Everyone Should Wait Tables At Least Once In Their Lives

Everyone Should Wait Tables At Least Once In Their Lives

It’s messy and it may cause you to never want to eat anything with tarter sauce ever again, but it taught me some pretty invaluable skills.
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Do you know how to respond to someone who is yelling at you to get them tarter sauce after you have explained to them for the third time that it’s being made and will be ready shortly?

Or how to time it just right so that your table that ordered drinks gets them as soon as they're made and your other table gets their food fresh from the oven, all while getting napkins for another table and running a credit card for a fourth time?

I do, or at least when everything is running smoothly I know how to approximate that, but anyone who has worked at a restaurant knows that it’s never that easy.

There is always something that slows down the process, that complicates the process. The Blue Moon draught may be out, the kitchen might be out of fried shrimp and the small to-go boxes might be the only size left.

It’s messy, and it may cause you to never want to eat anything with tartar sauce ever again, but it taught me some pretty invaluable skills.

I have been waiting tables on and off for extra cash for nine years. It got me through high school, college and my first experience of being on my own.

It’s a great side gig, and, depending on the place, you can easily make enough money to cover living expenses.

It’s just frustrating. Very frustrating at times. But like any other job you’ll have good days and bad days, then you’ll have some horrible days mixed in.

And by “horrible,” I mean horrific. This line of work will make you question humanity in ways that you’ve only had nightmares about. People treat servers in appalling ways, here are some of my worst customer interactions:

I was covering for the host one day when this elderly man in a straw hat came up to the host stand. He was trying to get into a reservation-only party without a reservation. The more my coworker and I explained why we couldn’t give him a table, the more agitated he became.

Finally, he turned to the two of us and asked, “What’s stopping me from just walking through here and grabbing some food?” He paused, as if we were going to respond with something other than the broken record response of, “Well, you can certainly speak with our manager, if you would like.”

Then, without prompting, he asked, “Do either of you have the education to understand what I just said?” A question that is offensive no matter your background, but he was speaking to my coworker, a young woman with a Master’s Degree and to me, at the time when I was finishing my Bachelor’s Degree.

Another time, it was after Hurricane Irene, a storm that destroyed countless roads, bridges, homes and businesses in Vermont, a place in the hills and mountains where people assume flood insurance is unnecessary because no one could have predicted that a river had the potential to rise high enough and have currents fast enough to wash away people’s livelihoods.

The restaurant I was working at was not structurally damaged, but the grounds surrounding the building were. From the outside deck, you could smell the landfill and see only mud and debris where there used to be fields of grass. One of my tables that had requested to sit outside was complaining loudly about the smell as the table in front of them told me about how friends and family of theirs had to watch as their homes went down the river.

Trust me, I’ve had others. I have been working five tables at the same time and had people walk out without tipping anything and some without paying at all. I've had strangers call me "ma'am", "sweetie", "honey", "that blonde girl over there" and, weirdly, "baby". The list goes on and on, but those instances were by far my most frustrating memories.

Because when it comes down to it I am your server, not your servant. It is my job to bring you food, drink and all the equipment you need to enjoy both of those things. Sure, I will happily give you directions, recommendations, to-go boxes or replacement french fries because the ones I brought you weren't hot enough.

I will laugh at your jokes when I don’t find them particularly funny. I will even restrain myself and say nothing when you shout something racist or sexist. I do these things because I am paid to, but that does not give you permission to speak to me more condescendingly than you would a child or your dog. It does not give you permission to grab me by the arm to ask for a straw.

Nope.

I’m a human and like you I expect to be treated as such.

It’s because of my years living tray-to-table that I have unshakable customer service skills, can think three steps ahead and can carry multiple trays of drinks at a time without spilling. Well, with only spilling a little anyway.

It’s not all bad, or horrific, you’ll have days where all your tables are happy. The food came out right, drinks were on point and you were anticipating customer needs perfectly.

You’ll be tipped 50 and 100 percent.

You’ll feel unstoppable.

You’ll connect with some interesting people and maybe even learn something new about jet skis that you never considered before the guy at table 11 brought it up.

Serving is a balance, and sometimes your worst shifts and your best shifts will be the same shifts. It will be so busy that your feet won’t even hurt anymore because they’re numb, and you know that the second you stop moving the pain will come back with a vengeance.

And it will be so dead that you will be bored enough to form a peace sign out of the salt, pepper and Old Bay shakers.

But it’s never the same, every day there are new challenges and new reasons to love or hate it.

I can promise you that you will come out of the experience with the ability to speak to anyone about anything. You will be able to keep your cool and tackle multiple problems at a time.

More than anything?

