In all sincerity, I am not a dumb person. Absent-minded? Yup. Clumsy? Yes. Socially awkward? Definitely. But dumb? No. At least, I don't think I am. There are others out there who would definitely argue against that statement, though.
See, I had a really great job working at a popular hotel. I made decent money for the work, I enjoyed my coworkers, it was fun, and the hours were great. So it would only be appropriate and definitely not at all dumb that, on a whim, I decided to put in my two-weeks' notice without having another job lined up.
My reasoning for quitting my job is that I fancied myself a writer. An artist! Is an artist meant to slave away at a desk all day, checking in guests, listening to complaints about dirty sheets and not enough breakfast items? Hell no! I was meant to do something offbeat during the day and write and drink wine at night. I was meant to live an alternative lifestyle.
The "I just quit my job" high didn't last long, and I spent the next couple of weeks frantically scrambling for employment while my horrified live-in boyfriend looked on in amazement at my irresponsibility and impulsiveness. Things got a little tense in our relationship during this time, and rightly so, but I digress.
Thankfully, at the eleventh hour I was hired to be a hostess at a fairly new restaurant in my area that specialized in farm-to-table fare. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hostessing; however, being a hostess at a chain restaurant in Oklahoma does not pay the bills. My other job did pay the bills and then some. So, not only was this idea ridiculous for financial reasons, but restaurant employment and I have never fared well.
Previously, at 20 years old, I was a hostess at an upscale restaurant. The first night on the job, they showed me the table numbers and, because I seemed competent enough, the next day they left me to my own devices. Big mistake. I don't fault them — it's common sense to think that a college student could memorize table numbers fairly quickly. But I spent the entire shift mixing up sections, triple-seating servers, neglecting others. The following morning, I was told the head hostess received "multiple" complaints regarding my hostessing abilities.
A few days after that debacle, some disgruntled waitresses confronted me in understandable aggravation about my inability to correctly seat guests. I was embarrassed, but young enough to not give a shit. I eventually quit that job abruptly after spending the afternoon drunk on the clock and causing a shit storm of mistakes with the sections. (I had an extremely admirable work ethic, I know.)
My second hostessing job was about two years later at a Chili's. The end result was pretty much the same, sans booze (I grew up a little). I couldn't for the life of me memorize those table numbers. Girls who were years younger than I was couldn't believe what an old dumbfuck they had to train. It was all so humiliating, especially after my roommate told me she witnessed one of those girls drunkenly ask everybody at a party, "How hard is it to memorize fucking table numbers?!" So, I did the appropriate thing: lied to my manager and told them I had mono and could never come back.
Fast-forward to age 25, three years after my Chili's experience, diving back into the same deflating kiddie pool of hostessing. I left a cushy job I was great at to do something I sucked at. Like I said before: there is absolutely nothing wrong with hostessing for a living. But there is if you suck at it.
All of these little tidbits of information laid dormant in the back of my mind as I prepared for my first day on the job. When I was hired, it was emphasized that I would be head hostess. The big girl in charge! Most of my fellow hostesses were not yet in their twenties, so I suppose they thought a somewhat mature girl in her mid-twenties would be a good role model on how to run the show.
Despite the high hopes in the interview, the first day on the job I felt a sinking feeling of dread and panic. The words of GOB Bluth rang through my head: "I've made a huge mistake". Unfortunately, there was absolutely no going back now. I met with what the head manager of the restaurant and realized I was about three years older than she was. When she realized this, her face turned rose red; the only explanation for her obvious embarrassment was most likely a psychic sense that I was going to be a disaster.
The next couple of days at my new gig were spent food-tasting and menu-memorizing. The third day, I was out on the floor. By this time, I already knew this job wasn't right for me on any level whatsoever. The servers seemed nice enough, but I felt like the new kid in a group of people who had known each other their whole lives. Each of them seemed to have an extremely extroverted personality that yelped and squealed. I admire these traits in people; however, it made my social awkwardness stick out like a sore thumb.
The hostesses were a different story. When I walked up to the hostess stand for the first time, my bespectacled coworker didn't say one word to me. Seriously, not one word. Alright, I thought after I tried to introduce myself to no reciprocation. After a few hours of silence, she left and a guy who looked a couple of years older took over.
In lieu of silence, he spent the rest of the night expecting me to seat every guest who walked through the front door. And each time, I took them to the wrong table. Finally, in exasperation he yelled: "You've worked in restaurants before, right?!" All I could do was nod my head.
I wanted to scream that I knew I was an idiot for not understanding something so elementary. Not only was I really not grasping the very simple (supposedly) table-number layout, my personality was just not a good fit for the restaurant. Like I said before, all of the servers were upbeat, extremely extroverted people. They regularly hugged each other, put their elbows on each other's shoulders; at one point, I remember a few of them breaking into a "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" quartet.
My higher-ups' frustration was only the beginning of it. Everything went downhill real fast.
I encountered a redheaded server and could tell by her mannerisms that she was the kind of girl to come in and take charge. I've always envied girls like that because it is so opposite of my personality, but she was more than a little intimidating to me. By the time our interactions took place, I was so over everything that my face was permanently red from self-induced humiliation. At one point I didn't seat a table the right way and she let out a demon yell asking me what the hell I was doing.
Right after this scolding, my ex-boyfriend's drug-dealing old roommate came into the restaurant and said hi to me with the biggest shit-eating grin I had ever seen. He'd always made it known in the past he wasn't fond of me, so I'm sure he reveled in how terrible I was doing on the floor.
I took a few minutes of solace in the bathroom and then went back to the hostess stand after I collected myself. This temporary happiness was quickly squashed when a disgusted customer pulled me aside to scold me for not washing my hands after I went to the restroom. She didn't listen as I calmly explained I didn't actually use the restroom.
Towards the end of my shift, a server with blue hair told me management needed to see me in the back office. My stomach dropped. I knew what was coming.
I walked into a small, fluorescent room that reeked of salad dressing and burnt cheese. It was your typical restaurant manager's office. A white wall covered in schedules and day-off requests, and spaced no larger than a walk-in closet. I was greeted by a short, bald guy with a teddy-bear smile and bright blue eyes.
"Have a seat," he gestured to a small bar stool and began the embarrassing monologue I knew was about to take place. "We are a very fast-paced restaurant. We have very experienced servers and hostesses. We don't have the time or the money to train someone for a long period of time. Unfortunately, you are just not picking things up fast enough, so we are going to have to let you go."
He was obviously trying very hard not to hurt my feelings. Bless his heart.
"OK, I understand," I mumbled briskly.
I bolted out of that office as fast as I could, ignoring his attempts to shake my hand. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I was so relieved to be fired, but equally humiliated.
I practically ran out of the restaurant, avoiding the hostess stand. I could feel the girls' relief that I was gone. I don't blame them! I understand what it's like to train someone who's just not catching on — it sucks.
"Well, I've been fired," I exclaimed dramatically to my boyfriend as I sprinted into our apartment.
My boyfriend looked at me, laughed, and gave me a kiss. An endlessly patient, kind man, he assured me that it would be OK, and he took me to dinner.
The embarrassment lingered for a few days. I remained jobless for the next couple of weeks, but my pride refused to let me go pick up my check from the restaurant.
Being hired and firing in just a week's time taught me a very important lesson: stick to what you're good at. A few weeks after "the incident," I was hired to work at another hotel. My boyfriend was relieved, I was relieved, and the humiliation finally started to subside. I was happy to be back in my comfort zone.