One Waitress Sunday

#3 got a job today. She officially starts training next week as a waitress.

#1 is already a waitress.

#2 has a job interview tomorrow for a potentially waitress-related position.

I used to be a waitress. Before I started pushing boxes and wrapping cables and making people louder, I served pancakes and eggs, meatloaf and midwestern spaghetti, and later, margaritas and fried ice cream. Waiting tables is hard work. Mainly because there are people involved.

I used to have these drowning waitress dreams. In my dreams, I would already be rushing around with five tables, and then the hostess would seat me a 20-top, a 7-top and an 11-top all at once. There weren’t enough menus. One of the tables would be upside down on the ceiling and I would have to climb a spiderweb to get up to it while pirates tried to unhook my fingers and kept trying to flip my tray. Each time someone ordered something I would go back to the kitchen only to find out we were out of it. Everyone needed separate checks at the last minute and there were six birthdays at six different tables, each one requiring that I make a labor-intensive free dessert with a complete absence of kitchen utensils, and then gather of as many coworkers as possible to sing the made-up Mexican birthday song.

I would wake from these dreams feeling like I worked all night instead of sleeping. I’d chase my hangover with a cigarette, the cigarette with a cup of double-strength coffee; I’d find a clean uniform shirt, spot-clean my apron, and put my SAS shoes on for another go-round.

There isn’t a single thing about this past life that I miss.

Every so often, even today, nearly twenty years later, I will still have a drowning waitress dream. Except now I will realize in my dream that this isn’t my job any more, and I untie my apron and walk out.

So given all the waitressing that is happening and is about to happen in my house, I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with a useful piece of advice for the girls, and I think I finally have one:

Smile often, and pay attention to your tray.

Because at some point your tray WILL betray you. You are going to drop stuff. If you’re lucky, you’re only going to drop that entrée on the floor, the one that your customer has been waiting on for half an hour; if you’re unlucky you’re going to drop it ON your customer. A smile is your only defense at that point.

At the mexican place we served beer in these 23-ounce Pilsner glasses. I had a table of four who each ordered one. I served the first one to the lady, at which point the tray tipped and dumped all over her. Every. Ounce. That’s 69 ounces of beer, for those of you who are counting.

Will you believe me when I tell you that she had just come from the gym and had a change of clothes with her in a bag at the table, a bag that miraculously escaped the Beer Deluge? And that my manager comped them and they stayed and drank all night and left me a big tip?

I figured that was my allotment of waitress grace, and I should get out while I could. I quit shortly after that.

How about you- got any drowning ex-occupation stories? Any good waitress stories?

Here’s your picture: My mom’s entry for my Pi Day Pie contest. She didn’t win a damn thing.

My mom used to cook. She gave it up for Lent when I was 13.
My mom used to cook. She gave it up for Lent when I was 13.

Here are your links:

Continuing on with our waitress & other jobs theme, I first got introduced to the Ziggens when I worked a Glenn Campbell show. Glenn Campbell’s sound guy is the drummer for the punk-ish Ziggens and gave me a disc. I played it and fell in love, particularly with this song, which made such an impression on me that I never ask anyone in my family if they want scrambled or fried; I sing “How do you like yo’ eggs?“. Later I got to do monitors when the Ziggens opened up for Dick Dale, which ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite gigs. The Ziggens: The Waitress Song

What makes you ridiculously happy? Worth it for the mutant animal sculpture alone. 5 Bizarre Things…on Ironic Mom

I loved this one just from the title, but then there’s also this awesome sort of walking dead chicken picture. . .    I Spatchcocked A Rooster Eunuch on The Food and Wine Hedonist.

I’m lucky like this too: Doing Life Together and the Division of Labor on Scattered Smothered and Covered

Do you greet your loved ones when they come home? It matters. The Homecoming Dance on Spectator.

Happy Sunday.





41 thoughts on “One Waitress Sunday

    1. My “drowning” dream involves a spotlight that has to be moved throughout the entire theater! Every move on stage has to be lit from a different location, sometimes I even have to ask audience members to vacate their seat for a cue. The show is never the same twice and the theater is never the same either, but I frequently can”t get enough extension cords or I trip down an aisle during a quiet scene!

