Monday, February 14, 2011

Well done, good and faithful servant

I don't think I was ever really cut out to be a waiter, even though that's what I spent most of my life doing. There are some things about me that were a decent fit: I am intuitive, fairly quick-witted, and I motivate well with short term goals and the regular affirmation that being tipped affords. However, I really suck at multi-tasking (unless it's big picture, planning-ahead stuff) and my feelings get hurt way too easily.

I didn't ever know how to take advantage of being a waiter like using the job to network, sucking up to the cooks for free food (or stealing food), moving around from restaurant to restaurant (or city to city, working the circuit) or knowing how to sweet-talk customers into bigger tips. Instead, I was the kind of waiter that wanted to please people and was flattered or hurt by the size of my tip. I also didn't have the sense God gave a pig to know that eating a side of toast that was never served and was going to be thrown away wasn't a kind of "stealing" that would hurt my employer. I was going hungry, trying to make a generic loaf of white bread last for three days of meals, but I'd throw the toast away at work because I hadn't paid for it. My conscience got in the way of common sense.

When I worked at the Pancake House, every waiter was supposed to "dip butters," meaning, we each scooped small balls of whipped butter into portion cups on large baking pans that were stored on racks in the refrigerator and used for pancakes and waffles. There were times I would realize after I had walked over a mile from the restaurant back to my apartment that I hadn't dipped my butters and I would walk all the way back just to take care of it. Didn't matter if it was snowing and I was dog tired and cold. I was also the kind of waiter who would keep working if someone from the next shift didn't show, even though I knew my loyalty wouldn't even be noticed.

I behaved on my job as if I worked in an office and could expect a promotion some day for my dedication, when I should have stayed on the move, always looking for the money. That is, if being a waiter had ever been about the money for me. Instead, I think waiting tables was a matter of honor. I knew it was a hard job, and I wanted to be good at it. Of course, wish in one hand; I'm not sure that I ever succeeded. There are times when I'd like to have just one more run at it to prove to myself, but I'm pretty sure I'd just be chasing after that proverbial carrot. Still, I don't think of my career as a waiter as misguided: Skills or not, I did want to be a waiter. To paraphrase Florence Foster Jenkins, "They may say I couldn't wait tables, but they can never say I didn't wait tables."


  1. At least you realize you didn't want to do it! Nothing worse than doing a job you hate!

  2. Oh no. I must not have been clear. I very much wanted to wait tables. I just don't think I have a natural gift for it.

  3. You were probably doing a fine job. In my experience, folks with a "real work ethic," a desire to please, and ambitions are chewed up and spit out in a corporate restaurant environment.

    While the unambitious and the slackers coast by and get away with everything. The difference: the slacker's don't care. Can't stress and get your feelings hurt if you don't care.

    There are good restaurants to work in, if you have the endurance to keep on looking.

    What I'm saying is this. I'm sure you did your job just fine, don't take it to heart.

    Remember, very few people grow up wanting to be a restaurant manager - it's not like the industry is getting the cream of the crop when it comes to management.

  4. Well said Guy. I found myself nodding my head whilst reading this post. There certainly aren't enough of us in the industry!