Monday, November 23, 2009

This is what I think about when sitting three feet away from a bus bathroom?

So as I sat, curled up in the very back seat of an absolutely charming Greyhound Bus (…ew) with “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy – THE REEEMIIXXXXX” ringing in my ears (why? Because I miss Jon Short, of course), I found myself wondering if my weekend retreat to Wesleyan was relevant blog content.

Let’s ignore the “duh” moment here and jump straight into the fact that a crucial part of the post-college life – at least for those who were as attached to their schools as I was – is getting over college life. So I’m going to try to stay serious here without getting sappy. But… I make no promises. I mean, come on, you’re talking to the girl who, just a few days ago, teared up at a Kay Jewelers commercial. Yeah. That happened.

This weekend had everything that Wesleyan weekends, at least for me, should have – trips to Thai Gardens and Mikado, a show at the ’92 Theater, New Group rehearsal, house parties and bad beer, 4 AM forays to the falafel cart, ridiculous antics at all hours – it feels so normal until you remember that it’s not, anymore.

Six months out, I still miss Wesleyan and the people there every day, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. It was home, and I think I speak for most of our recent grads when I say that being away from Wesleyan in particular makes the inherent stress of moving to a new city, job-hunting, and creating a life from scratch all that much harder.

I started this blog to talk about the process of learning how to live in the real world and learning how to be a grown-up. I’m realizing that a huge part of that process is simply learning how to not be in college anymore. Figuring out what parts of the experience to hang on to and what to let go of. For me, the hardest thing has been the fact that Wesleyan was and is home to so many people who I love an incredible amount, who love me just as much, and all of whom, until 6 months ago, were within a few short blocks away at any given time. I guess college spoils you in that way.

Of course, I have many wonderful friends in Boston, too – my roommate Caitlin and my Wes friends in the area know me inside and out (heh… we’re talking metaphorically, here) and have been an amazing support system – and there are many more awesome people that I’m getting to know better every day. But I think it’s kind of inevitable (and I’m pretty sure I speak for many, many other recent grads) that until you fully establish yourself somewhere, and until you get used to not being constantly surrounded by people who know you super well, it’s just simply going to feel a little lonely.

As for all of us establishing ourselves in the real world… well, it ain’t easy, but it’s happening. The death grip my mind had on the concept of “Wesleyan is home” is loosening ever so slightly. Once you get a job or two that you like, once you’ve begun to understand the concept of living on a salary rather than points or Middletown Cash, once you start figuring out how to meet people – finding a sports team, hanging out with coworkers, joining a… oh, I don’t know, an a cappella group or something… *cough*… things start to seem more manageable.

…But enough of this sad faced-ness! Tomorrow morning, my dear friends, is my first legit shift at Border Café… no one staring intently over my shoulder prodding me to ask the right questions or making sure I don’t give a vegetarian a cheeseburger instead of her black bean tostada (they don’t like that).

Will she remember to bring the chips and salsa? Will she spill a margarita on a poor defenseless guest?? Will she swiftly become the youngest manager in Border Café HISTORY??! Tune in next time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Frozen or on the rocks? Beans and rice or jambalaya? Grilled or blackened? Dizzy yet? I am.

With my head still spinning from my first real day on the restaurant floor, I return – frazzled, sore-footed, and ready to be making TIPS for this crap.

Okay, seriously though, it wasn’t too bad… I aced my Menu 1 Test (HOLLA! The guy grading it even asked if I had cheated, and quizzed me out loud on stuff to make sure. No, I did not cheat. I am JUST THAT GOOD, BITCH.) But then… I happened to be training with (by a popular vote that included Border Café employees and the regular customers) the craziest, most intense, speediest server in the wild wild east. Anyone who was in the restaurant during those 5 hours can attest to the fact that I was quite literally sprinting to keep up with this dude. Several mangers / coworkers offered to buy me a pair of roller skates, because my legs clearly were not long enough to get the job done.

As I have mentioned, I’ve never waitressed before. So I’m here to tell anyone else going into this business for the first time that this job is… um… hard. When I wasn’t reeling around a corner clinging to tabletops for dear life or praying that I didn’t eat it as I sprinted up and down the stairs carrying drinks and appetizers, I was answering questions like “So what did you forget that time? What should you have asked them when they ordered that? Do you know what you’re supposed to do now?” …as if I wasn’t already dizzy enough.

