Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're Sat... at Tables 24, 25, 26, and 28

I may have a problem. It may be serious.

Some of you may recall that a few years ago I was a waitress at a certain busy Provo restaurant that shall remain nameless. The two years in which I was thus employed proved to be the most stressful two years of my life.

Those who have been occupied similarly will know about all the stress, the insane multi-tasking, the butt-kissing, the demanding customers, the constant flow of customers for neverending hours straight, being on your feet rapidly walking with 30 pound trays constantly balanced on your shoulder for double shifts, desperately trying to find two other servers who will sing the birthday song with you when there are a million other things you need to be doing, glasses that are still hot from being straight out of the dishwasher exploding in your hand, etc.

I was actually quite good at the job. I have a mind that can quickly organize and prioritize complex situations, despite rebutting evidence. I think I'm pretty good at faking cheerfulness and pleasantry. I think it's my innate perfectionist need to be completely under control at all times, and restaurant circumstances being such that this is absolutely impossible, that really caused me stress. And this stress would manifest itself in my dreams in the shape of terrible nightmares. Every single night.

Like I said, it's been quite a few years now since this dark period of my life. But... and here's the problem... I still have the nightmares. At least once a week. And they're just as clear as they were back then.

They usually start out well enough, with getting a table of seemingly pleasant, normal customers. They ask for drinks. They ask for their food, but with the sauce on the side. And make sure you personally go tell the chefs that they want to hold the mushrooms. You're still OK at this point. Then they ask for all different sizes of to-go boxes. They ask if you can ask a manager if they can order something customized. They ask for things that aren't on the menu. They order bizarre things to go. They want more lemons for their drinks. They changed their minds, they want the check separated after all. But can they use this expired coupon? The boss told them three months ago that they could have this item for free, will you go find him and ask him about it? Everything you need to go get for them seems impossibly far away. The computer keeps being weird and won't print their check. And all the while, hostesses keep tapping you on the shoulder, telling you you're "sat" at another table. You glance hopelessly at the growing number of customers you haven't even greeted yet who are just sitting there, waiting for you, their eyes drilling holes into your back, and you know you can't get to them for another hour.

They're intense. And the worst part is, you wake up with a massive headache, cramps in your legs and traps, and feeling stressed, stressed, STRESSED.

Do I need help?