As I pull into the parking lot at my place of employment, I take a deep breath, mentally preparing myself for the night. After a long day of college classes, running around, and trying to squeeze in some homework in the two hours I have once I get out of class before work, I think to myself, “How am I going to survive this night?” Dismissing these thoughts, I walk in greeting my bosses and coworkers with a smile. I hear, “Hey Jedi!” coming from around the corner and I laugh at this nickname as I clock in, thinking to myself, “Everyone is happy, laughing and joking. This is going to be a good night. Good nights mean good tips.” For a full-time college student, these nights are heavenly.
I walk to the back and start my evening prep work, usually making 20-plus dinner salads and wrapping them so we can just grab a salad and go if we get busy. I hear “Jade, table eight.” I walk out to my table feeling my apron, making sure I have plenty of straws. I get my notepad and pen out before I even reach the table. Smiling I say, “Hey guys! How ar—-” “Water, a sweet tea for him. Light ice. No lemon.”
Before I can even finish my sentence, I can tell what kind of table this will be. They will be rude, think that they are my only responsibility and assume I am just standing around waiting on their food and watching their cups to see when they need a refill. Little do they know, I have salads half made in the back that I need to finish, and we probably need to refill the “to-go” cups, boxes and napkins. We need to bring up the clean cups and make sure the tea is fresh and the ice chest is full. Their order will be complicated and have many special requests. I will get their food out on time, make sure they never had empty drinks, ask how their meal is and how everything is tasting. I will return with the third stack of napkins, the extra dressing or whatever they need in a timely manner and refill drinks, take orders and run my food to my other tables.
Their bill comes to more than $70. As they leave I take the check book and put it into my apron. I start cleaning off the plates and cups as soon as I can so the familiar faces of a sweet older couple can enjoy their weekly date. I open the book and I see “$3.76” written on the tip line.
Fifteen to 20 percent is the appropriate amount to tip a server. $3.76 is just a little more than five percent. Waitressing (or serving) is one of the most stressful jobs and can even lead to some major stress issues. For such a busy workload, servers don’t really make a lot of money. Most only make about $20,000 per year, some making just over $8,000.
Working your way through college is tough. Working your way through college as a server is even tougher. You have the stresses of school, which always comes first, but you also have a job, a duty. You need the money, so you can’t go without a job. Coming home at the end of the night, I try to leave the stresses of work at work. I try to not worry about the rude comments or looks. When people see a server, sometimes I think they forget that we actually have lives, our own ups and downs that we are trying to get through. Sometimes I carry the things people say with me well after I have clocked out for the night.
But to the customers that see I’m busy and trying to do the very best I can, that leave the good tips, that laugh with me, that ask what my name is, or what I’m going to college for; thank you.You are one of the reasons I love my job. You make it worthwhile. Next time you go out for dinner, remember that your server is human too.