waiting for the trainI believe that “making do” with what we have is a sign of maturity. While it is that, it can also be something else — something that feels a lot like being stalled — on a railroad track — while a freight trains bears down upon you.

As a mature, grown-up person, I know that it is at this point that there are three things one can do when such a predicament presents itself — make a final and valiant attempt at getting the car started, leave the hunk of metal on the tracks and jump out, or remain where you are and let the train roll over you.

“Making do” is fine in some areas — substitute tarragon if you don’t have rosemary — there’s really no need to make yourself crazy where a roast chicken is concerned — unless you’re feeding a food critic, chances are, no one will notice anyway. Even more unorthodox substitutions can turn out to be fine.

Once, in a moment of haste, I made “Tulip Chicken.” Instead of grabbing the elephant garlic out of the fridge, I grabbed a tulip bulb!  After determining that no one would die from “Tulip Chicken” (I took my chances with “mild hallucinations”), I served it. We ate it.

Taking my chances with the “Tulip Chicken” was not that difficult a decision. Neither is deciding, in a moment of panic, whether to start the car or to jump out. Luckily, I’m not in a moment of panic. I am, however, at a crossroads.  Careerwise.

And, yes. I consider waitressing a career. I’ve done it for over thirty years. I perform my duties proficiently. I’m highly trained. I’m a professional. Thus, it’s a profession.

More and more, though, I find that I am becoming worn out by the wretched, the high-maintenance, the miserable, the ignorant, the lazy, the condescending, the mopey, the downright rude, and the pathologically cheap. I encounter folks who have at least one of these qualities EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Worse, I rely upon them to pay my salary.

As if dealing with these stellar specimens of humanity isn’t enough to send one round the bend, I am also forced to operate without the tools I need to do my job properly and professionally. I’ve just about given up hope that one day I’ll come to work and we’ll have enough soup spoons, ramekins, steak knives, and/or lobster tails.

I’m sick of fetching assorted fruit for their FREE water — without so much as a “please,” a “thank you,” or even the basic 15% for my efforts.

I’m finished with listening to and refuse to be held responsible for someone’s allergy to parsley or black pepper — or AIR. (I often wonder how the hell they left the house without their bubble!)

I’m dog tired of the guy who needs me to cut his meat off the bone for him — because it “grosses him out.” I don’t work in a pre-school. Cutting meat for someone who is perfectly capable of cutting his own does NOT fall into my job description.

I can no longer spend endless hours sucking up to people who can’t pronounce “sirloin” — it’s phonetic — it’s not “Sir Lion.” Really — this type of thing is becoming almost too much to bear.

The idea that I am economically penalized when the soda lacks “fizz” (and other nonsense that I have no control over) is beginning to get on my last nerve. (Guess what? Just as I don’t order the steak knives, neither am I responsible for the CO2 inventory!)

The idea that these folks pay my salary disgusts me.  That I am actually paid $2.13/hour by a multi-billion dollar company AND hounded relentlessly about not going into overtime truly grinds my gears. It’s tough to work for a company that makes it abundantly clear that you are NEVER worth $3.20 an hour.

What I need to do is to get out of the way of the train. The question is, do I make a wholehearted effort to move up in this same industry? — Do I try to “restart the car”? Or do I jump out? —Try my hand at something new?

I’m leaning toward the latter — but it’s scary. It may also be stupid — stupid because I have thirty years of experience in this industry and would, likely, make a good manager. At the very least I know what constitutes bad management. (Let’s just start with the dearth of steak knives and/or CO2 and go from there!)

I find myself wrestling with the notion that if I stay in the restaurant business it may be because it’s familiar — that remaining will feel more like sitting on the tracks. I could use some divine intervention or, barring the appearance of The Almighty, an alert conductor.

Now and again life tosses you one of those happy accidents — like the “Tulip Chicken.” They are serendipitous, to be sure — analogous to that alert conductor noticing your car on the tracks and stopping just in the nick of time.

In the absence of a large-scale version of the “Tulip Chicken,” I’ll need to figure it out — to stop “making do.” If I don’t, I fear that I will be squashed by that fast approaching train. I can almost see its headlights now.

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