Dish

Waiter on the brain

Like generations of restaurant employees before me, I am a victim of the Server Dream

Every server has it at least once. The Dream. You’re at work. Your
section’s full. Every table has menus, but no drinks. All your
co-workers are there, but they are oblivious to your predicament. Your feet
are glued to the floor, and both your customers and supervisor are yelling at
you. You find yourself wishing you had a firearm, if only to save the last
round for yourself. Waking up helps a little, but you know that in a few
hours there’s a decent chance that the Dream could become a reality. At
first I loved being a server. The flexible hours and constant jingle in my
pocket were a welcome change from the crappy warehouse and office jobs I had
subjected myself to before. The people were alright, and I wasn’t
busting a nut lifting boxes that weighed more than I did. Eventually, I even
got myself a stable of server groupies—regulars who would wait half an
hour just to sit in my section, or who would bring me Christmas presents and
cards. Unfortunately, they weren’t nubile young women, but middle-aged
couples. Still, they were pleasant to serve and tipped generously. About a
month after starting as a server, I had my first Dream. When I awoke, I lay
in bed for about 10 minutes trying to sort out my head. “Oh, I’m
in bed. Does this mean Table 34 doesn’t need that water?” Next
day, while I was sitting around waiting for my shift to start, I told a
couple of servers about the Dream. They just looked at each other and
laughed. I then learned that, just as every server I ever worked with
invariably breaks down in to tears or beats the living shit out of the cooler
door, everyone also has the Dream. Having it myself demonstrated an awareness
of the job, as well as the accompanying anxiety that veteran waiters feed
off. I was becoming one of them. As time wore on, the sheen of my new job
began to wear off. Waiting on tables isn’t dependent on any one skill.
There are hundreds of minor details to master: the menu, mixing drinks,
computer codes, shortcuts, hiding your real emotions, etc. Once you learn all
of these skills by rote, you can basically sleepwalk through your shift. And
sometimes I did. Amazingly, this newfound comfort in my job did nothing to
alleviate the frequency of the Dream. If anything, I was having it more and
more often. Almost monthly I would wake up in the middle of the night,
sleepwalking around the living room, topping up coffees and making change.
What the hell was going on? I wasn’t a snot-nosed rookie anymore; I was
a grizzled veteran. It was embarrassing. This job that now came so easily to
me when I was awake was consistently kicking my ass while I was asleep. What
did it mean? I didn’t know. And I still don’t. My serving days
are a few years behind me now. The constant smiling and small talk were
sucking away at my soul and I had to move on. It was okay while it lasted,
but I can’t see myself ever doing it again. I have new job-related
dreams; they’re usually stress-related and make sense to me. I guess I
can live with that. And my rubber tree will be better off without all that
caffeine. V

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