I thought this summer would be full of adventure. Spontaneous trips to NYC, late night excursions with friends from home and school, numerous beach days – too many to count. Instead, my summer consisted of (speed) walking between a kitchen and tables, surrounded by grey blue walls and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Meemom’s, named after the owner’s grandma, is the french toast restaurant I spent most of summer ‘16 at. I began as a hostess on May 17, welcoming new customers and seating them, as well as answering the phone and recording take-out orders at the front of the restaurant. The hostess who trained me would buss (clean) tables in her free time, so I quickly learned to buss and host simultaneously, and ended up being promoted to barista by the end of my first week.
After mastering the espresso machine, I moved to the floor and was taught to serve. I memorized the proper greeting to use when first approaching a table, and learned how to multitask by giving equal attention to every table in my section – nearly simultaneously. Rather than taking an order and rushing to input it through the computer in the back, I realized I had to check on my other tables first, making a mental list of items asked for so that I could deliver everything on my next trip back to the floor.
At first, I sucked. I forgot orders, inputted them wrong, attempted to serve incomplete dishes, and otherwise created countless small disasters. I had a tough time focusing on one task long enough to complete it when there were five others calling my name. Just when I started to get the hang of serving, the manager asked to speak with me. It was June 27.
After a long day, he sat me down and told me that the restaurant was considering moving me back to being a barista, hostess, and busser. My heart sank. As a server I could expect to make $100+ in tips on an average day. As a hostess, I didn’t get tipped out at all, only receiving hourly wage, and as a busser or barista, I knew I would make much less than waitressing.
I ended up penning a long letter to the manager when I got home, essentially asking to be retrained as a server. He knew I was a hard worker, since my hustle and willingness to do anything for anyone were what got me promoted in the first place. He agreed to retrain me.
After a long two weeks of trailing other servers, meticulously inputting orders into the computer system, and memorizing flash cards of menu items, I was ready to enter the floor on my own again. The most frustrating part of training was that I didn’t receive tips at all. I was paid a flat rate for the entire training period, but the amount equaled what I could’ve made in two days of serving. However, I knew I was blessed to receive another chance to serve and didn’t squander it.
Now, it’s August 18, ten days before I go back to school, and I’m melancholy. I was extremely motivated to work this summer because I never wanted to experience being broke again. Last semester, my final sorority bill of $56 arrived at a point when I only had $0.46 in my bank account. I went into financial probation. While I’ve made over $3,000 this summer, I’m also constantly exhausted. When I get home from a long day of waitressing, I don’t have the energy to talk to anyone. Meemom’s is open from 7:00am-3:00pm every day, which means we work from 6:30am-4:00pm with opening and closing duties. After nine hours of being on my feet in a customer service position, I’m usually drained – physically and emotionally. The joy I used to receive from looking at my overflowing bank account has diminished and now I ask, was it worth it? Was it worth devoting my summer to making money, when I could’ve been developing relationships, traveling, and relaxing before school begins again?
After reflecting on it, I realized that any stirrings of regret are overpowered by gratefulness for my experiences this summer. I learned invaluable lessons in humility, hard work, communication, and multitasking. I know how to waitress now, and how to do it well. I also met wonderful people this summer, people I wouldn’t trade for the world. They mentored me, teased me, laughed with me, sang for me, made me chicken fingers when I forgot to bring in granola bars, and stood up for me when no one else would. Along the way, I also learned discipline, sleeping before midnight (which, if you know me, realize this is no small miracle) and waking up at 6:00am every morning.
I’m happy that I accomplished my goal of making enough money to cover my sorority dues, Saturday brunches, and city trips. Although I may not have spent as many days lounging on the beach, exploring beautiful new places, or going on late night adventures, I appreciate all the lessons I’ve learned. This may have been my most challenging summer yet, but it has also been the most rewarding. Meemoms, I’ll see you in December.