I've been so busy I've been hard-pressed to get a blog up this week, so I thought I'd run an oldie. I love this essay, or rant, whichever you want to call it. I first ran it in 2012, but I think I actually wrote it in 2007. At any rate, when I posted it a couple of years ago I actually landed a radio interview with these guys who like people who rant. You can check it out here. In the meantime, check out this ode and rant to the restaurant industry.
Never Burn Your Apron
I know you’ve thought about it. I have. But five, 10, 20 years from now, I’m betting if you need it, you don’t have the money to go out and buy another one.
When my little sister was 17, I got her a job as a hostess. Elated that I got to work with her, I thought we would be able to gossip and hangout together even more. She would know who I was talking about when I mentioned Sam, the dreamy bartender who my sister decided upon meeting was a player. It turns out she was right.
In my fantasies, we were this amazingly fun duo. We would party all night and later trade drunken tales of the same nighttime adventure, filling in each other’s missing pieces. But as it turns out, she’s not much a of a people person, she doesn’t have much of a taste for alcohol and she absolutely hated smiling when she didn’t feel like it. In fact, she preferred bussing tables to seating them. Even though she would be covered in other people’s leftover filth, at least she didn’t have to trade false pleasantries.
On her last day, two months, two days and 16 hours after she first started, she celebrated her release from the gallows of the food industry by tossing her white polo shirt into a campfire. She watched as the restaurant’s emblem was slowly consumed, thread by thread, while the hungry yellow flames gorged on the fabric, much like restaurant patrons gorged themselves on salads — thinking it was still healthy despite pounds of dressing.
She did what I’ve always wanted to do. No matter how many times I heard a relative, a friend or a parent say: “It’s a skill you’ll always have to fall back on,” I never believed it. Or I just didn't want to.
At the end of the day, you may have money in hand but you have endured slights and degradation. You smell like food and grease; it’s not only on your clothes but it seeps into your pores. Even after you shower, it clings. I once dated a guy who worked in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant. Despite showering and dowsing cologne on himself, he always managed to smell like food. Years later, I think of him whenever I smell a whiff of Italian food and grease.
After 12 hours of being on my feet, I can no longer feel them or they hurt so much I walk around claiming to everyone who is near that I’m the Little Mermaid – and not Disney’s happy version. This is the Hans Christian Anderson version, where with every step she takes, it feels like she’s walking on broken glass.
I may have eaten the buffalo chicken sandwich with fries, but I’m not worried about getting fat. That period between 5 and 9, when I had 10 tables who didn’t think that maybe it would be courteous to say, “Yes, a refill would be nice,” when I asked the first time, had burned those calories. No, these people wait until I’ve come back with their dining partner’s drink and then say, “You know what, maybe I will take a refill.” Nevermind the seven other tables with double the eyes, looking at me expectantly for their food or check.
Or my personal favorite is when I walk up to a table and say: “Hi, my name is Katri-“
“I’ll take a coke,” says the gentleman in his business suit, promptly cutting me off. My smiles tightens, I bite my tongue. Hi to you too, I think. My imagination slips away into a world where I tell him to kiss my ass and to get his own damn coke. But that’s in a perfect world.
Or even better I walk up to a table and say, “Hi. How are you doing today?” But instead of a greeting in return, the two people talking back and forth continue their conversation as if I don’t exist. They don’t look at me, they don’t say hi, or pause in their conversation even. Ten seconds, 20, 50. A minute can seem like a very long time when you’re the elephant in the room and the only one that realizes it. I either stick around until they get some manners and say hi, or I run to the bathroom or to a fellow co-worker to make sure I’m still visible. Am I suddenly Patrick Swayze in “Ghost?” I wave my hand back and forth in front of my face. I can still see it. I turn to the skinny little new girl with the extra tight shirt and the cleavage busting out from the-obviously-not regulation shirt.
“Umm. Did you deliver food to table 45?” I ask breathlessly.
She looks at me with her large, heavily made-up eyes like a 17-year-old struck dumb on her first day on the job. “Where’s table 45?” she asks.
“That one,” I point efficiently and turn.
Hallelujah, I’m alive. Time to return to those people who don’t have any manners.
Now, as I approach the table they’re looking through the menu, quiet, subdued. Could they have possibly realized as their server ran away, that they had been impolite? One of the ladies’ looks at me, “Hi!” she says.
My smile, when it comes, hurts. I am a pro at smiling when I don’t feel it. That’s why I’m good at this job. I have been able to fool my friends, family and lovers for years. Surely, I can fool perfect strangers into giving me their money. It’s not too hard. But I’ll need some sugar when I’m through to counteract the bitters.
“Hi,” I respond. They do not get the pleasure of my name.
At the end, they’ll leave me a decent tip because they realize, if not in some vague, sort of offhanded way, that I am also a human being. God made us all equal did he? I am surely superior because I actually know what that means. Me, the lowly waitress.
Servers, more than bartenders, are bitter. There is a big ‘ol chip on our shoulder that ain’t growing back. Why? Well, there’s a certain culture in the restaurant and the position one holds is equivalent to a social class. As a bartender, you’re more respected. It’s seen as a more prestigious job, a skill. In addition, bar guests tend to be more laid back, they’re chilling, having a drink. Or else they’re regulars, and naturally, you’re then their best friend. Cha-ching.
Servers, on the other hand, are often treated as if they’re hard of hearing or just too daft to understand the difference between medium rare and well done. What the customer doesn’t realize is that the server has little control over what happens to the food once the order goes in. We can bitch all we like, but if the kitchen is backed up, yelling at the cooks just makes them take longer and do a worse job than they’re already doing.
Once when I worked at a diner chain, there was a cook named Wayne. He used to smoke cigarettes while he fried the food; his grease-stained white t-shirt barely covering his gut, thinning hair covered up by a trucker’s baseball-style cap. He was a complete cliché, but the literal truth. Despite all that, he could be all right some of the time, but when he was pissed at the servers, they better beware. He used to put the plates right down on the flat top grill and let them sit there until they were nice and hot, then he’d throw the food on them. If you didn’t already know better, you’d grab the plate and let out a shriek as you felt your skin sizzle. The bastard would be flicking his ashes on the floor and hiding a smirk behind his stringy brown mustache.
This is what I think of as I fold the freshly washed apron. Despite the sounds and smells of summer that waft in through the open window, my hand shakes with the memories — shakes with a pyromaniac urge. But I stay my hand. This apron has scars. It has been my constant companion when there was no one else. My story is entwined with the apron. To burn it, I know, would be foolhardy, and I’ve come too far for that. Instead, the apron sits deep in a drawer, waiting for when it is needed. I hope that day never comes.
Our dog recently got spayed, and she didn't deal very well with it. She's doing much better now, but we're keeping the cone on her because I'm not sure I can trust her quite yet not to go at it. Stitches out Friday, so only a few more days! Anyway, I took her cone (Elizabethan collar) off this morning so she could play without smashing into furniture and walls like a raging elephant and was inspired to write a haiku.
Happy puppy leaps,
in a dance across the room
a cone of shame reprieve...
Here's a picture of her looking quite depressed from last week. Fortunately, she's perked up. :)
My talented and amazing sister put together this awesome book trailer for Fractured Dream. It's got exactly the epic feel that the book has. I hope you enjoy!
A fellow author from Booktrope asked some of us lady authors to join a blog hop, which I've never really done before. So I thought it would be fun! The following questions are on writing, so if you're interested in where I write, how names are chosen, reading reviews and that sort of thing, read on. Thank you to Tiffany Pitts, author of Double Blind, for letting me be a part of the hop! Additional thanks to Arleen Williams, author of Running Secrets and Biking Uphill for introducing me on her blog.
Where do you like to write?
I have my own office but I spend all day in it working as an editor for an online publication so when it's time to let my creative juices flow I usually end up on my couch in my living room or family room. Although, I do find that when I'm getting tired if I go up to my office at the end of the night I can usually sneak in another hour. Something about the room just wakes me up. I think it's because I already work within the space, so the energy is different, more caffeinated.
Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
Well, I'm almost done writing the first draft of my work-in-progress, so I usually save a lot of research and filling in for the second draft. But I had to do some research for the overall characters and it's definitely been the mythology. Death-based mythology to be specific. The book, a paranormal young adult novel called The Reaper's Daughter, threads various death deities within the storyline, and it's been fun learning about the way Death takes shape within different countries and cultures.
