Last night, I had the dream again. I was waiting tables and I was in the weeds.
If you have never heard this term or you never worked in food service, allow me to explain. The weeds is a place you know you will visit on the busiest night of the week, but you always hope it will be just a bit more welcoming, a bit less like the place you think you will finally die. It's when the server in the section next to you comes down with the stomach flu at 7:00 on a Saturday night and you take over her tables. It's when you have three orders to take, five drinks to get and a some woman is changing a diaper on the table where you need to drop off sizzling fajitas. It's a place where you feel like you'll never get your breath back, there's a line out the door and an hour long wait for a table, an 18 year old couple just left you $3 on a $70 check and you just got sat with a brand spanking new ten top. It's the busiest, most multi-tasking place you'll ever be, but it's the only way you'll make money and it sure does make the shift go by faster.
So, here I am, about 11 years after the last time I worked at a restaurant. I'm a college professor. I have a family. I attribute many of my multi-tasking skills to Chili's or Outback Steakhouse on a Saturday night (or IHOP on a Sunday morning. Really. Check that place out the next time you drive by. It's as if pancakes are only served for five minutes and everyone's trying to eat them at the same time). And every now and then, I have the dream.
In the dream, I'm in the weeds and it's all very specific. I can never remember my employee number to enter into the computer because even in the dream, it's been awhile and my boss always has to look it up. The dream always take place at Chili's. The boss is any one of the many I had at the many restaurants where I made rent money, tuition money, drinking money in college. There are variables; last night, for example, the Chili's was in London. But no matter what, I'm always in the weeds. I get chips and salsa for the table and when I turn around, it's gone. I go to the bar to get the drinks for another table and we're out of Jack. The cooks are angry at me for being away for so long and my salads aren't ready. I finish the shift with a piddly amount of money in my pocket, feeling like I've never been so bad at this. Ever.
I'm helpless. And I'm in the weeds.
I'm pretty sure I don't need one of those overpriced dream dictionaries to figure this one out. I have to hone my multi-tasking skills. I must feel, deep down, like I'm lacking, like I can't handle what's being thrown at me. But the thing is, I survived those nights. I survived multiple Mother's Days at Outback. (You wouldn't think it, but this is the busiest day of the Outback year. I remember running to the basement to smoke a cigarette after ten hours straight because I just couldn't take it anymore.) And I did it well, for years. So, how hard can the rest of this be?