Next time you’re out – please leave a tip!

Crustaceans (Crustacea) form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, barnacles and people who don’t tip.

Okay I added the last bit in myself. But having rejoined the ranks of minimum wage earners once again, I have been reminded of this lovely surviving vestige in society; the scourge that is diners and social clientele that don’t tip.
Before I begin my little moan, just let me inform – this is merely for entertainment purposes. Laughing at my new part time job (that I am doing on top of journalism to make an extra buck) makes it bearable, but I do realise how lucky I am to have the job and yatta yatta yatta, as a consequence of the current recession maybe people would indeed, sell their right kidney on the black market for it: I realise this, just so you know before I start. And also, I actually love waitressing but there are the people who make you feel stupid, even when you have a degree and a masters and have hundreds of thousands of people reading your, albeit corny, features every week. You still get the Mr Self Importants who think you’re obviously just a blonde who is carrying a few drinks on a tray. The people who don’t tip really get my goat, especially when you are smiling at them, being friendly and bringing them drinks all night. But even worse are the men with small ‘you-know-whats’  who you just KNOW want to make you feel stupid (if you are reading this men who do that – it doesn’t actually work on women like me. And yes I did GET that you were taking the piss, but no I didn’t care.) Tonight there were a bunch of German men in, who were rude to the barman and then when I brought out the drinks, I put them down on the table – and I said “12.60 please,” I then looked to the right where he had put a covert 20 right on the side of the table as I had been busy putting the drinks down. I picked it up, gave him the change and he said in possibly the patronising voice in the world “Very clever.” I smiled and then went back in. Orsehole, I thought. But it got worse. They then came inside and ordered food. After the food one of them wanted me to get him cigarettes (we don’t actually have to do that for people, there is a machine and people are meant to use it themselves) But I did anyway to be nice. I brought them back and he gave me the change which was 1 euro 40 cent. He then wanted to know if we had matches. We didn’t so I told him. But I said there was people smoking outside he could get a light from. Then he said “Oh… 2 euro tip… I give you 2 euro tip for this?” I was thinking – I can take the fucking cigarettes back you lazy bastard. But again, I just smiled and said “The cigarettes were 8.60.” And walked of to leave his stupid brain to figure out how much he had actually given me in a tip. 

Britney - a good singer, but an even better waitress

The thing is, I am not new to this sort of a job so it’s not like I’m being precious. I have had lots of experience of which I would like to share, as I take a walk down memory lane.  
In my years, I am happy to say, I have served in a range of menial labour positions. I was inaugurated to the minimum wage ways age 15 when I took up a summer position in a local fast food joint, of the burger and the king variety. I spent three months spitting on my onion rings and having flings with boys who flipped burgers – flirting in the corridors throwing mop buckets at people and getting locked into freezers ‘as a joke’. I sprayed tables that were encircled with junkies from the nearby methadone centre, and I looked like a dork in the hat and hair net, of course.
My next job was waiting tables in Spain where I lived aged 15 -16. Once I came home so tired my dad thought I was drunk because I was slurring my words. I’d do late shifts and get up early the next morning for school. I think  my parents thought it was good for me to have my own money and I think it was too. I solemnly put it all in a jar to buy a moped but never quite saved enough.
Aged 16 I worked all summer in a cafe in Dublin city serving hot food out to tourists. I remember this was my phase of liking the band the wutang clan and other rap artists, because I proudly bought a large wutang hoodie with my wages. It was lovely and warm – I lost it somewhere years ago. I didn’t like the people there though. They were the most horrid people I ever worked with, and it ended in a very ugly way. The summer of 17 I looked after three young children every day for the summer – driving my friend Lara who moved in with me, to the stables where she worked too each morning. At the same time for two years from aged 16 -18 I minded one very cool kid every single weekend. I still call in and see him now, as he was a deadly kid – if I ever have one I want the child to be like him! Then when I moved to England aged 18, I did waitressing for weddings and events and temped in random hotels all over Derbyshire. Weird hotels with weird people working in them, the sort of people from small towns where everyone knew everyones business. Strange people, nothing like where I came from in the suburbs of a city. Odd hotels – buildings in the middle of nowhere which felt so strongly like they were haunted. You used to always get treated bad as a temp because you were always perpetually new, and the staff who worked in the places hated your guts when you turned up. I ended that job after about 6 or 7 months at a racing rally at 6am in the morning. I was serving egg and bacon to all men while wearing a horrible hair net and hat. The manager had a go at me for not having my hair clipped back properly (as in so it would look properly disgusting and not just slightly disgusting) She totally had it in for me since another time I had worked there, and was being a world class bitch, and to this day I know she was just a wagon. I remember crying in the store room  and literally saying the words ‘I just want to go home’ but by home, I didn’t mean my flat in Derby, I meant my home in Ireland. One of the manager guys from the temp firm, stared at me in a scared way as I cried in this store room in the middle of a racing track in the middle of nowhere in the midlands of England about how I wanted to go back to Ireland, and then had to phone the taxi to pick me up and bring me back to Derby city. I never went back on a job with them after that. 

