Thursday, May 07, 2009

Love/Hate Existence

Over the years I have been asked numerous times if/why I hate my job. The truth is, I don't hate waiting tables a lot of the time, but it has its days.

I think the best description for what I feel at this point is numb indifference. Anyone who has waited tables long enough can probably relate. The day to day grind makes our job pretty mundane if you are reasonably competent at it. When you are a new server, waiting jobs is a thrill, an adrenaline rush, always trying to keep up, always hoping to get a step ahead to make that extra dollar.

As time passes, you move from being stressed as a server into a comfort zone - again assuming some level of competency, not everyone gets there. In this comfort zone, it takes a lot to knock me out of my auto pilot system of service. Over the years I've made nearly every mistake possible (often numerous times) and eventually learned my lessons. Over the years I've served nearly every combination of people. I've been asked nearly every question - from the insightful to the bizarre. There is very little that screws things up for me. Yes I still get angry when a jerk-off stiffs me or when a crazy scammer tries to get free food. But as you progress, all of this becomes like water off the back of a duck.

I've also seen the good side, probably more than my share, and those things too impact you less and less over the years. I've had a handful of tips over $100 (all while working at Red Lobster), none of which came from large parties. I've had family members of rude ass-munches slip me an extra $20 at the end of meal and apologize. I've had more regulars than I would honest care to admit (regulars are the result of being good at the job, and being there for a long time). I have regulars who only visit a couple of times a year, but they always want me. I have regulars who I wait on weekly, and I have even had a regular who was nearly daily, though he is long dead and gone now. I've outlived numerous GM's. I've watched (and trained) more managers than I could possibly remember come and go. And the number of employees I've worked with is honestly mind blowing when you multiply things because I have worked in more than one store.

I worked for Red Lobster through a ton of uniform changes. When I started we wore white oxfords and ties. I've worn ugly polo shirts. And the clown-puke hideous fish shirts. And back to white oxfords, this time no ties. And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. And the menu has changed so many times my head spins when I think of all the different things. I remember the green screen computers where you had to learn the product number codes (2022 Admiral's Feast?) to enter your order quickly. I remember when we could go out drinking with our managers after work, and they even bought the first round.

I've been here a long time. My years of service at Red Lobster do have some breaks where I worked at other places, and even at times in other industries. I haven't made a career out of serving tables, I have other business ventures, and revenue streams. There have been times where I worked full time at Red Lobster, and other seasons where I worked the minimum hours/shifts allowed.

This is all to say that through all this, I have a love/hate relationship with my job. It pays my bills, and is quite honestly easy money for me. I'm good at it, and have all the experience I need to make it easy. But there is no future in it because of my unwillingness to enter management. And it is still frustrating when I have to polish the latest turd our newest clueless manager hired expecting for me to miraculously make them into a competent server. It is still frustrating when kitchen staff screw things up, blame someone else, and fail to fix my tickets. I still get angry when ghetto trash come in stoned out of their minds, with children in tow. And it still chafes my ass when people screw with my schedule. It is always enough money, just enough to keep me coming back, but never enough to really set me free. That is why I diversified my work portfolio years ago. That is why serving tables brought me through both undergrad and grad school, and might someday get me through a doctorate (we'll see - do I really need/want more education?).

So I love my job. I hate my job. Ask me again tomorrow, and I might change my mind again.


Talula said...

It's like I'm reading my own story. here. It was taking that next step as a professional that sent me screaming back to school.

christopher said...

The job does make for lots of entertaining stories. :)

I hope Mother's Day paid well and wasn't horrible.

mrclm said...

Red Lobster saw me through an undergrad degree and then years later my M.Div in Seminary, so I was always appreciative of it.

Avalon said...

I just found this blog through the google blog search. I worked at Red Lobster for a summer when I was 18. It was THE HARDEST waitressing job I ever had because of all the free stuff that came with the meal (bread, salad) I graduated to cocktail waitress at Hard Rock, then bartender at various places, and now SuperStripper!

IrieServer said...

i read your blog quite a bit. come check mine out at

MARY said...

Thanks for this. I'm thinking of waitressing at Red Lobster to help put me through graduate school.
This blog has not detered me, it just already confirmed what I already expected from waitressing at Red Lobster.

Kristin said...

Hey! Fellow Lob from SD here. I totally understand and relate to this post. Now with the never ending shrimp promotion coming up, we will see how we feel then. ;)