5 Lessons I Learned From Waiting Tables

by Rebecca A. Watson on October 23, 2014

in happiness, life, Minneapolis, newspapers, work

A warning before I begin. This post contains some NSFW-language.

And by not safe for work, I mean what people in the restaurant industry call “real jobs,” because damn straight this language is fine for slinging beers, at least in the breakroom while you’re wolfing down cold, dead food, or while you’re in the dishroom having a minor freak out. (Or wait, was that just me?)

Once upon a time (for about seven years) I waited tables. As anyone in the service industry can tell you, it’s a tough place to work, and it’s even tougher to leave. Hours suck. Money’s good. Hard on your body. So many fun people. No health benefits. Killer deals on drinks. The list of pros and cons go on and on.

rock bottom mpls industry night

This was the crew I ran with.

After waking up from a server nightmare the other night (yes, after more than five years out of the industry I still have them), I started thinking back to all the lessons I learned, either while I was working or at the bar afterward. Because, yes, some of us restaurant folks tend toward the functional-alcoholic at times.

1. You are not your job. I know. How very Fight Club of me. But seriously, I worked with some of the most talented and brilliant people, from songstresses to teachers to astrophysicist PhDs, but they all had passions for other things. Waiting tables allowed them to pursue those passions.

It seems like I have to learn this lesson over and over. I tend to take my jobs personally, which can be great it it’s the perfect job. But let’s be real: There isn’t really any such thing. Someone will always have an opinion about what I do, including me.

Sure, I got annoyed at the people who asked me what I “Really Did,” but mostly I couldn’t escape my own criticism. I thought that waiting tables reflected on my laziness, not wanting to find something in my field.

Then when I did, I was embarrassed to be paid in blood money by a newspaper that made its profits processing and publishing mortgage foreclosures. (2008 was a very good year.) And then I wasn’t making what I was worth at an otherwise amazing job.


C’mon. I got *paid* to act silly.

And then I was a tiny cog in a giant wheel I know for a fact still won’t change even if it’s stuck in a rut.

My point is that if you can find some way to make money that you don’t hate, don’t hate on it or on yourself. It doesn’t define who you are. And if you’re lucky enough to have a job that’s also your passion (like my sweet Sante) thank your frickin’ lucky stars every day.

2. You can tell a lot by the way people act around “the help.” Yeah yeah I know. We’ve all heard it before. Don’t date someone who treats the server like crap. Duh. But I’m not just talking about the people treating waitresses like shit.

I’m talking about the way people act around anyone they consider to be serving them. Folks who turn their nose up at those cleaning the bathrooms, anyone who brushes off the secretary in the front office or mean girls in high school pulling pranks on the less-popular kids. These people suck. I don’t spend any more time with them than I absolutely have to.

That brings us to the people sitting in the booth with those shitty people. Why are they spending time with these assholes? Either they condone the behavior OR they don’t have the balls to stand up to them and tell them how terrible they’re being. Either way, lame.

dont hold back

I am not impressed.

This may sound like I lack compassion. That’s not true. I feel sorry for all those people. They are a very unhappy, unevolved bunch. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hang out with them or even say boo at them.

3. You are the sum of the experiences and people around you. Piggybacking off my last point, I’m certain now that the people I surround myself with are the people shaping my life. I do not exist in a vacuum.

I had this theory about bars and restaurants around town when I was serving: the harder the clientele partied, the more the staff would match. Meaning that the server who recommended that $200 bottle of wine likely has a similarly stocked wine cellar at home. And the waitress that brought you a round of Jägerbombs probably just did a line of cocaine.

When I realized this, I started trying to spend time with people that encouraged me to be a better person, who didn’t belly up to the bar every night. Nothing against the regulars at the brewery I used to work or the cool cats who serve them — I just wanted to see a future where beer wasn’t in my hand in one way or another every. single. day.

Since then I’ve made a lot of big changes in my life, and while I’d like to pat myself on the back and take all the credit, I’m pretty sure the people around me had a LOT to do with it.

julie n jojjo

Love my girls.

4. Your body can do amazing things. Respect it. Seventeen-hour double shift? Yep. Double shift with only a few minutes to scarf down an old burger and run outside for a cigarette? Sure, why not? It can do it hung over even. And it will still withstand a few more shots of booze before it finally shuts down and makes you sleep.

