About Me

My photo
I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tales From an Ex-Waitress

With my waitressing days behind me, as I stumble into the next phase of my life, I'm beginning to suspect that the name of this transition time is: Babysitting. In fact, as I type, I have one eye on my computer screen and the other on a baby monitor in the home of a perfectly nice-seeming family in the financial district.

Babysitting. How odd. I ordered sushi from a nearby restaurant and am basking in the extravagance of their fancy cable TV while the baby sleeps in the next room. The whole thing has rocketed me violently back to age 13. Is this my summer break? Will my parents come pick me up at the end of the night?

Funny thing is, I never really minded being 13, or being on break and - as I'm currently making about treble what I charged as a teenager - the whole thing seems like not such a bad way to make a buck. True, I don't have any aspirations of becoming a full-time nanny, and also true that this whole venture was borne out of the frustration and desperation from the fact that I have apparently Zero Marketable Skills and literally no one wants to hire me. For anything. (Kids, don't graduate from college with a BS liberal arts degree, screw around waiting tables for five years and then try and get a "real job" in the middle of a recession.)

But one thing I will say: it's better than waiting tables.

A few weeks before the Directors Lab started, back when I was in the thick of Captain Moonbeam (Lord, that seems like a million years ago), I got fired from not my first, not my second, not even my third, but MY FOURTH waitressing job. And, mind-bogglingly enough, I got fired for the fourth time for the same vague and inexplicable reason: I'm just not... very good?

That's right. I've never spilled a drink, or dropped a dish, stolen product or money, or undercharged or over-charged or done anything else at any of these jobs that might warrant termination. Just: "You're not that great"; "You're kind of slow"; "You don't smile enough".

Yup, it's about time I owned it. I am not a good waitress. In fact, the next opportunity I have to use a pull quote, it's definitely going to be this one, courtesy of James Comtois: Word on the street is she's a shitty waitress, but I can attest she's a freakin dream to work with in the theatre world.

So, it's time to throw in the towel. No more waitressing for Leigh. Hence, the futile search for a "real" job, hence the desperately turning to babysitting.

Here's something I've been thinking about, though. Despite the fact that I'm making an solid amount of money right now, it's still nothing compared to what I made waiting tables. How crazy is that? I think even on my slowest days I made more, by a very wide margin, waiting tables than I have doing any other job in my entire life. In fact, if you broke it down to its simplest average-dollars-to-minutes-worked ratio, I probably made more money waiting tables than most of my friends have with their "real" jobs.

So... have I always been so poor?

My theory is this: for every hour of wages earned for waiting tables, you actually have to count it as two hours, because that's how long it takes you to recover. For example, say I work a six hour shift and make $120 on top of my $5 hourly wage. That breaks down to $25 an hour. Except it's REALLY $12.50 an hour, because for the next six hours, I will be utterly and completely useless, so drained from the experience.

Which wouldn't be bad if you're the type of person who does your job, comes home, fixes dinner, watches some TV and goes to bed. But the other thing about waiting tables is that you really can't be this type of person. For one, if you're making any money, you're working nights, and with that schedule the work-eat-sleep-watch-TV routine doesn't feel nearly as right. There's something profoundly less satisfying about not getting home till 1am (and not getting to sleep till 2:30), sleeping till 10:30, fixing breakfast and watching Netflix in your jammies till you have to go to work at 4.

For another thing, I've found that as a server, you've got to have something else to keep you busy while you're not waiting. Be it art, theater, music, school, whatever. You've got to have something - you simply have to, no exceptions. And if you don't choose that something else for yourself, it will get chosen for you, and it will probably be alcoholism.

So the 40-hour work week, which is actually an 80-hour work week in waiter hours, PLUS the something else that keeps you going minus regular interaction with non-waiter friends and family because of your wonky schedule equals not possible. So you either suck it up and die a little death of the soul, or you work part-time and you are poor.


And the fact that the math breaks down thusly for me might have something do with why I lost four waiting jobs in a row. And that, friends, is why I'm no longer a waitress.

No comments:

Post a Comment