I am back in the city that fits.
But this time I come to it with fourteen months of urban combat training under my belt.
Before San Francisco used to feel majestic and overwhelming. Now it feels majestic and ready to bend to my will.
Here'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.
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.
I arrived in San Francisco yesterday to see the apartment I'll be sharing for the first time. I'd seen a few photos, but had never taken a tour of my new home.
Um, it's awesome. It's also enormous. And Beth is in it, so rawk.
Perhaps the very best thing of all? THERE IS A YAAAAAARD. (You must read that like Oprah says, "You get a caaaaarrrrr!" for the full effect.)
Beth seemed nonplussed. She shrugged. "I never go out there. I'm not outdoorsy."
In New York City I had a single window that opened just a crack. Now I have space! And grass! A place to lie down and sun, hell, maybe even in January.
Well, I don't necessarily consider myself outdoorsy either, but you better bet your ass that yard and I are going to be going steady. I mean, it's an open relationshiop, because we share the yard with the upstairs neighbors, but did I mention?
Your hair is so fucked up, white people in the Mission District. I love it. But your hair is seriously fucked up.
It's matted and bedheady and wild, but in a super cool way that I could never replicate if I tried. You and your hair don't give a fuck. You are far too into reading your friend's new manuscript or teaching your adorable daughter how to play chess.
It looks like a bohemian village in this coffee shop at 24th and Mission Street. Pretty sure not a soul in this room is going to work today, or, at least, not a work that involves getting dressed and going to an office.
I am surrounded by worn hoodies and patched messenger bags and as hard as I try, I can't find a designer handbag in the entire place.
I am worried about these two. When I adopted them from a shelter on the Upper East Side I had no earthly idea that I might be moving 2500 miles away in under a year.
But here I am.
I mean, here we are.
I'm scared that one or both of them will bolt in the security line at the airport and take the next plane to Mexico. I'm afraid they'll get lost like Jack. I'm terrified that they will be traumatized by this move.
But besides taking them back to the pound, I have no choice but to move them. And besides, after ten months together, I am pretty darn attached to these rascals.
I hope they'll be okay.