Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Working Girl

There's this woman. Her name is Patricia - Patty - and thirty-six years ago she got married to this man named Michael. Thirty-two years ago they had their first child. Her name is Heather. Twenty years ago (almost twenty-one) they had another child. Her name is Molly.

Mike and Patty raised two only children (there's a twelve year age difference that was quite evident in Molly's younger years, believe me) and when they reached a certain age, they instilled in their children certain values. Values like doing what's right, even if it might suck (though said much more eloquently), that sometimes there's not that definitive line between good and bad (though there should be some days, because it would make life so much easier), and when you have a job, you do your job to the best of your ability because it's easier to do it right the first time rather than half-ass it and then have to go back and fix it.

They also tried to help their children deal with finances. Namely, this how much money you need to make if you want to have this amount to spend a week while you're in college.

Ultimately, this was the birth of the Working Girl.

Coincidence that both their girls were waitresses? Well, one was (and stopped when she was heavily pregnant because it was hell on her ankles and feet) and one still is. But they're very different waitresses - one flipped tables and made a small fortune in ones every night, working temp jobs during the day and then closing the restaurant at nights. The other gets the same group of sixteen to twenty-four (depends on how many we add before we leave and who else is on that night) people for three hours. In the first five minutes, you either make yourself or break yourself between the time that they sit down and you serve soup. You have three hours with these people. You piss them off in the first five minutes, you have to deal with them for two hours and fifty-five more.

I don't flip tables. I've never flipped tables in the three years that I've been a waitress. I've opened more bottles of wine than I can count, spilled more wine on myself than I really care to admit, and even fallen down the stairs.

And I can fully classify myself as a working girl.

My job's not a traditional 9-5. I don't live in a cubicle, and I don't have an internship for the summer. I bypassed even applying for summer research because I could make more than the stipend offered by the chem department. I've made more than the stipend, actually, not that it's a big deal. I work doubles when I'm scheduled to (or when I'm not, depending on where I've picked up a shift or two for someone) and mostly, I work nights. Not graveyard shift or anything, where I go in at midnight or something (like dad - our father goes in to work at midnight and gets down around two in the afternoon, and the man just turned 62) but my evenings are shot. Rarely do I get to eat dinner with my family because I'm usually shoving off from the dock at the time that everybody's gathering around the table. I missed Madaline opening her presents and blowing out her candles on her third birthday because I had to go in (though I opted to be cut from the shift because there wasn't enough people for the amount of workers we had on). My Monday nights are spent looking after 150-200 screaming tweens and teens with thumping pop/rap/new hits music (and then Krispy usually blows a speaker and things get interesting, or he overloads the amp and everything goes quiet, which is more entertaining). The rest of the nights I'm serving prime rib, scallops, Cornish game hen, and vegetarian pasta (which is actually Stouffers, but don't tell anybody, it still smells good) and trying not to slop on myself in the process of serving dinner.

Which is an epic fail on the nights when you spill au jus all down the side of your face and it winds up in your bra. Actually, that night I wound up smelling like a three course meal, vodka martini (straight up, a little dirty) included. I wear black pants, a button-up, short-sleeved white shirt with epaulets (which, yes, as you can imagine, gathers spots and stains to it like a moth to an open flame) and I have a love affair with my apron. I can tell you the difference between the reds and whites on the back page of our drink menu (cabernets and merlots, rieslings and chardonnays) but ask me anything about any listed on the inside of the menu, and you might be up shit creek without a paddle. Which is fairly funny because I've been doing this for three years, I live in wine country, and I'm not entirely sure on the subtle differences between one winery's riesling and another's, and there are some that I'm still not sure how to pronounce.

All of it, every little detail, is okay because I really do enjoy my job. I meet people (and those who return year after year usually remember me) and I try to make their special occasion - be it an anniversary, a birthday, or a middle of the week getaway - a little more special. Doesn't always happen, but we still try.

Summertime, to an extent, isn't my time. I don't get personal time because there are things that I'm saving for. One of them is books. My paychecks buy my books for the coming school year. They also provide my "fun" money - those movie nights with the girls, ice skating adventures, that ski trip that sounded like a good idea at the time, but as Heather pointed out, I'm no Shaun White, and anything else that might come up and need adventuring in - and give me a certain budget a week for the year.

In short, if I don't work, there's not really any money during the school year. Makes the budget a little tight.

I'll admit that there are days when I get up, and I really don't feel like going to work (usually a Wednesday lunch, when we know there's going to be a bus group and that's usually pouring coffee and taking salad bowls back with the croutons still there because their teeth might come out if they eat them) but I go anyway. And I slap a smile on my face and be cheery, chipper, and a good host while they're aboard because that's my job. My cell phone - not matter how badly I want to Tweet about anything - stays in my bag as soon as I punch in.

My boss is not paying me to be on my phone. He's paying me to do the job he hired me for.

If some of my coworkers could remember that little gem of advice....

This weekend will be interesting, much like IRL weekend. I'll be up at the track selling souvenirs during the day, and then, in the early afternoon, head home to kind of mellow out and get ready to spend the next six hours working as a waitress. We need workers to man the stand, and I'm a worker.

It really is as simple as that. It's always been that simple.

So, I'm a working girl. A working girl who likes the simple things in life - running barefoot in the grass, dancing in the rain, and playing monster and princess with a certain three-year-old - and knows that good things come from working hard and being honest.

Know what? I'm pretty proud of that.

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"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz