Monday, December 22, 2008


Well I had my last day of waitering this past Saturday. Jobina says its the last part of my "student" experience and I guess she's right. I had mixed feelings as I left Olive Garden on Saturday afternoon. Joy, but much sadness as well. As we would say in LiMiT terms, I am experiencing the loss of community.

When I first decided to go back to school I was a 1/2 time youth pastor at Mennville EMC church and a half time camp director at Beaver Creek Bible Camp. Both of these jobs were secure (as far as I know!) and I'm sure I could have stayed longer. Instead though I felt it was time for a change and we moved to Winnipeg and I took some courses at the U of M and then applied at Providence Seminary. I had originally wanted to go to Trinity Western in BC but the cost seemed to much. Prov was cheaper and their program had more practicum (practice) which I thought was a good thing.

To make ends meet I knew I needed to get a job. I thought non-profit would be a good place so I applied at a few, going so far as to be in final selection froup for Heart and Stroke's Volunteer Coordinator, but nothing worked out. Realizing that money was needed quickly, I got a job at Chapters. Though I felt the job was beneath my experience and qualifications it was quick money so I took it. I liked Chapters - one of the employee perks is that you can take home any book you want and read it - you own personal library! That lasted only a few months though as my back hurt working over the counters. M friend Jay, a former student from Mennville offered to get me a job at the Olive Garden where he worked and I took the plunge. I had waitered before during my summer in college (8 years previously), how hard could it be?

Actually it was quite hard. OG was a lot tougher then Lakeview Resort in Gimli. Being a laid back youth pastor doesn't prepare you very well for intense waitering. Also, restaurants are quite . . . um . . . pagan (sorry, I don't know how else to describe it). It was a shock to hear the kidns of things from people that I did - and to not have any authority to tell them to smarten up! I struggled there for many months, trying to learn the menu and multi-tasking skills necessary to be succssful. I'm not sure but if OG hadn't spent so much time and money training me I think they would have let me go. I was that bad.

Eventually though I got to the point where I was "decent" or possibly even "mediocre" and I kind of coasted. Deep down though I felt a little ashamed about my job- it was difficult to humble myself and I fought against it. Being a past leader of two ministries, it was hard to now be on the bottom again. Basically I had pride issues. Eventually though I remembered what servanthood was really about and got into my groove. By the time I left I wasn't amazing or anything but I'd say I was pretty good. And instead of feeling weird about being a waiter, I was OK with it. Did you know that many servers are students training to be doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers, etc? In fact some of them are teachers and entrepeneours who work waiter on the side. After a shift it is not uncommon to see a server reading a textbook and cramming for a test or exam. Some of the smartest people I know are servers so keep that in mind the next time you feel like talking down to one of them!

Anyway, I developed a lot of friends at Olive Garden and began to get into their lives. I loved listening to their stories and watching the ebb and flow of relationships. Occasionally I would even give advice and suggestions to people about their relationship woes and it always encouraged me if they came back and said it had helped. Also, I was able to have conversations about God, faith, the Bible, and ethics. Waitering helped me expand my social skills I think - greeting several new people every hour helps to do that. As I said goodbye to people, many said they'd miss me and I believed them - I'll miss them too. I shook many hands and received a few heartfelt hugs. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm even going to miss serving guests. There is something good for the soul in serving people the basics of food and drink, and especially in doing it well. I will miss you Olive Garden.

What did I learn by waitering? So many things! But here are a few:

1. Servers are people too, we ought to treat them like they are.
2. Tipping a server poorly can literally ruin their entire night.
3. Many servers who have the most wild lives are still spiritually searching (and open about it).
4. Rude, cheap, and thankless Christians are in abundance and seem strangely blind to the fact that they ruining their witness* to servers again and again.
5. People tip less according to the level of service but more according to the positive emotional effect a server has upon them (this is scientifically proven by the way).
6. All positions in a restaurant are humble ones with dishwashers being the most and hostesses having the job most open to abuse.
7. The average restaurant workers is sensation seeking, experiential, expressive, moody, dramatic, and socially gifted. This makes them a lot of fun to be around. Contrast this with a group of safe accountants for instance and I know who I'd rather see at a party!
8. Servers are just like everybody else; they are looking for love and purpose.
9. Women (hanging out together) are more perverted (and scarier) then men.
10. Verbal tipping instead of cash tipping is the worst insult you can give a server. If you like your server, show it! Talk is cheap, cash is not.
11. Sometimes the sanest and wisest person in the restaurant is the dishwasher.
12. Trying to reason (and change) an angry guest's mind is the worst use of your time ever.
13. A guest's bad experience may be your ticket to a much bigger tip then if they had enjoyed themselves (if you handle it right and get them there meal for free).
14. People work better for an incentive then they will without one.
15. Grace, even in a restaurant, is contagious.

*More on this in tommorrow's post.


Jobina said...

There's one thing I will miss-the stories you came back with every once in a while! It was a good job...flexible, which was just what you needed at the time. I can't say I'm sad to have you home on Friday nights and Saturdays though!

Anonymous said...

While I know how hard it is to leave a job that you have enjoyed, I'm so happy for you as you embark on yet another new journey. I'm also glad that Jobina gets to spend more time with you now. I know she's been missing you!

See you soon!