How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
I just wrote a guest post on this that's going up soon and will be more in-depth, but names mean a lot to me. The main character in my recently released novel Fractured Dream is named Story Sparks. But in the eight years it took me to write the book, she was only Story for the last year or so. I always knew the name she had previously wasn't the one, and it took a lot of searching and thinking about it until I came up with THE ONE. And it really was perfect for the story once I found it. I search for names that have meaning, names that fit the character's personality or the theme of the book. If I'm not doing that, I'll often find a name I just love if it seems to fit the character. But if the name doesn't fit I don't feel at one with my character, so it's definitely a big part of my writing.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?
I'm a newbie as authors go, with my first book only having been released this past June. So I read reviews and was fairly obsessed with them in the beginning. The awesome reviews are just that: awesome and amazing and wonderful. I'm realizing everyone gets a bad review eventually. Reading is such a subjective experience; what one person might love another person may hate. Any negative reviews have made me more aware of where other people in the market are at, what they like and dislike. And while I'd never change the story in my head to make a minority happy, it is eye opening and it's good to have this awareness as I near finishing up my second book.
What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
I love to give Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, anything by Alice Hoffman and Annie Dillard and of course, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I also just like to tell people about this book or that book I read and get them to try it as well.
That's all folks! Check out the next author taking part in the blog hop!
Melissa Thayer, author of The Stories We Don't Tell
Sin City native Melissa Thayer writes fiction that touches upon the timeless truths of the human condition in poignant and thought-provoking ways. She enjoys writing about people and connecting readers with her characters.
She currently lives in Washington with her husband, daughter, and three cats.
THE STORIES WE DON'T TELL is her debut novel.
Is there such a thing as bloggers block? I posed this question on Twitter the other night. The reason is simple: I have been avoiding my blog. I don't know why, we've always gotten along just fine, but for the last two weeks it's been splitsville. Granted, I was camping for a week so it wasn't necessarily that easy to blog in the mosquito-infested woods, plus I'd then have to wake my husband to use his hot spot and I wanted to work on my WIP. But when I got back, it was like I couldn't bring myself to open the editor and click the "new post" button.
What is blogger's block? Well, it's the same thing as writer's blog, but it only pertains to blogging. Wikipedia defines writer's block as "a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work." But as a writer, I've always felt more like writer's block was merely the avoidance of writing. Maybe I've just never really experienced it. Although, I'm pretty sure I had a professor in college same this same thing, and I have found it to be true.
The topic of writer's block recently came up on Goodreads. The question, specifically, was: How do you deal with writer's block?
My answer: I write through it. I might be working on a passage and feel totally uninspired, but I keep writing even if it's slow and stilted and I feel like the prose is bland. Eventually, I'll hit a scene that gets the creative juices flowing. For me, the act of writing is a catalyst to inspiration.
And this is very true. I feel like writer's block is a lack of inspiration, but for me, writing is what creates inspiration so if I write and write and write even though I hate what I'm writing, lightening will eventually strike and pulse through my fingertips onto the page.
Case in point is the book I'm currently working on, called The Reaper's Daughter. I'm right near the end of the first draft, which is super exciting, especially since my first book took me eight years to write and this one only took about a year from concept to first draft completion. But I've been stumbling through the last 10,000 words, pushing through. The light bulb over my head isn't completely out, but it's been dim. It's one of those transitional moments where I know I need to write something to get from point A to point B, but where I really want to be is point B so the getting there is rough. But I know if I keep writing it will come. It will come and it will flow and then it will be as magical as the genre I write in.
I suppose the very fact that I'm writing this blog means my blogger's block has bid me farewell, and I'm cool with that. Don't come back please. But I wonder what other people's experiences with writer's block are. How does it hit you? In what shape does writer's block take form in your writing? How do you combat it?
In the meantime, I'll be pushing through until the end. Coming soon to a blog near you, The Reaper's Daughter first draft victory post.
Today is the last day to win a signed copy of Courtney Hamilton's Almost Royalty. All you have to do is share you worst breakup ever and you're entered! Check it out at Cellar Door Lit Rants & Reviews.
You can catch my worst breakup story over there as well. I was nineteen, he was 24. I was starting college, he was a pot-smoking snowboarder... Catch the end of this doomed love affair at: http://cellardoorbooks.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/courtney-hamiltons-worst-breakup-ever-contest-international/
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.