The Hourly Side Of It

Many close to me know that it has been for quite some time now that I’ve had an urge to leave the food and beverage industry in pursuit of change. Working in restaurants is something that I have been doing for most of my life now, more than half of my life to be exact. Although serving and bartending can be extremely lucrative, for me it had gotten to the point where it was a mindless job. Now matter what bar or restaurant I began working, it was all the same to me.

I got my chance to switch up my occupation but it wasn’t easy obtaining this new job nor has it been an easy transition.

I went on three interviews for this place. The first two were just days apart. By interview two I was stoked. I figured if they called me in for a second interview they would for sure hire me.

They never called me back. A week had passed and I had heard nothing from the place I had interviewed with. The confidence I had walked out of there with had pretty much vanished and what stood in its place was the feeling of worthlessness. I had always been able to land any restaurant job I had ever interviewed for but when it came to doing something different with my life, it seemed as though no other type of establishment would hire me.

I went on vacation for a week to go visit family. Throughout that whole time I kept thinking to myself how much I was really dreading going back to my serving job. Honestly it wasn’t as though I was working for bad bosses or that I couldn’t tolerate my co-workers. I did truly enjoy working with the people I worked with. The clientele was a bit more upper class than I would have liked, but even that I could tolerate. I just wasn’t feeling the service industry anymore. I decided that I wouldn’t let this job I had interviewed for get away from me that easily. I made a decision that when I got back home I would email the business a “follow up” letter. What would be the worst that could happen?? That they would respond and tell me, “I’m sorry but the position has been filled..” or simply not respond at all. I could deal with that. At the very least I would know that I had truly tried.

I arrived home on a Monday afternoon and within minuets of arriving I had sat at my computer and composed a lovely follow-up email. As soon as I sent it, I closed my laptop and tried to forget about it. It was just a few hours later that they responded. They wanted me to meet with the owner of the company the very next day. I was thrilled.

The following day came and as I got ready for this interview I reminded myself that this could go either way. Either she was going to love me and hire me or she was going to be unimpressed and I’d never hear from them again. I tried to keep high hopes while also knowing that I had to be realistic in this situation. What was the situation? The fact that my resume consisted of mainly restaurant work and hardly anything else. The truth of the matter was that if she did hire me it would be a huge risk on her part due to the simple fact that I had no experience in the field I was interviewing for. Either way, I went in with my head up high. Hopefully she would see that although I had no experience in what I was interviewing for, I still had wonderful qualities and attributes that I could contribute, while also having the capability to learn quickly.

Interviewing with her was easy. She was very down to earth and natural to talk to. She asked about my work history, told me in detail about the company and what she was looking to build within her team. To be honest, it hadn’t felt as though we were on an interview but more so just chatting. By then end of it, I walked out not knowing if I had gotten the job but feeling as though I did. Still, I kept it realistic. I had left the two previous interviews walking on clouds and never got called back so why would this be any different?

The phone call came two hours later. One of the managers I had previously interviewed with called to tell me I was hired. I was to start the very next day. I was ecstatic. Being relentless and not taking “no” for an answer had really worked out in my favor and I was happy to have been given an opportunity to prove that I was capable of doing the job even if I didn’t have much experience.

Fast forward to a month later and the thrill and the excitement has almost diminished completely. Starting a new job is hard. Starting a new job that you have no clue about is even harder. Add to the mix, the fact that I went from making nightly cash to now waiting every two weeks for a paycheck that pays a fraction of what one used to make, and now life is one big ball of stress. I will not lie, I have my good days, when everything seems fine and dandy. Those are the days I make no mistakes doing my job while also having a good time with my coworkers. Then I have the days that everything I touch I seem fuck up.  These are the days that I feel like I am not good enough to do what I was hired to do. These are the days in which I feel like “why did I even bother to force myself into a situation I was clearly not qualified for?”

The grass is not always greener on the other side. I now understand, that because I had been serving and bartending for so long, I had taken it all for granted. The money, the scheduling, the connection with my customers, all of that I overlooked and now that I’m on the hourly side of life, I crave it all back. Will I stay at this new job that I struggled so hard to get? In all honesty, I will answer by saying no. I was good at what I did and I made money doing so. It won’t be long before I find my way back to what once was. For now I will suck it up and make the most I can out of this frustrating situation, because let’s face it, why make it more miserable than it has to be? I have learned a lot about myself  by pursuing something that was out of reach, out of my norm. When you go outside of your comfort zone, you may not always strike it big but you will always learn something about yourself that you never really knew or ever paid attention to before.

I have no regrets on any of the decisions I’ve made that have landed me where I am at this moment in time.  Everything I do and experience adds to the value of my life. It all serves a purpose and although at times it may be frustrating to go through some of these adventures, they are none the less adventures, and isn’t that what we live for in the end?

