No One's

It wasn't until the dog got off the train at 16th Street that I realized he'd taken it by himself.

I saw him first at the 24th Street stop. I thought he was a rat. He's a tiny thing.

He was wearing a nice, new-looking collar, so when he boarded the train behind a young woman, I assumed he belonged to her. Then he began prancing up and down the aisles, balls proud and in tact, sniffing the feet of the passengers.

An older gentleman with a sour yellow shirt sat beaming at the small dog. He was obviously delighted by the pup's presence, and looked about the train car for faces of recognition, people who were as happy as he was about this small animal with free rein.

I wasn't going to be one of those people. 

I didn't pet the dog when it sniffed curiously at my shoe. I didn't smile back at the man in the sour yellow shirt, either. I wanted no part in the pet sitting that was being forced upon all of us in that train car.

Watch your dog. Use a leash.

The train halted. For the first time I noticed that the dog's nails were either curled and long or jagged and broken.

The doors slid open, and eight blocks away from where he boarded, the tiny dog looked out to the right, then out to the left, then trotted off the train alone.

Getting Trashy (No More Dump and Run)

Recycle, Compost, GarbageHere's a little something different about waiting tables in California versus Tennessee (the only place I was ever a server), besides the health care and minimum wage: by law restaurants have to not only recycle, but compost.

That means three different bins in the dish area: a black one, a blue one and a green one. Food scraps, paper products like beverage napkins, coffee grounds and other "organic" items go in the green bins, plastics and glass from wine bottles go in the blue, while very little, actually, goes in the black.

I'm in full support of this mandate. I used to stand at the enormous trash barrels at Outback Steakhouse and frown at all the wasted food and landfill fodder. It really made me sad. This arrangement feels a little less gratuitously wasteful.*

So, it's awesome that there are three bins.

But hoo boy, do three bins take a lot of extra precious time. 

You're in the weeds, and your table are so fucking mad at you, and you come into the kitchen with a complicated arm load of dirty table items, and you can either dump everything with a quickness into a single, massive tub then gingerly sling flatware into its proper stack and be on your way. 

Orrrr, you can get to the kitchen with the same complicated arm load of dirty table items and stand there trying to determine whether the paper liner will decompose or if that plastic will degrade, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to just dump and run.

But this is better, even though it is more difficult. And it's just different. Sooner than I know, it won't be.

*And for heaven's sake, the portion sizes at Outback Steakhouse contribute to a tremendous amount of food waste. Another plus for smaller portions than that of a trough. 

[photo credit]

Waiting Tables. We Meet Again.

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.

[photo credit]