This weekend I received one of those emails that makes you dance around in your sock feet and say YES and makes your significant other and the cats look at you like you’ve gone batso.
I did, a little bit. See, my former employer emailed me through the general contact form on The Local Tourist. They’d heard I’m influential and they wanted to invite me to a lunch they’re hosting for Chicago-area writers to show off their remodel.
Talk about feeling like I’d made it! I’d served at this restaurant for four years while I was developing TLT. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and generally worked the closing shift so I could spend my days on my dream. My last day was Valentine’s Day, 2007, and ever since I’ve devoted more hours than there are in a day (or so it seems) to building the site and my audience.
The reason I’m doing a happy dance is not because I left on bad terms. Just the opposite. I gave proper notice. I timed my exit to coincide exactly with my four year anniversary, which just happened to be on a day about love. While I didn’t “love” being a server, I certainly didn’t hate it and I got quite a lot of enjoyment from, as I quipped, “getting people fat and drunk”. While sometimes it was tedious and rarely it could be humiliating, serving taught me organization, marketing, sales, prioritization, and the importance of reading your guest and giving them what they want. What I learned was invaluable preparation for running my own business.
Then, as now, I felt that my job was noble. As a server the diners’ experience was in my hands. Even if the food was crappy (which it seldom was) I knew it was my job to make sure they still had a good evening. When I had grumpy guests who were nasty for no particular reason I’d make it my mission to make them smile. It was for me as well as for them. There’s little more gratifying than knowing that someone had a wonderful time because of you.
That’s how I feel about my “job” now. TLT’s a drama-free zone whose sole purpose is to help people have more fun. That’s a pretty cool responsibility, and one I take VERY seriously. More smiles makes for a better place for everyone.
Which brings me around to the beginning. My happy dance wasn’t a “nya nya na nya nya” type of jig. It was jump-up-and-down WHEE kind of dance. I laughed with glee, not derision; with pride, not arrogance.
The restaurant, I’m proud to say, is Sullivan’s Steakhouse. It’s a place I still visit with some regularity, and considering the dining and nightlife options I’m presented with frequently that’s saying something.
I accepted their invitation. I may feel an urge to put on an apron, but I guarantee I won’t be putting on airs. Where I am now is due, in part, to what I learned there.