Memoirs of a Waitress

I get bored of things quickly… Wait that sounds really bad. I need to have new experiences often. There, that sounded better. I like to be out of my comfort zone whether it be plunging toward Earth from 13,000 feet skydiving, exploring Mayan ruins on a family trip to Cancun Yucatan, or driving 20 miles to the nearest undiscovered coffee shop to write this article and enjoy a latte from a new barista. 

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This year I lived in San Luis Obispo for the first half of my Summer, taking a botany lab (I will NEVER look at trees the same way again) and working my three jobs. One was as a copywriter for the Cal Poly Corporation, a job that I love and am blessed to have. Another was an unpaid internship for the San Luis Obispo downtown association where I met some amazing people and set up/cleaned for the weekly Concert’s in the Plaza. The third was waitressing.

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I have been in retail, I have been a barista, but I had never tried to be a server before. The possibility of it excited me, so I applied to a friend’s restaurant in town and was told I would start my training the first week of my summer in SLO.

There were so many thoughts running through my head the first day of training. First off, it’s much more difficult than it looks to hold the trays with four full plates of food than we give our servers credit for. Even pouring or refilling water takes a certain amount of learned skill: you can’t splash the customer, and you have to make sure to not let any ice pass through the opening of the pitcher if they request a lack of ice. It seems easy, but believe me it takes more concentration than we appreciate as customers! 

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By being a server for the first time this Summer, I learned some life lessons I would really like to share with you for the next time you go to a restaurant and there’s a young bouncy blonde there who takes your order, who’s looking to make you have a positive experience eating (and hoping for a generous tip). 

As a server, I was trying really hard to do my best and of course as a human I would make mistakes. The craft beers sometimes were colored the same color (they’re all some variation of brown!) and if I gave a couple each other’s drinks I really appreciated if they didn’t make a big deal out of it and just switched without being hard on me. Patience goes a long way and is appreciated both as a server, and just in life, so be patient with people. We’re all human and make mistakes.

A smile also goes a long way. I was serving at a american-german fusion restaurant and we would have a lot of international touring customers, who didn’t always speak great English. You know what’s universal in every language? A genuine smile. It’s friendly and open and makes both you and your server more relaxed even if you don’t actually speak the same tongue and allows you to communicate without using actual words which is amazing. So, smile more! 

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I like learning your story. When I was working and it was slower at the restaurant, I liked taking the time to talk to the customers about where they were from and telling them my story: I’m a third year Journalism major at the local University who stayed in beautiful San Luis Obispo this summer to get ahead in classes and make some extra cash in the place I love. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to people and tell them your story because it makes your world and their world a more dynamic place.

Don’t forget why you’re here. So you came to eat at the restaurant and enjoy your meal? I’m here for the experience of serving you and learning the skills it takes to be a server, as well as learning your story and hearing your life advice. Sometimes we get too focused on the next step (eating, then leaving or serving, then earning the tip) to enjoy why we’re here (for the experience). Take advantage of the time you have while you’re here, slow down, and enjoy it.

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You’re going to get knocked down sometimes. There are going to be bad times as well as the good. I remember being embarrassed because my manager got very upset with me for not pouring a draft beer correctly, when in reality I am a 20 year old who had never consistently poured draft beer in my life before I started the job 3 weeks before that and who isn’t even allowed to legally drink beer in the first place in the United States. I took the criticism very personally and beat myself up for his reprimands. But then I realized it was one mistake and that I’m too tough to take something as silly as his criticism personally and I got over it. People are going to be rude to you in life and try to bring you down, but the important thing is to know how to get back up when you’re down, and to keep getting up. 

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Impressed I learned all of this simply by being a waitress at a german american fusion restaurant for a month and a half? Try something new and I guarantee you will learn more and faster than you ever could have by staying in your comfort zone and feeling safe. Go ahead, do it! The reward is worth the risk.

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