I wrote the majority of this post a long time ago. Since then I have sat down in separate intervals and added to it. Tonight I decided that it’s finally time to publish this.
Ever since I was little, I always wanted to work as a waitress. I often dreamed about how much fun it would be. My mind was filled with lovely scenes of myself (*ahem*) lightly tripping between tables balancing large trays laden with delicious goodies for polite, grateful recipients who gushed about the scrumptious nature of the food and never asked for extra napkins. Ahhhhh. It sounded nice.
Well, my dreams finally came true shortly after I turned 18. I was excited to get a waitressing job at a Christian family-owned restaurant. Reflecting on my experiences, it has been a wonderful ride. But waitressing was nothing like I’d expected. I learned (and am in the process of learning) many things, a few of which I’ll share with you.
Humility. I remember my first night at work very well. It. was. hard. There were so many new things to learn and it was overwhelming. After all the customers had left and the restaurant was closed, I had to sweep under all the tables and vacuum the entire restaurant floor. This is no small feat, people. And you know what? I had a bad attitude about it all! Inwardly I was grumbling about how menial my tasks really were. After several hours of sweat, dust, and grime, I finished my job and wearily drove home. It was late. My back was sore from bending over for so long. My calves were burning. The soles of my feet hurt when I sat down. I was anything but encouraged. When I got home, I told my parents to just say the word and I’d quit on the spot. But they wisely advised me to go back and stick with it for a bit longer and see if things didn’t get better. I did. And you know what? Gradually, very gradually, I began to view my job differently. It’s still the same work and it’s every bit as demanding as it was then. But I came to realize that God gave me that work to do. He provided it specifically for me at that specific time. He wants us to do everything to His glory, not just the easy, fun, elevating, or ego-boosting things in our life. I came to realize how much of a blessing that job is to me as – by grace – my perspective gradually changed.
Patience. It took me about a month of training to become an “officially trained” waitress. Back when I started learning how to serve food, I would shadow another waitress who showed me how things worked. I gradually took on more and more responsibilities until I was doing most of the waitressing myself. During those weeks of training I received no tips. They went to the waitress I was working with. I recently told someone that I was a waitress, to which he responded, “ah! You’re a tip-depender!” And he was absolutely right. We work for tips, not our base pay. It was hard during those first weeks to come home and have so little to show for it. I was discouraged. The first few nights I took tables by myself, I came home ecstatic. Tips started coming in, generous people bore with my mistakes, and things got better.
Waitressing has also been an exercise in patience when dealing with difficult customers. 98% of my customers are pleasant, but a very few are downright rude. And because I represent the restaurant as their server, I must take the blame for mistakes I did and did not make. Some people complain about the food, others about the long wait, some people take what seems like ages time to order while I stand there waiting only to change it after a minute, and yet others just blow me off as a “nobody.” These are instances in which I can’t let the opinion of others get to me. We’re ALWAYS going to do something or be in a situation that displeases somebody. It’s just bound to happen. We just can’t be everything to everybody. And you know what? That’s okay. I think the key is being able to move on and handle those tough situations with grace and patience.
Gratitude. Now that I’ve talked about the patrons who are not pleasant, there are SO many who are, many of whom I’ve come to know as friends. I remember during one of my very first shifts, I was cleaning up the tables after helping serve drinks to a large Christmas party. My hands were full of glasses and I was intent on my duties. All of a sudden, a lady came up to me and told me I was a very good waitress, tucking a tip – my first one ever – into my apron pocket. I cannot say how encouraging that was. She took just a moment and completely made a difference in my evening. Since then, so many others, when they sincerely express their thanks or take an interest in me, have encouraged me. It made me think about how I treat customer service people and how much of a difference I can make in someone’s life simply by sincerely appreciating their service. After all, they’re serving me! It’s so easy to blow these people off or at least take little notice of them. But they’re people. They have lives and stories, hardships and blessings just like I do. Folks, we have opportunites at the Walmart checkout, the gas station, the McDonalds’ drive-through – at literally every single store we step foot in – to be a witness and example for Christ! How many times do we actually take advantage of that opportunity?! I can say for myself – not nearly enough.
Doing-the-next-thing-amidst-a-sea-of-craziness. I’d like to think I’ve improved just a little in this area. :) There are just those nights when I feel completely scatter-brained. Being foggy to begin with doesn’t help to ease stress. Dealing with drink refills, to-go orders over the phone, requests for extra napkins, adding a coffee that one woman’s ticket, no onions or gravy on this man’s meatloaf, and oh! Here’s a group of 8 people to seat! I very quickly learned something about myself after I became a waitress: that I am NOT a multitasker. I am not a multitasker. Yes, I wrote that twice just so it would sink in. I don’t think being able to multitask is a necessity in life. Nor do I think that it’s a fault or weakness. I believe you can cope with this quality by staying organized, prioritized to address the most pressing need, and sometimes just taking a deep breath and doing the next thing. I’m still working on this, friends.
Persistence pays off. Seriously guys. It really does. I remember during the first few days at work being scared to death by the computer. There were so many buttons! I dreaded having to enter information into that thing, especially detailed orders from particular patrons. As time went on, though, I started to get the hang of things and it got easier. Looking back on it, I laugh at myself because of how intimidated I was. I realized that there are a lot of things in life that seem difficult and maybe even impossible at first. But many of them can be overcome by keeping at it: practice, patience, repetition, and time. I know that a little restaurant computer is only the start of “scary” things I’ll have to deal with in life. :)
You wanna hear about the worst mistake I’ve made so far? One night, the restaurant was packed. I was running around full-speed, juggling what seemed like a hundred tasks in my mind. I kept passing this table I’d taken an order from. It got later and later. I brought out their salads and rolls. Still, the cook hadn’t called my order. “Why is he so slow?” I wondered to myself. Then a wave of cold chills hit me as I realized I never put their order in the computer. These poor customers had had been sitting for over half an hour without their food. I hurriedly put their order through and forced myself to explain to my poor customers what had happened. Thankfully they were gracious about it and didn’t mind too much. I have also had several very close calls, like the time I almost spilled broccoli cheese soup on an elderly lady’s head. I think I would have melted into the carpet and died right there on the spot if it had actually happened. :D
As for highlights, there are many. I have amazing co-workers (fellow waitresses) who very quickly became my friends. They make me laugh. A lot. There is much laughter, teamwork, commiseration, and friendly banter that goes on in our little wait line. I enjoy chatting with customers and being able to make new friends. I love seeing my regulars. I have acquired quite a collection of nicknames, including the Dimple Girl, Brooklyn, Smiley, and Beth. The very atmosphere of an “old country restaurant with home-cooked food made from scratch” is extremely endearing and unique. I love it. Since most of our customers are elderly, it’s amazing to observe and talk to sweet couples who have been married for 50+ years and are still in love and have much wisdom to share. It positively melts my heart.
Looking back on my “romanticized” view of waitressing makes me laugh now. I am sure that I don’t look very graceful, I most certainly do NOT balance large trays with one hand (haha), and yes – almost every table asks for extra napkins. Waitressing is not an easy job. Indeed it taxes me physically and emotionally. But I can honestly say that it has been a rewarding experience. I don’t plan on working in this job forever. But in the short months that I’ve worked as a waitress, I have learned so much more than simply serving food. As my daddy wisely advised me: it’s important to enjoy this short season of life.
Well, folks, it’s time to sign off. Thanks for reading yet another post at the bungalow. :) It’s such a blessing to ME to write out my thoughts and it’s my prayer that those thoughts may encourage and uplift you in your journey wherever you may be. Cheers!