In my continuing quest to produce powerful fiction, I’ve left my job of the last two years to return to the relatively predictable world of the restaurant industry. I have to focus on writing, and since our move back to Missouri I’ve struggled to do so effectively. It’s not entirely due to the job I’ve held, but that has been a big part. Meanwhile, there’s a great locally owned place half the distance from home and the general manager is a pal. Husband and I have been loyal customers over the years so when things came together and I was given the opportunity to return to waitressing/bartending/managing I felt it was a risk I had to take. It should be more reliably “part-time” than the other gig, and certainly more direct in its stressors.
When you consider I’m a person with occasional balance, vision and cognitive issues, the restaurant is definitely more of a physical challenge. I say “occasional” because though I am currently in remission for my Multiple Sclerosis, the disease’s ambiguity guarantees there are no guarantees. And that’s more than half the reason I’ve jumped at this chance. I have to stay active. I have to continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone and stay strong and mobile. I have to force my brain to function efficiently in high-energy situations. It is my belief—and some MSers may disagree—that if/when I stop pushing to continue these practices I will be more likely to face a relapse. Or, should I have a relapse triggered by who-knows-what it will be more difficult to recover and regain my independence and my physical and mental activities. My big episode in 2010 not only led to my diagnosis, but also knocked me so far on my butt I still have not fully recovered. That’s no hyperbole and I never want to be that sick again. So while I may truly want nothing more than to curl up in the fetal position with the cats and watch re-runs of Criminal Minds, I’m going back to a gig that regularly requires its participants to go 6 hours or more without sitting down even to use a toilet. My feet and my back hurt, but my “step count” has increased dramatically!
Anyhoozle, part of my returned commitment to the biz also has me returning to that bane of the food server’s existence. I speak of the thing I’ve sworn off half a dozen times before in my restaurant career: Sunday Brunch.
I’m being a hypocrite here, as are most waiters and waitresses when they bemoan the brunch shift. We ALL love a good Sunday brunch! Comfort food of all variety served in a cozy setting with satisfying coffee, a zippy Mimosa or spicy Bloody Mary. Crispy bacon. Something bloated with carbohydrates and demanding syrup…. What’s not to love*w?
So on the way to my first Return-To-Sunday-Brunch shift, it occurred to me how much—for me—it’s actually a perfect gig. I’m a morning person. I like to offer people a reason to smile right at the beginning of their day. I get a charge from the challenge of making a crabby person even slightly less crabby because I anticipated a request before it could be vocalized. I must say, almost everyone has a bit of crab in them on Sunday mornings, and not just guests. It won’t surprise you to hear me say most folks in the restaurant industry do not share my appreciation for “the morning after.” Restaurant people in both Front and Back of House work very hard all week. Most also work very hard to unwind at the end of the week. Which means Saturday nights are often a blur of drinks and gripes and vents and more drinks. To take away their Sunday morning recuperation draws ire, to say the least. But it’s also “the business.” And I think it’s entirely worth the effort.
Putting out a really good or even great Sunday Brunch elevates a restaurant’s standing in the community. It requires specific team chemistry. Getting up extra early and opening a place when most of town is still in their pajamas feels like being the first one up on Christmas morning (which I usually was). Some folks go to temple, mass, chapel or Sunday school. Waiters, chefs and dishwashers go to work. And in the hour(s) before the doors are opened, while gravy is whisked and coffee percolates, a restaurant is not unlike those religious ceremonies. People behave differently when they dine on a Sunday morning. I find they tend to be a little more thoughtful. Not thoughtful like tipping-30%-on-toast, but thoughtful like wow-I’m-here-and-my-temporary-problem-is-whether-they-serve-sweet-tea. I think Sunday morning dining out reminds folks we are fortunate to have First World Amenities. And that notion tends to soothe.
It’s also a thing in our culture, I think, that Sundays are sacred on a level different from other days. The Washington Post wrote an article stating almost one third of our American labor force works on weekends. Which means slightly more than two thirds of our hungry brethren do not. And everyone reading this knows what gets jammed into Saturdays and Sundays for the Mon-to-Fri worker. Housework, schoolwork, family work, kids’ sports, etcetera etcetera etcetera. I know for my Dad the weekends were more work than his jobby job, and he was in law enforcement! So sitting down to a plate of fantastic Eggs Benedict and a cup of coffee (neither of which you’ll have to wash afterward) can be a respite amidst a crazy obligation overload. People go alone, or with friemly. They go with an open heart or smarting from the events of their recent days. They go and sit and release their minds…a brief window of relaxation before Monday comes back and starts its weekly fisticuff. None of which is all that different from the church-going experience.
I am grateful to be back in the biz. The change to my schedule not only has me soaking my feet, but also writing again, and as always the writing’s the thing. If I can pull my weight and help make this gig a success I can keep more time dedicated to the third novel and ultimately getting both it and the second published. So please come see me some Sunday. The Chicken and Biscuits Benedict is not to be missed, but make sure you also try the pancakes. They’re delicious.