Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy

"I'm not happy, I'm not happy," nobody's happy OK? Happiness comes in small doses folks; it's a cigarette or a chocolate chip cookie or a 5 second orgasm. You c**, you eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to f***ing work. That is it, end of f***ing list.

-Dennis Leary

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There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

-The Buddha

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I've been on a hot streak at work lately: lots of good tips and smooth shifts, to the point where I've really enjoyed being at work. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate waiting tables, but I usually don't actively enjoy it either. It's something I do to earn a living - I show up, I do my job, I go home. And sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating. It often feels like the bad days outweigh the good, mainly because it's so easy for things to go wrong. In-between days are the rule, but the "great" shift, the shifts where you walk away saying what a great day you had, those are rare.

So I started wondering what had to occur for me to have that "great" shift, what elements had to come together. This is how it broke down:

Smoothness: By this I mean all my support systems, the things I rely on to get my job done, are getting done. Food is coming out of the kitchen in a timely fashion, bread is sliced and ready to go, the bakery and bar aren't weeded themselves, clean glasses, plateware and silverware are readily available, etc. I have all the tools I need to do my job, and I'm not kept waiting for anything - I can grab what I need and go.

Clientele: Everyone's nice and friendly. To clarify: I'm not looking to be best friends with my guests - I've never been one of those "So, what have you got planned for the weekend?" type of servers. I don't care. I don't want to get involved, I just bring the food. I just mean people treat me with a modicum of respect and aren't demonstrably rude. That's enough.

Tips: Here's the thing, it's not just about money. I've had very lucrative shifts that were an absolute shit show to get through; shifts where I was running my ass and one step behind all night. Yeah, I made money, but I had to kill myself to get it. It all comes down to the B/D ratio (Bullshit to Dollar). There is a certain amount of bullshit I will put up with for a certain amount of money. Kitchen's crashed and I can't get bread? If I make $200, I can overlook that. If I get run all night and only make $120, it's a lot harder to swallow than if I do nothing and make $100, even though I'm making less money. Of course, if I make anything less than $120 on a dinner shift, it's still hard to qualify as a good night.

So, if it takes all these elements coming together: the kitchen, support systems, clientele, tips, etc, for me to have a "great" shift, how many great shifts do you think I have? Not very many. Odds are, some element is going to be missing. So is that a good recipe for happiness? Not really, especially considering how many elements are outside of my control. When we pin our happiness on anything outside of ourselves and our own attitude, we're just setting ourselves up for disappointment, time and time again. What's the solution? I think it's to make happiness itself the priority, rather than these other things that need to happen for me to be happy. It's an experiment I've been trying with varying degrees of success - going into my shift with the attitude that come hell or high water, I'm going to stay in a good mood, that that's the most important thing. Because when you get right down to it, wouldn't you rather be in a good mood than a bad one? Not to sound Pollyanna, but doesn't it make you happier to, well, be happy? It takes a lot acceptance and a lot of letting go. Shitty tip? Let it go. 10-minute margarita? Let it go. Dirty silverware, mis-run food, rude guests? Let it all go. At the end of the day, it's only food. I spend 32-40 hours of my life a week at work, between 1500 and 2000 hours a year. That's the equivalent of 80 24-hour days, or 125 days of 16-hour waking time per calendar year. That's waaaay too much of life to just write off.


Happy Happy Joy Joy
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