The summer of 18 and 19 I worked two jobs – market research in the day 9 – 5 and in a pizza parlour at night 6 – 12. The pizza parlour job and the market research jobs both stick in my head for the wrong reasons. This was the summer where I realised, and fair enough at 19, that everyone in life wasn’t as innocent as me. In the market research job a 30 somthing year old lesbian tried to take advantage of me and in the pizza job the 60 something year old manager was a pervert who regularly tried to molest me until one day I said to my mum: I think I’m not going to go in anymore. I didn’t tell anyone why, because I felt like it might have been in my head and I felt ashamed. A few weeks later, after telling a few friends about what had happened, and seeing their reaction, I knew for certain it had not been. I did the right thing to leave. During second year of university I started the year working in a pub. It only lasted a month after the manager went away for two weeks and left an alcoholic in charge. He used to leave me to mind the pub for hours, even though I was only new. He used to also drink on the job while I cleaned around him. And then I got the sack – they said money had gone missing. I told them I had never stole in my life and was perfectly okay with maths too. I suspected the alcoholic was ripping money and had blamed the new girl aka me – so I told them what he did while they were away. They didn’t look surprised but let me go anyway. Such was life. It wasn’t long, however, (as this was pre-recession) that I had a new job. Working in an old folks home every Saturday and Sunday morning from 8am to 2 in the afternoon. This meant getting up between 6am and 630am on the weekend, after doing a whole week at uni. The old folks home was the strangest and I would say, most difficult job I ever did in some ways. It was hard physically (lifting, carrying, running around) plus I had to walk 40 mins to get there and 40 mins to get back. But it was hard emotionally too. Some days I would come in to find out one of the old people had died during the night. It would be one of the same old people I had helped out of their chair or served a bacon sandwich to just a few days previously. There was Olive a rather grumpy woman who was 100, Irene who used to always fall asleep on her tray, Vera who had returned to childhood in her head and many, many more interesting characters. I remember David was the one who shook me up the most. He had a large scar on his head and he only looked in his 50s or 60s. One day I brought him in his breakfast to see loads and loads of books on his shelf on motorcycles. I got a huge shiver down my spine as I realised what happened to his head, and a nurse confirmed it was true, he had an accident on a motorcycle decades earlier and had been in a nursing home ever since.
The summer of second to third year of university when I was 20, I worked for a man who owned his own business. He needed a summer secretary. I would cycle the 3 miles there and 3 miles back. He had an office on the side of his house and he was a nice, albeit ditzy, man in his 60s with a brilliant eye for business. He was a workaholic and completely involved with his business 365 days a year, but he was rubbish at filing. He would leave me to it most of the time, and was so trusting. He had a large fish tank in his office which I would love – and one of the fish I named after my ex boyfriend, because he looked just like him. I never took advantage of that guy’s trust – but it was difficult when he came into the office because he would just end up confusing everything! It was sad to say goodbye at the end of the summer. In third year of university I had a bit of a false start to the year working for just two months in a coffee shop. This job was pretty desperate. The working conditions weren’t the best and the management were extremely high maintenance. For 5 pounds something an hour they really wanted your blood. I was in my most stressful year of university and the hours interfered with my lectures a little. They had me making sandwiches in the kitchen for 6 hour straight shifts with no break. I eventually got fired for not putting enough salad leaves in a crayfish baguette. I was delighted to leave.

