Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Perk

I'm sick, so I don't know if I'm gonna get much in here for the next few days. Once I got out of the habit, it was hard to find my voice again, and now I just feel like crap. I hope the people who have been reading will stick around. At least I don't have a shift to cover.

When I moved back to Denver from St. Petersburg, Florida, I didn't want to lose my tan, so I got a job working in a tanning salon. I used to lie in those beds after hours for an hour at a time, and I look at pictures of me now and wonder why nobody told me I looked radioactive. The tanning salon was next door to a little restaurant that was looking for a waiter, so I applied and got the job. I'd been hired on the spot at places before, but this was the first time I was told to come back that evening to work, given the keys to the building, and told where to drop the cash in the vault because I would be the last person to leave. They didn't even know me! They had a strange setup, in that we carried our own banks, seated and bussed our own tables and made our own drinks. There were no stations, so the waiters were always bumping into each other 'cos we had to work tables like patchwork all over the restaurant. The bar thing was just silly, since I was the only one who actually knew how to mix drinks. I wondered how they could possibly have come up with such a disorganized way of operating, and then I met the owner.

I was hired by the chef, and I'd been working for a couple of weeks before the owner showed up. She was a middle-aged Asian woman with a very strong accent, difficult to understand and prone to emotional outbursts. She followed all of the waiters around, asking if we'd taken care of such and such table, where was so and so's food and stuff like that. It made it even worse since she had no idea who was waiting on which customer. She kept up a shrill banter through most of the lunch shift until I finally had enough. She'd been trying to get me to wait on some people who had already had cocktails, eaten, ordered dessert, had their dishes cleared and paid their bill. She thought they'd just walked in and was frantic about my getting them menus. I told her, "I don't think this is going to work out." I could tell this must have happened plenty of times before, 'cos she started backpedaling. She asked me to reconsider and said, "I'm not here very often" but I told her I thought once would be enough.

There are plenty of things that suck about waiting tables: Having to work when you're sick, putting up with sexual harassment, shifts that never end because someone didn't show up, being made to do cleaning and janitorial work for two bucks an hour, no 401k, no insurance, and knowing that your job security depends on whatever some jerk says about you, not whether it's true. The really nice thing about the job is that it can be really easy to leave. As simple as cashing out your tickets and walking out the door.

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