For many people who are not in the wonderful world of food service, waiting tables seems like an easy job. In all honesty, being a server is not as difficult as operating on a brain or controlling air traffic coming in and out of JFK. Then again, I have never done either of those jobs, so I can’t be certain. Maybe they are easy jobs and the people who work in those positions just try to keep it a secret so more of us don’t rush into graduate school and try to usurp their cushy employment. What I do know is that waiting tables isn’t always easy and I need to prove that to a random Tweeter named Ra’Kel who thinks it is. Or at least this Tweet makes me think that.
I do not know Ra’Kel. I have never met Ra’Kel. In fact, I only know two things about her:
1. If her Twitter profile picture is any indication, her selfie game is on point.
2. She thinks being a waitress really isn’t that hard.
Most of us who wait tables would never say that it’s a difficult job, but I think all of us would agree that we can have really difficult shifts. Anyone who has opened the restaurant and then closed it 14 hours later knows this to be true. When 4:00 PM rolls around and all you want to do is sit down for twenty minutes and eat something other than some fries or a piece of bread that you snagged from the kitchen, that’s when you begin to think waiting tables is hard. And then you remember that your second shift is just about to start and you will be on your feet for eight more hours or so, all the while keeping a smile on your face and a pep in your step because you know as soon as either one falters, there will be a customer who will leave you a bad tip for it. We all know that happens, right?
“My waitress didn’t smile enough so I didn’t tip her.”
“My server moved too slow so only left him 10%.”
Waiting tables is not easy. It can be very strenuous work and completely exhausting. I once worked in a restaurant where the ice machine, for some god forsaken reason, was located in the basement. Filling up the bar with ice was the worst thing I ever had to do there, trudging up and down a steep, narrow, metal staircase while balancing a huge plastic bucket of ice on my hip. I fell once and as I lay on the floor of the kitchen, sprawled out in a puddle of kitchen goop, I was not thinking, “Well, that was easy.”
When I was 20 years old and a food runner at a Mexican restaurant in Denver, whenever I was carrying out a tray of five sizzling fajita plates, holding them completely over my head so I could inch through the throngs of people at the bar who didn’t see any reason to move out of my way, I was not thinking, “Well, this is easy.”
When I worked at the Marriott on Mother’s Day and we had three different seating rotations of an hour and half each and over 300 reservations for each one, as we scrambled to reset the the tables for the next round of families, none of us ever took a second to say to someone else, “Man, this is easy, isn’t it?”
When I worked at Houlihan’s in Times Square and we were one block away from Radio City Music Hall, that job was never easy. Never. If you think trying to appease a ten-top with six children who are on their way to see Barney or the Teletubbies (it was the 90’s…) in a show that starts in twenty minutes is easy. You are wrong. Dead wrong.
Every restaurant is different. The place I work in now has about 15 tables; just me and a bartender take care of the whole place. When it’s full, it can be hard. When it’s not full, it can be easy. If you work at a high turnover restaurant in a tourist location, you are going to have a vastly different shift than I do at my tiny neighborhood restaurant in Queens. Unless you have waited tables, you do not have the right to judge whether the job is easy or not. Just give your server the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can. If it looks easy, maybe it’s because that server is so good that they can make it look that way even though it might be the most difficult night of their career. After all, don’t you want someone taking care of you who makes the job look easy? That means they are really good at their job. And people who are really good at waiting tables deserve a nice tip.
Thanks, Ra’Kel, for this opportunity to let me prove you wrong.