Thursday, July 15, 2010

Born A Waiter

And if you're born a waiter
you're born to be hurt
You're born to be stepped on,
lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt

-Sung to the tune of "Born a Woman"

Occasionally, I hear someone talking about an "easy" job like bartending or waiting tables, or maybe I'll read about "all those tips" waiters make, and I know that anyone who hasn't done the job just couldn't possibly understand the tremendous pressure, risk and vulnerability a waiter experiences. Granted, some never have to put in any time at a rough cocktail lounge, diner or 24-hour restaurant, so they might be spared some of the more vulgar incidents, but it's never "easy."

I have worked in some rough places, and in my time, I've had my clothes ripped, been cussed at and called names, made fun of, threatened with death, pushed, tripped, grabbed, flashed, groped, accused of ejaculating in someone's eggs Benedict, and even hit in the face with a plate of two over-easy ("Is there something wrong with your eggs, ma'am?" was my response). I've had to clean up blood, vomit, pick up used condoms, dirty disposable diapers, hypodermic needles, cups of tobacco spittle, snotty tissues, and even someone's partial plate (as in, dentures) - all in the course of waiting tables. And that's not counting the tantrums thrown by the cooks - many of them on jail release from halfway houses or suffering from PTSD which isn't exactly conducive to a high stress environment.

One hotel bar I worked at was down the street from a tavern where the bartender had been shot and killed by someone who came in for a drink after last call. Two other restaurants I worked at were held up. The first one, the assistant manager was the only one at work, but the second one happened while the restaurant was packed with people lined up out the door (I was one of the customers in line - I'd come in on my day off). At another restaurant (one which deserves its own blog entry) the cops refused to come "unless a weapon had been used." It wasn't enough for someone to just produce one - that's how common of an occurrence it was.

I'm proud of surviving all of that. I never went to college, and I've never been wealthy, but I can measure my success in my endurance - my resilience. There are plenty of people who couldn't handle such an "easy" job.

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