Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Waitressing?

I have a B.A. in English literature from U.C. Berkeley and a masters in English lit. from Cornell University. I’ve been (in this order) an English instructor, an ESL instructor, a bookstore salesclerk, an office manager, a non-profit organization development assistant, a part-time nanny, a choir director, a private voice instructor, an Arthur Andersen secretary, the executive assistant to the president of a holding company and a waitress. (The only consistent thing in my life is that I have, no matter what else was going on, always sung, but it’s exquisitely difficult to earn money as a singer and I’m not interested in wedding bands, cruise ships, etc. I’d rather sing my original songs and earn my rent in a non-musical way.) Why, with this education and work history, do I want to wait tables?

I love teamwork and I love helping people feel welcome in a social situation. I am never happier than when I'm in the middle of throwing a big dinner party where everyone's having a great time, and waitressing is similar. My other jobs were quite limited in the number of people I dealt with, and usually it was the exact same people every day. Working in a restaurant, I get to know and trust the team I work with, plus I get to play hostess to countless people every week, heck, every hour. I really enjoy that. Plus restaurant people are some of the most fascinating, hilarious, bizarre characters you can work with. The fun never stops (and I'm home!).

In waitressing there are a finite number of tasks, there are co-workers to help me out, and a supervisor/manager is always around somewhere. There's a place where the buck stops and it's not with me. I also love organizing/cleaning/stocking work that is set in stone, repetitious and predictable. Just tell me what to do and I’ll happily do it exactly like that forever. I'm a much better footsoldier than leader (except when it comes to music, social stuff and my personal life. Ahem).

Waitressing is also a very contained job, at least at my level. As a waitress - all right, all right, as a server - I never have to take work home. All hell might break loose and it might take all my energy and wits to dogpaddle through an eight-hour shift from the devil, but when it’s time to clock out, it’s time to clock out and that, is, it. No matter what happens, the end is always in sight.

I like how physical the work is. Sitting at a desk all day always felt unnatural to me.

The main reason I decided to try restaurant work a year ago is the schedule. As a musician, I prefer a job that doesn’t start at 8:00 a.m. I’m willing to sacrifice lazy weekends for a couple of languid mornings each week and a couple of afternoons each week when I’m done with work by 3:00 p.m. I never knew what to do with two days off together anyway.

And the money, ah yes, the money. The following has proven true in my life: the best-paying jobs require the least work and the lowest-paying jobs require the most. I did so much less work at Nick and Tony’s (where a foodrunner served the dishes and bussers cleared tables, etc.) and earned so much better money there than at Carson’s where I had to hustle for everything. Also I did so much more work at the crappily-paying office jobs than I did at the $40,000-a-year executive-assistant-to-the-president job where I sat and surfed the Net all day (and yet I hated that job). Waitressing is the first thing I’ve ever been interested enough in to want to stick with until I get to the real money. By “real money” I mean I intend to get back to the finer restaurants where I’ll be supported by bussers/bartenders/foodrunners/hostesses, etc. and I won’t have to do nearly as much physical running around, but where I’ll command EXCELLENT tips from high, high-ticket menu items and plenty of bottles of expensive wine. That’s where I’m going.

Because I really enjoy serving tables. I’m just back in the trenches for a while. Moving from Carson’s Ribs to Nick and Tony’s was like a dream come true. Maybe it was too good to be true. Now I just have to work my way back up there.

Thanks, Baritone700, for your question that allowed me to remember why I'm doing this. It was the perfect exercise for me because my first day of training was not encouraging, but I feel better now.

P.S. And at a restaurant I will never have to deal with those stupid job performance evaluations with asinine questions like "What are your goals in the next six months?" when I'm just a lousy secretary and my "goals" involve re-organizing the travel folders or synchronizing my bathroom breaks with the receptionist. I HATE JOB PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS.

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