You’ll empathize, and the next time you go out to eat you’ll still give Annie a 20 percent tip even though she never brought you your side of ranch.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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To The Nursing Major

Is it all worth it?
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"You're going to feel like quitting. You're going to struggle. You'll have days where you'll wonder, 'what's it all for?' You'll have days when people attempt to break you down, or challenge your intelligence, skills and right to be where you are. You'll have moments when you question your own abilities, and perhaps your sanity - but you'll rise. You'll rise, because your strength as a nurse is not determined by one grade, one shift or one job - it's an ongoing journey of learning, honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients."

Don't ever give up on achieving your dreams to be a nurse. Keep pushing forward, no matter how hard it is. Nursing is not an easy major. You will have very little, if any, time to do anything other than study. But just think about how great it will feel to connect with a patient, pray with them, and even save his or her life. This will make all of the late night studying, weekly breakdowns, countless cups of coffee, and tests so hard all you want to do is cry, worth it. To see a patient's face light up when you walk in his or her room will make your heart melt and you'll know you chose the right major.

The kind of nurse you will be isn't based on a test grade, it's based on your heart for the people you are caring for. You may have failed a class, but don't let that ruin you. Try again and keep pushing toward your goal. Don't allow others around you to drag you down and tell you you aren't good enough to be a nurse. Show them how strong you are and that you will never give up. There will be days when all you want to do is quit, I know I question my major more than once a week; however, there is a patient out there that needs you and your caring heart. You can do this, have faith in yourself that you can move mountains.

I will say that you definitely must have a heart for nursing. Personally, I want to be a Pediatric Oncologist and work at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Just the thought of those precious children going through the hardest part of their lives, keeps me going so that I can be there for them. I want to be a light to my patients and their families during a dark time. When I feel like giving up, I just think about how many lives I have the chance to touch and I keep on going. So when you feel like giving up, just think about your future patients and how you can make a difference, even if its only for one person. I love the quote from Katie Davis that states, "I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. But I can change the world for one person. So I will keep loving, one person at a time." Even though this quote is about foreign missions, I believe it fits the mold for nursing as well. Nurses have the opportunity to change the world for people everyday. Just remember that, smile, don't give up, and keep pushing toward your goal.

Cover Image Credit: chla.org

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You Know Economic Capital and Social Capital, How About Energy Capital?

Gaining capital = gaining mobility.

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The most over-used phrase in America is "All you have to do is work hard to get ahead." Another one is the classic, "You can't have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic." Both of these exhausted ideas are busted by looking at the importance of economic and social capital.

Obviously, our capitalist system is not an equal one. One of the ways in which we're distinctly separated is by our economic and social classes. When we advance by making gains, we accumulate capital, which mobilizes us and enables us to more easily climb and gain more capital. The growth, then, is exponential. If we are born into a great deal of capital, it is immediately easier to gain more.

Economic capital is clear enough; we may call this wealth. It's about our money, our assets.

Social capital, on the other hand, is our position in society. It includes our network and the power of those with whom we hold relationships, our education, and the communities in which we are raised. For example, people raised by parents with college degrees have social capital because they are in positions to understand and help out with the processes of applications and financial aid and the dynamics of post-secondary education.

But there's another kind of capital that plays a role in our mobility. This is energy capital.

This is where my issue with the "minimum wage work ethic" concept arises. I've worked near-minimum-wage jobs. I've worked in fast food. And in every case, I am confident in stating that my coworkers and I worked extremely hard. When I worked at McDonald's, I would go home every day and collapse on the couch because it had taken everything out of me. Physically, my feet were killing me. Emotionally, I was exhausted and tense from being mistreated by customers who dehumanized me. And since I also wasn't making enough money to have extra economic capital, I had to dispense even more emotional energy once I got home to stress over finances.

One of the biggest critiques of fast food workers like myself is that we just need to work toward another job. Yes, that's very true. But the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was get on the job hunt; all I really wanted was to go to sleep. And since I had no connections (less social capital), this job search would take a lot more effort than someone who could contact a family friend.

Meanwhile, there exist people at the top who can make a great deal of money without working all that hard. Some can even get away with no work at all. Some can also then pay for cooks and nannies and housekeepers and wealth managers and tax professionals and tutors for their kids and plumbers and electricians and repairpeople and restaurants and so on and so forth. And they don't have to dispense nearly as much energy.

Now, I don't want to insist that energy capital is always linked to higher economic or social capital. Many people with a lot of economic and social capital work extremely hard. Similarly, there do exist people with no economic and social capital who are in that position because they expend no energy at all.

However, it is necessary to consider energy as an additional criterion in building the capacity for safety, power, and mobility in society.

This is also tied up with privilege. People in positions of privilege (i.e. men, white people, Christians, heterosexual and cisgender people, temporarily able-bodied people, etc.) need not expend the energy to consider stereotypes and prejudices on a day-to-day basis; they can focus all of their energy on their mobility, which already comes easier.

Extra energy is extra capital. Know where you're privileged.

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