Because of the nature of working in production, I used to have breaks in between projects. This would mean I would be gainfully employed for 6 months, and then find myself jobless as soon as my responsibilities on a show were up. I am insane when I don’t have a job. I get depressed, have anxiety issues and generally feel worthless if I’m not making money. (cue hyperventilation here) So during these times I’d take odd jobs. While living in Seattle I had the unique experience of working at the Space Needle.
I made so little money while working here that I also had to take a job working at the Spaghetti Factory as a hostess. So I had two low wage jobs at once while waiting for another television project to hit.
Things I learned while working a low wage job:
1) The people you work with make all the difference. I worked as a photographer at the space needle. This means I was the awful person who forces you to have your photo taken when you come to an attraction like this. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever been to the empire state building, any duck boat tour or apparently on cruises. I’ve been told by cruise goers that THEY ARE SICK!!! OF HAVING THEIR PHOTO TAKEN!!!!
Here’s a photo of what used to be the night scene, we had this big back drop that we would drop at a certain time for evening guests to stand in front of to have their photo taken. Anyway we would work in teams. One person would be the line handler (letting people go through to have their photo taken and then be sent up the elevator) and one person would be the photographer. In general, the people I worked with at Space Shots were amazing. It’s insane how talented and interesting the people I worked with were. During the time I worked there (for about 5 months?) Space Shots had a for real, incredibly talented photographer, an intellectual painter and father, a witty, caring and beautiful free spirit, a brave and talented graphic designer who was in the middle of some significant life changes that she was taking on head first, a bubbly, smart and extremely kind sorority girl who became a financial wiz and finally a budding social media expert with a heart of gold. What a mash of different talents and backgrounds. I hated this job, but the people made it worth it. Tourists were SO MEAN, they would push, be incredibly rude, and it was a study in human interaction and family behavior. Luckily I had amazing co-workers to analyze these insane behaviors with. We would have a blast together, and while the job was hell I completely appreciated learning from so many unique people who I worked with on a day to day basis.
2) I learned early on what type of work is rewarding and doesn’t pay enough and how to sell your soul to make a career (ie work in television) In my early twenties I worked at the National Zoo in a paid internship as a Volunteer Coordinator of Teens for the Friends of the National Zoo.
I got silly perks like being allowed to feed a baby flamingo whose mom gave up on it and watch cheetah cubs in their behind the scenes enclosure eat their regular meals. That was amazing. But even more amazing were some of the teens I managed for 3 months. These kids were selected as volunteers for the zoo to be docents at the Kids Farm exhibit. They were expected to greet visitors and give helpful information about the animals in the zoo as well as give presentations with props. Many of these volunteers were earning hours so that they could fulfill school requirements and for college applications. Helping and teaching these teens was such a rewarding job. I was paid very little and was in charge of teaching these kids real work experience, which included getting along with co-workers, managing time and staying focused, and giving presentations. I know people TODAY who need these skills that I was helping these kids learn at the ages from 14-17.
3) While working in food service I grew an appreciation for hard work behind the scenes. The line cooks in a place like the Spaghetti Factory are worked to the bone. They stand there all shift long taking non-stop orders and delivering in a fast and efficient way. I’m not say that this restaurant has the best food in the world, but some of the people behind the scenes work incredibly hard and make next to nothing for it. Often time they’re immigrants making the most they can to help support families who don’t live in the US, I didn’t speak with them as much as I would have liked, mainly due to language barrier, but I respected how hard they worked.
Through these experiences I’ve taken away leaving a good tip matters, treating anyone in a service industry with respect is always important and that there are people working harder than me and making less than me every single day. The respect thing is what stays with me the most. There is NEVER a good reason to yell at a clerk or anyone you don’t know unless they are harming you. I have an awful sister-in-law who I knew was a bad person when she bragged about yelling at a Crate and Barrel employee when she didn’t receive a discount she was trying to scam her way into (an after wedding, not on the registry item that she wanted to get 20% off on in the store, without already having it to her registry before the wedding).
Of course I get annoyed with bad service, everyone does, but I try to think back of the day that I tried to be a server to a table of 18 who were incredibly impatient even though they knew it was my first solo night and I was trying to go out of my way to make their kids happy. I cut bad servers some slack sometimes if I see they’re the only ones working a big area or if they just seemed overwhelmed. I realize that it’s a luxury to be able to spend money and go out to dinner, and that the most important things in life are human interactions and respect for other people.