Hired almost exactly a year ago, I've spent close to 700 hours at the hippie pizza palace down our beloved Strip — Mellow Mushroom.
Starting as a hostess, I had little dreams of becoming a server. For whatever reason, I enjoyed my five minute relationships with people, greeting them and walking them to a table.
However, as with most things, I started getting bored. This summer, I asked my manager if I could make the move to waitress.
My first couple days on the floor felt like a heart attack, nervously assuming that I had forgotten everything. Did I bring them that refill, did I remember to sans the onions, do I have a table I've completely forgotten about?
Not to mention the new script I had to create. My relationships with strangers just got 40 minutes longer.
Oh the tremendously awkward things I've said to my tables: "Have a great day," before I've even taken their order; "How's everybody's Monday?" on a Wednesday. The others I've chosen to block from my memory or require too much back story.
The nonverbal gestures get stranger, like accidentally spitting on a table's food when you're merely talking with vigor or being called upon and doing a back-up dance to find out what your table could possibly need.
These things I've brought upon myself. Costumers, however, prove to be the worst part of presumably any restaurant and a major force pushing me to leave.
Serving people is a like walking on a tight rope; the relationship is fragile, wobbly and with the lightest gust of wind, falls to its death.
It's the attempt to make strangers feel comfortable telling you what to do, and you making them feel like you love to do it.
In 5 seconds or less, I determine which lexicon I will use, basing my decision almost purely on looks. Among my most-used greetings are: "howdy gentlemen," "what's up players," "welcome team," "hi y'all," "good evening family," "hey ladies" and "hello everyone!" Word choice becomes a delicate process.
When things go wrong it's as if I hear the dun dun DUN ringing in my head. I have to tell the kitchen to remake my stuff on the fly, I have to tell my table, and tell my manager. Everyone gets to know you've messed up. On top of that you have to continue serving them for the rest of their meal.
As things dwindle, the meal becomes a question of timing, how often and how long of intervals do you leave them. When to give the check and then when to come back around to see if they've paid.
The goodbye is uncomfortable, unless we really feel in love. In those cases, I have no shame in telling them I loved them.
No matter how many tables I loved a night, if I got one that hated me, it ruined me. To be a servant demands a resiliency I don't have.
It demands a peppy, southern accent, coupled with a genuine happy demeanor. I used to have one, but serving used it all up. We sincerely can only be fake-happy for so long.
Serving demands a hundred minute decisions per table, which adds up. When I leave, $40 and seven hours under my belt, I am exhausted. I've been drained of energy resources, for I pour it all out into my clueless, unappreciative costumers.
All servers know this, and it's not hard to recognize a fellow server as a costumer. Maybe this small insight will make you look at your server differently, and appreciate the seemingly insignificant language choices they made for you.
For me, it wasn't about the tip; it was about dealing with nice, genuine, appreciative people who understood.
Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.