It can also run six miles in the rain. It can dance for hours without stopping. It can ride a bike to another country. It can fly.

There are so many things I love my body for. It’s taken me around this world and through some pretty amazing experiences. And for all the abuse I’ve put it through, it’s barely complained.

For this, I do my best to nourish it well and not overdo it with the chocolate. But I don’t make any promises. After all, cake does have some vitamins in it, right? And happiness is nourishment too, I believe.

5. Learn to ask for help. I remember one summer me and a few other waiters from Minneapolis drove to Milwaukee and waited tables at a sister store for a long weekend. It was the Harley Davidson 100 year anniversary and the city had pulled out all the stops, of course.

This meant that the giant restaurant, patio and bar would be filled from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. with hungry and thirsty bikers from all over the world. My name is Rebecca and I’ll be your server.

That weekend was when I realized my limits. I can’t work on a new computer system, learn new table numbers, understand an entirely new menu of beer and navigate a kitchen area that made NO SENSE without some help.

 Yes, please bring menus to table 41. And appetizer plates to tables 22 and 23. I haven’t even greet table 24. HELP! 

And people did help me. When I asked. And the relief, the release of pressure from my shoulders and jaw, was physically noticeable. And so was the increase in money I made at the end of the night.

While I still have a moment of pride now and then, most of the time I remember that asking for help makes things easier for everyone around me. If you knew me in my waitressing days, you are nodding your head in agreement. For those of you who didn’t know me then, here’s a likeness.

Thank goodness for asking for help, for so many reasons, including the fact that I don’t get like that anymore. Plus getting somebody else to pitch in means you get something different, and often better, than what you’d have if you’d just done it yourself.

Waiting tables taught me a lot about a lot. These are just a few of the lessons I took away that still stick with me years later.

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MMP: Calling in Sick

by Rebecca A. Watson on October 21, 2014

in Monday Morning Pages

I’ve given in. I am sick. Thank goodness Netflix has finally made it to Germany.

I’m no good at this sitting around. But I’m giving it a try. So, in lieu of my normal long rambly post with journal entries woven in, I’m going to post this meditation I read yesterday morning. It’s really stuck with me.


I love that quote. I can be the cheerful loser. Serenity is more important than more checks in the wins column, whatever that even means.

Hope your week is starting out well :) Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some cartoons to watch and naps to be taken.

Wondering what this Monday Morning Pages thing is all about? Read how it started. Or check out all the archives.


Weekend Reads for 17th of October 2014

by Rebecca A. Watson on October 17, 2014

in weekends, writing

I’ve started noticing that I have a lot of stuff I like to read and share. And I write a lot in other places that I’d like to share as well. So, I thought I’d try hooking you up with some weekend (or weekday, depending on when you pop over here) reading.

Me, Online Elsewhere

3 Lessons on Creating Trust — It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had a problem with trust. I’d withhold it from those who deserved it (including myself) and give it freely to those who had never earned it.

How to  Create a Morning That’s Right for You — A morning ritual gives you a foundation for your day — to leave you feeling ready to go and empowered.

The Approval Junkies of Junior High — Who’s the mean girl? Read a little about my junior high experience.

How to Overcome Perfectionism — Transformation Magazine reprinted one of my favorite articles here. “Love my article? If so, read many more inspiring articles every month
through Transformation Magazine, available on iTunes, Kindle, Nook, or Android and at www.TransformationMag.com.


Also, did you know Annecy is known as the Venice of France? Wonder why …

 Other Good/Interesting Stuff

At the Vatican, a Shift in Tone Toward Gays and Divorce — More tolerance anywhere is good news. But more tolerance in the Catholic Church? Hurrah!

Regret Nothing: Poem For The End Of A Neptune Era — Great for those moments when you’re regretting anything from your past.

The Drinker’s Guide to Hanging Out With Sober People — ‘Nuff said.

Lock up your wives! — Advice columns from decades past provide a chilling glimpse into the horrors of marriage counselling before feminism. Oh dear. I remember reading Ladies’ Home Journal at my grandma’s.

Samhain (or Halloween for the Muggles out there) is coming. Are you ready?

Samhain (or Halloween for the Muggles out there) is coming. Are you ready?

Image Credit: Heavenia


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