Dreams need believing.
Half way through two-thousand and eighteen, I had a lot of dreams I was having trouble believing in. They were hideously cliché, I wanted to travel, and maybe fall in love.
Falling in love is cheap, but travelling is not.
The decision was rebellious in its silence. I think you diminish the power of a decision if you tell everyone. Failing to take action, was just simply not an option.
I would refuse to go into my eighteenth year on this earth, broke and out of options.
So on a Friday evening mid September, I asked my grandmother if there were any jobs available at her favourite hotel. It was a classy joint, and I had been there a few times for dinner with my parents. Red tiles make up its roof and the architecture can’t decide if its of tuscan or late seventies design. It sits only a few metres from the lake that I’ve spent every summer I can remember, swimming in. So close in fact, that with the inevitable disintegration of the lakes bank, the hotel will probably crumble into the water one day. And lastly, a big neon sign sits smugly over the lobby entrance.
To be honest, the sign sold it for me. I have always been a sucker for neon.
Sunday morning the next day, I waltzed into the lobby. Ten minutes later I was interviewing for a waitressing job.
I recieved an email welcoming me to the team that evening.
The word waitressing reminds me of a more classic time. When girls would wear dresses, big hair and lipstick. Call their customers ‘Darlin’ and ‘Hun’ and carry around endless supplies of filter coffee in big jugs.
I keep my hair in a tight bun and my contract maintains that I keep makeup to a minimum, but I have started calling people ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ out of habit now.
My back is constantly sore, my arms always a little achy and the heels of my shoes are worn through to the hard plastic bit. Turns out carrying plates around at a very fast speed walk pace, for eight hours a day, is quite the workout. Five months in and my pants fall down if I don’t safety pin them up under my apron.
I can converse in French, Spanish, Italian and Maori enough to ask how your day has been and if you would like more coffee. The answer is usually yes to the latter. I can now also take a angry table and have them leave all smiles, apologising to me, about the wait on the food. There’s nothing like waitressing to teach you how to deal with dickheads. The trick is an easy mathematical formula comprised of Flattery + Endless Apologising to the ‘Sir’s’ and ‘Madams’ + Free Stuff = Happy Customers and five star TripAdvisor reviews.
I’ve also learn’t to be innately intimate with all the humiliating aspects of being human.
I’ve watched a wife with white hair and bright red lipstick, quietly scream at her husband, for trying to chat up ‘that pretty waitress’. I’ve listened to a frail, dimpled wife, being told she was lazy and a slag. I’ve watched parents hit their kids for throwing their food on the floor then look up guilty to see if anyone saw the under the table slap. I’ve cleaned up someone’s vomit filled napkin. And seen a half naked woman roll over under her complimentary bathrobe, while she waits for her lover to finish signing the room service bill.
Two dozen natural oysters is what they ordered in case you were wondering.
My skin has hardened against verbal abuse mis-packaged as ‘constructive criticism’. I’m no longer scared of the chef’s that rule the other-side of the pass. I’ve been brought nearly to tears by their comments, but I bit my lip and straightened my shoulders. I still do this out of habit, every time I have to enter the kitchen, an environment I can only describe as volatile. One moment a chef will be showing you pictures of their kid and saying how cool you are, and then one misstep and they will be screaming that you are lazy, useless and shouldn’t even be a waitress at all.
I think I’m braver now.
But I’m also bored. The hospitality industry is like a spinning wheel, people come in and then they leave. I guarantee you will be successful, if you can just stick around longer than everyone else.
Working in a hotel, feels like working in suspended time, a limbo land. The hotel is not the final destination, nor somewhere someone is starting a journey from.
It’s a somewhere-in-the-middle-place.
But I think, I’m finding my place in this middle place. I allow myself to fall in love every night with new people, knowing that by the morning they will be gone. And I think I’m learning that just because they will leave, doesn't mean loving them and learning about their world from them was any less worth it.