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. 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.

Iced Crazy Grandpas – a mix of chocolate, caramel, french vanilla & espresso (aka pure deliciousness)

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 and hostess. My heart sank. As a server I could expect to make $100+ in tips on an average day. As a barista, my tips would be far less…and as a hostess, I wouldn’t get tipped out at all. 

I ended up penning a long letter to the manager that night, 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.

Prepping chocolate strawberry pancakes and banana split waffles on the expo line.

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 be 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. After getting 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. 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 embarking on late night adventures, I appreciate 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.

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