The Tavern This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 18, 2008
It took everything in me not to push the cash register to the floor, smash the wine glasses against the bar, and shriek at Janine what I really thought of her. She was a bossy, condescending, egotistical, and manipulative idiot. Instead I calmly continued drying water glasses while inside my head a parade of curses (including some Spanish ones) danced. I had survived my first urge to quit the job from hell.

I’ve been babysitting for longer than can possibly be healthy for anyone not pursuing a career in kindergarten education. The summer before senior year, I decided it was time to leave those sticky wards and find a “real job.” Easier said than done; most of the jobs I wanted I was apparently unqualified for because I’d spent half of my life babysitting. Those I was qualified for, over-zealous college students had swooped in and claimed months ago. I complained to everyone that I couldn’t find a job, and after filling out nine applications, I lost steam, sure that there must be something horribly wrong with me. I began to grow desperate. My summer dragged on and except for some paltry babysitting gigs, I was destitute. Lemonade stands began to sound like an excellent idea.

It was completely by chance that I happened upon the Tavern. I hadn’t noticed it before because I rarely took the road that passed it, but that night I was starving and the only place open was a shady 24-hour gas station on the opposite corner. I couldn’t believe my luck – a restaurant was opening not four minutes from where I lived!

Janine and I hit it off immediately; I apparently had been the only local applicant who was polite and didn’t look as though she had just come from wrestling cows in the mud. Janine had come to my town kicking and screaming. She was a city girl forced to live in the inhospitable country with, in her words, “a bunch of rednecks.” She came here by way of a glitzy and ultra-glamorous NYC Park Avenue restaurant, which she never let anyone forget. All that Janine asked me when I showed up was how much I wanted per hour and if I could come back at 8 a.m. the next day. My real job began less than 12 hours after I first met her.

A month later, a pattern had developed. When I arrived at 4 p.m., the silverware needed to be wiped, bathrooms cleaned (my previous babysitting came in handy), floors swept, drinks mixed, bread cut to Janine’s standards, and more likely than not, other waitresses trained. In the course of six weeks I have risen to the rank of head waitress, adding to my hours. I now am in charge of the books, which means Janine has full license to yell at me whenever she pleases. Nothing anyone does truly appeases her cantankerous whims. We all endure her jabs; we are a captive audience as she delivers her diatribes.

I have always wanted to be a waitress; it seemed like such an attractive job – the black pants, the greeting and meeting new people, writing checks, pounding the cash register keys, smiling just enough to elicit a decent tip. I wanted it all. But I discovered waitressing was hardly a Primetime Special. Movies and books never touch upon the work that goes into serving people, or mention those who don’t appreciate what you do. If couples are squabbling, you get blamed; children misbehaving, you get blamed; food is overcooked, you get blamed. I have learned to smile and accept the unhappiness that some tables bestow on me.

Waitressing has taught me a patience I never knew I had. I think about quitting – the weekends and weeknights I would have free – but honestly, I could never do it. I love the work, the power I wield, the self-control I have mastered, and the stories I can eventually channel into future novels.

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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writtendesires said...
Jun. 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm
i thought this was great. honestly. Waitressing is a pretty hard job, with all those mean customers out there. oh and lets not forget the boss from hell. now thats even worse. in the end however it is your job, and you have to like it. so Fantastic, i loved it. goood job....kudos. -liz
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