If you have ever worked in food service before, then you understand my pain. If you haven't, then let me break it down for you: waiting on people is exactly what it sounds like. You have the power to make or break someone's day, but with great power comes great responsibility. You're basically Batman.
It's all about anticipating needs, and for someone who has anxiety about meeting expectations and pleasing others, it can be a very anxiety-provoking experience. I had dealt with anxiety for years before that moment, before that job, before that summer. I hated making people upset, so my anxiety stemmed from not wanting to disappoint people or let them down.
The first time I ever let a guest down as a waitress was on Father's Day of 2015. We were open for brunch, and I was still getting the hang of serving. I was swamped with several tables of huge families, all expecting flawless service. We were understaffed, and it was chaotic, but I checked in with every table and did all I could to get them what they wanted. It was nuts.
A family got up and left once they had paid the check, and I went to close out their tab. I checked my tip and noticed they had left me a $5 tip on a $90 bill. In addition to that, they left a note at the bottom of the check that read: "Some of the worst service ever. Didn't check in enough to refill our drinks. Our Father's Day is ruined."
It may seem silly now, but when I read that note, my heart sank immediately. I had disappointed these people so much that I had allegedly ruined their entire Father's Day, which was my worst nightmare. Thinking about it now, I should have nominated that family for an Oscar for the most dramatic act of all time, because if little ol' me ruined their Father's Day then it probably wasn't going to be that great to begin with. Regardless, I hid away in the walk-in freezer and cried.
Naturally, in a new job in a new setting, I had to take some time to learn the ropes. Being a good server is all about attentiveness and reading your customers in order to time everything perfectly. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect, and I spent many long, hot summer days running around dropping appetizers on the floor, begging the kitchen to remake the food because I put it in the computer wrong, and spilling martinis everywhere so by the time it got to the table I had to get them another one.
It was tough, but it was necessary for me to go through and make all sorts of mistakes so that I could figure out all sorts of solutions. I'm a big believer in learning from your mistakes, and today I see them as blessings in disguise. You learn from them, and they make you stronger, so try to embrace imperfections and accidents rather than let them upset you.
You're probably wondering what I did (or didn't do) to ruin an entire family's day. So I'll tell you: I tried my best. That's it. The thing is that family didn't know it was one of my first shifts as a waitress. They didn't realize I had five other tables fighting for my attention. There was more to what met the eye, and they didn't take that into consideration. That sucks, but that's life.
I didn't adopt this "que sera sera" attitude for a long time, however. For many shifts after that fateful day, I was constantly asked if I was okay by my coworkers or if I wanted help or if I wanted to give up a shift. It was clear they were worried about another breakdown, but I wanted to make it clear that I could toughen up and be capable of hard work. The owner of the restaurant came in a few days after the incident and pulled me aside to ask me if I remembered who exactly it was that left that note.
He said he wanted to know because he wanted to have a word with them. He was upset that guests had come into his restaurant and knowingly made an employee upset. In that moment, I felt a calmness come over me. I did not know the family that left the note, and I was sure they would never come back, but the owner told me to forget about them because they didn't know what they were talking about. And he was right.
If your anxiety comes from wanting to be good enough so that others will approve of you, just think about all the events, big and small, in your life that led you to that very moment. Then think about how no one knows those details except for you. When you are being judged, it's not really about you. It's about assumptions made based on your surface level and, trust me, you're deeper than the ocean, they just don't know it yet.
Let me say that again because it is a #majorkey to managing my anxiety: instead of panicking, remain calm and figure out a plan to make the situation better.
If you spill a cup of tarter sauce in front of everyone, you go clean it up. If you forget to send an order, you apologize to the guest with a smile on your face and beg to kitchen to "make it on the fly." You take action, or you take the loss. That's how I see it and I hope this is helpful advice. It's always about taking action to make what you want a reality, so go forth and do good and if you fail then keep at it until you get it right.