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(en) US, FIREBRAND* #2 - Diane: A Portland Waitress

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 7 Dec 2004 07:56:27 +0100 (CET)

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Diane lives in my building and she was the first
person I met around here. She's really friendly with
a soft, girlish voice. She and her dog Fred are often
sitting on the porch or walking in the neighborhood.
This is the Buckman neighborhood where a combi-
nation of homeless people, renters and home owners
dwell. Diane and her boyfriend would like to buy a
home soon, but it's hard with their bills and the costs
of housing these days. Diane's dialogue tells of her
life as a waitress:
I became a waitress about a year ago. I just had
experience because I had done it before, ten years
ago for three months. I was looking for work and it
was better than doing what I was doing. My boss
hired me, and I was a waitress. I'm waiting on tables
now. Before that I was in fast food for three years.
Waitressing requires you to be happy and have a
personality. It's a little different than fast food
because you do different tasks for work. In fast food
you basically clean, do dishes, and make the food.
You do everything for a fast food restaurant.
Waitressing you just have to be a hostess, be polite
and presentable, and talk to the person that's going to
eat. Be nice, and try to strike up a conversation. It's
really hard, though.
I have regular customers that come in that I like to
talk to. Sometimes I don't have enough time to talk.
I have quite a few customers that request me for
their table. People come in on a daily basis and the
waitress is sort of like an icon. To get them talking,
I ask them if I can get them coffee, or make a funny
voice and say, "look who's here", or "hey sweetie",
or "your majesty", or "princess".
There's this homeless woman who comes in for cof-
fee every day. She barely eats. She's skin and bones.
We can't give her free food because we would get
fired. She gets enough money for a cup of coffee and
some toast. I call her princess and she loves it. It
brightens her day to come in instead of being so
dreary and leading a life she has chosen. I would
worry if something happened to her. She comes in
every day, twice a day. I don't ask her where she
stays. I don't pry into people's lives.
You can't really hold like a social life when you
work at my restaurant because it's too busy. We have
conventions. Also, kids come in, and you don't want
to talk to them. You have family night and it's really
busy. But, a couple of times guys ask about other
waitresses, or "why am I starting to worship
Buddha?" I do not talk to them about my religion
because they don't understand why I'm doing it.
Sometimes they say, ask your minister, "Where is
Buddha not?" And we almost get into a fight. But
mostly we're just mutual friends and joke around
with the other waitresses and do our chores. If you
need help you can get it. There's sort of closeness
with your coworkers, and then there's not. We talk
about everyday stuff at home or play around.
When it's slow we just stock and roll our silver
ware. If there's anything left to do we do cleaning,
and if not we get to read. I work like five to eight
hours. If we're shorthanded I do double shifts. I try
to help out when I can. We have two managers and
they help out. Any problems, or small talk, they're
there for you.
You pay half for your meals. I think that's standard
almost everywhere now. Since I've been in the food
industry, I've paid for pretty much everything except
the cookies. I used to work at a bakery and you were
allowed to eat two cookies a day, and you could
have all the day-olds you want. I would give them
to John, my boyfriend. That was years ago. I've
worked in cookie shops numerous times throughout
my life.
The tips depend. I'm not the big money maker at
work, but I make decent money. It's how you pres-
ent yourself. It depends on the customers. Retired
people will just leave you a dollar or nothing at all.
The general tip is two or three dollars per meal.
Denny's is cheap and they pretty much tip 8 to 10 percent.
If you're lucky and sing happy birthday you get a five dol-
lar tip. Last night the family joined in with me to sing
happy birthday. They were happy and they gave me
My tips vary, if it's a convention day I can make $100
with a double. If it's a regular five hour shift, it's 50 to 60
dollars. It depends on the business. We have slow periods
and busy periods.
We're short handed because one girl is on vacation and
I'm working seven days a week. We make what we can. A
week, on average I make $150 to $200 in tips. I tip out to
the one bus person. He's only there one to two days a
week. You tip out the dishwashers if they help roll the sil-
verware. They don't want to do it for free. They have
there other jobs to do. The cooks have a decent wage. I
don't know how much it is. The wait staff and kitchen
staff get along good, depending on who it is. One gentle-
man cook is quiet, and one woman is always screaming at
us, "come get your food", because it's like we are her kids.
Some of the cooks take pride in their work; what looks
good and what is appetizing. Some people slop it on and
don't care. I care because I don't want a complaint. You
want to make the customer happy.
If it's a good night, you give the cook five or ten dollars.
The waitresses dominate the tips because they are the
servers and they clean the tables, mop the floor, and get
the dishes. I guess it's like part of your job, and you get
paid more because it's part of your job. You balance trays
on your hands, and it's hard on your back. We get Charlie
Horses. Two weeks ago I worked seven days and I had
two Charlie Horses. My boss noticed I was frazzled and
he ask me, "are you okay?" I said that it was my seventh
day and I'm kind of tired. He eased up on our schedule.
I think the person that did the scheduling had no feelings
at all and decided to put us where he needed us, but we
need our days out. Katie, she's small like me and it's funny
because we both get sick and pass germs with each other.
We have to go to work. If we don't, the other one will be
shorthanded. If we're short handed we don't have anyone
to call in. Recently we got a transfer, but I don't know how
long she will last. She's been in the industry forever. She's
filling in for the hard days, or just a couple of hours here
and there. Everybody needs a vacation.
If someone wants to make extra money and wants to
work an extra shift, that's okay too. I'll make it up to you
if you work for me.
After a year you a get a week paid vacation. That's the
first time I've gotten that.
Diane is starting to go to school soon to study graphic
arts. She'll probably waitress while she does this. She's
doing a job that many of us have done at one time or
another. Working is hard and sometimes we are under
appreciated by fellow working people. It's important to
acknowledge all the thought and hard labor that goes into
our workdays.
* The Firebrand Collective identifies itself as anarchist-communist.

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