He Says, She Says Saturday: My First Job

First of all, apologies for the shockingly long time it’s been since our last HSSSS. I think we’re both wishing there was a non-weekend day that started with “S’, because blogging on a Saturday is not always the most convenient.

This week, we’re taking a little stroll down memory lane to our first taste of proper paid employment. I’m not sure what he’s typing about over there, but I’m going to skip the babysitting jobs and cut right to the waitressing gig I had the summer that I was sixteen.

“Waitressing” sounds like a very glamorous job compared to what I actually did. This was no five-star restaurant I worked at, but a retirement village dining hall. There were no tips. The folks there liked it to feel like a five-star restaurant, so we had to wear black dresses and white aprons and be on our best behavior at all times. This was no small feat considering the average age and high turnover of the wait-staff: by the end of my three or four months there I was one of the most experienced servers on staff!

Most of the residents were truly lovely. They’d flirt with us and be all sweet, maybe in an effort to score some extras besides what was on their little check-the-boxes menu (they knew we had buttermilk in that kitchen, even if it didn’t say so on the menu, and boy, did they love them some buttermilk!)

But occasionally, just occasionally, you’d get a cranky one. There were a few of the old ladies that no one ever wanted to find seated in their section (never the men: they were all sweetie pies. I wonder why…) I remember once on a particularly busy and fraught dinner shift I had a corner table of eight or nine. I made the fatal error of reaching across one lady’s plate to clear away her bread plate. Quick as a hawk swooping down on its prey, this woman had her fork poised to stab me in the hand, and said, “Don’t you reach across my plate!” I had no idea a woman that age could move so fast (or that I could, for that matter!)

Apart from gaining some insight into the later years of life, and purposing to someday become one of the lovely, joyful old ladies and not one of the cranky ones, I also picked up the following job skills (just in case anyone reading this wants to hire me):

  • Balancing a tray on my shoulder with one hand. Never did learn to lift it right up over my head to fit through a tight spot though. A few of the girls could do that.
  • Making cocktail sauce. (Trade secret: it’s just ketchup and horseradish. Who knew?)
  • Folding cloth napkins into clever shapes. Hmmm… not sure I still remember how to do this, actually, but I’m sure it’s like riding a bike.
  • Discerning which dinner rolls and muffins were untouched after the tables were cleared, so that we could snag a bite or two before tossing everything in the trash in the dish room. Yes, I really did. I was young and stupid, and everyone was doing it. The shift was 3:30 – 7 PM, so by the end of that, after looking at all that food, it’s a wonder we weren’t taking it right off the tables as we cleared them.

Come to think of it, it was not at all a bad training ground for the job I do now. Dealing with mostly sweet, occasionally cranky customers. Check. Improvising meals when correct ingredients are scarce. Check. Performing amusing tricks with dinner napkins. Check. Stealing uneaten food from the plates of others. Check, check, check!

Now go check out what his first job was. I think I know…