What am I supposed to do now? …Greet the customers. Bring them chips and salsa and ask for their drink orders. IDs if necessary. Bring them their drink orders and ask if they’re ready to order. Take their orders and ask the appropriate questions. Bring the necessary accoutrement for whatever appetizer or entrée they’ve chosen. Bring the food and ask if they need anything else. Check back in two minutes (or two bites! Whatever comes first) to see if they need anything… keep an eye out for drinks that need refilling, plates that need to be taken away, read their minds as to when they need their check, ask if they need a back massage to help them digest their food…. I usually forgot two or more of those steps.

Fortunately, the tables I served found my… what’s a nice word for “incompetence?” …The tables I served found my CONFUSION endearing rather than irritating, as they all knew I was the new kid on the floor. In fact, the customers were usually my biggest cheerleaders, and even though I got a lot of crap from my trainer, many of my tables were very up front in telling me that they liked me a lot. I even had one very nice British family actually send someone to find me so that they could tell me I’d done a good job.

I’m going to count that as a lucky break. Having worked in politics (and elsewhere… but mostly politics) I have long since learned that not everyone is, uh… easy to handle. And not everyone will be charmed by a cute smile and a “Sorry guys, I’m new!” So tonight, Friday night though it may be, is devoted to studying and making lists of everything I need to remember on the floor… because tomorrow, I’ll be handling the Saturday morning crowds solo. I mean… with a trainer over my shoulder, but still… ya know, mostly solo.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Remember when the hardest part of Halloween was what candy to eat first?

Celebrating Halloween used to be so easy. In the early years, it was just a matter of which cute cartoon character to dress up as and which houses to trick or treat at. And there was candy. Lots of candy. And it was good.

In college, it stayed pretty simple – the big decisions revolved around what witty pop culture reference to impersonate and what parties to make an appearance at. There were house parties, frat parties, dorm parties, dance parties. And it was good. AND you know what? I could WALK to everything. And walk home very easily if I so chose. There was none of this public transportation / cab business. If I didn’t want to walk down the street, I could take The Ride, but that was out of laziness, not necessity. Oh, and no overpriced drinks. That was a plus.

And now? Well, I don’t mean to sound like the Grinch Who Stole Halloween here, but it seems to me like the city version of this holiday might be more trouble than it’s worth. Next year I may stick to what I had originally intended for this year – staying in, drinking pumpkin beer and watching the Ghost Hunters marathon on the SciFi channel. As it was, I wound up wandering around the Boston bars, paying too much to get in and too much once inside, fighting my way through the drunk Clark Kents, dudes in gorilla suits, and sluttified Disney princesses (thanks for shedding a new, disturbing light on my childhood, by the way) and spending a good two hours walking back to Allston in the rain before finding a cab that wasn’t already full.

Also, a bunch of drunk jerks threw a huge traffic cone at Caitlin and me? But I mean, in their defense, what ELSE were they supposed to do with it? …..what the hell.

So, verdict on my first real-world Halloween: well, I learned my lesson. Next year, pajamas and scary movies it is. Sounds pretty awesome to me. Of course, I’m the party pooper that doesn’t really like Halloween anyway, so feel free to ignore my cynicism.

Also, update: got the aforementioned waitressing job. This oughta be interesting. Assuming I pass my menu and margarita tests (yes, those happen), I will be working at Border Café in Harvard Square within a few weeks. Tomorrow is my last day at The Campaign Network… so goodbye, politics. I wish you well.

Now bring on the tips, please.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You want fries with that?

So as my foray into the world of politics draws to a close (…and there was much rejoicing) I find myself even more in need of a job that, ya know, pays me.

Problem is, of course, that nothing I’d be interested in for career purposes is hiring paid workers – only unpaid interns. So now that I’ve got the unpaid internship in something I love (I work for a literary agency now!) I needs me something to pay the bills. Thus, I decided it was time to explore the prospect of waitressing.

But let’s be clear, here – I have NO experience as a waitress. I mean, I worked at The Pita Pit, but I was hired there as soon as they heard I had a high school diploma. So I don’t count that. So while I’ve had a million interviews – at PR companies, sales companies, political companies, travel companies – I was terrified to interview at a restaurant. Because I know, for the most part, how to interview in a corporate setting. We’ve all been taught what they want to hear. But at a restaurant…? What do I even wear? Do I need a different resume than the one I have?? Should my hair be up or down??? Skdfvksduhnj!!!*?%??#$%

So, instead of asking any number of people I know with experience in this industry, I turned, of course, to my good friend Google. My exact searches: “What do I wear for a waitress interview?” “Waitress resume example” and “What restaurants look for in a waitress.” Yes, I know. I’m an enormous dork. It’s okay. I own it.