Then I got a job which was to stand me in good stead for two years part time. I got a job fliering for the largest nightclub in the city. I would do 4 nights a week, and from that got enough money to survive. The job started off being great fun, but then the cold snap of the winter set in. At the time I was living with my best friend in an especially dingy, mice infested flat in the ghetto (on the street down from us a human head had been recently found in a dustbin.) My roof had a leak when we moved in, her room got flooded when a washing machine above broke and leaked everywhere. We regularly got spiders the size of small children prowling around. We also had a stalker living upstairs and a stoner living downstairs who was growing hash plants the size of the great barrier reef in our basement.  Anyway, we couldn’t really afford heating so our flat was always cold. And when the cold snap set in, I had to stand on the streets in it. I used to put on three pairs of trousers about seven t-shirts and jumpers, a coat and then we had the red coat of the nightclub on top. I used to look like a real life eskimo – just a pair of eyes and a nose sticking out. But when it got even colder, one night I remember standing in the snow. I started to fall asleep standing up leaning against a wall, because I got that cold that I think my body was shutting down.  We got to know the homeless people – least I did. Some of them were sound. Then I’d go home to the cold flat and then take off maybe two of the layers and sleep in the rest – spending an hour trying to get the feeling back in my finger and toes before I could drop off to sleep. 
That summer I did door to door sales. It was gym memberships, and I didn’t mind this job at all. In some ways I could sell sand to a sand man, and the walking really kept me active. I used to sometimes make over a 100 euro for just 4 hours work, and I got to flirt with a gorgeous and hilariously funny Polish guy, who I would literally look forward to going to work to see. By the end of the summer we had exhausted all of the estates and the gym promotion was finished. I was tired of walking by then.

When I returned for my final and 4th year of uni, which was to be part time, I got two jobs. One, again, working for the nightclub – but this time in the cloakroom instead of outside doing the fliering. The cloakroom job had its pros and cons. The pros were that I got to be alone, got to occasionally read and play tertris on my phone and write self-pitying maudlin poetry and sometimes even knit (I knit a Christmas scarf for my mother in that cloakroom.) And the cons were that people used to get spectularly horrendified and lose their tickets and then get very agressive with me for not giving them their jackets back. Some people used to hop over the counter at me and once there was even a riot for the coats, and I had to press the panic button. I also got to see some rough old fist fights and even worse, women and the old ‘pulling hair’ fights. While I was doing that job I was also living in the worst house I ever lived in because it was SUPER damp. We had kittens at the time Willow and Gismo. They used to pee and poo everywhere so the house smelled bad, but they were adorably cute. Willow used to sleep on my pillow most nights. I only got annoyed with Willow once because he peed on my covers and then I changed them and then he got right back up and peed on the clean ones to mark his teritory. I shouted at him and put him out of my bedroom then felt really guilty cos I love animals and he was just a baby cat. I remember sticking my head under the couch a few minutes later and apologising to him profusely, luring him out with cat treats. (They have since gone back to the farm we got them from and are really happy, I went once to visit them in the countryside of Derbyshire, they were twice as fat as all the other cats on the farm because we fed them so much as kittens.) As I was saying anyway, it was the dampest house I have ever had the misfortune to even experience in my life. My room was the worst room because it was facing the edge of a row of council houses and the wind blew from that direction. I used to come home and my duvet would literally be thick with wet and damp, like it had been taken just out of the washing machine and maybe had half an hour on the line, but was still nowhere near dry. One time, I was getting a bus out of town to see a friend and I got on the bus only for my whole neck to freeze up. I was in agony and so terrified. I rang my mum in tears thinking I was having a stroke or dying or something. When I went to the doctor, it turned out it was the wet pillow I had been lying on had just caused a sever crick. In the same house we had a old man neighbour who had a gun, and a dog and used to invite us in for chats and he’d drink wine every day and when we’d go in he’d tell stories of things and people he’d shot before – he wasn’t scary though for some reason, just lonely. There were three of us in that house, and one of the girls never wanted the heating on. We were on a meter for electricty and gas and would have to go to the shop to buy it. She went mad if we had the heating on longer then to run a bath, making the damp problem ten times worse then it might have been if we’d had a little heat. One time in the dead of winter when it was minus degrees outside I remember running a bath in the freezing cold bathroom. I decided to leave on the heat for an hour to heat the bathroom too and my bedroom and I heard her go into the kitchen. She shouted to me “Have you finished with the heat?” And I suddenly felt so angry, something inside me snapped. I shouted back. “No, I haven’t. Feckin’ leave it. I’m freezing!” And I heard her walk off.
