What I learned in the service industry

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Last April, I sat scrolling through Indeed and Glassdoor, as one does when they are freshly fired, thinking of something I could possibly do to pay for gas. All of the babysitting jobs in a five-mile radius were taken, and you’d never catch me dead in another fast food joint, specifically those that sell exclusively chicken. Needless to say, I was a little strapped.  

I ended up getting hired as a hostess at a local-ish restaurant that will remain unnamed because they refuse to pay for advertising. Let it be said that I love my job, almost as much as I love complaining about it. I’ve learned more than I would like to admit about the ‘real world’ adults love to mention from running around and rolling silverware. 

  1. People are awful 

Look. I tend to exaggerate. But I have easily met some of the worst people I am ever going to meet in the 15 hours a week I spend behind the host desk.  

I have met people in positions of power that think they are all that and a bag of chips because they manage a restaurant. Don’t go calling the Better Business Bureau on me, but I’ve interacted with managers who have definitely broken a labor law or two by the way they speak to me.  

‘No, I’m not arguing with you,’ I’ll have to say. ‘I’m just calmly telling you what I’m doing and why I don’t deserve to get berated right now.’ Clearly, they must realize that I’m human, right? Because from the way I’m spoken to sometimes, you would have thought I’d shot a puppy in front of them.  

  1. People are awesome 

My favorite thing about my work is the people I get to be with when I’m there. Simple. As cheesy as it sounds, I really do think of some of my coworkers as my second family.  

As many may know, I love complaining. To have life problems be listened to and given some of the world’s best advice while on the clock is one of life’s simple pleasures. I have coworkers who are like my older siblings, who want to see me thrive and will gladly beat up anyone who gets in the way of that. That’s an amazing feeling, especially when everything else feels like it’s going wrong. 

  1. The customer is not always right 

Boomers love to talk about how rude millennials are and how they’re destroying industries and whatnot, but never before in my life have I been chewed out by a twenty-something for doing my job.  

I know life is hard, but, man, do some people have bad coping mechanisms. I mean, really, did yelling at someone who told you there would be a 45-minute wait for a table make you feel all that better? Also, tip when you order carryout. Enough said. 

  1. Respect and empathize 

You truly never know what someone might be going through. The server that just made a passive-aggressive dig at you for seating them twice in a row probably has a million bills past due and 50 essays to write for their college classes. The customer getting wasted at the bar on a Tuesday might be going through a nasty divorce.  

I’ve learned to always consider what might not be at surface level and to think about the effects of insignificant actions. I’ve learned to respect everyone, even to respect people who seem like they don’t deserve it, because it’s better to be unwarrantedly kind than to judge and be incorrect.  

Working in a restaurant has on many occasions drained me of all of my energy and made me want to rip my hair out, but on the day-to-day, interacting with new and interesting people has been an experience I wouldn’t change. So, I guess it isn’t all that bad, after all.