Column | My summer as a truck stop waitress
August 23, 2012 · 1:34 PM
By Emilee Ruhland
SVR Staff Intern
This summer, I had the privilege of serving our beautiful Valley as an intern at the Snoqualmie Valley Record. I learned a lot about reporting, and how to write a great story, but most importantly, I was able to work with and learn more about our community. I cannot thank Reporter Carol Ladwig and Editor Seth Truscott enough for this experience. They were extremely flexible with my busy and unpredictable schedule.
As a new waitress at the North Bend truck stop, my schedule was very random and I would only find out my hours at the beginning of each week. The hours were tough, but training was even more work, since I have never waitressed before. I remember coming home at night that first week and crash landing on the couch. My dad would look at me, wrinkle his nose, and say, “You smell like restaurant.” I would glare at him, go take a shower, and then fall asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
Finally, I was told I’d be working my first shift by myself. I arrived that Sunday evening, which happened to be Father’s Day. I felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off. I did so many things wrong that first day. I forgot or messed up at least a third of the orders I took, I dropped drinks and plates (luckily most of them were empty), and I made a few customers angry.
But I honestly had some of the best customers I had all summer in that one evening. One particular family I will never forget. Everything that could go wrong did. The family was understanding and happy the entire time I served them, assuring me that I had not ruined their Father’s Day dinner.
If not for families like this one, and the people I worked with, I might not have continued working. The assistant manager, Patty Behney, told me I needed to be like a duck. I laughed a bit, but then she told me why, and I have kept it in my mind ever since. The duck, she said is “composed and unruffled on the surface, but paddling like crazy under water.” This, Behney continued, “shows us that regardless of the circumstance, we never let the guest know we are anything but cool, calm, and collected.”
This phrase served me well throughout my three months as a waitress, and will stay relevant through any other jobs I take on in my life.
Behney, and many of the other people I worked with, not only helped me improve as a waitress but also made the job fun. Flo Sherman and I became good friends and stay in touch even as I am headed to Fargo, North Dakota, where I will spend the next five months finishing up a degree in English. Many of the cooks always kept up a friendly banter.
Customers were definitely some of the most interesting people I talked to this summer. I had more propositions of dating and requests for my number in those three months than I’ve had in my entire life. On my last Saturday, a guy sitting at the bar looked at me and said, completely out of the blue, “Will you be my girlfriend?” I tried not to laugh as I replied, “Sorry, but I can’t,” and walked away to help a customer. When I came back, the guy next to him asked why I would say something like that, and I finally had a completely honest response. “Well, sir, I’m leaving the state tomorrow and won’t be back for five months!”
These past three months have come as a huge challenge. There were many times this summer when I thought, “I’m not a waitress, I can’t do this.” But as I left the truck stop for the final time this summer, I left with the knowledge that I can do anything I put my mind to.