After finding advice ranging from “Look hot, wear lots of makeup – restaurants like to be known for their sexy waitresses” to “You should wear a suit to any interview,” I decided to err on the side of “professional lady” rather than “hussy.” Also, apparently, there’s actually a specific format for a waitress resume. Who knew? So I split the difference between that format and my current one, and added a list of “Qualifications” – basically a “Why I’m awesome” section. Oh, and I threw Pita Pit back on there – that had NOT been on the resume I handed out at corporate interviews.

So on Wednesday, I ventured out to my first waitressing interview ever. Quaking in my heels.

In the end – and I’m sure anyone I asked would have told me this – it was pretty much like every other interview I’ve ever had… just shorter and more relaxed. And yes, I felt appropriately silly for my unwarranted freakout. But for the fact that, when asked why I should be hired, I could include “I’m passionate about customer service, Tex-Mex cuisine, and margaritas,” my answers were pretty much the “About Me” shpiel I’ve already come to know so well. Everything from “great attention to detail” to “works well with other people” was just as relevant here as at any other company.

For those who are curious, it seemed to go well. I just had my second interview with that particular restaurant, and should be hearing from them soon. At any rate, it broke the ice, and I think I can now go into restaurant interviews without feeling like I’m about to hurl. Success!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Was it something I said?

So a few weeks ago – 29 days ago, to be exact – I had what seemed to be a very promising interview with what seemed to be a very interesting PR company. I thought I had done fairly well, and they told me they’d get back to me within a week and a half or so.

Clearly, something went terribly, terribly wrong. I haven’t heard from them since.

Granted, it’s not unusual (at least in my experience… is it just me?) for a company to mysteriously forget all about you after you’ve come in for an interview. With thingz bein’ the way thingz is and with jobs in such high demand, sometimes, I suppose, one of the many interviewees is bound to fall through the cracks.

But get this – they had called ME to come in for an interview, and they said they were only interviewing three people. Whatever crack I stepped in must’ve been a big one, ‘cause it seems like, given the situation, I should have been a little harder to overlook.

Talk about the cold shoulder. Did I have something in my teeth? Did I look fat in my skirt suit? Was it something I said?

Weeelllllllll….. yeah, it might have been something I said.

Listen up, all you job-hunters. This is something we’ve all heard about 8 million times and eventually you just go “WE EFFING KNOW, OKAY?!” But… I thought I knew too. Always, ALWAYS know WHY you’re interviewing somewhere and WHAT that place does, lest you run into this situation:

PR Man: So, Marika, why this company? What about what we do in PR intrigues you?
Marika: [stunned silence as I try to remember what the HELL a PR company does] Well… I mean, you know, politics has been fun, but PR is… well… I mean…
PR Man: So basically, you’re just looking for another job?
Marika: [sighs, resigned] Basically.

I looked the part. I smiled, made eye contact. and was well-spoken (for the most part). I had my resume, I had my neat little portfolio. I’d researched the company, I knew who ran every department, I knew who all their clients were… but I had no idea what they actually DID for those clients... whoops.

My advice: well, just don’t do that. Easy enough, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who needs focus when you can have... oooh, butterfly!

I think there's a lot to be said for a focused blog. I've read blogs on politics, fashion, the quest to find the best burger in Boston (those jerks totally stole my idea, by the way)... so while I've had this notion of starting a blog for a long time, I've always balked at the idea of having to find ONE topic to focus on, ONE thing that I just knew so much about that the entirety of the internet would be clinging to my every word and clamoring for the next entry from which they would surely learn more about life than any college class or Discovery Channel special could teach them.

And then I thought... let's just cut the crap. It's a BLOG for God's sake - the very word is ridiculous. Can't get too high and mighty about it. Sure, some bloggers out there will undoubtedly be better and more informative than others. They'll deliver news, report on trends, share insightful opinions. But in the end, I decided - perhaps more for my own benefit than anyone else's - that a blog doesn't need to be earth-shakingly, life-changingly profound to be relevant. Right? I mean, let's hope so. And moreover, I can even have one without being some super expert in a particular field. In fact, NOT being an expert on anything in particular is my point in this - I'm new to this whole "real life" thing. I'm learning how to survive post-graduation, and I only hope that my embarrassing moments can be filed in your mind under "what and what not to do when pretending to be a grown-up."

Okay, so it's actually been a few months since I graduated from Wesleyan, and I've been able to figure out a feeewwww things regarding this whole life-as-an-adult thing. But while I managed to bypass the "what do you MEAN I can't live on PBR and Ramen??" phase... there's still a lot to learn. So these entries promise to contain a veritable potpourri of experiences - job hunting, networking, city living, grown-up decision making (or lack thereof), and living life without a meal plan. Focus be damned - I gotta figure stuff out first.