Have you always wanted to know what it’s like to be a waitress? Maybe. If you’re curious. You may see us as sub humans or in fact, super humans. The truth is (staggeringly): We are humans, bringing you plates of cooked food, hoping you will enjoy your experience enough to tip us.
But I made an equally staggering realisation the other day: I love waitressing. I love it. I love everything about it, getting to take a group of hungry people to a table and sit them down and promise them food. That’s about as nice as it gets in a legal establishment.
Really though, it’s the people you meet. As I work in a chain restaurant, with branches across the UK and USA, we get alot of different people in. Work meetings, work lunches, first dates, second dates, marriage dates, we-don’t-have-the-kids dates and the occasional semi celeb who happens to bop on over. We also get families with adorable little kids who distract you for 10 minutes and so food that you should have ran has gone cold; We get crayons flung and papers scrunched but those adorable little smiles get you through the next hour until your lunch break.
I’m not saying all the people are nice. Four weeks into being a waitress I actually told someone I hated humans a little bit more. But I think that’s subsided. I’ve just learnt that not everyone is a good egg, which everyone realises at some point… And now i’ve had Class A training in dealing with them.
So, who have I encountered….?
I once had a big family sit down, with an obviously very chauvinistic, masculine father. I came over and told them, ‘Hi my name’s Hannah, I’ll be your waiter today.’ I was having a strong feminist-ey vibed week, and was trying to promote calling all servers, ‘waiters’, just like the acting world had started calling all actors and actresses, actors. This man though, turned round and said, “But you’re a waitress” in a very pompous tone, and I just turned to him and said very matter of factly, “Well actually I’d like to go by waiter because it’s the 21st century.” You could have heard the teeeeniest needle drop. His family were stunned. I knew I had lost my tip. I tried to turn it round by then conceding, and saying ” You can call me a waitress though”-promptly throwing my morals out the window and trying to claw back customer satisfaction. (He wasn’t so much a bad egg, as a set-in-his-ways egg.)
One bizarre encounter I had was, when trying to take a bill from two big, chain wearing, bling repping lads who were on the way to Notting Hill Carnival (though it was 2pm in a branch I was working at at the time in Birmingham so I’m not sure what they wanted their eta to be). They were discussing girls in the bedroom. Not super displeased about the topic, but I was when I found out they thought that women should never be dominant in the bedroom, on pain of death. They said, “Why would a girl try and be a man? Nahhhh, don’t try and be a man, that’s a man’s job.” I just clanged my tip tray down very loudly and yelled out “Would you like to pay by cash our card” before his friend could answer. Because I would have wanted to responded. And I wasn’t representing me, I was representing my company. Plus I think dominating in the bedroom is great.
Waitressing introduces you to new people, with a rapid turn around, meaning you meet about 50 new people every couple of hours. It’s exhausting but rewarding. I’ve served French families completely in their language, to practice my french, and I’ve served a Norwegian Playwright who gave me his contact details so we could write together on a day we were both free! Who needs LinkedIn when you’re a waitress?
But…”what are you going to do next?”
I have my copywriting course that I’ve bought online, I’ve got my master’s degree sitting on the shelf and I have options….but to the family members who are constantly asking when I’m going to get a real job, or when I’m going to do something with 4 years of Uni…it’s time to change the record.
Being a waitress is not an easy option, it’s hard! You deal with complaints all day, you have to act as a go between to the kitchen and the front of house when things (always) go tits up, and you need to keep the customers (and the chefs) happy round the clock. You learn how to work well in a team, how to pick up the slack for others and when to give some of yours away. It’s actually taught me alot about remaining professional when all you’ve wanted to do is slap someone in the face.
And so yes, I am looking for jobs that will make use of my degrees and take me into the writingsphere, but until then I am quite happy learning how to be the best possible waiter I can be. It might be an in between job, but, ma familia, that doesn’t give anyone the right to push me to find another, or ask when it will end. Because I am proud of my job and (sometimes) enjoy the long hours, and for now that will have to do.