Upon my acceptance into the University of Florida, I knew 2 things to be true.
One, I was going to be a Gator like I had always wanted and two, that I needed a job before school began in early July.
Originally, I thought I would be able to get a prestigious first generation student scholarship for which I had applied. I went to preview and got the meal plan for the summer and the Fall because I knew in my heart that I was going to get the scholarship, and I had no worries that I wouldn’t be able to pay my dorm rent.
However, things didn’t go exactly as planned.
When I got the notification that I was not accepted into the program, I was devastated. I felt as if everything I was building my freshman year upon had just fallen apart in my hands in the form of a standardized email sent from that organization at UF.
I was left with confusion, doubt in my capabilities and fear about what on Earth I was going to do to help pay for school. I had other scholarships and Bright Futures… but what about food and living expenses?
First, I called UF and cancelled my full meal plan, and I started looking for jobs in the Gainesville area.
Enter Chipotle Mexican Grill on Archer Road.
Once I got the interview, I drove from Ocala 2 days in a row for my first and follow-up interviews, just to make sure that they knew I was serious and hard-working.
They said it was hard work, and that they were really, really busy… and I said, “bring it.”
So, the second week of summer B semester 2018, I began my first ever service job.
And let me tell you, I was not ready for the amount of grit, will power and skill that it took to balance such a high-speed job, a 17 credit first fall semester and my extracurricular activities.
But, this job kept me afloat, gave me health insurance, taught me valuable lessons that I firmly believe I would not have learned anywhere else and became a constant in times of turbulence and change.
In this post, I want to talk about my experience working in a service job, and why I believe that everyone should work in an environment like this once in their life.
Thorough Cleaning 101
If the concept of deep cleaning your own home eludes you, trust me, it will not once you learn how to deep clean a restaurant which gets very messy after almost 12 hours a day of being in operation.
Honestly, I am shocked that I continued to be able to eat at Chipotle once I began working there because of the amount of times that I saw all of that same food in the floor drains as I cleaned them every night!
Working in food services definitely teaches you to not be afraid of getting your hands dirty in order to make things safe for other people.
You learn to be okay with getting soaked in dish water, or getting food all over your clothes or even having your socks soaked through with floor cleaner.
Every night, on each station, crew members clean the floors (sweeping, deck brushing, squeegeeing, and mopping). They also clean the counters, the drains and the bathrooms. This process, which sounds like it wouldn’t be too time consuming, takes about an hour or two, depending on how busy and how short-staffed the shift was.
After I began working at Chipotle, I felt like I had a deep knowledge of how and when to clean every room in my home until it was up to food safety standards.
And as a perfectionist, it is a skill that I have very much appreciated, though I could have done without emptying the rice and water out of the floor drain socks!
Anyone who says that people cannot actually multi-task, and can only switch between two tasks individually, have never been a cashier at a restaurant during rush hour.
Sometimes, almost simultaneously, I have had to personally answer the phone, ring up a customer, post online orders and bag a meal for that same customer. Being the cashier means that you are the point person for every customer, every person working on the food line and for your managers when they need to check a transaction or online order.
The job is, without a doubt, the most stressful thing I have ever done!
While there have been times that I have had to go to the back of house to cry for a second because of a customer insulting my ability to do my job, or a line that is to the door and 10 tables that are not clean, there have also been times where I have felt strong and capable.
It is this hard job that let me know that I can do many things that I don’t want to, or think I can’t, do… and I also deeply felt the power that sheer force of will can have over a person.
I am 91 pounds and 4’11, so many times it truly made no sense when I was able to do tasks that should have superseded the abilities of my small stature.
From these memories of 9 – 10 hours shifts I am encouraged that I am strong and can face whatever lay ahead of me.
The final, and perhaps the most unexpected, takeaway from working at Chipotle is the amount of character growth that I experienced in this place.
Almost without realizing it I learned how to be more patient, have grace for people having a bad day, have mercy on stressed coworkers, how to be generous and the value of working for what you have.
Because of my experiences there I always tip 20%, no matter the service, because I know what it is like to have the worst day and have to clock in anyway. I know what it is like to get yelled at by strangers for something that isn’t your fault, and I know how tired servers are almost all the time.
I also know how great it felt to be able to buy all my furniture myself for my bedroom in my first-ever apartment. And how it felt to save my tips so I could have spending money in South Korea.
So yeah, I think Chipotle has played a big role in who I am and what I believe today.
Which means that I also wouldn’t be the same person without it and the people I worked with… and my college experience certainly wouldn’t have been the same, either!
All that being said, I believe that everyone should at one point or another work in a service job.
If not for the free food or discounts, then to become a better, more merciful and generous person in the long run.
As always, thank you for reading!
Until next time,