Posted in Uncategorized

I am a Server, Not a Servant.

As I’ve said before, my day job is a server in a restaurant. It’s not my ideal job nor is it what I want to be doing forever, but I really enjoy it for right now. I’m young, I’m healthy, and since I can do it, why not? However lately, I’ve been seeing a meme go around that features a picture of a firefighter, EMT, and a police officer right above a picture of a bunch of servers. It was captioned “If you can’t tip them (the emergency responders), why would you tip these (the servers)?” Needless to say, there were plenty of people in the comments agreeing with this sentiment saying things like “my menu doesn’t say price + tip,” “take it up with your bosses if they can’t pay you a livable wage,” even going so far as to call servers “servants.”

It obviously made me feel some type of way.

My hourly rate, as a server, is less than the federal minimum wage. My paychecks are less than $150 per week. Without the tips that people give me for my service, I wouldn’t be making enough to live.

But here’s the thing: I and any good server out there bust our asses for the tips that we make. My job is not just writing down what a table orders and bringing it out to them. A lot of the time, I’m required to bus my own tables. I have to pay attention to how fast or slow my customers are eating to make sure that the appetizers don’t come out at the same time as the dinners. I have to make sure that unused dishes are cleared so that there is somewhere to put the new plates of food. I have to know what’s in every dish, not just to be able to recognize what it is when it comes up in the window, but to also let customers know if there are any allergens in it. Remembering that this table needs napkins, that table needs water refills, this other table needs two, no three sets of silverware, and that other table’s food is up, but this other table needs their check because they’re going to be late for an appointment, is challenging and stressful. Not to mention making sure that I’m doing a good enough job to earn my 15-20% tip. We are opening, and closing, cleaning the dining room and the server’s side of the kitchen.

A lot of people think serving is easy. They get impatient when we’re slow, they’re rude when they want something immediately and it’s not brought, and they sometimes ask ridiculous questions (“Are there nuts in this pecan-crusted chicken?”). Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic customers sometimes. The other night I had a family come in with an absolutely adorable little girl. We talked, we joked around, we had a good rapport…and they left me $3 on a $40 check. My mentality most of the time is a small tip is better than no tip, but when it’s slow and every table counts, that stings a little. Especially when I take the time to build a connection with my tables.

I’m not asking for every table to put 20+% tip down on the table. I’m not demanding that anyone put anything down that they don’t think I deserved. However, I resent people assuming anything about me or about my profession. My job isn’t any easier or harder than anyone else’s. Part of the dining experience is to have someone serve you, and pay them for their service. If I sucked, okay, I don’t deserve a big tip. If I was amazing and you feel moved to do so, leave me a giant tip. If you think I did a ton of work or you felt that you were particularly specific that night, be generous. If I was inattentive or absent, leave me less. But realize that, no matter what, a service is being given and you have to pay for it. If you aren’t able to or don’t want to pay your server for their work, then go to a restaurant that doesn’t have servers.

Now, before anyone goes and starts and says “it should be the restaurant’s responsibility to pay their employees a livable wage,” imagine this scenario: you go into a run of the mill restaurant. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic. Just a regular restaurant. You get a nice meal, you get drinks and appetizers, and your server is okay. Your ¬†meal comes to a close and all of a sudden, your entree is $30. Your appetizers are each $15 and your dessert is $12. Because let me tell you, in order for a restaurant to pay each and every server a livable wage, that money is going to have to come from somewhere. It’ll either come from cutting down on the quality of food (which some restaurants do), or it will come from raising the prices paid by the patrons. As it currently stands, meal prices cover the business overhead, ingredients, chef salaries, hardware, flatware, and furniture. It pays for the POS software, the electrical bills for the coolers, freezers, and lights, the gas for the stoves and ovens.

If this is the poop-storm that comes up from tipping people and allowing the amount paid to be chosen yourself, imagine what would happen if the average dinner price was $30 a plate to pay for employee salaries.

And the final little complaint: servers don’t even claim 60% of their tips. Wrong. Every day, more than half of my tips are given to me on credit cards. I legally have to claim all of my credit card tips because there’s literally a record of them. I still have to claim my cash tips too. I count my tips for the night, then my boss counts them and we both record it. It’s not like we’re sitting there and purposely trying to avoid paying taxes. And although some restaurants do try to do that, the vast majority of them are doing things properly and according to the law.

So, long story short, if you didn’t have to get your own food and drinks, and didn’t have to clean up after yourselves, you need to tip your servers. Because they bust their hump every day to make your dining experiences good and pleasant. Maybe someday the economy will be such that servers won’t need to depend on the tips of their patrons to make a living. Until that day, we depend on your generosity and appreciation of our hard work.

