In The Weeds.

I recently took a second job serving at a finer dining restaurant. I was excited - almost ecstatic, really, at this new opportunity to meet people, the chance to have a job where I'm constantly moving [because OH, the WEIGHT LOSS that would be occurring!], ready cash to pay down a few choice bills, and the fact that this particular establishment offers health insurance. All amazing benefits to a job I felt could be performed in my sleep. Because we all know it's not rocket science. It added up to a shining, beautiful future in serving.

Not so much with the glitter, though.

My first month, I had 5 days off; two of those were because I was ill and could possibly contaminate the food.

And the insurance? It bleeds so much cash every week from my employer-provided debit card that I literally don't see a paycheck. At all. That's probably because we're paid $2.13 an hour [minus taxes], so the amount we're required to pay in to the company insurance provider far exceeds anything I might actually bring home.

And, of course, we're all threatened with termination if ever caught 'running the clock'. As if servers have some kind of wicked conspiracy to steal an extra $.15 from the company.

The work, while certainly not rocket science, is difficult. Servers have to choose between conserving steps and piling too much onto a tray or running back and forth from the kitchen at breakneck speeds to procure extra napkins, dressing, tabasco, ketchup, bread, silverware, water, etc, etc, etc. My wrists ache constantly, my knee slips dangerously, and one ankle has already rolled several times while rushing through a slippery, crowded kitchen to get the cheesecake for the lady with the stinkeye at table 12. I can't get into a standing position without pain anymore. Mornings after a long night shift are especially bad - my bones ache like a 90-year-old's.

The people I've met are great; I've only been yelled at a few times by other servers, the kitchen staff, a manager, and a hostess. And of course the customers. They're a joy, too - about 7% of them. We know the good ones from the bad ones immediately - stereotypes may be politically incorrect, but they're spot-on in the serving business.

The other 93%? They're the ones who tip about 7%. Or less. I can't tell you how many times I've been stiffed by a guest, or insulted by such a small tip that I instantly regret ever having checked on the table, brought a refill, or engaged in small talk about subjects I couldn't be less interested in. Even being stiffed nicely is still demeaning and irritating - smiley faces drawn onto your check or verbal pats on the back don't pay my bills, folks.

This isn't to say that I'm bitter and cynical about everyone - there are just enough kind people in this world to remind me that everyone isn't rotten to the core. Things like the $25 tip on a $25 check with the written note 'God bless you! Thank you!' I recently received help to keep me sane.

But I won't be doing this for long. As a second job, it's much too physically demanding, and the stress of dealing with the very poorest of manners tends to wear on a person.

What I do know is that I have learned just how much kindness a server deserves, just how difficult people can be, and just how much patience I still need to deal with these crazies, because Heaven help me, I'm having a hard time smiling when I refill that iced tea these days.

It's probably 'cause I'm in the weeds.

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