Because I left New York City without a job lined up in San Francisco, my plan was to find something seasonal, a temporary retail position, to bring in a small amount of money while I secure a position (or start a business, who knows!?) in my field.
So, the day after I arrived in the great state of California, I grabbed two trusty pens, an empty folder, strapped on a smile and hit up the Union Square area looking for a job spraying perfume on unsuspecting shoppers, wrapping gifts for those too busy to do so or even ringing a Salvation Army bell. I knew, though, that I wanted to be honest with my potential employers about the reality of my situation: I will only be able to work for a short period of time, and when I find something full-time, I'll have to quit.
Luckily, lots of retail stores were hiring for seasonal work only. Hooray! The bad part was that they were all coporate stores like Gap or Bed, Bath and Beyond who wanted me to go home, fill out an application online and wait. A few stores gave me paper applications and one place even scheduled an interview with me for Monday, but mostly the response I got was, "We are always taking applications."
I know what that means. That means, "I'm busy and don't have time to find out for you!!" Which is understandable, but not the answer to my question of, "Are you hiring for seasonal work?"
Slightly frustrated, and kinda tired from having to wait in long mall lines to speak to anyone about employment, I found myself in front of a slick-looking pizzeria with long red lacquered communal tables and sparkly lights dangling from the ceiling. I also saw three foot high crispy breadsticks jutting from glassware at the bar and let my cravings carry me inside.
I sat at the bar. I wasn't really hungry after a cheap and filling Latin American breakfast in the Mission, but a glass of wine sounded damned near necessary, so I asked about potential specials. Turns out it was happy hour, and all their tap wines were just $5. Beers like Stella Artois and Trumer Pils were only $3. After 14 months of $8 beers and $12 wines in Manhattan, I was thrilled.
I ordered a pinot gris that was buttery and just the thing.
On a lark, I asked the bartender if they were hiring for seasonal work. Her eyes told me, "Dear God, yes we are," and before I knew it I was having a job interview with the General Manager while sipping my glass of white. Half an hour later, the job was mine.
I am now working at a well-reviewed restaurant as a food runner. This means I am, basically, a server's assistant. Except, I'm all the servers' assistant. It could not be a better gig. I don't have the stress of pleasing European travelers and lunching ladies with shopping bags blocking the aisles, but I do get to be a whole staff's right hand lady, all the while taking a cut of the earnings. Tip pool, baby! This is a way better part-time job than folding sweaters at Zara. Servers in SF get minimum wage, almost $10 an hour, plus tips. And from what I hear, the tips ain't shabby.
So, seven years after hanging up my apron, I strapped one on last night for a six-hour kitchen shift that involved teetering trays, unobtrusive table clearing, jokes with the chef and a near fall right in front of the coffee station.
Turns out waiting tables is just like riding a bike, you are as good as you were when you last did it. And damned if I wasn't on fucking point. I memorized the convoluted table numbers in just a couple of hours and was, if I do say so myself, kicking ass in the hustling department.
It's exhilarating to be back. I've sometimes missed restaurant work--the camaraderie, the rush you get when the swell of people becomes almost too much, the sheer physicality of it. Nothing quite makes you feel alive like aching feet and a gnawing hunger from watching melting cheese pies leave the kitchen and your last meal was many hours ago.
I'm back. For now. And so far, so good.