  1. Holy crap, YEARS since I’ve heard Ziggens. My brother and I would listen to them all the damn time. You are amazing. P.s. cocktail waitress and catering/banquets for a Mexican restaurant is on my lengthy resume…don’t miss it.

    1. I once did a catering gig where whatever basketball team was playing against IU booked us for breakfast and we had one guy cooking. Every pan of eggs he turned out was enough for one player. I just stopped going out there because there were all these extremely tall and hungry looking guys waiting for food and they were scary.

  2. I waitressed for many years, and somehow never spilled anything on a customer. And I never had any of those dreams, but oh my god, just reading that brought back all of those crazy fears and stressful feelings. So thanks for that! :p

    1. You’re the one! The one waitress who never spilled anything on someone and never had the drowning waitress dream! You’re legendary! This means that for the rest of your life, your family must serve YOU.

  3. I didn’t understand how hard that job was until I managed a Cracker Barrel gift shop. Some nights those servers went home with lots of money, but it was hard earned! I used to have work stress dreams, but it’s been so long I don’t remember them. And thank goodness for that 🙂

  4. your beer-spilling story is exactly why I was never a waitress. I am a huge klutz, I’d be throwing food/drinks at every customer. I think it IS one of the hardest jobs, so I always tip well. I have one recurring nightmare about a past job. I used to work at Yankee Candle in my 20s, so I have this dream I’m cashing out this endless line of old ladies yelling at me that their candles won’t light. Then they make me sniff each candle because the scent is wrong. So the entire dream is me running around, sniffing candles.

  5. Before I started “making people louder” – ha! That made me giggle. Congrats / good luck to the girls! I think waitressing seems like one of the world’s hardest jobs. That’s incredible about the beer-spilled-turned-tip.

    I managed to escape the thankless world of waitressing, for the thankless world of… every other job I’ve ever had. I once gotten bitten by a 3-year-old and had to get a Tetanus shot and then passed out.

  6. I still have an occasional waitress nightmare and wake up completely exhausted. Then, I spend half of the next day remembering that I forgot to take an extra mustard (or whatever) to some random table. Like an actual random table from waitress history — real customer events. I waited tables for ten years. Ya, it took me that long to get through college and find a real (haha) job. My feet still hurt. Thankfully, Clark’s now makes ‘dress’ shoes and I don’t have to wear my SAS nurse-looking ones anymore.

  7. I waitressed and had a climbing to the top of a tower that was falling apart and then jumping off and hurtling back through the clouds dream if that counts? I don’t really remember dropping too much except wine, lots of wine.. I do remember kids calling the police from our payphone though when I was left in charge. Now that does need the ‘paste on smile’ face.

    1. That totally counts. And I can only imagine that the kids called the police from the pay phone only after spilling milkshakes on the table and not tipping you. Rest assured, their mothers are very angry with them.

      1. Yes and Yes.. but then No.. the nanny looked very flustered but the mothers hardly looked round and then one blamed us over her shoulder for having payphone! Perhaps they were just uber relaxed at having afternoon off work.. and that feels gooood! It was years ago, but still goes down as the oddest parent reaction I have ever witnessed.

  8. I never worked in a restaurant, but I had work/stress dreams every Christmas when I was managing a record store. Would work 10 hour days, 6-7 days a week, then go home collapse into bed, and dream about being back at work, just running the register and clearing customers. I’d wake up feeling like I just worked the overnight shift. There was just no escape.

  9. I was a server for 20 years, off and on. Mostly because I love the job, and it kept me young to be around all those crazy kids! But on my last day of my last serving job, I lived your nightmare. I was the only server on the floor and I was waiting on 38 tables at the same time. That’s right, THIRTY-EIGHT! Some two-tops, some four, some eights and a couple of tens. I managed not to spill anything that day, but I did have a moment of hyper-ventilating and a few tears back in the waitress station. I got through it knowing that it was my last shift and I wouldn’t have to do it again. But a year later, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Real estate is great, but I do love the rush of a crazy shift – and holding up the bar with a cocktail afterwards 😉

      1. Wanted to – badly. But I am not a quitter and I wasn’t going to let it get the best of me! And it makes me laugh thinking back on it, so I’m glad I stuck it out. I can only imagine how I must have looked to those people that day, lol…

  10. I never waitressed, but I did work retail for a few years after high school and before college, up through all the layers of management before the one where you no longer have to deal with customers. I nearly took that promotion too, the no-more-customers one, but then I realized it would be A Career instead of a job and I figured it was time to leave. Usually I’m glad, but sometimes – when I am staring into the abyss of a show posting and a few weeks of picking up whatever random work calls or casual trucking that I can – I think that maybe I slogged through the crappy part and left just when it would get easy and lucrative, and maybe that wasn’t so smart.