Posted in Uncategorized

When Your Boyfriend’s Outgoing and You’re Just…Not

My boyfriend Vinh is an incredibly friendly man. He makes friends with people in drive-thru’s, servers at restaurants, even the guy who started our cellphone plan. He’s on texting terms with the guy who sold him his car, and he’s got literally thousands of friends scattered between the east and west coast. Every time we go to a public place, a festival, or the grocery store, there is someone coming up to him and saying hello. Even when we are driving down the road, he will see friends in cars driving past or on the side of the road.

Everyone at his workplace thinks he’s the bomb diggity, he’s got a million adopted younger siblings, and customers go out of their way to go visit him regularly. Whenever I mention that he’s my boyfriend, the immediate reaction is “Oh! He’s such a nice guy! He’s so friendly! He would recognize us right away!” (Which, I’m gonna put it out there, he doesn’t. There have been many situations where he’s excitedly greeted someone, they parted ways, and he mutters to me under his breath that he had no idea who they were.)

I love that he’s so outgoing. It’s one of the things that drew me to him. I love that it’s so easy for him to connect with people because it makes our experiences with people in the service industry really easy. He makes people WANT to do things for us because he makes them have fun. He makes them laugh and have fun and breaks up the mundanity of their workday. I love it when I get to work with customers like him, because you can’t help but like them and remember them the next time they come in. Everyone likes my man, and he likes almost everyone too.

Then there’s me.

That’s not to say I don’t have my own positive qualities. I have lots of them (dramatically throws hair over shoulder with lots of anime sparkles). But for now, we are just going to focus on this one.

I have a tendency for introversion. When I’m first meeting people, I’m quiet. I gauge how interested the people I’m meeting are, and that will result in my response. I’m super careful when I’m meeting new people, and a lot of people mistake that for me being standoffish or stuck up. Where he is an outgoing dancey delight in social situations, I’m a wallflower who prefers to hang out with people I know. While he’s out having dance battles, I’m sipping my drink and completely content watching him and cheering him on.

Sometimes it’s awkward to be the only shy one in the group. People don’t know how to talk to me because they aren’t sure if I’m just a jerk or not. And sometimes I wonder if his friends don’t expect someone more outgoing to be with their most personable member. They all have their stories to tell, and jokes that they know, and memories to share. When I tell stories, I tend to babble because I get nervous and give a lot of back story, which usually makes the story sound really odd. Then the vicious cycle of awkward-embarrassed-babble-awkward starts again and I just kinda stop talking after a while. Sometimes I can’t help but feel jealous of how many people he knows who really seem to like him, and it makes me want to just stay home sometimes.

But being there with Vinh makes me feel so much better. It makes me more confident, because I know that he thinks my stories are interesting, he listens to me, and he doesn’t draw attention to the fact that I feel embarrassed. He holds my hand, puts his arm around me, and kisses me on the cheek, making me feel supremely confident that no matter how badly I embarrass myself, he’ll be there to make me feel better.

I am supremely lucky to have a guy who is so socially adept that he makes up for my lack thereof with great ease. Leave me a comment below about who or what makes you feel less awkward in social situations!

Posted in Socially Awkward

When Your Priest Walks Into Your Restaurant

My current day job (outside of this fantastic blog) is a server in a Chinese restaurant. I love what I do, and I love meeting new people, despite being horribly awkward about it. I recently moved out of the town I was raised in, and moved into the neighboring town (same city, just a different town). Because of this, I rarely get people coming into the restaurant that I know. It happens sometimes, but not nearly as often as you’d think despite living literally 15 minutes away from where I grew up. Most of the time, it’s my family.

The other day, however, I had an unexpected guest come in who I had to serve: My priest.

Now this was awkward for a couple of reasons:

  1. I have known this man for my entire life. No, seriously, my entire life. I’m pretty sure he married my parents (you can’t win them all), he baptized me, he laughed good naturedly when my sister ran across the altar in the middle of his sermon as a toddler. This guy knows my childhood better than me, and possibly better than some of my immediate relatives.
  2. I haven’t been to church since Easter (waaaaaaay back in mid-April of this year). For someone who was raised a good Catholic girl, it’s a little embarrassing to realize that it’s been a month since I’ve been to church.
  3. This is the first time, in nearly 26 years of knowing the man, that I’ve ever seen him outside of a religious event.

This was one of those incredibly painful situations where I had no idea how to behave because I know him, so I should naturally act like I know him, act familiar with him. But like…he’s my priest. Despite knowing him for the entirety of my life, I don’t actually KNOW him. It’s one of those relationships that I have at a distance. “Hi, how are you,” move on.

I think the worst part of it was how at ease he actually seemed. Like this was a totally normal occurrence for him. And his ease put into stark contrast how awkward I was feeling and how clueless I was as to how I needed to navigate. So I did what any normal, mildly socially awkward person would do.

Autopilot.

