Within the first few minutes of starting my job this past summer, one of my coworkers introduced herself to me as a “psycho bitch.” I was given a uniform, which consisted of non-slip shoes, a baggy v-neck shirt sporting the restaurant’s logo, a name tag and suspenders that are probably worse than any you could picture.
Instead of building my resume with relevant or impressive work experience, I have spent my summers working as a hostess. The pros of it are meeting interesting people, earning tips and receiving free milkshakes, and the cons are the aforementioned uniform, angry customers and gross starting times.
This past summer, I worked in a diner. The majority of the customers were above 70 years old, and the place was decorated with framed pictures of bears covering the walls. There is no location in the seating area where at least one set of bear eyes aren’t fixed on you.
The seating was primarily made up of booths being held together with duct tape, and right next to the cash register there is a jukebox that plays a variety of songs, including the diner’s theme song at least six times per shift. The song is now blocked from my memory, probably only to resurface as the overplay to the montage of my life, as it flashes before my eyes moments before I die. I weep for that moment.
Everyday at work, my hair had to be worn in a bun, and my ankles weren’t allowed to show, something I was criticized for many times during my short-lived stint there. I have no idea who was benefitting from the look, or how it possibly improved anything about customer eating experiences.
On the job, I would serve drinks, seat customers, manage take-out orders, work the cash register, bus tables, listen to my colleagues talk about their relationship problems, check their noses for boogers upon request and hold conversations with anyone who spoke to me by saying “Mhm” a lot, or the occasional “Oh wow.”
In desperation, at the beginning of the summer I had applied to many jobs, so I had multiple options choosing where to work. None of them were exceptionally good, but I had options.
Because my astrological sign tells me I am indecisive, I asked all my friends what I should do. There was a strong consensus against working at the diner. It was a kind of thing that did not plead for an explanation. They would just shake their heads and say, “Don’t do that.” Maybe it was good advice.
If I had to go back and choose again, I would still ignore them. Not because I made good money, enjoyed my time there or learned a lot. Sometimes you just need to make the choice that puts you out of your comfort zone. I may be better off had I worked somewhere else, but would I have gotten scolded by the entire model train club? Or have a custom t-shirt that a customer made for me? Or learned the difference between a malt and a milkshake? Probably not.
I don’t know if I would have it any other way, because I now have those experiences branded into my brain and diary — which will never leave no matter how hard I try.
I went with the option that felt outside my comfort zone, and it was this same decision making that brought me to Lehigh. I feel that my most memorable experiences have been things which I was uncomfortable with doing from the beginning.
Sometimes, it’s good to follow the advice of others, but sometimes you just have to choose for yourself. If you make a mistake, so be it. If I had followed the advice of my friends, I probably would not be at Lehigh today.
In my 19 years, I feel as though I don’t have a lot of advice to give. What I have learned, however, is that there is a lot more behind-the-scenes work that happens when you order your waffles. Tip your servers, and be kind to those you come across. Don’t be the reason for spit in your coffee — hypothetically speaking, of course.
Clare Fonstein is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]