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Book of Jobs Part 3


by Chris Auman

In 2012 I moved to Wisconsin. I was maybe going to make good on my long-threatened move into a trailer in the woods. Madison is as far as I got. I took a bus north to interview for a job I would not get. I brought some food service résumés with me just in case. On a walk around the east side neighborhood where I was staying, I spotted a help wanted sign in the window of a Southeast Asian restaurant. I dropped off a résumé, took a bus back to Chicago and promptly forgot about it. A month later I got a call from the owner, took a bus north to interview and was hired on the spot. Despite my experience, however, training lasted four weeks. Four weeks of a lot of work and no tips. Four weeks after six years of SE Asian restaurant experience— experience so recent that my last work day in Chicago was four days before my first day in Madison, and I had made an interstate move in the interim.

As servers we were required to, not only wait tables, but simultaneously take phone and counter orders, pack food, seat customers and be our own bartenders, all for $3.25 per hour plus tips. One hundred percent of the takeout tips went to the kitchen as did ten percent of our own waiting tips. This egalitarian approach meant a lot of work for everybody and not much money for anyone.

My short commute to work evened things out a bit. I could walk there in four minutes flat. After two years, a year earlier than my average of three, I was done. I left to work full-time on a temporary writing project, but returned about a year later to do deliveries on weekends. Being a deliver driver can be great—cruising around town listening to classic rock, away from the insanity back at the restaurant—it can also be the worst: traffic, wrong orders, food containers breaking mid transit, customers who somehow managed to not answer the door for their delivery which happened more times than I ever could have imagined (cell phone died, walking the dog, jumped in the shower, fell asleep on the couch, in the backyard, et cetera.)

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Originally published in RW#24, 2014

RW #24

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