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Tales from the tableside

Before I became a reporter, I spent most of my waking hours working as a server at local restaurants.

I often woke up early to work a breakfast shift only to later change into a different uniform and work the dinner shift the same day, usually not leaving until long after the last bar patron had stumbled out the door.

I really enjoyed my time as a server, and I wouldn’t change a thing if given the chance to do it over again. That being said, I feel many people who haven’t worked as a server don’t quite understand the daily struggles of a waiter or waitress.

For starters, we, too, carry our work home with us. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. yelling about a Caesar salad. Servers are plagued by nightmares that we’ve forgotten about a table, our section is full of clowns or it’s a slammed Friday night and the kitchen has run out of every type of food except for oyster crackers.

Another thing is that for some reason customers seem to think their server has anything to do with the cooking of their food. I’ve had grown men explain to me that I wasn’t getting a tip because their potato was cold even after I offered to have it remade. It’s very hard to hold in the urge to tell someone that you, in fact, did not wander into the kitchen mid-shift to personally bake their potato.

Servers’ days are full of little questions that are both hilarious and frustrating. What’s the weather like for outdoor seating? Ma’am, you came in from the outside. I’ve been here since 8 a.m. slicing lemons. I don’t even remember what day it is.

Many young men and women have gotten angry at me because I wouldn’t serve them alcohol after they couldn’t produce a valid ID. If you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough to remember to take your ID with you to a restaurant. Welcome to adulthood responsibilities.

Another common misconception is that servers make minimum wage in addition to tips. I’ll agree that the tipping system in the eastern U.S. is a little flawed, but please be aware that your server likely doesn’t make more than $2.13 an hour, which usually equates to $0.00 on their paycheck after taxes. Your server should strive to give you the best service possible. Please tip them.

I’ll never forget one night when I was waiting on a big table with several couples. One of the women at the table had just finished telling me about a $1,000 dinner she, her husband and another couple had shared in New York.

The same woman had the audacity to later walk up to me and ask me if I’d been left enough tips that night to buy her husband a top shelf shot of tequila. I wonder how much tequila $1,000 can buy.

Battle scars aside, I loved being a server. Meeting new people has always been something that makes me incredibly happy, and servers get to meet new people every day. I love hearing about where people are from, what brings them to town and helping others to pick the perfect meal for dinner.

Although waiting tables comes with its struggles, you meet some amazing people. It was always so wonderful to pop up to a table full of smiling, familiar faces and ask how everyone has been. A 50% employee discount never hurts, either.

Please be kind to your server. While servers have a responsibility to provide excellent service to every customer that walks in the door, it never hurts to flash an extra smile and be extra kind. I promise you that it will make someone’s day.

ALEXA MASSEY is a staff reporter for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Alexa.Massey@farmvilleherald.com.