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A mile in my shoes

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They say you can’t understand how someone else feels until you have walked a mile in their shoes. After walking for three hours in the shoes of a waitress, my feet were covered in blisters; my legs felt like they were about ready to fall off; and my head was spinning.

Last month I started working at the new cafe in Princeton, Four and Twenty, as a waitress. I helped to get it ready by painting and doing some training, so to be all set the first day. When the first day came, it was crazy. I was supposed to work from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. I am used to waking up at 9 a.m., so the 5 a.m. alarm was shocking.

After I got there, everyone was doing the prep work. This involved checking the bathrooms, filling the butter dishes, making the coffee, cleaning the door and tons of other small tasks nobody thinks about. The doors opened at 6:30 a.m. We were expecting a slow crowd that morning, so those new to waitressing could shadow the experienced ones. Around 7:30 a.m., things got really crazy, really fast. I wasn’t able to shadow anyone and was just thrown into doing it. 

I got my first table, and they thought it was safe because it was just one person. However, she was quite grumpy. She kept picking things apart saying, “I need more water and is my food almost done?” She wasn’t the ideal first customer, and I was already tired. I tried to keep smiling and make her happy, but I was dying inside and couldn’t wait for 9 a.m. to come. When it did arrive, I barely made it into the car before I was bawling. I had only waited on that one customer, and I was dead tired.

When I learned that I had gotten the job, I was told what we would need to wear. I had none of the requirements in my wardrobe, so I got to go on a shopping trip. They wanted us wearing black on the bottom and a red, white, yellow or black top. I was so worried that I wouldn’t find anything that I would really want to wear, but there were a ton of options. Red and yellow are the colors this fall, and I found great tops. I also found the cutest pair of red flats to wear from The Gap. They were on sale, and they would look perfect with all the other adorable tops I found. 

Those shoes went out the door on the first day. They gave me terrible blisters. I replaced them with a comfortable pair of practical shoes. I also gave up on a couple of my cute tops because they just don’t work. Waitressing is not about looking cute. It is about being comfortable and serving the customer well.

I am about seven weeks into my job, and I love it now. I have not had another grumpy customer, and in fact, they have all been extremely nice. I love it when they interact with me and have fun. I appreciate customers who don’t leave a big mess, and the best ones are those who order the salad bar! I have also been amazed at how many people know me through my columns. It is exciting to know that people are reading them.

The best part of waitressing has been the tips. They have been overwhelming. My parents don’t give us allowance or pay us for chores, so I have never had much money. My siblings are impressed with my huge stack of one dollar bills I had in my room before going to the bank. I also have a jar on my dresser that I am putting all the loose change into for a special occasion. Last night, my sister, Faustina, came into my room with a huge smile on her face and said, “Let’s count some money.” I had over $20 in change alone. So far I have put it all in the bank to save for the stuff every teenager wants and college!

I will never take a waitress for granted ever again. I will always try to smile, be friendly and leave a great tip when it is deserved, and I will wonder how badly her feet are hurting.

Amelia Bystry, 14, is a home-schooled student who resides in rural Princeton. You can contact Amelia in care of this newspaper at P.O. Box 340, Princeton, IL 61356.

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