If you’ve ever worked in the food service industry, you know what I’m talking about.
After I graduated college an unspecified number of years ago, I swore I would never work in the service industry again. I was a big girl, with a big-girl degree, and felt I had put more than enough time in. I started working in restaurants when I was 14, first as a hostess, then as a server and finally as a bartender, working my way through the ranks and learning to hate people from all walks of life.
It’s an awful job but one I think everyone should do, if only to teach them some much-needed empathy. If you’ve done it, you know what I’m talking about, and you know that all of the following things are true.
1. You know within the first 10 seconds of talking to a table whether or not they’re going to tip you
Sometimes it’s like a sixth server sense that tingles. Other times it’s the fact that they order water, bread and crackers before insisting on splitting an entrée, which they will eat completely before demanding it be comped.
2. That feeling that comes over you when someone says, “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you!”
Translation: “If you pander to me, jump through hoops, stroke my ego and laugh at all my stupid jokes, I might leave you about 10 percent on my $50 tab. You ready to dance, monkey?”
3. You will deal with at least one person a night who has difficulty reading a menu
“What are the sides?” they might ask as they gaze at the “sides” section of the menu. “Does the broccoli-cheddar soup have any dairy in it?”
4. The majority of your tables are under the assumption that you work for them, in a sort of indentured servant position
Negative a billion points if they actually say, “I pay your salary, you know!”
5. Everything is your fault
The wait. The dining room temperature. The fact that you ran out of lemons.
6. “Can I see a manager?”
Translation: “I am a horrible human being who hates myself. The only way I can cope is through projection, so I’m going to punish you.”
7. No, really — everything is your fault
The wait on the food. Another table’s volume. A burnt french fry.
8. You will deal with a campout
They order. They eat. They pay. They sit.
9. College kids are the absolute f***ing worst
See above, only instead of eating, they buy coffee with free refills and look sullen if you ask them if they’re ready for the check.
Here, have $2 an hour to wrap silverware, marry ketchups and mop puke out of the bathroom.
11. When your manager comes to the back of the house to “help,” you know you’re in for a two-hour excursion to the weeds
They forgot how to restaurant, and you’re about to pay for that in a very real way.
12. “The Birthday Song” was created by a vengeful, sadistic person who hates joy and dignity
Here’s how every request for the birthday song goes: First, a beaming parent with shimmering, mischievous eyes tells you that their mortified kid is celebrating a birthday. Then you head back to the kitchen to find people to help you sing whatever abominable birthday song the restaurant made you memorize, only to find that everyone has magically disappeared. After you bribe/cajole/coerce a few people to join you on the floor, you march out with fake smiles and sacrifice any remaining shred of your humanity with a loud rendition of “The Birthday Song” while the birthday child cries and the parents glare at you. The kid hates you. The parents hate you. You hate you. Happy birthday.
13. By law, when you are closing, someone has to come in two minutes before you lock the door and stay for an hour and a half
Look it up. It’s totally true.
14. Once you work at a restaurant, you can never eat the food it serves again
You need to see pizza sauce mixed in an industrial-size trash can only once.
15. Not everything is all bad, all the time
Not everyone is a Dumpster human, and just when you think you can’t take anymore, some big, burly biker dude will tip you $40 on a $10, or a little old lady will give you warm words of encouragement, and you will trudge through another day.