I didn't go back to waitressing until I was 20. I was recently divorced with a 2 year old and a baby. I worked odd jobs, but decided I needed to do something different because making $7 an hour doing overnight data entry was just not going to work for me. The money sucked as much as the hours sucked. I didn't have many options, because in case you didn't pick up on the whole "20 year old single mom with 2 kids" thing, college wasn't an option for me. The only marketable skills I had were being outgoing and I was young and could work long, shitty hours because my body could handle it. I took my ass down to the Olive Garden and soon enough I was making triple the money I was before in a fraction of the hours. I stayed there for a year and when I was 21, they paid for me to get my bartender license. I stayed a couple of months after that but then decided to move to a different establishment. I got a job tending bar at a new Irish bar a couple of blocks from the Olive Garden. The hours were later but the money was better. That was the only job in my entire life I was ever fired from.
I ended up getting another job at a newly-opened microbrew in the same town. I worked my ass off there and was there for several years. I mainly served on the floor, but occasionally did cocktailing and bartending. I earned the very lofty title of "lead server", a title a few of us shared. All it meant was we got to train new staff and we got $8 worth of food at the end of our shift after we were cut last and were ultimately responsible for making sure everyone did their closing sidework and required 50 folded napkins. Anyone that has ever worked in foodservice will tell you, it is a high drama and bullshit-laden job, but this job was good to me. It allowed me to feed my girls and keep a roof over their heads. I'd be lying if I said I never went shopping for winter boots for them in the elementary school's lost and found, but they had clothes on their backs, toys and books in their bedroom, and food in their bellies, even if it was mostly macaroni and whatever food I could box up and sneak out from banquets I was put on. I got to wait on some cool people, too. One time, my best friend and I got to work a super-top-secret banquet that ended up being a fundraiser for some local guy that had our senator and Hillary Clinton there. The cool part of that was getting to hang out with Secret Service guys. It was a little awkward because one of the coordinators was a girl I went to high school with, and as we were introduced to the team, I was very aware of the fact that there she was heading up fundraisers that required the server staff be cleared by the Secret Service and there I was, hugely pregnant with my third child at 26, making Bloody Marys for her guests. I also got to wait on Dave Coulier one night, and it took everything in me to not punch him in the face while simultaneously thanking him for being the jackass behind Jagged Little Pill, the album that was as close to a religious experience I had for years. There was a lot of crazy at that job, mainly because I brought a lot of the crazy, but there was good too. I quit that job in spectacular fashion one Friday night after a fight with a manager. I transferred all my checks in the middle of dinner rush, told my manager to go fuck himself and left out the front door with both of my middle fingers flying high above my head. I was married then, and didn't rely on that job to literally keep my kids from being hungry and homeless as I once did. If any of you are ever in the position to quit a job like that, I highly recommend it. It was fucking epic.
After I quit that job, I became pregnant with my Bean and had her shortly after we all moved back to my grandmother's house we bought after she died in my hometown. I was fortunate enough to stay home with them and do the whole mom thing. I know there will always be opinions on whether it's better for women to be at home or work when their kids are small and I have no interest in having a dog in that fight. I am simply saying that for me, I loved it. I did a lot of growing and healing over those years, and I am a better person for having spent those years the way I did. I think I was able to learn more from my children during that time than I was able to teach them anything.
I got a very wild hair up my ass last fall and ended up going back to serving. I worked weekends at a restaurant here in town, occasionally picking up a few shifts tending bar. I had big plans. I was going to put all the money I made away and we were going to pretend like it didn't exist. I'd be able to use that money to help pay for kids' educations, weddings, whatever. So for months, I'd leave my house every Saturday and Sunday and work. I'd hopefully drag my ass in the door before Midge and Bean went to bed. Most nights I did, but I can assure you it was a much more physically painful experience than it was ten years ago. I've blown out my knee and I had an incomplete rupture of my plantar fascia a few years ago that never healed correctly and now I have to wear prescription orthotics like I'm freaking 60. I hobble, I drag, I hurt. If I ended up closing the bar and getting my ass to bed at 3 in the morning, I hurt like I've been on a three-day bender for at least 2 days. That young and resilient body that used to be able to do that without missing a step is long gone, my friends. Middle age has crept up and bit me in the ass. Not only did this job put a crimp in my gait, it put a crimp in my time. I missed the first Christmas Eve with my family for the first time in 36 years this last year. I worked New Year's Eve. On Easter, while my husband was at my aunt's with my kids hanging out with my family and eating prime rib, I was busy trying to not flip my shit at a 6 year old evil princess that decided to throw a fork at me because I didn't bring her chocolate fucking milk even though her dad told me not to. I worked on the anniversary of the day my husband adopted Red and Banana. I worked on Father's Day. Now I know you're thinking that it'll all not matter in the end because I'll have this pile of money that I've worked so hard for but guess what? That pile of money is nowhere near as big as I thought it would be. I'm like the Notorious B.I.G. in a fucking black apron and a ponytail. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems.
So I quit a few weeks ago. I talked it over with my kids and my husband and it turns out these people I married and gave birth to miss me when I'm gone. Most teenagers are more than happy to have their parents gone and out of the house but mine are apparently not most teenagers. I quit the day before Father's Day, quietly and with some decorum. There was no cursing, no fingers flying, quite the departure from the last job I quit. I came home that Sunday to a driveway full of cars. When I came into the house, it was empty. The dog didn't even greet me. I made my way to the back of the house and opened the door to the deck. All four of my girls plus a friend, my husband and even my dog turned to see what was going on and were so happy I was off earlier than they thought I'd be. They rearranged their seating around the fire, told me to sit and roasted me marshmallows.
Yesterday was the first Saturday in a long time I wasn't hustling to get my grocery shopping done in the morning, hurry into the shower and leave for work by 3:30 in the afternoon. I didn't do anything huge. Red spent the day with her girlfriend and daughter, Banana drove up to Summerfest with her friends to see John Mayer, Bean and Midge spent the day running around the neighborhood with friends, and after I did my shopping at 2 in the afternoon, I hung out with my husband and we grilled dinner. It was perfect. I plan on doing more writing. Hopefully I will have more to write about now that I have more time to do things worth writing about. Stay tuned.