At the same time I was working in Travelodge hotel. To get there I had to walk through chav-ville and up a creepy lane where lived shopping trolleys and plastic bags and (I imagined) dead bodies and rapists too. Sometimes I ran. Other times, shadows used to creep up in the sides of my eyes when a tree rustled in the wind and it would make my heart beat fast and my head jerk round to see what it was. It didn’t help that my shifts were awkward times, either 3 – 11 at night or early in the morning when it was dark to 3.

I did reception work but I also changed sheets and cleaned rooms and had to see all the things you should never have to see that people leave behind in a hotel room. I started to do nightshifts then too, which was the worst idea ever. It was the most paranoid I have ever been in my life. At 4 or 5am my brain would go into overdrive, shadows and noises and getting freaked out by the security cameras. I was the only one in the charge of the hotel. Sometimes I used to lie in the bags of pillows and divets piled up in the back room and eat a croissante – until I realised they were 450 calories each. One time, I was so tired I locked the office door and made a bed on the floor for an hour and slept with the buzzer beside my ear in case anyone came along. Another time I got a bath in one of the rooms. But there wasn’t much room for sleeping or bathing – what with cashing up, making breakfasts, doing laundry, cleaning and emptying out bins. By 7am I would be so jaded I would suddenly be wired with awakeness. I would walk home with people going to work and feel so out of it. I’d think, I could stay awake all day but by 9am I’d be dying for bed.  One time, ten or twenty chav teenagers came into the hotel and started running up and down the corridors. They surrounded the reception and demanded a room. When I couldn’t give them one, they called me every name under the sun, and threatened me. I had to lock myself in the bathroom and call 999. When the police arrived I was too frightened to come out, until I realised there were four of them and they’d managed to get all the chavs to leave already.
That summer I was a receptionist in a top law firm in Dublin city. I swapped my hotel duds for a smart skirt and starched and ironed shirts and perfect make-up. It was a large glass building on the quays of Dublin with glass walls and mahogany desks and a wide screen TV that looped Sky News all day in the reception area. I had affidavits sworn and answered phones to people with double barrelled surnames. The rebel in me still meant I hung up on one or two of them ‘accidentally’. Once one of the partners gave out to me on the phone because I made a mistake with a meeting room booking one day. I stood up to her and then she yelled “Excuse me. WHO am I speaking to?” I said my name proudly, and then she gave me an earful anyway. When I hung up I burst into tears, because depite the bravado I was actually terrified of her. After three months of walking on eggshells in every sense of the word, I was exhausted. Me and HR manager had a meeting and we mutally agreed it wasn’t working out. He was so lovely, and when I told him I wasn’t happy that I had just done a degree in creative writing and wanted somehow to get into journalism he encouraged me to go for my dreams and wasn’t the least bit angry. Unsure what I wanted to do I went and worked part time in a sales call centre for a newspaper whose job it is to advertise goods people are selling. People would ring up, and you would take their ad – your job was to get them to pay for an ad that was bigger, more prominent and ran for longer in the paper. Apart from the odd dirty call, and the incessant horrible puppy farmers trying to put their puppies in again for sale, AGAIN – apart from the rude people and the monotony – I loved this job. I worked in a lovely team of people with an amazing supervisor who was barely older then any of us, and five or six cracking people the same age as me who made me laugh until I nearly wet myself. At the same time I took a course in full time dance. This is a sporadic choice on my behalf. It all makes sense – the creative writing and then the masters in a journalism. But dance, it doesn’t fit in. I always loved creative arts is my only excuse. I used to do singing and dancing when I was younger and in fact, my degree was creative writing and music, so there you go.
