Lessons learned from waitressing

A family of seven sits in the corner booth, their 3-year-old sprinkling pepper all over the table. An hour, 12 refills and 10 dishes later, you hold a $5 bill.

You bite your lip, trying not to be outraged. A check of over $100, and your tip was only 5 percent?

Being a waitress seems pretty simple to the typical onlooker. In the movies, it’s the classic summer job for college students. Just pour a few drinks and bring out some dishes, yeah? In reality, it’s not that easy.

Waitresses usually have side jobs, possibly including cleaning bathrooms or helping prep food, depending on the franchise. Balancing this with waiting on guests can get pretty hectic.

More personal lessons learned from waitressing? Attitude is everything. Yeah, that’s what mom used to say to your 14-year-old self. Turns out she was right.

With this job, you’ll notice the sweeter you smile and the perkier your voice sounds, the better the tip typically is. Whether you’re feeling it or not, get ready to plaster a grin on your face.

Get good work shoes. Number one, I’m betting you don’t want to fall on your face in front of the entire restaurant when you slip on a soda spill. You’re not likely to live that one down.

Number two, you will get blisters, especially if you’re not used to so much brisk-paced walking every day.

At other jobs, you’re handed a paycheck at the two-weeks mark and by then, you’ve forgotten all you had to do to earn it.

Waitressing is different. You’ll quickly learn there’s more value in a dollar than you thought. (Yet another thing your parents were right about.) It really helps to see the money you’re making at regular intervals — your mind actually registers how much work went into earning each tip.

Sometimes it’s not you. There are some people out there who insist on giving extremely modest tips, no matter how well you served them. They’re like those teachers who insist to grading on tough curves so even the best score is only 80 percent — what can you do?

Another point: don’t be too trusting. I’m not trying to diminish your faith in humanity or anything, but some people will try to sneak out without paying. Although hardly anyone attempts it, keep an eye out for the odd few.

Also, some people are just plain bonkers. I’ve gotten car wash tokens as my tip before, and I’m sure other servers have even stranger stories to tell.

So next time you eat out, give your waitress a little more respect and tip what you feel the service was worth (it should be between 10 to 15 percent of the check). If you feel it wasn’t worth much, speak up. We gladly listen.