I have many names.
My given name is Andrea, in high school I was “Andi,” in college I became “Andee,” for professional purposes I’m referred to as “Miss Chaffin” (which is almost always pronounced incorrectly) and for 30 hours a week I’m known as, “Excuse me ma’am.”
That’s right. Like many college students, I pay for my textbooks by transforming into a member of the customer service industry after classes.
I’ve been a waitress for more than four years. To be frank, I’m pretty darn good at it.
The logistics of the job certainly aren’t difficult: take an order, refill a drink, deliver food, etc. But anyone who has ever worked as a server knows that there is much more to the job. If I simply covered the basics, I’d be going home with 10 percent every night, and that won’t pay for this textbook on foreign policy.
Instead, I kiss butt. It’s really helped with my people skills.
The restaurant is located in my hometown, where the phrase, “everybody knows everybody” is not a cliché. I would bet that at least half of my customers are regulars. I know their names. I know their children’s names. I’ve seen pictures of their pets. I know their job title. The same can be said about their knowledge of my personal life.
So, when I greet a table, it’s usually, “Hey, how are you?” instead of, “My name’s Andrea and I’ll be your server today.”
I have a friendly relationship with the majority of the customers. But, of course, there are always exceptions.
There are some customers, usually the white-collar lunch crowd, who assume I am a white-trash, baby on my hip, NASCAR-loving, poverty-stricken, lowly member of society. Of course, they make all of these assumptions based on the fact that I am their waitress.
Let’s make one thing clear: Yes, I am your waitress. No, I am not your personal slave for the next 45 minutes.
I have been asked to do some ridiculous things throughout my career.
Note: All of these are true.
About a year ago, one woman asked me to pick the potatoes out of her vegetable soup before serving it to her. “They’re too starchy,” she explained.
“Here’s a spoon and an extra bowl,” I countered.
A few months ago a table waved me down, explaining that their child spilled a drink. Normally, this would not be a problem; I would simply hoist a mop into the dining room. What made it amazing was the fact that the Mountain Dew puddle was under the table, between their legs.
I actually got on my hands and knees, crawled under the table and wiped up their child’s mess while they all leaned over and watched, still sitting in their chairs.
Who allows their 2-year-old 16 ounces of Mountain Dew, anyway? Apparently, the same people who have the definitions of “waitress” and “slave” confused.
A few years ago, a local Ohio congressman began dining fairly regularly at the restaurant. As a political science major, I was excited to see him. I had received a letter from his office a few months prior to our meeting, congratulating my recent accomplishment of being named to the Dean’s List.
I will exclude his name for professional purposes.
When he came up to the window to pay for his meal, I decided to break the ice. I explained to him that it was a pleasure to meet him, we shared political interests and that I appreciated the letter his office sent, adding that I had an interest in possibly entering the political field one day.
As he pushed my tip toward me – $1.78 for a $25 meal – he looked into my face and said something I’ll never forget.
He walked away, leaving me feeling like the scum of the Earth, a lowly waitress.
Whenever I see him kissing babies, shaking hands at the local high school’s football game or in the midst of a campaign announcing his caring for the people of Madison County, two words always escape my mouth: that’s nice.
Last week brought on a whole new level of making me feel unworthy. An older male asked my name while I was taking his family’s order. After revealing mine, I did what I always do. I asked his name.
He looked at me with shocked eyes, as if thinking, “how dare she ask my name, this ordinary girl.”
After gathering himself for a moment, he finally answered in a narcissistic tone that he was a doctor.
I didn’t ask your profession, buddy, but I get that you’re better than me.
In nine short weeks, my career as a waitress will be over. I start my “real” job in mid-June. It’s true that every person should be required to wait tables during their life. It changes the way one behaves in a restaurant.
Oh, and one more mandatory action. Everyone should watch “Waiting.” Don’t these people know that you should never mess with someone who handles your food?
Just kidding, I’ve never actually messed with a plate, despite temptation. Instead, I choose to write about these people.
But, what do I know about writing anyway? I’m just a waitress.