A Server’s Life

Now I want to preface this post with how thankful I am to have a job. I am thankful that despite only being given 2 shifts a week, I still have the opportunity to make some income. And I am not above any job – that is, I believe that someone’s always gotta do it, be it picking up thrash, washing dishes, teaching, managing restaurants, practicing medicine etc. That no one job is above another and that not one people group is above another because of their occupation or career.

I’ve worked in a fast food restaurant, as a fitness instructor at a gym, as a tutor, as an English As A Second Language lecturer, as a freelance editor and proofreader, as a freelance translator, as an artist and now as a server. I am not above any job and don’t think that someone in a “menial” job is any less of a person than I am.

That said, my job is soul-crushing and soul-sucking. While I have times where I enjoy myself and times where things don’t feel so bad, there are also plenty of bad times to offset the good.

As I’ve mentioned, I work as a server (aka waitress) at a local restaurant. I hate this industry for how unethical it is in that employers make customers pay the employees’ wages through the custom of tipping. I hate this custom and wish that everyone would just be paid fair wages and that we would abolish tipping. I’ve never had to tip servers back in Malaysia because they were fairly compensated.

Due to the tipping system, servers are paid $2.13 an hour so it means that if someone doesn’t tip me, I make nothing as I, in turn, have to tip my fellow coworkers out at the end of the night (namely the bussers and bartenders). So if a person has a tab of $200 and they didn’t tip me, I’d have to pay the bartenders and bussers $2 and $1 respectively. That means not only did I get $0 tip, I now have to pay $3 to other people. Money that I don’t have or have not earned.

When I first expressed to my psychologist that I was a server and my job was killing me, he told me that he had never waited tables before so he couldn’t relate. I told him then that he was one of the lucky people who never had to go through the hell that is waiting tables.

It’s hell because more often that not, people see you as a functionary and not a fellow human being. I’ve had more people be racist to be as my customers than any other time. I’ve had people yell at me, berate me, be rude to me, harrass me, make inappropriate comments to me and just being overall very disrespectful. I’m just one of the lucky one who have never gotten into more physical situations with customers but stuff like that have happened before.

Now all that said, I’m not about to defend bad servers as there are servers who not only don’t care about their jobs but also suck really bad. These are the servers who people think of when they think about leaving scathing comments on their receipts and the ones people don’t want to tip. I’m a good server who actually cares about the condition your food comes out in, about your overall dining experience, making sure your drinks are constantly full, your children happy and fed, your jokes laughed at and just making sure you’re taken cared of for the duration of your stay at the restaurant.

What I don’t understand is that the harder I work and the nicer I am to people, the less I’m tipped and the more poorly I’m treated. I’ve done an experiment before where I would just do my bare minimum at work and check on a table just once and refill drinks just once. I’ve found that most of the time, I was very well compensated. Then I would work really hard the way I usually do and then be compensated poorly. It makes no sense, right?

Another issue is that of the kind of clientele we sometimes get. We often get medical professionals, church goers and families who come in. The medical professionals often treat me like I’m less of a person than they are because they perceive me to be in an inferior occupation than them. They speak to me like I’m stupid or uneducated. They make me stand and wait for them to order while they order me and chat amongst each other. They cut me off and when I greet them, answer with a drink order instead of a “Hello”. While some of these medical professionals are really nice, I’ve met more bad people than good. It has led me to stereotype medical professionals as people who think that they’re better than everyone else because they have been to school longer. I know I should not stereotype either but it’s hard not to when you’re treated poorly.

Let’s not even talk about the majority of church goers I’ve served who act extremely un-Christian. I’ve had people leave me Gospel tracts instead of tips, who stop me in the middle of a busy shift to talk me about the Gospel, who have told me that I must not be saved because I work on Sundays and who bring 30 people in all at once without any reservations. I’ve found that church goers are very judgmental, needy (they run you to death with their requests), rude and inconsiderate, tip poorly or not at all and try to convert you. My question is, why? So that I can be just as rude, inconsiderate and un-Christ-like as they are?

I’m sorry that this post has become a rant post but I can’t help but feel like I’m less of a human being every time after I finish work. This is especially so when I’ve finished a shift in which people were assholes to me. Whenever I come home from a shift like that, I want to brood and cut myself because of how much negativity I’ve absorbed all shift. It’s extra hard on a down day like this.

I don’t mean to complain but some days, I just want to give up. If you’ve never had to work as a server before, I hope you will never have to. If you like dining out, then I hope that you will treat your servers (or anyone who provides you a service, for that matter!) with respect, just like you should with any other human being. We’re humans too and we have feelings as well. You just never know what kind of a shitty day someone has had to have affected their performance. Some days, I feel like with my depression, it’s a miracle I even show up to work. I don’t want a pat on the back, just understanding and respect.

And yes, I know I should practice cultivating resilience and slow down my thoughts instead of just feeling all kinds of negative emotions.

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