Six days ago I sat down and put my heart into a cover letter. Five days ago I got a response about the cool application. Three days ago I went to a job interview and today I had a successful trial shift. It ended with a friendly hug from the manager and a warm “welcome to the team”. No, I’m not planning to get into hospitality forever and I don’t want to spend most of my life begging for tips, but if I decide to do so, I want to do it good. So here’s a shout out for my fellow mates who still believe in good things despite singing along Dolly Parton…”working 9 to 5…”
In my not very long, but surely very exciting working life, I’ve been mostly thrown into the team on the first day without a lot of explaining how things work and so on. I will forever remember my first day at the hotel reception in Jurmala, Latvia. Jurmala is a place Latvians like to call a resort because it probably has the only beach in the country where, during the summer, the amount of non-Latvian speaking public invades the sandy coast so intensively that everyone else who still has some self-respect left, leaves for less crowded sites.
Russians, in particular, absolutely love the place and I happened to work in one of their most beloved hotels. Let’s put it like that – I barely knew how to construct a sentence in this great (no sarcasm, btw) language so you can imagine the amount of cold sweat running down my back when the phone rang for the first time. After a couple of weeks I learned to nod and smile if people are just talking with me about things I had the least clue, gradually collecting vocabulary broad enough to explain directions, breakfast times and reasons why isn’t the wifi working…again. My Russian teacher probably still doesn’t believe this story, though.
Working in a bar in London? Awesome! I’ve always wanted to be like, you know, the girl from Coyote Ugly, pouring drinks in hot guys’ mouths and dancing on the counter when it’s super-busy. That was probably a good attitude and drive to start my bartender’s “career”, but a huge shock on the first day followed. “Hi, you’re Edite? Cool. Please explain Edite the…things”. My manager asked the Japanese girl to vaguely describe how things work. “Here are the spirits, here are the beers, here are the lagers, ales….and this is the till. Well, it’s quite a mess, but you’ll get used to it. Bye!” Oh boy, I was terrified. As badass I thought I was, I had to admit that my reputation as a smart-drinker (aka “she barely drinks”/”edite, I’ve never see you drunk!”) didn’t pay off.
My first customers got beers in the glasses not fully topped, soda water instead of lemonade in their cocktails and responses like: “yeah sure you can have that cocktail, but can you explain me how to make it?” At the end of the day I counted £7 in tips from my pocket, which is an extensive amount at the bar I work. Till this day I can’t figure whether I just forgot to give the change or I just looked so miserable and confused, that people threw money on me trying to make me feel better. Well, that worked. After a couple of weeks I felt confident enough to boss around the newcomers. Hell yeah, Coyote Ugly style. Well, you remember the scene where the babe gets off other babe’s nerdy outfit.
Today I wore an apron for a real reason for the first time, tried to look professional while taking an order and washed dishes at speed that no one can complain about the usage of water and how the little polar bears in the far north die because of me. I only once bumped into the staircase ceiling with all my force, got made fun of by the chief and almost bursted into laughter after hearing a guy talking in an amazingly high-pitched voice. I laughed when it turned out to be a girl, though. It’s all good cause I tried and when you try, you fail. And more you try, more you fail. But the feeling when someone actually values your hard work is worth failing.
So, the conclusion: in the very over-hyped recent movie (alert: subjective opinion!) The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, the English teacher tells the nerdy guy, that if you find at least one friend on you first day of high school, you’ve done good. The same goes for the work. And I’ve always been lucky like that. Find someone to trust, someone to laugh with about the silly mistakes you do and to accompany you when hiding the evidence of some trouble-making from the supervisors. And later become this person to a newcomer. That’s how we should roll in this business. At least we don’t wear suits, earn money we don’t know how to spend and haven’t lost the taste of cheap wine in our mouths. The spring is coming. Make a change.