I waited tables for about ten years, from age 18-28, while going to school, working in theater for little or no pay, and going to school some more. This is my tip tin from The Blue Mountain Coffee Company Cafe in Fort Wayne, IN. For some reason, we all put our tips in tins in the kitchen. I don’t think any other place I’ve worked did that.
It was a great place to hang out and to work. My husband and I were both regulars there before we started sharing a table, etc. etc.
I tried working retail at a dance wear shop at the mall, but all that standing around was horrifying. I had a job briefly at a women’s gym, but I just couldn’t see myself at the time showing unfit people how to use the thigh-master type machine. Shallow, I know.
Waiting tables is like performance art, if you do it well. And it’s great exercise.
In the kitchen at The Blue Mountain, with Jeff and Madeline. Original caption says, “Trying to get fired.” Eating corn chips, which we were just told not to do in a staff meeting.
The tip jar would have been on a shelf behind the photographer.
Cleverly folded tip from my last server job, at The Sports Deli, in Century City, CA. I’m sure the folder/tipper had no idea I’d keep it so long. I think this might have been from a writer who worked in the ABC offices upstairs from the deli.
Another nice fold from the same place. Subsequently nibbled on by our budgie, Ridley, who had a thing about cash. She’d toss it all on the floor.
Probably the cleverest. I have two of these, so I think they were from a regular. Maybe Mavis, who came in almost every day for lunch and was often back again for happy hour. I worked in the bar there, so I had a lot of regulars. It was a great situation for a long time.
See, Mavis? I still have this! I hope you’re doing well!
This is from my last few months there. I’d finally finished up most of the General Education requirements that I needed to make up after moving from Indiana to California mid-college career. I was already enrolled at UCLA, going to classes before and after my 11:30-2:30 lunch shift.
When my lunch shift was about to finish, one of the regulars or another would sometimes offer to buy me a drink to keep the conversation going. It became my habit to say, “No thanks, I have class this afternoon.” Ha ha. Funny us.
It was tough that first (spring) quarter because I didn’t have campus parking. I had to search for it around the congested Westwood streets in the morning and again in the afternoon. I remember arriving at my 3:30 Russian Literature in Translation class (all Gogol all the time) tired and sweaty from hauling my backpack a mile or more across campus in 90 degree weather. I finally realized everyone else was more alert because they had been on campus all day, studying, relaxing under trees, etc.
Something had to change. I’d been moonlighting a little, doing freelance transcribing from my home, working first on Rescue 911 audio, then on a variety of interview shows, through a small transcription company, so I applied for a student job transcribing oral history interviews for the Oral History Program at UCLA.
When I told the guys at the bar I where I was interviewing, Heineken Tom said, “I’d like to see that interview.” It was, after all, a bar even if it was in a swank neighborhood.
The Oral History Program was happy to have someone with experience and I was more than glad to stop slogging back and forth across town. I had to work more hours for my money and it was weird not to have cash come in every work day, but it was on campus and it was the best paying student job available. I made a good friend there who Hydra and I see socially several times a year and with whom we have spent the past ten or more New Years Eves. My first California “keeper.”
So anyway, that’s the story of my transition from gypsy to office worker. The OHP was part of library special collections, and after graduating I worked in library acquisitions at a couple of different libraries before taking my current job as a researcher for film and television. I love my work most of the time.
I promised you a tip, didn’t I?
Okay. Here it is. Tip your server and feel good about it. Lots of them are doing it to try and make some other dream happen. Even if they are not, most of them are working harder than you know, and they really want you to have a good experience.
Imagine having 30-40 individual bosses every day, each one of whom has the ability to dock your pay based on pure emotion and circumstances which are out of your control.
I know, right? Stressful.
Yet there they are, smiling and making it happen.