I’ve been a waitress for the past twelve years now and at the same restaurant no less (thanks for not firing me, Mom and Dad!). So every summer — yes I know I am an awful person for bring up the S-word — I trade ballet flats for tennis shoes and pick up an few extra waiting shifts for some easy cash. From these telling experiences over the past twelve years, I have developed a series of takeaways that highlights the best and worst of customers’ habits.
1. Everyone assumes you’re either stupid or a slacker.
This has got to be my number one pet peeve as a server. Mostly because I am neither stupid nor a slacker. However, it happens about once a month I have this conversation, typically with an older person but it has happened with people of all ages. “Miss, you are really on top of things and seem like a bright, intelligent person. Have you ever considered taking classes at the community college?” I burn on the inside. I seethe anger from my insides. Why do people automatically assume I am uneducated because I am serving their food? Lots of our employees are working on their various degrees or have various degrees of all levels. I use to respond with a causal laugh and smile a walk away. Now, I state in my sweetest voice: “Well I would but I have a Masters Degree in Education. So I am all degreed out! But thanks for the tip!” Usually that person is a mix of curious or embarrassed. And they damn well should be. Don’t assume anything about anybody — it makes an ass out of you and me.
2. Regulars are the best!
I have a set group of regulars that know to just ask for me once summer hits. The new workers are always a little jealous but hey, they were mine before they were yours. They know what they want. They tip well. They are polite and treat you with a level of respect most other customers don’t. I love it when I get them. I don’t throw a fit like some when I don’t get them, but I always make sure to say hello and stop by their table. This is what keeps them coming back.
3. Your coworkers are like your family.
In this world as an adult you don’t often have the chance to make friends with people from all walks of life. In this industry, you get people from all walks of life and you form a bond. There is nothing like surviving a crazy busy night and bonding with a few beers once you are all done. Joking about the mistakes, joking about the customers. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. I have gotten plenty of life advice that has been well worthwhile from some of the most interesting characters. In each staff, you always have some you don’t like and some that are like the crazy uncle no one talks to because they are just that: crazies. But for the most part you meet and work with good people that are just trying to live their life.
That being said, I think that dipping your toe in the company silverware is an awful idea. We have lost good workers due to breakups and for the most part it only works out in a few special circumstances. As a general rule, it goes up in fire.
4. People as a whole are just the worst.
I am sure you are all nice, respectful people to whomever is serving you at the time. However, I didn’t say “person,” I said “people.” Overall, my opinion of people has dropped from “everyone is mildly nice” to “everyone else to the world should go up in flames.” I’ve only been back five days this summer. People do not know how to read a menu. People think waving their hands at someone — fifteen seconds after they have just been checked on is acceptable — and literally look at you like you are garbage or an object instead not a living breathing human being with feelings. People are the worst. Whoever is serving you is a person; don’t snap at us like we are animals. You can wait five seconds for the extra napkins I was bringing you anyway.
People have also decided to stop raising their children. If your child needs a phone in front of their face at the age of ten, then there is something wrong here. I know younger kids do need games, coloring, and other things to keep them occupied — I don’t judge — but a ten-year-old is different. I normally would never tell anyone how to raise their child because I work with children. I know it’s difficult. However, this alternative is better than letting your kids roam the restaurant and me almost tripping over them. I am also going to comment that when I ask your child to please sit down in my nicest teacher voice, don’t ask for the manager — he’s my father and he knows I wasn’t rude and you aren’t getting a free meal.
5. No one can bullshit like you.
You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. I’m a firm believer this is one of the reasons why I am an amazing teacher. I can smell when a student is lying. I can also lie with the best of them. Frequently I get tables that know my family and me and I have no idea who they are. Do they know that? Now of course not. I usually — 99% of the time — can carry on the conversation like we are old friends without them figuring it out. I know how to plaster a smile on my face and make it through a shift when I am hungover as all hell, when I don’t want to be there, or when I’ve been going through personal hell. I literally worked through a weekend when I had caught swine flu when I was student teaching. I closed the restaurant the same day we buried my grandfather: not a meltdown, or moment of sadness for my customers to see. It’s not that I am some super strong person, or that I am heartless. It’s that I can fake it with the best of them.
Overall, I wouldn’t trade my second job or family for anything. I love spending summer serving people and seeing them enjoy time with friends and family. And if all else fails: The shorter the shorts, the higher the tips — within reason of course..
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