After college I waited tables for a year at a chain restaurant in Kenmore Square Boston. It’s located between Boston University and Fenway Park. So the patrons were a mix of angry sports fans (this was before the Red Sox finally won) and poor college students.
The money was awful. It was physically exhausting work. The customers were obnoxious and demanding. At the time I thought there was nothing redeeming about it.
But I learned more important lessons about work, people, and life in that job than in any other. Here’s a smattering.
- Always, always be nice to people who will handle your food. (This lesson probably also applies to things like medicine.)
- Tip well. Very well. They are working harder for a living than you are and getting paid less. (Unless you are a school teacher.)
- Glass cracks when it goes quickly from hot (fresh out of the washer) to cold (filled with ice and soda) but not the reverse. Who knew?
- If you are heading somewhere and see something that should go in the same direction (e.g., dirty plates), take it with you. Now. This time. Don’t put it off.
- Make friends with everyone at work. You never know when your tips will depend on them.
- Getting slammed (restaurant lingo for suddenly having all 8 tables in your section seated at the same time) shows you what people are made of. (The people here being you, your coworkers, your manager who can either sit at the bar watching or dive in and help, and yes, your customers.)
- The measure of the quality of a human being isn’t how he treats his friends. Most people are pretty good at that. It’s how he treats the people he will rarely, if ever, see again.
- Rubber Soul is the greatest Beatles album of all time.
- Waiters are like piranha when a mistake order of nachos are returned to the kitchen.
- And never be mean to people who will handle your food. Trust me, it’s worth mentioning twice. (I swear I didn’t do anything, but I’ve seen some things that still keep me up at night.)
What about you? What job taught you the most?