Whether you’re an aspiring server or a veteran, it’s hard to explain what it is like. There are many differences from one job to the next, but still quite similar. These cameos are a testament to the life of a server.
Choose any pier along the coastal United States, any server, any day.
Or, choose Wally, Pier 66.
It’s four p.m. on a rainy afternoon in Seattle. His apron clicks at his shins as he sloshes down the wet planks, finally ducking into a back door. A pot of aromatic vegetables and lobster shells fills the kitchen with steam.
“Wally! Hey buddy,” the chef says in a passing voice, stopping long enough to give Wally a chummy pat on the back.
“We 86’d okra. We are using a rue instead. IT IS NOT GLUTEN FREE! Tell your friends.”
And so it begins, as it often does before he has even clocked-in.
In the dim light, she can’t tell if the silver is tarnished or if it is dirty. Once more, she polishes the knife. She is finally satisfied. Well, on second thought, she changes it out.
Meet Emma. She has worked in the tower for sixteen years. Sixteen years above, watching the city grow.
It’s six o’clock.
The rain has stopped, and cool purple dusk pours in through the windows. It dances along with the tabletops and flirts with the chandelier. The grand piano rings rhythmically, and Emma calculates her next move as the hostess brings a table in from the bar. It is her third table of the night, a six top.
She recognizes one of the gentlemen from the office on the third floor.
“How will he take it tonight, Emma?” another server asks. “Straight up, or incognito?”
“What do I care? If he is here past ten, you’re taking him!”
Ok… ok, ok, ok, ok.
Napkins, sliders, print check, extra bread for thirty-two. Three IPAs and a coke.
It’s eight o’clock, and Miguel is talking to himself, running through a mental checklist. He really should have written it down. But, when you have six tables, it stacks up fast. Behind the scenes, the kitchen is clamoring. The fans are running loudly, fires are jumping in sauté pans, and the printer won’t stop.
Miguel is in the weeds.
There is no bread.
“Fire bread!” he calls.
He takes his sliders from the window, collects his drinks from the bar, and heads back into the dining room. On stage, he plays it cool. He enjoys the sense of calm that comes from forgetting everything and giving his attention fully to the people in front of him.
Seat three can’t decide.
He’s supposed to be good.
But he really wants the Cuban.
“Alright,” says Miguel reviewing his notes, “we have ahi sliders, chicken Ceaser, fish tacos no sauce, and one surprise me!”
It’s ten o’clock and Wally from the pier is with Emma.
Wally was a server in the tower last year. He took a pay cut to leave, but his hours are better, the view is great, and he feels a better connection with his guests.
Emma is one of those servers who will never leave. She is an institution. She takes care of the tower, and the tower takes care of her.
Miguel worked at the tower as an expo, but he left to get some serving experience. Tonight was his first solo-serving-shift.
Wally and Emma erupt in a round of applause when Miguel walks into the pub.
“Miguel, how the hell are ya? Get this man a beer!”
“Tito’s soda-lime, please,” says Miguel.
“Have a beer, happy-hour. I’ve got this round.”
“Ugh, you make me sick.”
…And, it’s 4 pm again!
My first restaurant job was working the graveyard shift washing dishes at a truck stop. I’ve since worked in every position in every type of restaurant. My three favorite things about the industry are the people, the contagious energy of hospitality, and the stunning views.
This profession can take you anywhere. I have passed my nights in quite lakefront restaurants and watching stunning ocean sunsets. But, my favorite of all was working just below Yosemite Falls, in Yosemite National Park.
I’ve always been a writer, and this industry has allowed me to travel, stay home with my son, and go to school, all while making good money. It is by far the best paying part-time gig! I am currently finishing a Masters in Technical Communication.