people that walk into a restaurant are polite and easy to work with. Then there are the other tables. The people that come in there and make the following hour a nightmare. Whether they are way too picky, way too loud, extremely rude or just kind of creepy, these groups have the power to change your entire attitude with just a few condescending remarks.

All in all, being a waitress gave people the ample opportunity to treat me like a servant. Someone once said a waitress is every man’s fantasy. She does what you ask her to, brings you food, and you get to stare at her tail while you sit on yours. Sadly enough, I found this to be entirely true. I loved my job for the year I could stand it without going crazy. But the reason I quit doing something I’d actually gotten pretty good at had a lot less to do with me than it did with being seen as, and treated like, “the help.”

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