Races, parades, etc. can be found in any city and even small towns. These events bring a lot of business to the local area, but if you’re unprepared, you can be caught by surprise–whether you’re an owner, or an employee.

When I was living in Kerrville, I’d attempted to pick up a number of second jobs because I was strapped for necessary cash. One of the last that I held was as a waitress for a local bar/restaurant. It was a place I’d never been to before, but had walked past frequently. In the time that I’d lived there, it had been closed and opened at least three times–once having been reopened under a different name. In hindsight, that should’ve been a clue because–despite being hired almost as soon as I walked through the front door–I ended up working only one day a week, sometimes only three to four hours. And anyone who’s ever been a waitress knows how financially small your returns are.

I never complained that much. I’m not that great at dealing with people, and between my limited hours and the limited business, my chances of offending someone was small. One day I went to work for a three hour shift. It was mid to late afternoon and I didn’t expect to get much–or any–business. I did my prep work, helped with some cleaning, and then dully watched the sports channels on the t.v. Everything was as right as rain–right up until ten people walked into the restaurant at once. They were waiting for a parade to start and decided that they’d get a bite to eat while they did so. They’d decided to grace our restaurant and I was the only waitress. Oh boy.

Being Autistic, situations like this–where I have the rug yanked out from under me–cause me to panic. I’m not talking about the traditional freaking out and hyperventilating. My brain is the issue. The second the situation descended upon me, my mind kicked off at a hundred miles an hour. It caused me to be nervous, to have difficulty thinking strait, and increased my clumsiness. And made my already poor social skills even worse as I tried to do a dozen things at once.

I did my best to remain calm and take their orders. The people were in groups so I placed their stuff on different tickets and tried to mark the tickets with numbers that corresponded to their arrangement so that I would remember who had what. Once that was done I made my escape and went to turn in their orders. I don’t know how other waitressing gigs work, but we couldn’t just hand our tickets to the cook. We had to enter them into the computer and this is where my first disaster struck. One of the owners relatives–who worked there–thought it would be an excellent idea to approach me at that time. She wanted me to tell her which drinks had been ordered so she could get them for the customers. A reasonable request, save for one problem. My brain.

It was going in a hundred different directions at a million miles an hour and I was trying to scrape together enough concentration to punch in the orders. Having someone standing at my shoulder and trying to divert my attention while I did this wasn’t the greatest idea. And as I mentioned, my social skills aren’t great at the best of times and this wasn’t one of them. I did my best to tell her the drink orders–although I snapped a bit. Not a great idea for continued employment–I know–but it couldn’t be helped.

I managed to get the orders in and get everyone their drinks. I then spent the next three hours running around like a headless chicken and not because I was excessively busy. In such situations I feel as if I’ve loaded up on sugar and can’t sit still, much less think strait. I was still rattled when they were ready for their tickets. So much so, that I processed two of the tickets incorrectly, using one persons payment for the other. One of them let me keep the remaining amount for the tip so I was able to cover it up. When they finally left I wanted nothing more than to get out of there and go on a very long jog to burn my excess energy. But I couldn’t. I had to clean the tables and then go to my second job, one that–thankfully–didn’t include dealing with more people.

Seeing as that table earned me a great deal of money–as well as the restaurant–I can’t really complain. And in hindsight, I should’ve asked for help. And I should’ve considered the possibility of people showing up since I knew the parade was occurring that day. Guess that’s the lesson: best prepare for the worst.

And try not to panic.

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Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.

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