learn & live

Check out my new blog! I know I have made several attempts to get one off the ground, including Life’s little To-Dos. Unfortunately, it didn’t succeed due to my lack of effort and commitment. It is different this time around- I have invested so much time and energy into immersing myself in the blog community and learning about what it takes to be a blogger. I’m ready to create and maintain a successful blog and I would absolutely love for you to stop by!

learn & live focuses on continuing to grow and better oneself in any and all aspects of life. I hope to see you there!

A Word From Your Waitress

As servers, it is our job to create an experience for every customer. We answer their questions, provide them with drinks, serve as the medium between them and the kitchen, and make them feel they have everything they need and nothing they don’t. We are their trusted source of the restaurant and it is our responsibility to have the knowledge and skill to make their experiences positive and fulfilling.

It never ceases to amaze me how little so many people understand of the service industry. Restaurant experiences are highlights embedded in our culture as means of celebration, romance, relaxation, and, overall, fun, yet aspects from behind the scenes largely remain a mystery. I am asked the same questions and told the same things by customers, friends, and family. I respond to these inquiries and assumptions based off my own experience working in the service industry, and by no means am I generalizing that these are the circumstances of every restaurant. However, you begin to pick up on themes after serving for a while.

“Anyone can be a server.” I’ve heard this assumption countless times. While this may be true to an extent, it does not mean that anyone should be a server. It requires time management because at any given moment, we are juggling 10 different tasks in our heads, all of which need to be completed as soon as possible. We must be able to cohesively work as a team, otherwise the restaurant would crumble to pieces. We have to consistently present an unlimited amount of energy in order to remain enthusiastic toward every customer, and move quickly and efficiently from one task to the next for the duration of the long shift. We ought to have tough skin to endure those customers that simply will not be happy, no matter how much we bend our backs attempting to make them hate us a little less. Attention to detail is important because we are expected to anticipate what the customers want before they ask. Most importantly, we need strong communication skills since that is, ultimately, our job: talking to customers. We do not have a script memorized to regurgitate to every table—rather, we must understand how to appropriately communicate with our different audiences, make them feel comfortable around us, hold a productive conversation, and know how to handle awkward situations (because those definitely happen).

“What’s your name again?” Customers have no idea how much we appreciate being called by our names!  Of course we say it when we greet a table, but how often do the customers listen and, what’s more, care? Individuals’ own names are reportedly the most important word in the world to them. People develop connections quicker, are more attentive and alert, respond with an increased positive attitude, and feel downright special when someone addresses them by name. This applies to servers, as well. I’ve noticed I am an overall better server with a customer who says my name; I do not intentionally do it, it just happens. It feels demeaning when someone calls me “Waitress”—I understand not remembering, but to have such little consideration that I also am a person with a name is flat-out disrespectful. So please, make your server’s day and receive better service at the same time by knowing his or her name, even if it means asking them to repeat it halfway through your meal. I am willing to bet your server will break out in a smile while saying it.

“Serving isn’t considered a real job.”  If working 14-hour shifts, making money to pay the bills and being held responsible for upholding a company’s reputation is not considered a “real job,” I don’t know what is. You don’t have to receive a degree for it, though the concept that it is not a good enough job to be taken seriously rubs me the wrong way. I work alongside talented, dedicated, intelligent and diligent individuals—why should they be looked down upon because they do not have a nine-to-five job? I admit, serving is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a dream job, except it is refreshing to interact with new people and work in an environment that revolves around a good time.

“You can’t wait to go out and party every night.” There are stereotypes about servers that place negative images on the job, especially about being partiers who drink too much and thrive off drugs. Yes, there are those individuals that exist in the restaurant industry, like there are at any other job. There also are the employees who work hard to support their families, pull all-nighters after work to study for upcoming exams, and have other jobs bright and early the next day. I recently dropped the bill for my last table of the evening while they were finishing their dessert and as I walked away, I overheard one customer say, “She must be impatient to go out tonight.” Perhaps I gave them their bill a little early, though I was actually stressed about completing two final research projects due the following morning, and I could not help but be offended I was judged in that manner due to my occupation. However, one of the first rules we learn in the service industry is that the customer is always right—even when they’re wrong. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have had to bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and walk away.

 “Do you have a boyfriend?” Heads up, the answer will be “Yes” every time, no matter whether there is truth to it. It is the best method to avoid a guaranteed awkward conversation, which almost always leads to a lower tip. It is flattering to hear, but I am not looking for a relationship with a customer while I am at work, and trying to charm me when I have a full section is just not going to happen. In addition, it is funny when guys leave their phone numbers on the receipt (partially because we must turn all receipts in to our manager at the end of the shift) and tip poorly, not specify which of the six guys at the table he was, or make no attempt to reach out to me, like finding out my name, over the course of the last two hours. No one is that attractive. 

