In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I applied to be a busser at a local Mexican restaurant. While I didn’t know it at the time, this decision would be one of the most defining events of my young adult life. Here’s why.
A few days after I submitted the application, I was accepted, and shortly began work at the cozy hole-in-the-wall restaurant. My tasks were simple: lighting tiny candles at each table, clearing tables of dishes and silverware, and refilling water glasses with golden pitchers. As I continued to clock in more frequently and pick up more shifts, these seemingly mundane tasks were oddly comforting. I quickly found sanctuary in the dimly lit, warm, and joyous environment. The vibrancy and beauty of the painted tiles on the wall, the kindness of my fellow employees, the Latin music always emulating from the speakers, and the feeling of routine and purpose created an environment I felt comfortable and capable of thriving in. The act of being “on the clock” became a true escape from friendship drama and the stresses of schoolwork. I finally felt that I had found a place entirely separate from my peers, a place of my own. My initial experiences as a busser gave me a sense of comfort and sanctuary that I was not expecting.
Fast forward almost two years from my starting at the restaurant, I was freshly 18 and started my first shift as a waitress. This new role provided me an entirely new set of responsibilities, and along with this came newfound stresses. I was now directly interacting with customers: taking their orders, managing multiple tables at once, remembering all the menu items and different drinks, dealing with difficult people, and ultimately, directly responsible for the dining experience of the people I was waiting on.
My initial adjustment period to this job was filled with frustrated (and often tearful) nights. However, as time progressed, I fell in love with the feeling of individuality, independence, and purpose I experienced as a waitress. It felt so natural to converse with customers, sometimes more natural than with peers my own age. Of course, coming home with cash tips was an incredibly rewarding aspect of the job. I am a huge proponent of hard-work and “hustling. The fact that the quicker I served my tables increased my total tips was incredibly motivating. Busy nights such as Friday and Saturday nights were high-stress, but high-reward. Small things, like the feeling of buying nice gifts for family members and friends with my newfound income, were so gratifying.
Even within my hometown, my perspective on life felt incredibly widened. Learning about the experiences of my coworkers and customers, along with an acquired knowledge of how a service industry job works, is perspective I carry with me every day. The community within the restaurant became a sort of second home for me. This place that I clocked into over half of any given week molded me into the human I am today. And for that, I thank it.