A short look at why you may not want to be!
I was a Waitress. Just those few words should make images flash through your head. The white haired, orthopedic white shoed lady that wobbled to your table in your neighborhood diner and called you hon, or is it the young girl, chewing gum as she took your order, only to forget half of it because she was texting her boyfriend behind the counter? No, I’m neither of these. I’m a fiftyish woman who has had way better jobs but being a waitress has a pull on me. First, it’s easy money if you have a clue as to how things run. Second, it’s a stage for life. You see it all. The family fights, first loves starting to emerge, old loves ending. If you stay in one restaurant long enough you become entangled in some of these peoples' lives. They ask your opinion about everything and actually take you seriously!
Waitressing isn’t brain surgery. You go in to work, you’re reasonably nice to your customers, and they pay you for being nice. In a perfect world maybe. In my world, you fight with the cooks, jab at your fellow waitrons, and make fun of your customers! Let’s start at the top of this restaurant, and what makes it work, and what doesn’t.
Managers are either very smart, or incredibly stupid. I’ve worked with both. They are, lots of times, glorified cooks. It’s a poor boy or girl who starts at the bottom of the food chain and claws their way to the top. Or it’s the rich boy or girl that go to culinary school and are hired at the top. I like working with the poor ones. They’ve started either as a waitron, dishwasher, or cook and they’ve learned everything from every perspective. A good manager can empathize with the help. They know what it’s like to be a waitron and they know what it takes to make the customer happy. The rich kid manager doesn’t have a clue. They go back to their books from school and try to figure out how to do this, and when they apply their book learning to the situation, nine times out of ten it doesn’t work. Then they get mad at the help!
Then come the cooks. There are exceptional, creative cooks out there. Most learned from other cooks that are more experienced. The bad cooks are the ones who think what they make is good but it sucks, and when told it sucks, they don’t believe you! “My mother made it this way” is the standard answer. When told that mom’s cooking sucks they sulk and pout. Too bad! I’m trying to make a tip here and it ain’t happening with Shepard’s pie that’s so bland my cat wouldn’t eat it. Too bad there’s no school for good taste. They continue to cook because either they’re really good line cooks, or they are good at taking the abuse the upper management dishes out. Then there are the transient foreigners. They work cheap, work long hours, and don’t say much. Most of their money is sent home to their families and their dream is to save enough to go home. What they make here is a fortune compared to the Four or five dollars a day they made there. It’s good to know a little Spanish, Russian, or Arabic. If you’re nice to them, they’ll help you. If you’re mean to them, they will make your life a living hell.
The front of the house usually has a front manager. The good managers are a tremendous asset. The best front managers were very good waitresses at one time, and have worked their way up to the manager’s position. The worst, the part of the family that the owner doesn’t know what to do with, so they make the relative a manager! I’ve worked with both. The manager who’s waited tables can anticipate what’s going to happen and knows the flow of the restaurant and how to make it go easier. They’ll bus tables, clean floors, wash dishes. They know what’s good for the restaurant. They are available day or night and put a lot of heart in their work. The Owner’s relative on the other hand, doesn’t let the workings of the restaurant interfere with their personal life. Their cell phone is always on and ringing with friends and kids calling, they’re on the internet arranging vacations or they’re in the kitchen telling the cooks what to do.
Now to coworkers! Some of my fellow waitrons have become my best friends. Others a pain in my ... The bad waiter is a good example. Like the bad manager, his phone is always on, waiting for a call from Bill or Henry or whomever. Everything is more important than work. Frequently they have money issues. They over exaggerate every emotion, and god forbid you tell them no! Hissy fits ensue, crying, yelling, and sometimes rages. They’ll run to the front manager for support in their imagined battles with their fellow staff and if you have a good manager, they’ll see the truth and fire them. If you have a bad manager that the waiter has managed to worm his way into their good graces and treats her as a mother figure, you get yelled at for whatever reason bad waiter has come up with! Other waitrons vary, from the experienced, to the just starting out. Some have the feel for it, and like it. Others, it’s a job.
And finally, the customers, your meal ticket. I like the customers who come in, sit down, order their food and leave. Plain and simple, right? But oh no, it’s never this easy. Here comes the mom, dragging some big ass stroller loaded with kids. So, I bring over menus, and stuff to keep the kids busy, like crayons and paper and rush to put their order in because “My kids are hungry put their order in first!” O.K. Round One has begun. In the mean time, the three year old is running up and down the aisle, bothering people and the airhead mother doesn’t notice. The two year old is dumping sugar, salt and anything else he can get his grubby hands on all over the table. Mom is feeding the one year old, and yelling at all of them. Here comes the food! So I chase down the three year old, and bring him back to the table, and hopefully mom will give these kids their food and everything will be good for a while. Go to the next customer, and you hear kids screaming “I don’t want that! I want ketchup!” I walk away from my customer with the order just in time to see the three year old dump his food on the table. Well, at least now he’s eating it. Ten minutes later the kids from Hell are done and I bring mom the check. In exchange she hands me a dirty diaper. “You don’t mind putting this in the trash do you?” Oh my God! I dump the diaper, wash my hands and start to return to the table. Mom is getting her things ready to go, and the three year old is under the table, picking off the gum left by the last fifty customers and eating it. This is better than a tip. And this happens in all its various forms day in and day out.
In retrospect, Waitressing has its rewards. You meet people that you don’t have to have any kind of relationship with, they give you money for being civil to them, and the work isn’t hard. Also, the instant gratification of having cash every day can’t be beat!