Last night, I went back to the restaurant I hadn't taken a shift for in over 6 months. We needed the money, so on the black pants, the black non-skid work shoes, the black apron. On the tie. On the serving tray.
I slipped into it pretty easily enough. But at my second table, I couldn't remember if it was 202 or 22. The customer asked what I thought of a particular wine that not only did we not have the last time I worked there, but I had no idea how to spell the dang thing, which meant that finding it in the computer was also going to be a challenge.
I look behind me and I'd been quadruple sat. And why was everyone taking their sweet, sweet time hemming and hawing at the menu when I need to put these dang orders in?!
People started getting angry, I still didn't know 2 table numbers and then, right when I was about to put in the 6 tables worth of orders, the guy's spaghetti on table 3 fell to the floor. So now I had to go to the kitchen to replace it and clean it up. Worst of all, I overheard one of my coworkers, standing against the bar, not helping, say, "Why didn't she clean it up first?" Why don't you clean it up first?! It's YOUR table!!!
And then I woke up.
I WOKE UP!!!!
Several years ago, on a walk in our neighborhood, my husband who was only my boyfriend at the time, said that he wanted to get to the point where he could make me stop waiting tables. "Er... I wouldn't 'make' you stop, I would just want you to have that optio--" "No!" I said, "Make me stop! That is the sexiest thing anyone has ever said to me!"
And we got to that point. I have not waited on a single table since April of 2011. It's been over a year.
Now I write and produce and act in an interactive monthly show my friends and I created. I'm telecommuting a job that I really enjoy from the comforts of my own home. I get to be creative and I have freedom to dash off to auditions without the fear of having to find someone to cover my shift. Without the fear of getting to my shift late. Without the fear of having to tell my agent, sorry, no one can cover me so I can't go to that casting.
I don't have the constant back pain, the hurt feet, the sleep at 3am, wake up at noon problems. I don't have cheap customers on a date they can't afford. I don't have happy hour shifts where my tips are cut in half. I don't have to say, "Sorry, I'm working this weekend," to people who want to invite me to parties or events.
I do miss some aspects, though. I take pride in my work, and I was a waitress for a very long time. And if you want to find some really cool, fun, incredibly creative people? Go to a restaurant and talk to the serving and bartending staff. I met My Lady of Awesome when she was a food runner at the restaurant I served at. She brought in her guy later to host, and I met my husband for the first time at the pizza rail in that same restaurant. (Thank you Universe for bringing my three major loves to me at UNIVERSAL CITY!)
I miss the tables of 40 year old beer drinking, just off work men. I loved them. They could take my sarcasm - they loved me for it! And would always request my sections and tip huge.
I miss the jokes and improv'ing with the tables.
I miss having a community of people who had similar dreams and goals and also knew this job was a means to an end, but still did it with integrity and pride.
But I do not miss the rest of it.
I had, for the most part, a great time doing it. I made a lot of friends I'm still in contact with today. I liked knowing a menu inside and out and making suggestions or alterations to an item so that it made a table happy.
And if you yourself are waiting tables too, be good at it. Be really, really good at it. Because those truly are life skills that will help you get anything you need later in any type of career or business. But also know this: It will end. There is an end. But you have to know that no matter what, show business is a cruel mistress. She could make you come back to the black apron, the black tie, the black tray....
I still have my non-skid black work shoes in the corner of my closet.
But thank god the times I'm in a restaurant now are because I'm there to relax and eat.