Monday, August 30, 2010

The End Of An Era.

Yesterday I hung up my waitressing apron after working as a server on & off for 17 years. Speaking on the phone to my sister (CC) on the phone last night she said, “there’s must be a little part of you that’s sad”. Without hesitation, I replied with a loaded “No. Not at all”. For the past 4 years, I’ve worked at an Italian restaurant called Bar_One, in the Queen West district of Toronto. Architect Ralph Giannone did a beautiful job of creating a relaxed and elegant background. It’s a place where local celebs, art-aficionados, bohemians, lawyers & corporate peeps, scenesters, hip parents & their hipper kids all come together as one. Beyond that- the food is AMAZING, & the floor/kitchen staff & management are seriously the best. I was really lucky to have been there for as long as I was.
It has been said that serving is rated the 2nd most stressful job, after air-traffic control. It has also been said that you can tell a lot about a person based on the way they treat their waiter/tress. I think it’s fair to say that many people go into the serving business as a means to an end- to support themselves financially while they pursue their “real dreams”. Generally you have your days off, the responsibility is such that you can take whatever time off you need without an empire collapsing, & for the most part, you can leave the baggage that comes along with the job in the restaurant. I have worked in so many bars, night-clubs & restaurants of every ilk in several large metropolises (New York City, Toronto, Montreal...) Fine dining, dive bars, show-bars, etc… I’ve met some really interesting people along the way. One of my roommates in New York worked in a busy bar in the upper-east side of Manhattan. She never asked her parents for a dime, put herself through school, had a fantastic apartment, wore designer clothes, traveled, ate in the best restaurants in NYC, & always had money saved in the bank. Her & her now husband (whom she met bartending) now own several successful bars throughout the borough. I’ve met men & women who work as waiters or bartenders so they can spend the day with their children & families, & who wouldn’t change their lives if they could. They are great at what they do, earn a comfortable living, & make their costumers feel cared for. I met a self-made multi-millionaire (who kept her financial success a secret) from England, who got a job at a bar to meet different people around the world as she traveled. I’ve met workaholics who don’t need the extra cash, but need to be working all the time. I’ve met (many) dishwashers from various countries who had highly respected jobs in their homeland, but came here to flee for whatever reason. I’ve met countless artists, dancers, actors, models, musicians, comedians, & students trying to make their way. I’ve met people who are sick who need a 2nd job to pay for their medication.
As good as the job has been to me, I started losing my temper over silly things- because I feel like I’ve invested so much time & energy into something I’m not passionate about. I haven’t had a choice- I needed the money, & it’s a job that I’m proud of. I’ve never wanted to resent the job itself or the costumers, for my artistic frustrations. It started to happen, & I felt like it was getting out of control. I need my job to challenge me, to teach me, to excite me. I feel like the service business stopped doing that for me a few years ago, & I’ve been hanging on by a thread. If it’s a Sunday morning, & you’re having brunch in a nice place with your family & friends & it takes a few too many minutes to get your French toast- take a few seconds & try to be objective about where you are literally AND figuratively. It’s really not so bad. You’re going to get your fucking breakfast soon, so have another drink & relax, for god’s sake. Beyond that- all we waitresses can do is order the food & hope for the best. We’re not in the back, making it, in case you hadn’t noticed. Also, guess what?!? WE’RE NOT PERFECT! Sometimes we make mistakes! Do YOU ever make mistakes at work? Exactly. Don’t speak to us like we’re not on equal playing field. You are paying for a nice meal or cocktails & you deserve to get your money’s worth. But we also deserve to be treated with respect & not like "lowly servants". (When I worked in Yorkville- the hoighty-toightiest area in Toronto- there were many times when I would address pretentious assholes as “your majesty”. Yes, to their faces. I never said I never got fired from anywhere- though that was VERY rare.)
The point is- I won’t miss waitressing. I played it out. It’s time for me to dance on the tightrope sans safety-net. It’s time for me to go all-out, push myself as hard as I can to earn my living as an actor, a comic, a writer, a (kind of) singer. I have that choice, now. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge, & I have the luxury of having no one but myself to be responsible for (and Stinky, my cat.) I’ll always be grateful for the friends that job handed me, the experiences I had, the money I made, the dudes that hit on me, the cocktails I learned to mix & the wine I tasted, the meals I ate & the fun I had. I will NOT, however, miss the grumbling assholes who are ingrates, bitches who raise their noses at servers, shitty tippers, sore feet & back, late nights, or the jerk boss who would read porn mags as I cashed out.
Wish me luck!


smallwood said...

Well said, Claire. I have many actor friends who work in bars, restaurants and Starbucks. It pains me when I see people treat them like dirt. Little do they know what bright stars they are throwing mud on...

claire elyse said...

in case you misunderstood- my boss at bar_one is NOT the pervert who read porn mags. it's a guy i worked for about 13 years ago... the owners of B1 are the greatest people to know, & to work for. also, i misspelled "customers". some of them may also be "costumers", but i have no way of knowing. ooops! tee hee! i'm a idiot!

allofyou said...

congrats claire! now if you'll excuse me, i've gotta go serve a bunch of douchebags their drinks. ;)

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