I’m with the Sushi Bar Crew.

I had a waitressing nightmare last night.

Ask any server, and they’ve had them, too. I assure you. They’re crippling, but in a way that is not typical of nightmares. Generally, they consist of the server having their whole section sat and not being able to get to all of the patrons in a timely fashion causing people to get angry. Or the whole restaurant filling up at five minutes before close when all you want to do is get out. Or having one of your arch enemies sit in their section. Or something so ridiculous that you may think a person was crazy for worrying about it at all. But they all center around waiting tables, and all servers have had one.

I haven’t had a waitressing nightmare since I’ve started this new job at the sushi bar. Let’s start with that. I’ve been at the restaurant I work at now for a little over a year, and honestly, as far as serving jobs go, I don’t mind it one bit. It’s a good job. When we’re busy, I make better money than I have anywhere else with an apron on. Mainly though, the reason I like working at this place is because everyone is funny (that is important) and every last one of us is treated as an equal, whether it’s the owners, the dishwashers, the sushi rollers, the servers. We’re all on the same level and we all respect one another. We work together as one complete team. This is by far, the best staff I have ever had a privilege of being a part of.

As I said, I haven’t had a waitressing nightmare since I started working at this place, but last night I did. However, it wasn’t actually about the sushi bar. I dreamt in all my horror that I had to pick up shifts at the Irish pub I used to work at.

We’ve been slow at work, so picking up shifts at another restaurant is not that far off from reality. However, given that I am so busy as it is, adding another job seems like a death sentence. Regardless, I may end up having to do it. Trying to juggle two jobs, school, and all the other things I’m trying to learn and accomplish would be adding a lot, but may be a necessity in order to afford the high cost that comes with living.

Also, I don’t want to be a waitress forever, but living in Vermont as part of a younger generation limits my work options drastically. There are no jobs. Half the servers I’ve worked with over the years actually have degrees, but can’t use them. Southern Vermont doesn’t have a bustling city-like center that provides ample business opportunities or cutting edge jobs or anything of the sort. With an economy heavily dependent on seasonal tourists, your best bet is to jump into the service industry and hope that people come from outside states.

So there I was, dreaming of the nightmare that was one of my previous jobs. I had to pick up shifts at the Irish joint and all the employees there were crazy and pissed off all the time and it was terrible. (And oddly, I was being forced to have that surgery that Asians have to open their eyes more…?) Anyway, I woke up completely relieved that I do in fact, have my slow job surrounded by the perfect coworkers, because when all is said and done, that’s what counts.

After having worked with these people, I cannot imagine working at another restaurant. I can’t believe I lasted at other restaurants at all. I don’t walk on eggshells with these people, wondering if one wrong word is going to turn them miserable. No one yells about anything or at anyone or even really responds negatively for any matter. They have become some of my best friends and they are the only reason that makes strapping an apron on worth it.

About a year and a half ago, I worked at a casual fine dining joint out by another ski mountain, Okemo. This place was a real-life nightmare. I literally chose to drive to hell three nights a week. I hated it. It made my blood sour. I didn’t like the way it was run. I hated half the clientele. I hated the fact that the tips were pooled, and sometimes unfairly. But most of all, the head chef was one of the most bipolar people I had ever met. As soon as I walked in, my body would go tense, and for the whole shift that I was there, I would be waiting for the inevitable moment where he would lose his cool and scream about something at whoever was standing in front of him, whether it was your fault or not. I eventually walked out (a dream of many a server at many a restaurant) when they told me I would be splitting my tips evenly with someone making salads in the kitchen. It was the worst job I ever had. Although, it’s not a bad restaurant to eat in. The food’s actually really, really good. They use almost all local products, and they have a damn fine drink menu. The place was just not my cup of tea, if you will, as far as jobs go, and it came down heavily to the work environment.

And before that, was the Irish pub that I spent five years working at, the job that is so instilled in my brain that it still gives me nightmares even after having not been there for two years. To say that I didn’t have fun on the occasion at this place would be a lie. I did have fun. I met some great people. (Not to mention the fact, that in the winter, they employ a shit ton of college students from out of the country, so it became a seasonal lazy susan of boyfriends for me.) However, there were people that worked there that I hated working with. The moody, the irrational, the completely unwarranted bitchiness that plagues many a restaurant– or any job really, for that matter. The job itself was different depending on who was scheduled with me, and so it began a roller coaster of ups and downs during the week. Put simply, it began to literally mess with my mind. Rumors began flying around that the manager I had worked under for the five years was leaving and being replaced, and I knew if he went, I was definitely leaving too. The day I found out for certain he was in fact jetting to manage another spot, I knew that was it for me. I knew without him there to help keep my sanity, I would end up losing my mind and turning into exactly the kind of coworker I hated. So I quit, too. (Luckily, he frequents where I work now often, so we still get to laugh together.)

Cut to last summer and my friend Kyle called me and said she knew of a great place to work- The Sushi Bar. I was hesitant to take it. Honestly, I didn’t want to, I was trying at the time to get out of working nights, and I had just been offered a 6 day-a-week 9-5 waitressing job a little closer to where I live. However, I eventually took the job at the “soosh” (my affectionate nickname for it) out of stubbornness. My boyfriend was bitching about money and so I pretty much said “fine, I’ll be miserable working every night again! Watch!”

It was unintentionally the best decision I ever made, because now I have the best job I ever had and some of the best friends I have ever had. And it’s because of the people I work with. I never dread going to work. Generally, I actually look forward to it.

A couple weeks ago, a lady that paints henna on tourists’ arms and bellies stopped in for a glass of water as it was exceptionally hot out. She sat down for a minute, smiled and then said “There is an amazing energy coming off this place. I look over and everyone just seems so… happy.”  And it’s because, for the most part we are simply that: happy.

As stated before, I do not want to be a waitress for my whole life. It is a tedious, emotionally stressful, and for the most part, unrewarding job. I do not want to work in the restaurant business at all, to be honest, but if I have to, I hope that I can put my current coworkers/friends in my pocket and take them wherever I go. A business is only as good as the people that keep it running, and I work with some of the best people I’ve ever met. So even though it’s not my dream job, it will totally do for now because the people I work with not only make my job less painful, but remind me every day that I will one day have my dream job.  They lift me up, rather than bring me down, and that is not just a necessity of coworkers, but also of a group that has come to feel like family.

Restaurant jobs are disposable. I should know as I’ve been through many. But, this job is not. Not because I waitress. No, it’s all because of the people I am honored to work with, and although, I’m going to eventually dispose of this restaurant job like I have every other, I will not dispose of any single one of these friends I work with.

Photo: Ali Kaukas

One day, when I spend my mornings writing and am actually able to call it my job, some of the first people I hope to celebrate with are the Sushi Bar crew. Until then, I’ll go to my current not-such-a-dream job knowing that hey, it could be a lot worse.

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