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You're Hired This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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After looking in my wallet and finding nothing but ticket stubs and a library card, I had a revelation: I should get a job. I applied at half a dozen places, filling out paperwork about my past work experience (none), background-check release forms and quizzes which I guess were supposed to determine if I was a moral and literate person. Example: “Question 78: Can you count past 50?” I never got a call back from any of these places. All this for minimum wage? Give me a break.

Finally, I had a breakthrough and actually had an interview with the manager of a restaurant. He looked at me and said, “Come back in the fall.” The next week, I talked to the other manager. She looked at me, I smiled and she said, “You’re hired!” I entered the world of the working.

At 16, I was too young to be a server, but I could be a hostess. Fortunately, my job did not require a name tag, hairnet or anything in the neon color scheme. I just had to dress nicely. I did have to wear pantyhose, however, which has to be the most despicable leg covering known to humankind.

I showed up for my first day of training properly clothed (and hosed) and ready to work. Apparently, though, my trainer wasn’t. It was a Friday night, one of the busiest nights in the restaurant business, so they couldn’t afford to go without a hostess. The manager grabbed one of the waitresses and told her to “show the new girl what to do.” This was the extent of my training: “Um ... like, this is the seating chart. When people come in you like, seat them, and – I don’t need to tell you any of this, do I? You read the manual and stuff, right? Okay, good. I’m kinda busy now – have fun!” With that brief introduction, I was on my own. Okay, I thought. This hostess thing can’t be that hard. I can smile, I can say ‘Smoking or non?’ I’ll be fine.

Fine? Well, that depends on what you mean by “fine.” If you like being screamed at by servers, cooks, busboys, bartenders, little old ladies and not-so-little bikers, then I was fine. If you like being hit on by old men with hair plugs, I was fine. If you like being called “little lady” by 13-year-old chain smokers, then I was fine. If you like going completely out of your mind ... then I was just peachy.

That first night was one I’d like to forget. Luckily, though, I got a more in-depth (that’s not saying much) training session the next day, and after a few nights, I was practically a pro. I could wash windows, bus tables, clean menus, restock mints and inflate balloons with the best of them. I could lie through my teeth (“Sure, it’ll just be about five to ten minutes”), I could program the jukebox with 50 of my favorite songs in ten seconds flat and I knew the answers to all the puzzles on the kid’s menu. By my second week, I was a trainer myself.

While I know a lot, I don’t know everything there is to know about the restaurant. I am not a cook, server, cashier or manager. I don’t know how to get to the restaurant from Pennsylvania. I don’t know which gas station has the cheapest cigarettes.

I make $5.50 an hour, Buster – don’t push it. Please don’t brush off the seats like they are infected with some contagious disease. Don’t give me dirty looks when I can’t give you a window seat. It’s not my fault the kids at the next table are screaming. I can’t help it if you don’t like ribs. And please don’t expect me to sing the restaurant’s theme song. I am hostess, hear me roar. Smoking or non?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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