“The food took too long.” Believe it or not, we do not cook your food and, therefore, we are not personally responsible for the amount of time it takes to go from being inputted on the computer to coming up ready at the expo line. I can go to the kitchen and tell the chefs to hurry up as much as I want, but it is not going to make them prepare it any faster when they have a dozen other food tickets (in fact, impatience is an effective way to make them less inclined to quicken their cooking pace). We know and understand that customers are hungry when they sit down at a restaurant, yet it is impolite to verbally attack and blame us, especially when you make it even worse with a tip giving the middle finger.

 “You get to leave right after your last table.” I wish!  We do not get to leave after our last table exits the building, or after we clean our stations, or after we polish glass and silverware. We do not even get to leave after we spend 30 minutes rolling silverware (last week, a customer was shocked when I informed him that is our responsibility—he had been under the impression for 20 years that restaurants get premade roll-ups delivered). We are allowed to clock out after we complete our checkout, give support staff their tips, and check in with the manager. I consider myself lucky if I am out of the restaurant 30 minutes after my last table leaves because usually it is an hour. You can imagine how much employees learn about each other as they roll silverware.

“15 percent is standard for tipping.” Um, no. If I receive a 15 percent tip, then I assume I provided poor service to the table. We make just over $4 an hour in Colorado and we tip our support staff about one-third of our tips from the shift. For most of us in the business, we live month-to-month and every dollar is important for us to eat more than our restaurant’s delicious yet unhealthy food and pay our rent in this beautiful but overpriced city. We strive for more than 20 percent tips, especially with tables we feel we made a connection with. There is nothing that will brighten a server’s day more than an unexpectedly high tip, but I doubt I need to tell anyone that.

 “Are you always this happy?” There is a stage performance quality to serving and I’ve become aware that my public speaking skills have improved from needing to speak to tables where all eyes are on me. Positive attitudes are a key ingredient for any business, yet our attitudes influence our co-workers, the customers’ experiences, and the restaurant’s reputation. Wearing a smile is the most effective approach to receive better tips—and yes, there are certainly those days where smiling is the last thing we want to do. We will tell customers we are good when we are not because it is our duty to provide the customers with the experiences they pay for. However, remember that we are people, too, and if your server is not glowing with happiness, there may be an external issue in his or her life outside the walls of the restaurant. For the most part though, we are that happy—and it is our goal to make our customers even happier.

Big news! I’m moving to Bend!

I have made a big decision!  After my lease is up at the beginning of August, I am going to pack my bags and move to Bend, Oregon!  I have grown up in Boulder and stayed here far longer than I expected, and the time has finally come when I do not have any obligations here.  I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to take the gigantic step and move away from my hometown.  It has been a long time coming!  It was great to live in Chile for six months and experience something different, but this is a whole new level.  I do not expect to move back to Boulder, despite how much I love it.  It has been truly great growing up here, going to college, being around my friends, and having my family close by.  However, I want to experience something new and outside my comfort zone.  I do not know anyone in Bend or have anything in particular waiting for me there—it’s an entirely fresh start that is long overdue.Image

I don’t have a job in Bend, though I am certainly going to try to find one before I move there.  I am, of course, going to do my best and get a job in public relations—ideally, I would love to work in the public relations department of a brewery in Bend.  I have become a beer geek in the short amount of time I’ve worked at my current job, and I think a brewery would be a straight-up awesome place to work.  There is also the option of getting an internship and picking up a full-time job within the service industry to financially support myself; however, I admit working in the service industry is a last resort.  It just sucks you in with the easy money!

Almost everyone I’ve told has asked me why I’m moving to Bend.  No job, not even an acquaintance lives there.  It has been a long process, to say the least, but I feel confident that this is the right choice for me.

I create “dream place” lists when I have a big decision to make and I don’t know which direction to go in.  They help me zone in on one area that accommodates my absolute ideal situation.  I made a list when I started researching for spring break vacation spots my senior year of high school.  I formed a list of what I was looking for in a college, although I knew in my heart University of Oregon was the only school I wanted to go to.   Unfortunately, my financial circumstances restricted me to Colorado schools, and since the only other school I even applied to was University of Colorado, I really only had one option.  But that’s a different story.  The biggest list that stood out to me and truly had a large impact on my decision-making process was the one that led me to Chile.  I wrote down about fifty things that would cumulate into the perfect study abroad home because I honestly had no idea where in the world I wanted to go for the once-in–a-lifetime experience, and it was a stressful choice I just didn’t know where to begin.  So, I brought my list into CU’s study abroad office and handed it to the administrator, who inputted as much on my list as possible into the program search engine.  The only result?  Valparaiso, Chile.

