Jobs; Part 3 of 738

September 3, 2008

The very first official job I held was for Red Lobster Restaurants.      It was a brand new store and I was the very first employee for that location.   Not only was I the first hired, but I helped run the job fair to hire everyone else.    I really enjoyed that experience and was very proud to work in the restaurant industry.

I also grew up on this job.   I met so many delightful and fascinating people!    The hours sucked, of course, but it was high school.   Most jobs held by 15 year old’s had crummy hours.   But this job exposed me to the many layers of humanity that my regular life just didn’t touch.    I learned how to smoke a cigarette.  (yea me)   I learned about a bunch of different music.    I met homosexuals and bisexuals and latinos and blacks and asians and a few whitebreads (that would be me) and hard-living drug users and some who I could call scum of the earth.    Even if my high school had these groups, I didn’t associate with them – typical high school, you only talk to your 5 friends who are really just like you, right?   

Most of these labels and categories were bandied about with no judging – they were who they were.     What was the very best of this education, was that I found out that people are people regardless of religion, ethnicity, economic status, and sexual preference.      Ivy, a waitress had a heart of gold and such a sad story.    Cheryl, a chainsmoker who suffered debilitating migraines but had to work anyway, was one tough bird with a fabulous sense of humor.    My manager Holly was married 3 different times to the same man and finally happy to be only living with him – marriage somehow destroyed the romance; but they kept trying.     And another manager who mercilessly teased me about boyfriends with language and situations that made me extremely uncomfortable.   Can we all say harassment?    Can we guess how sheltered and naive and goodie-2-shoes I was?

Like I said, I grew up there.  

I was good at my job.   Once the place opened for business, I was hostess.    I was too young to wait tables – back in the day of liquor laws requiring servers be 21.    So I ran  the front of the house.    It didn’t start easy, but I figured it out and did a good job.   The restaurant was a casual dining seafood restaurant in the middle of Kansas – it was packed all the time the first year and wait times for a table up to 2 hours on Friday and Saturday nights.

I knew the flow and how to keep it running.  I was a master at timing which tables would turn, which server could handle a 6-top and then two 4-tops back to back.   I could ‘water’ the just-seated, and sooth the angry hungry masses trying to get in, and then piss off the servers I didn’t like with clients who stereotypically didn’t tip well.      You wanted to be my friend if you wanted to make good money.    It actually takes some brains to be a good hostess;  it is not just ask how many and take them to the first open spot.

But career goals in the restaurant businesss were not for me.     I finally graduated high school and went off to college picking the very opposite of the food industry for my major.      I continued to work at Red Lobster during summers until I could get an internship in my field.

I have fond memories of work during my high school years.    And when I didn’t especially love it and thought about quitting, I realized that I couldn’t make any more money anywhere else, and I was SO SURE that showing how long my tenure was at this ONE place would impress people down the road.



  1. Wow – this was a fun read. I didn’t know that was your first job. Interesting how you learned so much there. And funny how “you wanted to be my friend if you wanted to make good money” you learned how to use your power! I always felt kind of gypped because I never worked in a restaurant like most teenagers did.

    Restaurants can be very lively. And I’m glad you are enjoying this series… Only 735 more to go. ha!!

  2. I never worked in a restaurant. They scared me as a high schooler. I didn’t think I was fast enough to keep up and was convinced I would drop trays on people’s heads. I probably would have too. Looking forward to the next 735.

    Thanks Joan. I did spill 8 glasses of water onto a table once – few escaped that one. I could have died I was SO embarrassed…

  3. What a fabulous tale! I have a new appreciation for restaurant hosts, although it’s always seemed to me a good one has many diplomatic skills. And all this at such a young age, too. (Used to love the cheddar biscuits, but now they immediately apply themselves to my hips!)

    Yes, well, diplomacy is a skill valued for a LOT of jobs, yes?

  4. ok, i don’t like seafood but it’s still an awesome story! 😛 i did most of my summer job learning in a bubble gum factory working 12 hour overnight shifts. it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. but i also learned to smoke while waitressing, what is it about the food business that makes you take up the habit?

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