Capitalism: A Waitress’ Story

I began waiting tables with the best of intentions. It’s the same story for all of us: a “transition” job, it’s social, it affords a relatively lavish lifestyle, what with all the late nights and accepted alcoholism, but most importantly, it pays well for, let’s face it, very little skill.

I am a college graduate. I am a stellar example of the oh-so-familiar cliche: a fairly attractive (not stunning) woman, smart, middle-class, and the proud owner (yes, I mean owner) of a broke-ass, pointless, motherfuckin’ English degree and serious student loan debt.

I digress.

So as I transitioned to what would surely be the “next big thing,” I waited tables. Every day, I put on a little mascara and tried my best. Of course, with any restaurant, I started with the crappy shifts — lunches, Monday nights, etc. I made very little money but was, nevertheless, making a decent hourly wage. As people quit or got promoted or became more hated in the ruthless restaurant hierarchy and thus punished by lunch shifts, I filled the spots on better shifts and consistently got later cuts. I was making a little more money. I stopped drinking PBR, and started drinking craft beer. Nothing too fancy. But a little fancier than PBR.

After I had a good night, I’d have a few drinks and spring for a better dinner than I normally would have opted for. And the next day, maybe I’d go out to brunch if I was feeling so inclined, thank you very much.

I started recognizing the regulars and, at first, it made me feel cool. Like, “Hey, I know you. You know me. You and I come here to be seen so here we are. It’s nice to be known.” I’d shoot the shit with them. Hell, I’d even shoot the shit with new faces. They were my captive audience for 45 minutes and surely they had something of interest to say. And sometimes they did in fact have something interesting to say. Sometimes they would dazzle me with a pearl of wisdom. Sometimes I felt like they were actually listening to me.

I picked up a new hobby: photography. I decided I wanted to commit myself to an expensive, artsy-lookin’ DSLR camera. No, I had no experience but I’d figure it out. I worked harder and for longer hours, lusting after my creative endeavor.

As the months passed, as I became the best waitress at the restaurant, I stopped seeing faces and started wanting to go to brunch more often. Soon, I cared much less about pleasing people, about “creating an experience,” about chit-chatting and using this unique position as a platform to understand others. Soon, these people became nondescript, faceless, blobs who had no meaningful life experiences and had nothing of any significance to say. They merely had dollar signs in their eyes. I just knew who tipped well and who didn’t and fuck all those people who don’t leave 20%. I judged everyone. I did not care who walked through the doors of my restaurant as long as they tipped me. As long as I could get more, more, more.

I have always disdained capitalism and the avarice it promotes. I have always believed that greed wins, it just does, and how could we live in a country where money is more important than individuals and their well-being and happiness?

Shit.

Ideologically, I believe capitalism is flawed. I think we seriously need to reconsider it… how this economical system affects our current, environmental “human nature”; HOWEVER, I get it. I GET wanting more. Yeah, I have $35,000 in student loans for a worthless degree and I want to travel and take pictures and drink craft beers and be my own little, moderately-priced version of awesome. But that requires funds. When you have a house and car, you, naturally, want a boat and a ton of cocaine to do on that boat and that also requires funds. My want of more is on a lesser scale than the proverbial wolf of Wall Street but, perhaps, we’re not so different.

But it’s more than that… when you have more, you want more, of course. But I feel entitled to more. That’s the most despicable thing about all of this. I get tunnel-visioned and I simply can’t see how I don’t deserve better tips, a camera, brunch, a great boyfriend, and whatever else I’m feeling like the world owes me that today.  God, we’re all so fucking overworked, malnourished, and underloved OF COURSE WE FEEL LIKE WE DESERVE IT. If we’re not entitled to everything we want, then why are we making our lives so miserable?

I am unhappy with the person I’ve become over the past year of waiting tables full time. I miss people. I miss wanting to connect with people and feel like I’m living on the same planet as other humans. Maybe all those rich people feel like this too. And then it becomes more complicated because rich people get married and have babies and want to give their families everything so then they DO feel like they’re working for other people and living on the same planet but it’s only like 4 people that live in their house and the rest of us can fuck off. I don’t know. I’m just thinkin’ out loud.

I don’t have an answer. I just want to go on record, on this blog, that I am a super- liberal, feminist, relativist Millennial and I AM STARTING TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF THE GREEDY FAT CATS just slightly more than I did yesterday. But not those folks who don’t support gay marriage or abortions. I still don’t get them.

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