ImageTo wrap up what has now become a rant, I made a similar “dream place” list for where I want to live after my lease ends in August.  Originally, I planned on Portland, Oregon—there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I’ve been drawn to Portland since I was twelve years old, after visiting my dear friend who moved there.  I fell in love with the city all over again when my mom and I toured colleges in the area, and I’ve been wishing to live in Oregon ever since.  Before I made the final decision to move to Portland, I took a step back and asked myself if this was really what I wanted to do.  That’s when I started questioning myself, and right then and there I knew Portland wasn’t the best place for me at this point in my life.  Definitely someday, just not now.  Well, this realization turned everything upside down.  If not Portland, where?  I had no idea.  So, I began thinking about what I’ve always said I want to do in life.  Traveling is at the top of my list, although I’m simply not in a financial position to consider taking months off work to travel.  Not to mention, I can’t leave Ollie behind.  I’ve thought about how cool it would be to live in a mountain town for a year or so, where I can chill and snowboard.  Skibum?  Not quite—I don’t think I’d be capable of “bumming” it, but my own version of the term.  It dawned on me that if I want to live in a mountain town, now is the time to do it.  As soon as I realized that, the decision was final: I wanted to move to a mountain town.  That’s when I made this list:

  • No big colleges, not looking for a college town
  • Active young urban lifestyle
  • Worthwhile ski resort nearby
  • Located in Pacific Northwest (preferably Oregon)
  • Affordable housing (1 bedroom apartment no more than $700 a month)
  • Small town feel, but isn’t too small where those familiar brands aren’t around
  • Mountain town with qualities like you’d find in Breckenridge (downtown area), Silverthorn (variety of stores, restaurants, etc.), and Vail (but not as pricy)
  • Dog friendly with great dog parks
  • Public relation job opportunities
  • Population between 10,000 and 50,000
  • Friendly locals that make me feel welcome
  • Four-season weather

ImageThere is more on the list, but you get the idea.  Bend was one of the Oregon mountain towns on my radar, though I looked further into it after a conversation I had with a coworker who used to live there.  She had nothing but great things to say about Bend, and she described many qualities about the town that were on my list.  The more I researched Bend and asked people who have lived in Oregon about the area, the more I felt confident it suited me.  Finally, I made the final decision.  While it won’t be set in stone until I get a job or apartment, it is still a direction I know I’m heading in, so now I can focus on aspects such as finding a place to rent and getting job interviews.

It’s hard to believe this will be my last summer in Boulder!  Time to make the best of it!

“Who here is on a real-life budget?”

Last night in my public relations class, my professor asked us a question: “Who here is on a real-life budget?”  Out of twenty-one students, I was the only one who raised her hand.

Several girls said, “Well, I try to…” which made me chuckle a little on the inside.  If you have ever been on an actual budget, you understand what I mean.  “Trying” to stay on a budget can mean the difference between paying rent and getting evicted, or having enough gas to drive from Point A to Point B, or living off Ramen vs. Bertolli—you get the idea.  The bottom line: if you are on a budget, you figure out a way to stick to it or else.

For those of you who have lived in Boulder, I’m sure you’ve learned that things aren’t necessarily cheap around here.  Quite frankly, living on a budget is frikin’ hard, especially in Boulder where more than a third of my monthly income goes directly into my rent (that’s not including utilities).  However, I’ve spent the past four years learning how to happily live within a tight budget—and I’ll be the first to admit I still have a lot to learn about budgeting and even more to learn about life.

That’s where these words stem from.  I’ve wanted—and even tried—to start a blog throughout college, but I kept asking myself, “What in the world will I write that people will read and care about?”  To be honest, I’m still not too sure of the answer.  I do know a few things, though: 1) Being a twenty-two year old who financially supports herself apparently makes me a minority; 2) I have lived in Boulder most of my life and I don’t mean to brag but I’d say I know a thing or two that some of you newcomers aren’t aware of; 3) I’m a halfway decent writer and I certainly need the practice; and 4) My life isn’t too uninteresting, what with my serving job at a popular downtown restaurant, my internship at a nonprofit embedded in the music industry, my adorable one-year-old puppy with lots of personality, my wonderful friends who embark on adventures with me, and, of course we can’t forget the rollercoaster of the dating world (hah, that alone might make this blog interesting).

So here I am, writing about a question that my professor asked us last night.  For the record, the fact that I’m on a “real-life” budget will not help me with this difficult assignment.  Just one more month until graduation…!