When I went into the summer season this year, I knew that my biggest goal was to get a job and start saving up for my new apartment (and clothes because I literally can never have enough). What I didn't know was that my summer job would be one to teach me life-long lessons. Between retail and dog-walking, I wasn't very picky in my job hunting, but the job I landed was a blessing in disguise: a waitress at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
To be honest, it's no surprise that I'm working for the place I am- ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you all about my love for Mexican cuisine. But the job, itself, is what surprised me and everyone else. I had never expressed interest in being a waitress (in fact, I'd expressed much the opposite) and it was clear that I knew very little about the job. But, as an interview turned into training turned into my new job, I learned to accept that this was a chance to grow as both a worker and a person.
The first thing I learned when being a waitress is that, at least at the place I work at, everyone looks out for each other. Being the new girl with literally no experience, it's safe to say that I was terrified to start my new job. If you had asked me what I thought being a waitress meant, I would have told you "a tough gig." Now, I've learned that that's a huge understatement. Thankfully, my coworkers knew that already when I came around.
From the beginning, my coworkers were looking out for me. After dodging a million "Are you hungry?" and "Have you eaten yet?" questions on my first real day of training, I quickly learned that me eating "just a protein bar" was not only strange but also very concerning. Long story short, I learned to accept the food offerings and soon realized just how valuable a hearty meal is when you've got five more hours of waitress work ahead of you.
Aside from making sure that I was well-fed, my coworkers also knew to prepare for my endless questions. Between "do we serve this?" and "what exactly is even in a Molcajete?" the people around me were not only happy to answer but also give me reassurance. It's funny how a simple "you're doing fine" can change your entire day, especially when you're quite sure that you're not.
A customer can make your day, but you can never let them break it. In just a few weeks that I've been working, I've run into it all- from customers who purposefully ruin their food to try and get out of paying for it, to customers who seem to think that them not having their ID on them is your fault. But by far the worst experience was a man who came in completely drunk as soon as we opened our doors at 11 a.m.
Now, this was still at a time when I was trying to make protein bars last a full day, so while my coworkers were finishing their breakfasts, I offered to take the first table. Big mistake. When this guy came in, I immediately knew something was wrong and sought help from my coworkers. To give you an idea of some of what went down, here are just a couple things he did in the span of time that he was there:
1. Asked my coworker how much it would cost to "spend the night with her."
2. Repeatedly asked my coworker if I could come back to serve him (at this point, a few others and I were hiding in the back) because he wanted my number.
3. Literally got to the point where my coworker had to give him a fake name for me.
4. Somehow managed to walk up to our back room (twice) to give me a tip (twice) and his phone number (both of which he tried to stick directly into my apron).
5. Told me that I should quit my job because he could pay me much better (ironically, as he was handing me a $2 tip).
Long story short, from that day on I started to eat breakfast with my coworkers.
Any other time, something like that would likely give me a reason to call it a day. I can't tell you the number of times that I began to weigh the repercussions of quitting while that customer was there. The one thing that kept me going, however, was that my coworkers were by my side and ready to help in an uncomfortable situation, even if it meant taking over and talking to the guy so that I could hide in the back.
In truth, I think that this was the first moment that I realized that no matter how bad of a customer I had, my coworkers had had it worse at some point, and instead of backing away to let me learn the hard way, they were willing to face it again in order to give me a bit better of a day. This is something that I value dearly.
I could go on and on about the different things I've learned as a waitress, but the biggest and most impacting lesson I've learned is that "a tough gig" can be made infinitely better when you're around the right people. I've seen first hand the amount of disrespect that servers face sometimes, and how it can absolutely ruin a person's day. With that said, here's a little advice to customers:
Your server is a human being, just like you. You are not their only table, and you are not their only responsibility- as much as we'd love to make you the center of our world, we often don't have the time. We deserve basic respect, even if you're having a rough day because chances are our day was worse. Mistakes do happen, though never on purpose, and I promise we feel awful about it- you don't need to make us feel worse. And lastly, if you treat us like a human being- talk to us, smile, give even an ounce of compassion- you will make our day infinitely better.