I just kinda treated him like any other customer who came in. Asked him if he needed anything, tried to anticipate what he would ask for, be quick and efficient. When he asked me probing questions, I answered them and carried on.

To be fair, he probably couldn’t remember exactly who I was. He’s older, and there are a lot of parishioners in our church who come and go with some irregularity. If he saw a picture of me as a little kid, he’d probably know exactly who I was. But now, as an adult, not so much. I get over to church a lot less often now than I used to in the past because life happens. But hey, faith doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to church/temple every week.

Leave me a comment telling me about your awkward familiar-yet-not interactions with people!

Posted in Doggy Reviews, Willow Wednesday

Willow Wednesday: Snuffle Mat Review

So, I mentioned in my last post that I had a lil noodle pup. Her name is Willow, and she’s a reactive pitbull mix. (Don’t know what “reactive” means? Check out this post to learn more.) We live in an apartment home complex and that basically means that we are unable to go out for walks at normal times, and we aren’t able to spend a lot of time outside playing or just hanging out. However, that doesn’t stop her from needing the proper amounts of stimulation and exercise. So in lieu of being able to run her around for an hour at midnight every night, her trainer recommended that I create a snuffle mat for her.

Yeah, I didn’t know what the heck a snuffle mat was either.

Turns out, it’s a rubber (or whatever material you can find) mat that has strips of felt tied through it. It’s meant to mimic a grassy patch that she literally has to snuffle through to find treats or food instead of eating out of a bowl. Because eating out of a bowl is literally the least stimulating thing she could possibly do, she has never received any of her meals out of one. Girl’s gotta work for her food!

5816A2C6-2266-45CB-BB19-9935D5520752-7861-00000865D96DFEE0

The things I love about this mat are as follows:

  1. Willow super loves it. Even when there isn’t any food on it, she likes to lay on it, roll on it, rub herself on it… you get the idea. It wasn’t hard to get her interested in it, which made the transition from her old toys to this mat really seamless and easy.
  2. It multitasks! It’s a great place to use for training and it’s a fantastic marker to use if I want her to go settle. She likes it to the point where it can be difficult for me to put her food into it because she’s already laying on top of it. Which brings me to point number 3…
  3. It gives her a good chunk of work trying to find all the pieces of kibble in it. When I first introduced it to her, I just sprinkled them on top so that she could figure out what I wanted her to do a little bit easier. After a couple of uses, I started running my fingers through the felt to “bury” her food a little bit so she’d have to dig a little bit more to find it. The average amount of time it takes her to find all her food is 10 minutes, which is pretty good.
  4. It was relatively inexpensive to make. The mat itself was on sale for $12 when I bought it, but here is the link for it anyway. I didn’t really care about the color or consistency of the mat, so I just bought felt remnants at JoAnn’s and spent roughly $20 on a little more than 6 yards of fabric (which is a lot, and a really good price).

And here are some of the things I don’t like about it:

  1. It is super time consuming. I spent several hours cutting the felt into 2″X 6-9″ strips, another few hours threading the strips through the holes, and yet a few more hours tying them into knots. I could have bought a smaller mat, but Willow is 45lbs and I didn’t want all of her kibble practically on top of each other, so I opted for a larger mat. At least I got to catch up on Netflix.
  2. It’s a pain in the BUM NUGGET to clean. The base mat that I have is made out of kitchen grade, heavy duty rubber so I can’t toss it in the washing machine. If it ever were to get dirty, I would probably have to take it out and hose it down. Which is a giant pain in the bum. The plus side is that I could probably vacuum it or take it outside and shake it before resorting to hosing it down because kibble and small, dry treats are the only thing I use on it.
  3. It takes up quite a bit of space. My mat is probably 3′ X 4′ (ish) and is pretty heavy to move around for what it is. I can’t put it somewhere and leave it there forever, mostly because I like to change the environment that Willow eats in regularly too (it’s part of the reactivity work that we do with her). It’s not really conveniently transportable, especially if I were to have multiple dogs with multiple mats. If you have an apartment with very limited space, I would recommend starting with a mat with a smaller footprint.

All in all, I love this. It keeps Willow busy, gives her somewhere comfy to lay down and nap/chew on dried pig ears, and it was really inexpensive to make. It’s durable and it’s unlikely to get terribly dirty. Adding this to her rotating cycle of enrichment toys has definitely been a good thing for her. I would rank this 8.5/10. Those of you who have tried making snuffle mats, what was your experience with them? Are there other enrichment toys you would recommend? Leave a comment and let me know!

Update 6/12/17: I’m attaching pictures of the mat in the process of being made. The picture of the finished mat isn’t actually mine (because I still haven’t finished it yet)¬†but here’s what it looked like while I was doing it. The first one is my mat and my first set of strips. The second one is what the underside looks like once I wove the strips through. The third is the top of the mat, showing that they’re secured with pretty little square knots.