November 15, 2008
Preface: The readers have spoken, and I dig it: This post was a confusing attempt at "narrative" blogging, so I'll just spell everything out at the top of the page. I decided to write in the voice of the person I asked, a waitress at my 10 year high school reunion. Long story short, the reunion was so lame I escaped to ask her some questions, and I thought it would be more fun to report it from her POV. Anyway, I'll stick to normal posts from now on -- though I reserve the right to have some fun with the form, occasionally! =)
And here's what I wrote originally:
The first person got there at 7, a girl, alone. She looked around a little nervously, like was this really the right place, and a few minutes later some of the teachers and a few more students trickled in. Hugs, laughter.
I asked them all what they wanted, and the usual orders came in.
Two more couples walked in, saluted and breezed past the rest, and sat in the back corner table. One guy had his hair slicked back and looked like he was ready to charter a boat or something. Strangely nautical. He owns a decent Mexican restaurant, I heard someone say.
At one point, four more people had arrived: a blingy couple with big smiles and sparkling voices, a tall, attractive couple with glasses. Beers for half of them.
Then a girl came in alone and ordered a wine as soon as she saw me, then three more guys showed up.
By 8, I realized. This was it. Their 10 year high school reunion. 15 people or so, a handful of teachers, the alumni coordinator, complaints about the location. Our restaurant.
I have a few years left until mine. I always imagined reunions with many more people, old flames finding one another and groping, more noise. These people were only interacting in their own little groups.
I made the rounds, served a bunch of waters to some intelligent types talking about salmon and cognition and fundraising, brought beers to the guys in the corner still think they're too cool to talk to anyone else, a wine here and there. No one was touching the food -- buffalo wings, our specialty, and chicken quesadillas.
It was a team of us working the party room, and whenever I got a chance I slipped out to tend to my other tables, in the main dining area.
As I was waiting for an order from the kitchen, two people from the reunion walked over.
"Excuse me," one of them asked, a girl in jeans. Pinot grigio. "I was wondering if you could answer a question for me."
I told her shoot.
"Do you know where this restaurant gets its name from?"
Honestly, the question never crossed my mind. If you look around, you'll see a bunch of sports trophies in cases everywhere. So it represents our theme, I explained.
"Cool... So what's business like these days?"
I told her the truth. It's slow these days. Really slow. No one's eating out. Who has money for restaurants? They're thinking of shutting one or two locations. Look around. It's Saturday night. Empty.
"Does that mean your tips suffer?"
Excuse me? Kind of personal, but whatever... If these people want to know about my tips, no problem. People used to give 15%, for standard service. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Now it's 10, 11 percent. All the time. I used to get 20 for the good tables. Hardly ever, anymore. And it's more than a financial hit. It's frustrating, because I make the effort. I do what it takes to get things right and have the nice attitude, and they still cut back. And I'm wondering if I did something wrong, or what. I mean, for them it's $3 versus $5, and they think that's practically the same thing, but for me, with taxes and sharing it with the bartender and all that, I take home a lot less than they think.
"So then, how do you like working here?"
Had to shake my head on that one. I am not a fan. They nodded sympathetically, and I felt like I needed to explain. It's not just that I'm a server. This is not a career for me. I have a master's degree and a professional certificate, but I haven't been able to find work, so I'm stuck for now. No one in my industry is hiring. Good thing I had experience waiting tables in high school.
"That's terrible! So then, is this like really boring for you, or is it actually an interesting experience?"
Interesting? You write down the orders. You bring them to the kitchen. You bring back the orders. Mind. Less. But it's infuriating. People think I'm just just a server. I probably have more education than some of my clients do.
"So what do you think about our reunion?"
I told them exactly what I thought.
[This is my take on the server's point of view of my high school reunion. It was held tonight at a sports bar and was so lame that a friend and I escaped to conduct this interview. I was disappointed, mostly, because I had really loved high school, and my high school.
Most of this is based on the server told me. Some of the details (drink orders) are from what I noticed or discussed with others. I don't promise even close to total accuracy. Thank you Tie, husband of Tee, who gave me the idea to ask the server about the restaurant's name and accompanied me on my quest. Tee is my high school partner in crime; she and her husband have the same first initial, but pronounce it differently. He's Aussie, you see (or sey?). And she, like me, is, like, totally from California!
Gained: someone's perspective about who I and my peers are, 10 years after high school. Normally the ideal is not not care what people think about you at your high school reunion. But in this case, somehow I do. Good luck with the job hunt!]