I bounced at a bar while I was enrolled in university. The hours were awful and the clientele obnoxious, but the scheduling was great: I could go to school, do my apprenticeship and then earn a living -- sleep is overrated anyway. The strange thing was that, despite coming home in the wee hours of the night with homework still waiting to be done, the job was incredibly satisfying.
While waitressing is not the same thing as bouncing, I can appreciate this article by Jackie Kruszewski who, in her article in This Recording, explains feeling "a surge of usefulness that I'd never felt at my day job."
Bartenders, busboys, wait staff, line cooks -- the people you meet in restaurants are far more interesting than most. Many have creative pursuits, ill-advised tattoos, recreational drug habits, sordid tales from their past, and fascinating sex lives. And they'll tell you everything. You'll learn more in 10 minutes than you'll ever know about the colleagues you see five days a week.
Rampant sarcasm, sass, gossip, petty disputes, strong personalities, hook ups -- these are the sine qua non of restaurant culture. Waiting tables exacerbates any judgemental, nasty and racist qualities you already have, but it also makes you better at hiding them strategically. Never doubt for a second that your server hasn't pegged you for a good tipper or a bad tipper right off the bat, or that they don't already know that you're going to complain about your food after you ask for myriad substitutions that she has to plead with the chef for. Now, whether that means she puts in minimal effort and risks the self-fulfilling tip prophesy, or whether she vies desperately for your affection in order to disprove her own snap judgment, that's another question.
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