I must start today by saying that this post has been a long time coming. Far too long, in fact. But here it is, at last. A little background info for you…….
I have long wanted to be a sports writer. I think that this blog is a reflection that to some extent, I still do. I went to college and got a writing degree with that intention in mind. But as graduation approached my senior year, I soon realized a few obstacles stood in my way.
1) Very few professional writers actually write about the topics that interest them most and get paid for it. It takes the ones that do a long time to get there.
2) Newspapers are becoming obsolete. So much for that plan.
3) The economy sucked in May 2008. It sucked a whole lot.
Armed with this information, I decided it would be a good idea to go to grad school. I enrolled in an MBA program with in-state tuition in an attempt to not break the bank too horribly. I figured an MBA was a general enough degree that could open lots of doors for me, greatly boost my earning potential, and I could somehow tie it to sports if I tried hard enough. So I did the MBA program, graduating in July 2009. At which point, surprise surprise, I had another moment of “enlightenment” — the economy had gotten a whole lot worse.
My plan had backfired, but I was still armed with a fancy new degree. I started applying for jobs. I applied and applied, and then I applied some more. I literally applied for thousands of jobs. I got a few offers here and there, which I turned down for a variety of reasons. But let me tell you, it was tough.
All of this being said, I had to somehow manage to pay my rent, bills, school loans, and keep some Keystones in the fridge. I headed out one day with my roommate, a fellow MBA graduate in a similar predicament. We hit the streets in suits, armed with resumes, with an agreement not to return home until we both had some sort of job — just something to hold us over until the “big” jobs were landed.
That day, I walked into Legal Seafoods in Kendall Square, Cambridge, for the very first time. I had waited tables before during the summer, and I was offered a job on the spot. The manager interviewing me asked me a couple of questions as he skeptically looked over my resume. “You just graduated with an MBA. Why do you want to be a waiter,” he asked. “I see this as a way to get my foot in the door with your company,” I slickly lied. “I’d really like to work my way into your management-in-training program.” He clearly did not buy this response. “How long do you envision yourself working here,” he asked. “For at least a year,” I thought I lied. I ended up becoming a professional, full-time waiter for the better part of seven months.
I really thought I’d have the job for a few weeks at the most, but much to my dismay it turned into a significant chapter of my life. I became a pretty decent waiter. I made some pretty decent tips. But as most employees do, I slowly became disgruntled. A bit of bitterness, a bit of anger, and a lack of caring crept into my work. At this point I had been a waiter for a few months, and let me tell you, in a busy restaurant waiters are on their feet a lot. I literally walked dozens on miles a week between the kitchen, the dining room, and the bar. My shoes began to wear out. The couldn’t take it. Neither could I. I developed a small hole in the bottom of both my shoes. If it was raining, my feet would get wet as I walked to work. So as I grew increasingly fed up with my situation and got tired of my wet feet, I made a pact. I would not buy new shoes until I got myself a new, “real” job. I essentially walked around barefoot for quite a while. My feet ached. But alas, I finally got myself that new job — this is my official announcement that I’m hanging up my waitering shoes. Here is what they look like:
Yes, they are black AirForce Ones. Yes, they are crusted with marinara sauce, cheese sauce, clam chowder, and chipotle aoli. And yes, water makes it in through that hole.
So I’m not going to tell you everything I learned as a waiter, all the funny stories that I have, or anything like that. That sort of thing has already been done. Check out http://waiterrant.com. It’s pretty funny. But here is my short report on what I learned and what you need to know about waiters.
1) These people, the good ones, can multi-task better than you can. I don’t care what it is that you do. Imagine having 20 people all yelling at you to do things for them at once, and they all want you to do it immediately. And if you don’t, they won’t pay you. Trust me, you learn to do it.
2) Waiters are an eclectic group. They live strange lifestyles. They know how to get things. I worked with an Algerian man who thinks that America is dirty and everybody here is poor, I worked with a dominatrix stripper, and I worked with a gay man named BJ who has a dog named Woody. Yup. These, and most waiters, all work till late at night, then party into the wee hours of the morning and sleep all day. Whether you are looking for crack, whores, or the shop that sells the best smoked gouda, waiters know where to find it. If you ever see a bunch of waiters hanging out behind a restaurant near a dumpster just ask them. One of them probably has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence in their room. Seriously, the can find you anything.
3) Waiters don’t get paid unless you pay them. I made $2.63 per hour plus tips, but I never saw one cent of that $2.63 per hour — it all gets swallowed up by taxes. So if you stiff your waiter on the tip, they don’t eat. Literally. Imagine if you only got paid when I chose to pay you.
That being said, always leave 20% for satisfactory service. If the service is poor, it often isn’t the waiter’s fault. For example, if your food takes a long time to come out it’s the kitchen’s fault, not your waiter’s. If you know that the poor service is the waiter’s fault still leave 15% — waiters are people and need to eat too. Be polite and pleasant to your server and you won’t believe how much more enjoyable your meal will be. But perhaps most importantly, if you are lucky enough to have a great waiter who recommends dishes, gives great service, and is pleasant then go ahead and leave an absurdly large tip once in a while. It will make you feel good and it will make that waiter’s day.