Unemployed no more am I. Allergic to early mornings no more am I. Listless and lethargic no more am I as coffee and motivation pulses through my veins. That’s right, today is my second official day of work after being unemployed (for good reason – to travel!) for about four months. But back into my profession I go, a hardy and impenetrable hospitality worker. I say impenetrable because I have worked in cafes/restaurants since before I was legally allowed to work and I’ve come to learn the tricks of the trade (the trick is: don’t let the shitty customers get to you). In fact, I would say that my introduction to hospitality began when I was about 7.
My parents owned the only cinema in our small town: a single-screen, red-brick, green-carpet, pizza-serving establishment that became my second home. It was natural for me to want to copy my parents and sell tickets to the elderly local customers, shakily deliver coffees to their tables and, my favourite task of all, unrope the chain blocking the stairs to the screen and collect the tickets, with a smile for every single customer. I was born to be a hospitality worker. After a brief stint at running my own knick knack store next to the main counter, selling incense and origami made by yours truly, I decided that it was time to seek another establishment. At 14, I became a dish-pig/waitress/cleaner at a bustling vegetarian restaurant just minutes away from the cinema. Work was fun – I went there after school, leisurely cleaned the juice machines and dishes, and flirted unashamedly with a fellow worker who I ended up liking for years. Time passed quickly. I moved to a town half an hour away and went to uni. I worked in an Indian cafe, serving food from behind a bain marie. There’s nothing that clogs the pores more than standing directly in a steady stream of steam loaded with the oil from pappadums and koftas! I moved to Melbourne, and found more jobs in…hospitality. You guessed it. Another vegetarian café, another bain marie, another busy café, more customers, more dishes, more “Here’s your change” and “I’m so sorry, I’ll get the barista to make another one” and “Our specials are on the blackboard” and “Yes, sir, they’re just making it now!” and monotony and sweat and watching the comatose clock drag itself through the hours.
I don’t like working in hospitality. I’d rather be a freelance writer, or journalist, or novelist, or artist, or maybe I’d like to get paid for simply doing my thang. But that ain’t gonna happen. So here I sit, at 8:30 in the morning (one of the hours that are still “free time” in my schedule) on what promises to be a hot day in Glasgow – the high is only 27 degrees, a pleasant temperature, but I can predict that 90% of my customers will start their order with “It’s hot out there!”. Oh you Scots. But for all the stress and sweat and rushing about I will do today, and tomorrow, and on the weekend, and six days a week for the next 6 months, I can at least know that I’m getting paid the minimum wage and slowly, achingly, this will build up into enough to eventually allow me to send my boss an “I quit” text message, throw away my stinky work clothes with gleeful vengeance, pack my backpack and don my hiking boots, and move on to the next destination that is waiting for me…and the next café.
I should probably finish my degree.