When I was 18, I worked at BD's Mongolian Barbecue, which is neither Mongolian nor barbecue (talk amongst yourselves). It is to date the worst job I've ever had.
In addition to refilling any number of sticky, smelly buffet meats so suburban parents and their gooey-handed children could shovel it in their faces until they felt the $14 all-you-can-eat price tag was stretched as tightly as the patent leather belts holding up their khakis, I also stood behind a round, metal grill and hacked said meat into bite-size, well-done pieces with two wooden sticks. For these miserable tasks I got paid a measly $6 an hour.
So naturally when a serving position opened up, I jumped on it, finally being old enough to legally transport booze the ten feet from bar to table. I anticipated hefty tips, fat paychecks, and after-work cocktails with co-workers, with whom I could commiserate about the 15-year-old busboy who kept trying to make out with me in the walk-in fridge.
Instead I quickly discovered my personality did not mesh with providing top-notch customer service to people who act like entitled asshats. Not only am I shy and easily annoyed, I'm also bad at faking any emotion, be it a perpetually welcoming smile or a desire to keep serving you after your screaming child has spilled two drinks and covered a ten-foot radius of floorspace around his seat with slobbery cheerios. Seriously - fuck that.
There was also the problem of the shift manager, a 30-something brunette who had worked there for nearly a decade (and as far as I know, still does) and who was obviously bitter about how her life had turned out. Every chance she got she was out back sucking on cigarettes, and I don't think I ever saw her smile unless it was some horribly forced ordeal intended only to earn tips.
Admittedly, my first shift as a server did not go well - I confused at least two cocktail orders, forgot about one table entirely, and could not hide my annoyance when cheerios kid started shredding tortillas and leaving them stuck to the table in slobbery strips. Eager to get the hell out of there, I was finishing up my side work filling salt and pepper shakers before going out to my car and screaming. I hoped to escape without saying anything to anyone.
But then the shift bitch approached holding two salt shakers, and a current of dread surged through my body.
"See this?" she said, holding the shaker I had just finished filling at eye level. "This is not full." Then she lifted the other, which she had presumably filled herself. "See this? This is full." She gestured at all of the tables in my section with a broad, sweeping motion. "Go back and do it again, and this time make sure they're full."
I was so shocked I couldn't do anything but numbly refill each (already full) shaker. Then I went to the bathroom and cried. And I didn't go back to work the next day, nor the day after that.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: