Food for Thought

Posted by Cila Warncke

After managing to avoid waitressing for, oh, 15 years, I have tumbled into restaurant-work like a full pint glass pitching off a wobbly tray. Catastrophe, right?

Yet, like the sound of smashing glass, strangely satisfying. It’s going to be messy. I’m going to hate myself, my colleagues and my customers on a regular basis, but there is a perverse joy too it. In the middle of a real rush waiting tables is like trying to put Jenga together, from the top, while someone pulls it apart from the bottom. There is the added frisson, in my new place, of the tables being nestled so closely I wind up swiveling between chairs like a drunk trying to line-dance. There are a dozen other delightful wee challenges. Tables too small to hold our giant pizza platters. A touch-screen computer you need a hammer to communicate with. Mountains of cutlery to be polished. Stairs strewn with laundry bags full of napkins, high chairs and random piles of crockery. Not least, there’s my inability to comprehend broad Glaswegian – especially when shouted by cooks.

The compensation is not the pay, which is rubbish, but the sense of being part of a large, harried, dysfunctional family that copes. This is what keeps people working in restaurants long after they could and should have found something better to do. Every day is a reenactment, in miniature, of the heroic quest: hope, strife, crisis, the struggle against odds, catharsis, and finally calm. It is conflict-drama-and-resolution, broken into shifts. Humanities students are particularly susceptible to the lure of this never-ending stories; hence why all restaurants are chock full of former English majors. We could get better, or certainly less strenuous jobs, but we can’t help falling in love with being involved in what is essentially a never-ending soap opera with added plates.

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