Being a waitress is hard. Bratty customers, long hours, shit pay, stressed-out managers… Personally, I believe the experience of working in the service industry is as important as formal education. Coming out of a waitressing job gives you that strong sense of sympathy, so that when one day you’re sitting in a restaurant as a customer, you’re able to look into your poor, worn-out server’s eyes and truly know that it’s not their fucking fault that your hummus is too ‘garlic-y’.
I’ve had a lot of strange experiences as a waitress. I’ve served a lot of weirdos. One time, a lady asked me to cut all the crust off of a pizza for her, and then proceeded to purchase not the rest of the pizza, with all the cheese and sauce and stuff, but just the crust. Another time, someone asked me to give them a “quarter-shot” cappuccino. Some time after that, a customer requested that I remove all the pits from his olives for him. I try not to judge, because to each their own, I guess (except you, quarter shot guy. You are a weak link of our species).
We waiters and waitresses, we put up with a lot of crap, and all for a measly €9.25 an hour. So naturally, one day when the opportunity came along for me to make some extra cash, I went straight for it. I mean, how much worse could things get than that kid who vomited up ham-and-pineapple pizza, a strawberry milkshake, plus whatever that other stuff was, onto his table? Surely not much worse. As it turns out, fifty euro is worth many things, but I’m still not sure it was worth this.
The restaurant I was working in will remain nameless, and though it was a bit of a shithole, each of us – waiters, waitresses, owners and managers alike – took pride in the fact that it was a place for every walk of life; young families, preteen couples on their first date, patrons of the sketchier, drug-using variety – food was something that united us all. Like I said, the place was a shithole, so most of the time something, somewhere was broken, most especially the toilets. At this point in time, the toilets were indeed, out-of-order once again, a big ol’ sign stuck up on the door.
One fine summer’s day, one of our regular – some might say dodgier – clients walked in through the door. His name was Frank, and he didn’t care much for food, but his usual order was a cup of tea and a handful of coffee biscuits, so I set about getting that ready for him. Frank was a chatty sort of guy, and enjoyed more philosophical subjects; he was like Aristotle, if he’d been fond of heroin. On this day, he asked me what the meaning of life was. I told him I didn’t know. He told me that that was the answer. I was still reeling from this ground-breaking realisation when Frank told me he was going to go fix the toilet for us. After trying my best to tell him that he needn’t worry, that my manager was going to sort it out, I let him off because it was a busy day and we were short-staffed as it was. After allegedly fixing the toilet, Frank sat down to enjoy his tea and biscuits and I continued with the rest of my shift.
Later on, near closing time, most of the customers had left and the last few of us staff had begun cleaning up. My manager, who had come in a small while earlier, decided to check out the bathroom to make sure it was okay for the plumber in the morning. When he re-emerged, his face was like that of a man who’d seen unspeakable atrocities. He gathered up the staff, looked us all dead in the face and asked “who wants to make fifty euro?” It did not look as if he was joking. He proceeded to explain the situation. Someone (let’s face it, probably Frank), had shit in the sink.
I grappled with volunteering to clean this shit-filled sink, I really did… but I was desperate and, to be honest, as a poor college student I saw selling my dignity as a reasonably good business opportunity.
I went in, and faced a stench that can only be described as burrito-farts, vodka-shits and dead cats all mixed into one ungodly smell. I would like to say also, that this task was nothing akin to picking up your bichon frises’ excrement at the side of the road on a leisurely walk. The specimen was part liquid, definitely the wrong colour and, well, it was human shit. This shit-excavation took me three j-cloths, one large bin bag, an unfortunate pair of rubber gloves and an unmentionable amount of cif cream. By the end of the evening, I was a hero, a legend among my co-workers… but, at what cost?
I’ll admit, it was worth it. I got some respectable Aldi Specially Selected groceries out of that fifty quid, plus a litre of vodka. Though, I do wish I’d had the litre beforehand.