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.