How I Started as a Server

My very first job was washing dishes in a small cafe in my home town in Australia. I was 13 and was more excited about having a job and not the cash I was going to make.

At school, I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could walk to the cafe and work my 3rd ever shift. I arrive with a big smile, greet everyone then put my apron and gloves on and head to my station.

About 2 hours into my shift the owner walks in and calls me over.

“Michael walked out on us, do you think you could go out there and serve tables?”

To this day I still have no idea why I said “yes”, was it because I didn’t want to disappoint the boss? Was I just delirious from having a ton of fun washing dishes that I was caught off guard? or was I adventurous and wanted to give this serving tables gig a try? Who knows? because I don’t.

My qualifications:

  • Currently studying…. grade 8 (partially educated)
  • Years of hanging out with friends (social skills)
  • First-year internship as a teenager (committed to learning)
  • Own a bicycle (a form of “reliable” transport)
  • I eat food and drink beverages (product knowledge)

Two couples in their 50’s walk-in chatting up a storm among themselves and they go and sit at one of “my” tables and one of them is playing on to chill. Standing out near the back door spying on them from around the corner I let them settle in with my notepad in one hand and my pen in the other.

It’s showtime!

I walk out head held high and a smile on my face and when I went to say hello my voice went to a whisper.

Reality just kicked in.

I was terrified because I had absolutely no idea what it was I was doing. I pretended that I needed to clear my throat which no doubt they knew was a mask for my nervousness, but managed to get out a greeting.

“What kind of juices do you have?” Uhhhh let me check.

“What is your soup of the day?” Uhhhh let me check.

“Do you have beer?” Yes….. I think….. Uhhhh let me check

Pretty sure I went red as a beet after the 5th walk away and come back information hunt, but it turns out they were just messing around with me on the last few questions. I explained to them that they were the first table I’ve ever served and there was not one surprised face.

When all was done the owner gave them their bill, they all put their cash on the table and began to leave. I collected the money right away (because I didn’t want to lose anything) and took it back to the owner at the register, but wait there’s $5 extra in there, that can’t be right.

Now if you weren’t aware Australia is not a tipping culture so to have even the smallest of coins left over the total of a bill is an uncommon thing (there are a few exceptions like casinos, hotels, certain restaurants, etc.).

I caught them before they exited the cafe and tried to give them the $5 back because obviously, they must have added up incorrectly when combining the cash.

“That’s a tip for you, thanks and have a nice day”

I just got given $5 on top of my wage for orchestrating an absolute nightmare of an experience for two lovely couples? Ridiculous!

Luckily that was the only table I had to serve for the afternoon and it got me thinking. I can get paid to talk and joke to people and all I have to do is bring them a meal and some drinks. That’s so easy!

But there’s a bit more to it than that, and so it began.

Thanks for reading. Have a rocking day.