At your service

I work in a pretty busy restaurant, and there are tons of managers, everybody’s in charge of me. “Rob, come over here and do this,” or, “Rob, go over there and do that,” and whatever, that’s my job description I guess, server, servant, and I can already hear the, “If you don’t like it, get another job,” rebuttals, which is fair enough, I mean, I could always just leave. But I’ve left restaurant jobs before, it’s always such a pain in the ass showing up at a new place, trying to make a good first impression, starting over somewhere else from the bottom.

Waitress carrying dirty plates in restaurant, rear view

And yeah, I don’t necessarily like complaining, but every once in a while it’ll just build up, all of those little interactions at work, constantly getting micromanaged by people that you see every day, only at work, this cast of characters in my life that serve no other purpose than to direct me from point A to point B.

I have a lot of energy. At work, I don’t even necessarily try, but I move around the restaurant pretty quickly. Some kitchen manager will ask me to grab a stack of plates and move it from here to there, and I’ll do it, I get it done without breaking a sweat. And that’s doesn’t even really bother me. It’s when these little orders and commands start to pile up, when I feel that, regardless of how fast I get something done, there’s no end to little chores and constant directions.

“Rob, go get me a stack of plates. Rob, go fold this pile of linens. Rob, get me another roll of printer paper.” After a while I start to feel like, the faster and more efficient that I complete every one of these little tasks, all I’m doing is making more work for myself. Restaurant bosses hate to see their employees standing idle for even a second. And so, as soon as I open up my mouth to start small-talk with a coworker, a manager is guaranteed to show up, to interrupt me midsentence, “Rob, can you make sure that the silverware is polished?”

Yeah, I get the argument that there’s virtue in work. Sure, I have this picture in my head of me marching around the world putting my best foot forward, giving everything that I do one hundred percent, just for the sake of giving it my all, a testament to my admirable work ethic.

But on a day-to-day basis, especially on days where I’m not really feeling it, where I wish that I didn’t have to still be waiting tables at a restaurant, running around, the expediter is telling me to back up ice, and on the way to the ice machine, a customer stops me in my tracks, he lifts up his soda glass and, in between bites of food, he says simply, “More Diet Coke,” and on my way to get his refill, I’ve got another two people in the kitchen looking directly at me, “Is anybody backing up ice?” obviously you just asked me to back up ice, obviously I don’t have the ice, why are you forming it as this general question? Why don’t you just give me a second and I’ll back up ice?

Yeah, on days like that, it’ll get to me, the ceaseless busy work, the realization that, the faster I move, the more work I’ll ultimately have to do. And for what? A few dollars an hour? That’s what really bugs me about restaurant work. The house isn’t even paying me a living wage, and yet they’re acting under the expectation that I’m to work under their absolute obedience, the customers’ absolute obedience, everybody in the restaurant is my boss, but the only ones contributing to my making a living are the people who, after they’ve settled up with the house, maybe they’ll throw me a tip. Probably. Almost definitely. But still, maybe. There’s always the potential for a maybe not.

And so what can I do? “Boss, I gave table thirteen excellent service, but they didn’t leave a tip.”

“Oh well, better luck next time. Can you throw these boxes away?”

So some days, and I hate doing it, but I’ll drag my feet. It’s super passive aggressive, and I doubt anybody’s really paying attention enough to even realize that I’m upset. But that’s the only real control that I have over my day, to just take it a little easier. Because it’s not like if I work really hard they’re going to let me then chill out for a second. No, it’s right back to work, there are always a million things that need to be done, no way that I’ll be able to do everything, and so I might as well just catch my breath, walk a little slower, try to keep those negative thoughts out of my head, just doing my best to be in a better mood.

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