A Love Letter to the Service Industry

By Jess Procter
@north_west_jess

If you are, or ever have been, a part of the service industry, then you’re part of a society. A not-so-secret and a-little-bit-bitter society of individuals who are tasked with the very special and under appreciated charge of providing food and beverage service to hungry and thirsty patrons.

While this may sound laughably easy, if you’re a server, you know the truth.

You know that flash of panic when you’re triple-sat in the middle of a Friday night dinner rush. You know the dull ache in your feet after a nine hour shift in paper-thin shoes. You know how to side-step an errant toddler while carrying four scalding plates. You know all of the varietals of Belgian beer and can list them by their IBU. You know that when you ask your coworker to cover your shift tomorrow morning because of an emergency, she’s gonna know you’re just hungover.

You know that caffeine pills with a RedBull chaser can get you through anything. You know that when you fight with a co-worker in a moment of frustration you’ll laugh about it over shots an hour later. You know that despite their dirty minds, the kitchen boys keep very clean workstations. You know the sense of satisfaction when your section is in perfect harmony and your tables are in need of absolutely nothing and you finally have time to pee. You know that it’s best if you didn’t tell that rude customer where to put her fake food allergy, because the sweetest revenge is a big, fat tip.

You know the name of the bartender that works at the establishment next door, and when you walk in with your crew after a long shift you know that you will happily spend most of the money you’ve just made.

You know that your family thinks waiting tables is a waste of your talents, but no other job will let you sleep ’til noon and eat free fries six days a week, and these are legitimate priorities for you right now.

You’ve been asked when you’re going to “get a real job” and responded with equal parts grace and sass. You know your job pays your rent and keeps up your expensive coffee habit and when you collapse into bed after working a double it feels pretty damn real to you, thankyouverymuch.

You know that you are actually gaining a diverse variety of skills as a server, and are able to execute all of them at the same time. You employ customer service and sales techniques while exhibiting perfect product knowledge because you aced your menu test. You are hyper-efficient and able to think on your feet. You work independently as well as within a team. You exude grace under pressure while simultaneously cleaning tables, memorizing orders, counting change, coddling babies, calculating blood alcohol content, listing rotating taps, and thinking about what you’ll eat for dinner when you finally get a moment to stuff your face at 10:57 p.m. before the kitchen closes.

You know that you don’t get health benefits, you’ll never qualify for mat leave and you fib on your taxes, but somehow you like your job anyway. You know that getting people drunk is not going to change the world, but sometimes when you’re chatting with that elderly man who eats alone, or laughing with the Friday regulars, or buying a round for your co-workers after a long day you realize you are happy doing this, and those non-servers just don’t know.

 

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Jess is a server, writer, and new bride who lives and loves in Yeast Van. She is a connoisseur of good cider and bad tattoos and will knit you something pretty if you ask.