Blogs I’ve read lately have the writers explaining what their first job was, for some reason. So I thought I’d join in. I was a waiter, though my contract read ‘Restaurant Assistant’. Taking food orders, serving, tidying up, all that bunk. I got £3.20 an hour. I don’t think it was worth it.
And the hours, dear lord, the hours. Morning was 7-11, evening 6-11. Doesn’t sound like much, but working those shifts at a weekend when you’re 18 ain’t no joke. At that age you’re literally forced to go drinking at the weekends. By the time I finished work, got changed, and actually made it to a pub, I’d be lucky to have half an hour before last orders. So I’d have to go to clubs while sober. Which is literally the worst thing to ever happen to anyone. And then, of course, comes the deadly game of catch-up. Trying to drink the equivalent of what your friends have had in a third of the time, as if all that matters is the volume and not the time-scale. Combined with a fatigue from an early start that morning, this often led to the catch-up becoming the ‘way-exceed their level of drunkenness’ game. So there were nights of mostly sobriety, and nights of gibbering confusion. And often a 7am start the next morning. The younger me must’ve been made of hardy stuff to deal with that.
My memories of the job itself are few. I know that I turned 18 while working there, but the details are vague. I remember getting a massive burn on my arm from cleaning a coffee machine taller than me. I recall how the chefs would find reason for a particular waitress to stand near the hot plate, as the light from it made her skirt transparent. The hotel took their chances with employment law, sometimes getting their staff to work shifts much longer than they should. I did a 19 hour one once, finishing at 11am and pretty much sleeping ‘til the next morning. All I really remember was that I fell asleep on the bus home, waking up in a state of confusion and thinking I was utterly lost. Then remembering that the terminus was two stops past my usual, and I was five minutes from home.
When early starts followed late finishes, I would sometimes get a free room in the hotel. Which sounds better than it was. You weren’t allowed to go drinking after a shift if you were staying, and there was little else to do. So I’d get a drink (which I’d still have to pay for), head up to my room. check out the free previews of the…adult shows, then go to sleep.
The restaurant had three bosses, two of which were bunnets. One, a women type, her life was the job. She would show you the exact optimal posture for mopping a floor. Because any slight deviation would result in less than ultimate cleanliness. Sad. She also employed the motivational strategy of criticising you in front of customers, which was always pleasant. The night that I found out that the only good boss was leaving, I quit too, that same night, with a hastily-scribbled note on the back of a receipt. Classy.