Most of my adult working life, before I accepted the throne next to King Foodie, was consumed with the challenge of making money. Yes, this is a concern for all people, specifically young people who are trying to “make it on their own.” However, I was in a particular predicament because my field of interest/expertise was dance, where it is especially difficult to create a stable career and earn enough money to support oneself.
But trust me, I tried. With few opportunities for serious teaching jobs, or glamorous performing gigs, I was happy and willing to do whatever it took to be a dancer- whether that meant jumping around in a chicken suit at a five year old’s birthday party, being sawed in half in a magic show, or leading the 10:00am random hodge-podge exercise class for a group of seventy year-olds. But still, it was not enough to pay the bills.
So, I turned to what so many other struggling actors/dancers do- working in a restaurant. A restaurant job sounded like a decent choice for all the logical reasons- immediate, temporary, and required no previous experience/education/skill set. However, at that time I was a mere mortal, and did not have the title, Mrs. King Foodie. I willingly gave myself to the wolves, as a free-spirited, creative, spunky, yet sensitive individual who did not seem to fit into the structure and norms of the restaurant world.
Early on in my years of restaurant jobs, I learned that for whatever reason I was not going to “make it” as a server, so I accepted hostess as my role. I showed up for my eight hour shift, (typically 3:00pm-11:00pm+?) in my best all black outfit with a smile on my face, prepared to experience the slowest and longest seconds, minutes, half-hours, etc. of my life. It was always really, really busy or completely dead. Both were equally bad. During the busyness, managers in headsets, junior managers and waiters were particularly anxious, stressed, uptight and irritable. If anything went wrong, the hostess was an easy person to blame.
The slow times were a problem too. Imagine three hostesses crammed behind a 12 inch wide podium, each jockeying to be the “first out of the gate” when a lone customer would walk through the door. Then there were the endless stretches of nothingness- trying to fend off day-dreaming, and find something to do to “look busy” to avoid the dreaded and inevitable order from the manager, “Hey Marney, it’s your turn. Go to the ladies room and clean out the sanitary waste basket!”
As you can probably tell, restaurant work did not “work” for me. I had my share of spills, dropped dishes, and confused table numbers. Also, the combination of dealing with the wrath of stressed waiters, figuring out the conflicting expectations from different managers, and being “low man on the totem poll” for the unappetizing clean-up duties did little for my self-esteem. However, these experiences clearly compelled me to find my true calling.
Looking back, I find it funny how ridiculously pathetic each restaurant gig was. Ironically, today I find myself at “another end of the food chain,” one that I like much better. I am reviewing restaurants and sharing recipes and food related-stories. I wake up each morning with purpose and meaning and know with certainty that I am true to myself…and the only sanitary waste baskets I clean are my own.