Having a career is cool. Grad school had the opposite effect on me that it does on most people. You see, I had never held a serving job in my entire life – never slang a drank, cleared a table, or even imagined a foray into that horrible world until I was getting my Master’s degree and was forced to find some kind of income that fit around going to school full-time, and having an internship that ate up three whole days of my week. Nights and weekends were my only availability, so getting people drunk or making them fat seemed like my best option.
I worked in the therapy field about a year as a school counselor, until I watched the whole school get shut down due to government budget cutbacks. Surely – closing institutions specifically for children with special emotional and behavioral needs, is a great place to slash a few bucks. It was disheartening, but secretly I was relieved. I was moving and guess what I did, moved right on into another serving job. It was easy and not all that different – people told me their problems and paid me for it but instead of Prozac I gave them a buzz. “It was temporary,” I thought, until I figured out what I really wanted to do. Regardless, I was grateful for the two years of teeth-clenching, hair-pulling, wine infused, paper writing insanity that was completing Graduate School. I met people who would change my course in the best way – characters you couldn’t make up, and it transformed my perspective in some pretty profound ways. My first year I made fun of the girl who pulled out a Trapper-Keeper full of crystals in the Dining Hall, and by the end I had amassed my own small collection (However I kept mine in a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper with puppies and kittens on it)
I landed back in Salt Lake City for the second time (the obvious place for a booze-drinking, cigarette smoking lesbian to go – the Mormon epicenter of the world) and started serving at a really shitty Greek restaurant that happened to have amazing food. Maybe it’s the spoiled Connecticut girl in me but at my prior gig I’d just left – we had bussers, food runners, bartenders, expos; at this place you were expected to do everything. This set you up to give real shoddy service, coupled with the fact I couldn’t pronounce anything on the menu, exacerbated by the detail that everyone who worked there was an old career server who basically secreted suicidal ideation out of their pores; I quit on the spot after I witnessed the owner smoke a cigarette IN the kitchen with the door barely cracked an inch. It was spontaneous but it wasn’t dumb. I knew myself well enough to expect slight failures in the beginning and I’d saved accordingly. I wasn’t rolling in it like Scrooge McDuck, but I had some wiggle room that meant I didn’t have to sell my soul for soulvlaki and gyros.
Through my ex-girlfriends sister, I ended up slinging beer several times a week at an outdoor street festival called Granary Row. It was overly trendy and poorly executed, and I wasn’t making shit – but it was kind of a likely pitstop on my pipe dream. You see, when I got into serving I came to a realization: I really liked beer. I mean I always had, but in college I most likely bought whatever I could funnel six of at time. My taste for better beer came as I got older and when I started working at a place that served the best craft beers in town, everything clicked – and I was hooked. I rolled my eyes when I walked by other servers fumbling through beer selections, The customer would say: “I like Wheat beers, do you have anything like that?” They’d squirm holding their server books trying to remember anything they’d learned in their beverage training and I’d lean behind them and say “Literally any Hefenweizen, you fucking idiot.”
Okay, so I wasn’t so mean but as much as beer was science – it wasn’t rocket science. When a job opened up at the actual Brewery, I jumped at the chance. Sure it wasn’t ideal but it was a job at a Brewery and I was really starting to run out of money. If I had to work in the service industry at least it was somewhere I got to walk by giant fermenters and smell hops and barley everyday. So for about a year and a half, I went back to slangin’ beers for friendly bearded men who tipped me plentifully and became my friends. I still roll deep with some of those fellows, who have some the softest facial hair and hearts I’ve ever grazed.
When the pub closed down indefinitely for a remodel, I was again – secretly relieved. Apparently, when I don’t want to work somewhere anymore, the universe shuts it down (thanks universe!) Although I had the best regulars and the best serving job possible, it was still a serving job. Dealing with the general public is still pretty taxing, as is going home with mustard stains on your shirt everyday. It was exactly a year ago today that that era ended for me. I transitioned into a new role on the Administrative side of things. Talk about night and day – for the first time in three years I had a normal schedule. I knew when I was getting out of work and I could plan things. Instead of the chaotic russian roulette of never knowing who would walk in and sit at my bar, I was working with people I knew. It was much easier negotiating these personalities because there weren’t as many surprises. If I had a bad interaction with somebody we’d talk it out and get over it and they wouldn’t write a yelp review about me.
I answered phones, I pushed paper – and I loved it. I learned the in’s and out’s of the beer industry and realized it took a lot of people and work. I also learned why it’s such a competitive industry – because once you get in, you don’t typically want to leave. You know, people don’t stumble into beer; they seek it out. No one gets clubbed in the head one day and wakes up in a Brewery and is forced to work there. There’s a 9/10 chance they brew beer themselves and are generally laid back, funny, passionate and hardworking people. My Employee Lounge may have 8 taps, but don’t think it comes free of its qualms. I’ve cried in the bathroom, wanted to pull out my hair, or even run through the plate glass window in front of my desk from time to time. It’s a job like any other – there’s hard work, deadlines, miscommunications, mistakes, and fallacies. But at the end of the day, I’m content to have somehow ended up here in some kind of roundabout way, and if I’m ever not – there’s beer to make it better.
I can’t count the amount of friends and peers I have whose degrees have proved better as really boasty wall decorations best pointed out at parties. While I regret the large amount of student loans that I refuse to pay, I never would be where I am today without that experience. Our parents may shake their heads in dismay, and our former professors may throw up their hands and wonder why they even bothered to read our fucking 140 page thesis. Our dreams aren’t always what we think they are – but life has an odd way of making things work out in the end.