Server Life: The Future

My thoughts on the server life and the restaurant industry are tainted. With 16 years of serving under my belt, I have seen and experienced everything. From receiving a $100 tip for serving over-medium eggs and a side of bacon with a smile, to spilling coffee on the lap of an 80 year old man, to being thrown up on by an overheated baby. Working with the public can be very taxing and not just from day to day but from table to table. As a server, you are putting your best acting foot forward. Every table you take, you are playing a different role, molding yourself to the vibes of that table.

I can walk into any restaurant and immediately tell you which person has recently started serving and who’s a veteran. I can also scan the staff and tell you who is the hard working server, who’s the slacker, who’s the one always up management’s ass, who’s on drugs, who calls out most often, who only serves to get through school or are saving up for a particular reason, and who’s going to be making it a career. I can look at staff and see if the place is all about team work or if it’s each man (or woman) for themselves. I am like a blood hound but instead of sniffing out blood and bodies, I sniff out server characters and work ethics. It’s at times blessing but also a curse.

Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, and for many reasons. For one, as a child growing up with a single mother, we could barely ever go out to eat. Financially, it was something we could do only on a special occasion. That was until I started working and took some of the financial burden away from my hardworking mother. At that point, she had this thing where once a week it would be “kitchen closed” and so instead of her cooking dinner we would go out and enjoy something nice. To be able to go out once a week and reward ourselves for a job well done always felt amazing. The fact that we could sit there and be catered to while being able to enjoy one another’s company stress free was an awesome feeling and they’re memories I hold onto till this very day. I no longer live close to my mom or sister. I live states away and although I’ve got no family here, I still enjoy a “kitchen closed” moment, maybe more often than I should. I am one of those people that you’ll meet that has absolutely no problem in going out solo. All I need to keep me company is a good book or paper and a pen, sometimes those items make better companions than people, haha. So I’ll go out and with hardly any distractions I can tune into all that is around me and that is when the curse kicks in. I start observing fellow customers, take in the ambiance around me, and then finally my thoughts and observations land solely on the staff.

More times than not I begin to really watch the servers that I can tell are veterans to the game. I watch the ones who may not have intentionally made serving their career. When I zero in on these particular people, I become sad, almost depressed at the thought of how their working life has been. In one word, exhausting. It’s not easy serving for a living and I have met people who have been caught up in the game for 20, 30, or even more years. None of them truly enjoying what they do but all of them acknowledging how easy it was to get trapped. All of them accepting a fate that in reason did not need to be accepted but for one motive or another they simply just did. They got comfortable. I look at them, I speak to them, and in all sadness I always think to myself of how I do not want to ever end up like them. I refuse to be trapped in this game no matter how much money I can make. Money cannot buy my happiness in this industry. It could buy me time but definitely not happiness.

When I began working at the place that I am currently working, I started off working 5 days a week, then I opted to pick up a sixth day. I was 20 at the time and was making about $250-$350 a shift depending on the time of year. I was banking. I enrolled into school but my education took a backseat to work. I mean hey, what I was making a shift would make me more than an entry level job that I would be getting once I graduated college so why the fuck not? Soon everything came before my education simply because I had the financial means to place everything else first. Ten exhausting years later, I am still trying to finish my schooling, not so much for the career, but more so for the accomplishment factor. I have been at them same restaurant for the duration of the time, minus two years that I took off to go explore bits of the U.S.  Since I have been back I only serve two days a week. By just working those two days I can make my monthly bills without a worry and have incorporated into my life meaningful matters of the heart instead of the wallet. I spend my time now painting and writing (among other hobbies). This, what I am doing right now at this point in time, is my passion. I have finally figured out that this is what I want my life to be like. I want to go out and live out many experiences and then come back to my humble home and write all about it. Whether it’s a blog, a magazine article, a book, it doesn’t matter to me. All that matters is that I am able to produce stories and experiences for others to partake in and do not allow myself to get trapped in the harsh life of fast money. That just isn’t me. That just doesn’t nourish my soul.

I’m thirty years old, well… in a few months.. and I find myself at a cross roads of sorts. I do not know how to get to where I want to be but no matter, because I will eventually find my way there. I may have gotten a bit side tracked with the bribes life has thrown at me but I found my out. Now that I’ve taken off that financial blindfold that life for a moment blinded me with, I can truly see the meaning of my own life. I can imagine the future and I am excited. I thank all my fellow servers for helping me unravel that blindfold because only by viewing them in their past, present, and future, was I able to take notes and study the road that this job would forever take me down.

I tip my hat off to those veteran servers who have done this for longer than I have been alive for it takes a strong person to dedicate their lives catering to people in this way. I encourage the newbies to keep up their enthusiasm but to never let go of what their end goal is. No one ever went into serving saying “this is what I’ve always wanted to do when I grew up.” The server life is something you fall into and it is up to the person to sink or swim. You either get trapped in the life or you use it as a stepping stone to where you want to be. Passion is the key to everything. I’ve got loads of passion and it is what’s keeping me from settling. Hold onto your passion. It’s your life vest.