March 7th 2015
Today I worked. For money.
I work as a waiter in this small family run rustic Italian restaurant called Pizza Hut, and have done for almost five years.
My favourite thing about being a waiter is one of two things:
1) Guessing the dynamics of the tables relationship – and by this I mean, if, for example, I serve a table of four. Three boys. One girl. It’s fun to figure out which boy is dating the girl. Sometimes it’s obvious, because of the PDA, sometimes it’s guessable by the fact they ordered together, sometimes it’s hard and you’re left to assume it’s none of them.
There’s other things too. Say I’m serving a couple. Usually young. It says a lot about their relationships dynamic dependent on who says the most. Say the boy says the entire order, and the girl stays quiet. That could tell you that she has public anxiety, or that he’s the dominant one. Or maybe she says the entire order, and then you can read something else. Or if they both order their own stuff you can see there’s a balance in the relationship.
It sounds like psychobabble, but there’s definitely something to be read from it.
I serve this one couple every Saturday, they come in seperately, stay for about four hours (literally) and then leave to go to their seperate homes. And I know they don’t live together because if they don’t finish their food, I box it up for them and they always ask for seperate boxes.
They come in every Saturday and have done for the past 18 or so months. But then one week they wanted their leftovers in the same box. Meaning they were going to the same place. And if you pay enough attention you can notice that their relationship is changing just by the fact they wanted their pizza in one box rather than two.
There are other things you can tell about a relationship too.
Imagine a family. Two adults. Two kids. It’s easy to tell if one of the adults is a step-parent.
It’s easy to tell how long a couple have been together by how they interact.
It’s very easy to tell who is on first date (Yes we get a few at the Hut, romantic, I know) and who is on their fifty-first.
It’s easy to tell what type of Dad someone’s is when his kid asks for a milkshake but he says “no you can have a tap water” and then orders two Stella’s for himself.
I serve some couples who, I swear to God, only speak three words to eachother the entire meal. An “are you driving?” as I ask if they want a large or a small glass of Pinot. I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship like that. Fortunately I couldn’t shut my girlfriend up if I wanted to.
2) That you build a relationship with people that you have never seen before and will never see again.
Being a waiter is brilliant because for that 60 minute spell you can be whoever you want to be to a customer. You can talk with a Scottish accent (I can’t talk with a Scottish accent), you can pretend you’re married with two kids, you can say it’s your first shift when you’ve actually been there five years. You can say whatever you want because in 60 minutes you’re never going to see the people again. (Unless they come in every week)
I’m not saying I’m completely false with my customers, but because the length of our relationship is confined to the amount of time they are sat at my table, I don’t have to worry about any relationship further than an hour. You’re friends for the briefest of time and then they leave. And you clean the table and make new friends.
It’s great, it really is.
In sixty minutes I learn about this family, or this couple, or this group of friends. But then they leave and they’re gone. I don’t think about where they go when they leave, to me there is no concept of them existing outside of the restaurant. I will never see them again, and if I do it will be if they come back.
Until tomorrow, being a waiter is a psychologists dream.