I was working my sixth straight nine/ten hour shift in a row (without a lunch or dinner break, mind you) when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I love restaurants like I love nothing else in the world. I was prepping lettuce and dicing tomatoes when this thought came to me. For most people working 50/60 hours in one week would cause them to bitch and moan about how tired they are and how much they hate their lives. Not me. I love it. There is something quite cleansing and pure about working until the point of exhaustion, and then working an additional few hours just for good measure. I’m in love with what Anthony Bourdain affectionately refers to as “The Life.” The all-consuming passion for food that makes me not only want to come to work, but I actually feel as if I NEED to come to work.
“If you like what you’re doing for a living then you never have to work a day in your life.” My grandfather told me this once and it stuck with me. It’s completely true, which is the beauty of it. I’m a waiter. It’s what I do and it’s also a big part of who I am. I love the work. It takes it’s toll on me both physically and emotionally, sure, but I keep coming back for more. Most nights I come home from work with barely enough energy to walk up the flight of stairs to my second story apartment, but I always manage to find the strength to do just that. When I finally change out of my works duds (a Johnny Cash-esque all black ensemble consisting of black slacks, a black undershirt, a black button up long-sleeve, and a black apron full of scratch paper and pens) and into my “casual evening attire” (my high school gym shorts and a comic book t-shirt) I feel fantastic as I slid onto my comfy couch and heave a huge sigh of relief. I sip a few beers, pop a few Aspirin for good measure and I feel right as rain.
The average time I pass out from sheer exhaustion is 3AM or so. 4AM or later if I’m feeling feisty (read: out drinking with co-workers who keep the same vampire hours that I do). It’s always interesting to see people’s reaction when I tell them this. For your “average” 9-5er, midnight is “quite late.” Not for me it isn’t. Midnight is early, man. I take a lot of pride in my night owl hours, the same way those freaks I like to call “morning people” take pride in their early to bed and early to rise lifestyle. You got up at 5AM and hit the gym before work, eh? Good for you. I didn’t fall asleep until around then. This isn’t to say I hate people with “normal” sleeping patterns, it’s just that I don’t understand them.
When your Average Joe is getting home from work that is when I’m just getting my work day started. I’m the guy who serves you food and drinks because you don’t feel like doing it yourself. You’re welcome, by the way. Speaking of customers and such, it is my firmly held belief that if you don’t have enough money to leave a decent tip (15-20%) then you shouldn’t go out in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited on a table hand and foot only to be “rewarded” by three or four bucks lying crumpled on a table under a pile of napkins and dirty dishes. $3 on a $100 ticket? Fuck you! You’re not worth my time. Anything less than 15% is downright insulting.
This is not to say that I hate people. I don’t. I love meeting new people and forming good relationships, why do you think I’ve stuck with the food service for the better part of the last ten years? I’m just saying that us poor food service types make minimum wage (or less, as was the case with my last job) and NEED TIPS TO SURVIVE. There. Rant over.
The good news is that there are quite a few people out there that see the good work that I do and tip accordingly. It’s them I love. It’s those types of people whose names I will remember. Hell, you come in often enough and I’ll even start to remember your drink order and what kind of food you usually like and what to recommend for you. It’s because of people like that I love my job. So if you’re one of “the good ones” then I thank you from the bottom of my heart, because it’s people like you that keep me coming back for more.
The half-priced drinks that I get after my shift ends always helps. So if you need me anytime soon I’ll be at my restaurant either waiting tables or drinking gin martinis, beer, and shots of whiskey after my shift ends. I’m pretty easy to spot, I’m wearing all black with a five day beard and a smile.