I have always had a grave mistrust in people, but held onto a glowing hope, a belief that people must be better elsewhere. The grass is greener, or even better, it’s purple or or glittery gold. Growing up in rural South Dakota will do that to a person. It’s not exactly a haven of acceptance. Despite my distrust, a midwestern upbringing forces one to act nice towards everyone, no exceptions. Fake smiles, judgemental eyes, small talk, and withering passive aggression. It was appropriate training for my abysmal future.
The main source of my income has been from the service industry. Every artist works in the service industry at some point, unless they have rich parents, of course. In which case they will receive a world class education, instructing them on the art of struggle in order to create art about it. The richies will most likely be devoid of bitterness, and therefore won't be held back by resentment and/or extreme self hatred. Success is inevitable. To be fair, richies may suffer from many neuroses, but can afford therapy.
Of course I’m generalizing rich people. Who cares. My experience with that group comes from serving pompous 16 year olds with American Express cards. I believe bussing tables and pouring wine should be a right of passage for any artist, or person, to be honest. A sage manager of mine once said, "Every citizen should be forced to work in the service industry for at least one year." Fuck yes they should. Why, you ask? Here's a list of the skills you'll develop:
1. Multitasking (Make three drinks while taking an order, or more importantly, gossiping with a coworker)
2. Quick decision making (I will take these three tables drink orders first, giving me the perfect amount of time for a small break to pee and devour the Kit Kat I just found in my apron)
3. Customer service (How to talk to people without killing them)
4. Food and Beverage (Learn how to make drinks for parties to impress sexual prospects, or perhaps pick up some cooking skills, even if you're FOH [front of house], to prevent eating easy mac for the rest of your life)
5. Coordination (carrying shit gracefully without dropping it on someone's Prada)
Those are simple practical skills one takes away from service. NONE of these are important AT ALL compared to the empathy you'll develop for your industry fellows. A list of what not to do in a restaurant, or "Things You Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Doing If You Knew How We All Bitched About You After Our Shifts," will be in a later post.
It’s never an artist’s intention to stay in the industry, but many do, unless they find a more viable income elsewhere. Like marrying rich (A good friend told me the best way to be successful in NYC is to find a sugar daddy. He’s not wrong.) An artist could end up selling real estate, or drugs. If an artist is lucky with good connections, while also working hard and having a vision and blah blah blah, they sell art. Or so I assume.
No matter what, it will always feel like selling your soul a little. Artists are precious creatures with precious ideals and fragile egos, and working in the service industry hardens the chocolate shell surrounding their squishy marshmallow center. I dedicate this guide to the misanthropes, artists, and literally everyone who struggles in the service industry in America and all over the world every day. A batch of the hardest, most bitter chocolate you’ll ever meet. Unless you give them a decent family meal.