Member preview

The First Big Mistake

I woke up late. I didn’t get home until after 5:30, or maybe a little earlier, in the morning.

Yesterday was my second shift as A Real Server. I danced around and wore an outfit that felt more me than the bowling alley does — jorts and black tights and thick socks and leather black boots that are broken in and perfect, from my trip to Ireland with Sister. That and the standard bowling t-shirt, and some make up. I felt like myself. I ignored the man on the street that, when I got out of my car, gazed at me and muttered then clearly said, Nice view.

The first half of the shift I was peppy; the bartenders are two people I feel I can understand and that radiate some kind of warmth that makes me feel safe enough to be myself. The other people I work with make me more cautious, I pay attention to what they do; I try to imitate; I try to make sure my questions are fully logical before I ask them and do my best to memorize the answers they tell me.

Serving isn’t hard. I push some buttons on an ipad and try not to spill the lemon drop martini when I walk up the steps; I roll silverware in napkins and fill then pour out ice buckets into several containers. I walk with plates of food.

Serving isn’t hard, but navigating and understanding a new culture is. There are layers to this alley, like anything. My first assessment was the bro’ed out nature: everyone wears sneakers, exclusively. The jeans or jorts or khaki cargo shorts people wear are practical more than fashionable. Everyone can knowledgeably talk about football. We are an Upscale Bowling Alley and we are also A Sports Bar. These are things I don’t really understand and have spent the majority of my life attempting to avoid.

My next assessment was that This Is High School, which may be consistent with the first. That the two oldest employees are married, largely ignored by literally every other staff member, and laughed about and sneered at behind their backs. Pariahs! I am conscious about interacting with them the same way I do anyone else. I am conscious to not break the balance of seeming Too Anything except little and friendly. So far all I’ve been told about myself and my personality are, Has anyone told you you look like Sarah yet? She was short with short hair, too, but she was a bitch. You’re not a bitch, though.

K. Cool.

Yesterday I had a four lane party for two hours. I ran them their drinks, talked with the attendees, greeted everyone as they showed up. I bused the tables, brought out the cake, and learned a few names. My prizes for such behavior were two-fold: 1) the ego-crush and real life server experience of the person who was friendliest through the night and had a $55 tab deciding to tip zero dollars; 2) the party ended, a different employee had rang in the “contract” part of the food, and I rang them out. Totally normal, except 45 minutes later when the GM pulled me aside to tell me that Only Managers check out parties because we add gratuity into the bill. No gratuity was added to this bill. A $600+ party didn’t tip because I didn’t know the Party Process, which equated to everyone serving getting less pay at the end of the night (a fortunate and unfortunate result of us pooling and splitting tips between servers and bartenders).

I didn’t get scolded, and I didn’t get soothed. I was told the fact in about 10 seconds and then went back to work like a pup with my tail between my legs. Two hours-ish later a bartender said, You got really quiet, and I told him what happened. Again, no scolding and no soothing, just a Well, the bowling alley got paid. We didn’t.

We get $4 an hour (or I do, maybe seniority plays in for others) and split tips as many ways as there are people working. Training consists of following another server around and asking questions. My GM is unapproachable and difficult to read.

I’m 30 years old working in a bowling alley, getting my pride and my paycheck hurt because a) I decided to make a life change, and b) (this is defensive me speaking here:) I didn’t get trained in a way that actually taught me how to effectively do my job.

I want to go on this excessive rant about how management is terrible and training is terrible and the service industry makes me feel like the entire establishment thinks I’m only capable of picking up and setting down plates and glasses. I won’t, though. I’m not that interested in the rant and I accept that this is a path I went out of my way to jump on to and that while I fucking hate that implicit condescension that my job makes me sometimes feel, I still feel okay with the choices I’ve been making. And I still mostly like it.

Maybe in another post I’ll talk about why I came home at 5:30. Maybe I won’t.