Although these posts are meant to be devoted to the people at our table, the customers that enlighten us or entertain us, this week I wanted to take a minute to talk about the people lurking behind the scenes with us. Coworkers can be a source of irritation, a fount of frustration and even anger sometimes. But they can also be the best support system, the best comedic relief, the best friends.
I’ve been lucky enough to encounter such good eggs at every one of the places I’ve worked. It seems to me that working in the service industry is a great bonding experience. No one will ever understand you breaking down in tears after some asshole yells at you in front of other customers like the people you serve with. We’ve all been there, and we’re all there for each other. Even rolling your eyes at each other after a brief encounter with an obviously ridiculous table gives a sense of belonging.
And it’s not just commiseration in the face of problematic customers or even your management. Spending almost every day of every week with the same group of people gives you no choice but to get to know them better.While that sounds a tad like Stockholm Syndrome, it’s far from it. More often than not, the people you work with end up being really cool. I’ve met some of my best friends through work. I met my roommates through work. I’ve laughed and bonded with so many of the people I’ve worked with, it’s hard to put the appreciation for that into words.
When I went to get my first (and as yet only but that’s inconsequential) tattoo, one of my coworkers at the time went with me to hold my hand and distract me with funny stories. Whenever I have something I need to get off my chest, I know there’s going to be at least one person at work I can confide in. If you’re looking for a place to live or someone to go to a concert with, there’s no one that will have the hookup quite like the people you work with. Smoke breaks wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if someone else (or four someones) didn’t come outside with you.
I’d like to mention that, especially in the industry, it’s important to become close not only to the people you share a workload with (in my case, front of house staff) but also to those that have entirely different duties (the back of house staff, for instance.) Too often there is a sense of hostility between the kitchen and the servers. Pointlessly so, as both parties can benefit from a good relationship with each other. You never know when it might come in handy, manipulative as that sounds, and in times of stress it’s always better to feel like you’re all in it together.
Whether it’s a quick hug when you come in looking bedraggled or an earnest word of praise when you do something right, coworkers provide bright pinpricks of light in what is ultimately a defeating and exhausting environment. Take a moment to think about the people you work with and let them know how much you appreciate them whenever you get a chance. And if you work or have worked with me and you’re reading this, you know who you are and I love you. Hit me up sometime, let’s hang out.
While planning out the blog, Arina and I decided that it was important to us to showcase people that we had served that made an impact. As a server I encounter a lot of people every day, and reencounter very few. So, while skimming the ol’ memory bank for a riveting story to share, I realized that the first person I really want to talk about is actually a people.
The lunch shift at my work is notorious for being the least profitable and therefore least desirable shift. As odd as it may sound, it’s my favorite shift to work. It’s true that the money isn’t great during lunch, but money isn’t always the most important part of a job. The customer-base during lunch is made up mostly of regulars, people that come in so frequently that as soon as they walk in the door I know exactly which drink to pour and, more often than not, what they’re going to eat that day. What my regulars don’t know is that having them in their usual seats on their usual day quite frequently is the only sense of stability I get at work. To them, they’re just on another lunch break at their designated cafeteria. To me, however, they’re like lighthouses. Even in the midst of an unexpected rush, as soon as I see even one of these people at a table, I have a moment of calm. I almost always work lunch alone, and my regulars know this. So when I’m getting bombarded with take-out calls, customers that have never been in and prep work in the kitchen, my regulars will, without even a hint of impatience, tell me to handle what I need to and take care of them when I can. It seems small, but when I’ve spent the majority of my day dealing with impatient people that don’t seem to understand that I don’t have eight arms and the ability to clone myself at will, it’s almost therapeutic to hear ‘it’s okay, you’re busy.’
The sense of security I receive from them is hardly the only thing that makes these people mentionable. Most customers view me as what I am…a person temporarily in their employ. The regulars, however, have come to view me not as someone they’re paying for a service, but someone they can confide in. So many of my regulars come to me with their problems, whether it be work or home, because they know that I will offer an open ear and helping hand when I can. But the real beauty of our relationship is that it works both ways. So many of the people that I consider regulars will sit and listen to me bitch and whine about my own life and not only offer sympathy, but actually take note and follow up later on to make sure everything turned out okay. If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you understand how rare it is to find someone that will show you just as much interest and compassion as you try to give them. It makes working in the industry worth the stress and uncertainty to know you could just as easily refer to your regulars as friends.
With all of that being said, I’d really like to thank the people that make my job tolerable, even enjoyable sometimes. There are too many anecdotes and memories about my lunch crowd to share in a single post, and they continue to collect. But I’d like to thank the people that show me respect and kindness, the people that share their lives with me and put up with me on my worst days… From the people that have been with me since my last job to the people that tolerated my most recent hangover, I sincerely could not do my job if it weren’t for you.