But I discovered, that although I liked to dance – I did not, by any means, love it. And definitely not enough to endure the five hours daily training we were doing – the ballet, the jazz, the contemporary and the rigourous level of fitness we had to endure. Plus, it was just not mentally challeging enough. Dance is mentally challenging in the way that you need to have good willpower, strong drive, ability to endure being alone – as most of your training is done alone, or as good as, because you aren’t talking to people while doing it. You need a good memory for moves and you need to have excellent co-ordination, also a certain amount of creativity helps. But I love words and thoughts and philosophies and facts. There was nothing to it in that respect and I was essentially bored by the whole thing. I quit the dance course two months from graduating with a certificate in dance and moved from my part time job to a full time job so I could save to do a masters in journalism, something I was now certain I wanted to do. I had done a weeks work experience in the Sunday World too that February. At the Christmas party for the sales job I had met the Christmas party of the Sunday World by chance and the managing editor had agreed to let me come in for a week. I never wanted to leave after that week, but unfortunately I had to. The next job I got was in the April of that year, when I went to work for a comedy club. No, I wasn’t the joke, although sometimes I felt like I should have been. Just when I got the job, my grandmother passed away. I was in bits. My memory was pretty bad when I started, I think because of this. When people die on me, I get very forgetful – after one of my best friends passed away when I was 20 I regularly nearly burned down the dingy flat with the mice I mentioned earlier, by leaving the grill on when I went out. Anyway, this job was run by a man who was nice but also a total control freak. By the way they are always hiring online, and the fact that I always saw new people sitting on the door after me, I suspected I was one of many who got the firing squad with the comedy club. The job was in the office dealing with an excel spreadsheet document of bookings and also on the door of the club at night. The manager made this out to be rocket science and regularly bollocked me over it. He also had a strange relationship with a girl or I suppose woman, I was 22 at the time, who was a year or two older then me. They were very close and used to go on smoke breaks together and stuff. She seemed not to be able to do any wrong, and I stongly suspected her of being a spy who may or may not have been bad mouthing me behind my back. Nevertheless, I was still blonde and 22 with at the time, a fantastic figure from all the dancing, and alot of fun in my veins so I actually didn’t care about the job that much when I was fired. Also life had been put into perspective with my grandmother leaving us too, so I think I was upset for about 20 minutes after I got fired and then was grand.
The next job I had was being a two month temp for a computer reseller company. If you drifted off to sleep when you were reading the last sentence, imagine how bored I was after working there for 2 months. If the sentence ‘I have a 3gig bit for the hp laptop with the code 4xyghgh65″ gets you excited, then go find them and work for them. I’m not going to mention their name, but ask me and honestly, I’ll tell you. It was fantastic. I used to jump up and down with excitement going in! I also had a lovely boss there, and some great co-workers. Just great. Would it be bad of me to say right here that one Tuesday afternoon near the end of the hideous temping job, I had just taken another earful from a girl to my right. I was covered in papers and files. There were files falling off the desk, my heart was palpatating and I hadn’t slept the night before because of worry. I stood up and I said to the manager “Can I speak to you for a second?” She came with me to the kitchen, the sour cow, and I said: “I’m leaving today.” So I stayed until the end of the day and then I called the temp company and told them. “Why didn’t you tell us it was a nightmare? They should have got two temps to do that workload not just one.” – “Seriously,” I told the woman. “Each girl who had been there a year or more had one account to look after. I had been left with three accounts of the girl who went away on holiday!” This was the truth. It was a travesity and most likely illegal – I was being paid 12 euro an hour and didnt have a degree in IT like the girl I had been covering for. “I’m sorry,” was all the temp lady could say. “I’m going to ring and give them an earful,” she said. But it was too late to get my job back – such was my impulsive nature. This was at the start of the recession so there were no more jobs to fall into. Two months later I started a masters in a journalism. That was like a full time job in itself – and I lived with 10 people which I loved. During the start of the masters I worked for my friend writing marketing spiel for his own business, but it fizzled out when my masters took over workload wise. Now, aged 24, after all those jobs I am finally working as a bona fide journo in the day, and love it 100%. But as I am not making enough money I need to go back to the minimum wage. Basically what I am trying to say in a convoluted way is… if waitressing is going to get me further in my choosen career by helping me through a bad financial spot, so be it. It’s worked for me so far, and not only that but I’ve had fun along the way!