The New Normal for a Waitress

During the first few months of the pandemic, all I wanted to do was go back to school, work, and do everything else that I used to participate in. However, in early June, I returned to my job as a waitress at a local diner, only to find that everything felt completely foreign to me.

Like many small businesses, my diner has definitely been hurt by the huge decrease of willing customers. I had many close relationships with my regular customers that I used to see every weekend, but I haven’t seen many of them since March. There was a time that I didn’t get a break all day, but now I find myself lazily sitting around as I just wait for more people to come in. It feels so impersonal to stand six feet away from my tables, and it diminishes most of the social aspect of my job. People used to come to our local diner for a meal with a friendly, low-key environment, but now the atmosphere is full of stress and tension, as many people are still afraid to be out.

While wearing masks has become custom in almost all situations now, seeing my coworkers speaking to me behind matching black masks felt a lot weirder than seeing strangers at a grocery store. Before the pandemic, I would often ask the kitchen for extra food during a long shift or even share snacks and drinks with my coworkers, but now I have to be constantly aware of breaking our new protocols. For a fast-paced diner that rushes at everything, the added stress of having to bleach every single thing is annoying, to say the least. And as someone who used to just rush around the restaurant, I’m constantly scared of forgetting a new rule. Before coronavirus became a threat, I was completely comfortable with waitressing and all my job responsibilities.  Suddenly I feel like I’m starting a new job that I’m scared to mess up at–both for my safety, other’s safety, and the legitimacy of my workplace. I hate the idea of making a paying customer feel unsafe while going out, and I’m also still afraid of getting the virus.

As much as I am grateful that we can at least have a new semi-normal reality, returning to my job has definitely made me miss our old normal. However, we are all adapting, and I’m still happy to even have a job with so many people unemployed around the world. It’s comforting to see my coworkers again and at least some of the regular customers who I’ve known for years. In the end, I know this won’t be forever, but at least we can all adapt for now.