It is that time of the year. The weather has suddenly gone from brisk to brick. Your favorite radio station has suddenly transformed into a Bing Cosby Christmas special. Heck, even your grandmother is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters before Turkey day reminding you the Holidays are here – ready or not.
For the average person the Holidays mean extended weekends, time with the family, and all around good times producing that quite-essential holiday cheer. Yet, for those of us fortunate enough to be in the service industry our calendars are laced with red ink spelling out the words, ‘Holiday Hell Is Here.’ The end of November means that for the next month and change our respective places of work will be filled to the brim with ugly-Christmas sweater-wearing patrons, but unlike your Grandma they’re not senile. In other words our Holidays mean, extended workdays, no time for the family, and all around stress-laced, Bah-Humbug, yelling fueled work days.
Now, it isn’t all bad. The extra hours are good for everyone’s pockets and some of us (the lucky ones) get holiday pay for working on the actual days of celebration. It is this time of year that we find ourselves hating our jobs more than loving it simply because we have the pain-staking task of making our money at very socially inopportune times.
This is truly the worst part about working during this particular season of the year. All facets of the service industry and all ages in it are affected by it. From a 16-year-old busboy having to work on Christmas Eve to a 55-year-old chef having to work the hotline on New Year’s Eve – we’re all affected in a negative way with our outside social lives. The younger workers are missing out late night extravaganzas with friends while the older workers are missing out on extremely desirable family time.
Uniquely, enough that absence of the normal holiday experience helps bond any restaurant. For starters, one’s tenure at any business in this industry is often marked by the number of holidays they have endured there. So, for the greener workers this may very well be the time of the year they get their service-industry-holiday-cherry popped and earn their stripes. For the veterans it is just any holiday grind with the work family. The ones who have gone through the holiday gauntlet before can attest, this is the time of year where you will see a restaurant come together as one – more so than any other time of the year. With everyone sharing in the longest stretch of significantly busy days and nights at their establishments a harmony occurs among the workforce. Suddenly, the common enemy (holiday work) helps create a community between front of house and back of house employees. Everyone pulls together to help during the rush and more importantly everyone helps shed off the holiday stress they’ve accumulated. Unfortunately, this consonance forms itself at work through shared holiday loathing; during the ‘happiest time of the year.’
The near-forty-day stretch (Turkey Day to New Year’s Day) will certainly test anyone’s patience in this industry. We are all annoyed about coming into work when everyone else is out their polluting our newsfeed with reminders of the #goodtimes we’re missing. We’re all stressed out from the countless doubles we continue surviving through. And we are all mad at ourselves that we are in fact missing out on the holidays. Extensively working during them makes the ambiance of the season dissipate. The continuous stress of finding time to actually shop for presents makes one abhor the season.
Yet, when it is all said and done (some forty days later) you’ll look back with new admiration to your fellow holiday grinders and smile. You may have missed out on the Turkey Day Football games. You definitely forgot to light the Menorah for all eight days. You find yourself guilty of devouring your Christmas advent chocolate calendar long before the 25th, but in the end the quick shot of booze you’ll share with your work comrades on New Year’s Eve will make it all worth it. You’ve survived another holiday season without your kin, but in the process you’ve gained a family, your work family.
A toast to all my fellow chefs, servers, bartenders, bussers, food-runners, maitre d’s, and hostesses out there working this upcoming holiday season, Salute!
Happy Thanksgiving From The 86’d Life!