    Anyway, back in retail, I used to have dreams that I was size-stickering clothing. All night. Nothing bad happened. No one even came and messed up my newly folded stack, or stole anything. Just endless, endless piles of XS, S, M, L, measured two fingers from the right side of the fold. Over and over. For hours. I would wake up exhausted.

    A few years ago I was, implausibly, mixing sound for a terrible off-Broadway show, as a second job. Implausible because I am not a sound person, but I was a musician with a working knowledge of basic electrics and I guess somebody figured that was close enough, for such a terrible show. I learned a lot on the job, in furtive phone calls to actual sound people. “Summerstock stock,” I would call them (and myself, then). Anyway, I would frequently dream that somebody had relocated the sound board to the grid after preset but before half hour, and then I had to try to figure out how to get up to the grid, and then once I did (sometimes I didn’t, sometimes the dream ended in total failure) I couldn’t see or hear anything the same but the show always started as soon as I got to the board so I just had to roll with it.

    My last show nightmare series involved flying. Not even the scary or newsworthy parts, but just endless hours of flying sandbags around FOH, focusing lights, testing and adjusting flight paths by minute degrees or speeds. Sometimes two sandbags battling each other in mid-air, slamming dully into each other with soft thuds and little dust clouds. That was basically how I spent months of my waking hours, too. There is at least a whole year of my life that can be summed up as, “Standing by, bag’s gonna fly.”

    That at least all paid off in the end, though. We took the previously-mentioned 3- and 6-year old boys to a routine fly rehearsal a few weeks ago and I became the coolest person in the world.

    1. Nothing cooler to a pair of little boys that stuff flying in the air with the potential to hit other stuff flying in the air! Those are great dreams. I had a dream once where they threw me in to mix a show I’d never seen before, and figured I’d be okay because it was a combination of a couple other shows I had worked on. And the board was labeled with actor names of people who hadn’t been in the show in three years and I couldn’t figure out who was supposed to be talking. I had to get on com and ask the SM for help. I think you made the right career choice, by the way.

  11. Oh jeez, the drowning waitress dreams. At least yours were creative what with the spiderwebs and what not. Mine were too realistically boring/terrifying to even be entertaining. It always culminated with me getting a table that I didn’t KNOW I had been assigned until they got up and left in a huff. It has been 30 years since my waitress days and that dream still pops up now and then.

    Your mom should have totally won with that entry. Just sayin’.

    1. Oh yeah, the Ignored Table dreams! I had those too, eeesh. Regarding Pi, I have to say in my defense that my own mother didn’t get her entry in in a timely manner (i got it Saturday).

  12. The Peanut Bar, located in Reading, PA. They needed a waitress, my friend ran the bar, so it was a no brainer, I helped out for 6 weeks. They had no uniform small enough, so I wore black pants, white button done shirt and a black tie. BTW, they still wear that in that restaurant today, 35 years later. There were peanut shells all over the floor which was highly dangerous for a dancer/waitress, but I never fell down. The crowning glory was not mine but another gal who was being severely heckled by a table of suits who had come in after work. They had asked for more peanuts, when she took the empty bowls to retrieve more, a condom packet fell out. This type of annoyance for her went on, as did their drinking. one finally crossed the line by asking to be able to “get in your pants”…the response I have never forgotten…
    “I’m sorry sir, that won’t be possible. You see, there’s already one asshole in there…”
    That was one quiet table after that.

  13. Both of our daughters have waitressed. Every time I thought I’d heard everything, they’d come home with another story. I’ll have to ask them if they have dreams about it.

    Great post.

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