Why I Quit My ‘Real Job’ (After Two Weeks) and Went Back to Waitressing

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

—Mark Twain

For years I bitched and moaned about how I wanted to finally quit waitressing and get a real job. I fantasized about waking up early with purpose, listening to talk radio on my morning commute, having a fancy job title, and wearing cute outfits to work each day. Much better than wearing clothes infused with french fry grease, with pasta sauce dripping off my no-slip shoes, and being subservient to a bunch of asshole costumers. I mean I have a college education, I’m better than this – right?

After many attempts, I finally landed a great job as a Production Coordinator at a new company. How cool does that sound? Production Coordinator, ahh. I could feel my mom getting prouder by the moment.

The first week of my new job was great! I drank my coffee out of a travel mug, attended early morning meetings, contributed my thoughts on pressing issues, and came home at the end of the day feeling as if I’d accomplished something.

Then, I ran out of cute outfits and realized- hey wait a minute… this actually sucks ass.

I work a minimum of nine hours a day, usually more. I never see my family anymore and when I do I’m too tired to have any fun, and I’m not sure but I think I’m starting to get Secretary Spread (a.k.a. a fat ass!). Not only does my butt hurt, but my creativity has been sucked out of me. I’m suppose to be a writer, how can I write when I have three hours of time to myself before bed and the idea of any more sitting makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and die?

Not only is my new job draining and a giant time-suck, but now I have to go through life like everyone else. No more grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings and yoga in the afternoons. I went to the mall on Saturday and it took three Beyoncé songs just to find a parking spot!

This is what normal people do on the weekends? Grocery shop, laundry, and traffic? I always thought they went out on their boats and partied. Isn’t that why everyone’s always talking about how great it is that Friday’s almost here? Why are they so excited about the weekend if all they’re doing is running errands in the worst traffic possible?

Why I Quit My ‘Real Job’ (After Two Weeks) and Went Back to Waitressing

Okay, so there were tons of cons to working this job: the mall on Saturdays, Secretary Ass, creativity sucking, and not to mention– I really missed my dog. Was waitressing really as bad as I’d made it out to be all those years?

I had a friend who quit acting, and thus, quit waitressing too– to become a scientist. She came into the bar I worked out several years later and told me she made more money when she worked with me at The Cheesecake Factory than she does as a scientist.

A mother fucking scientist!

Not only was the money better waiting tables, but I made it in one-third of the time than I did at my new job. Sure as a waitress I always worked weekends and missed parties, but I had time to be creative, see my friends (my waiter friends anyway), go on dates with my boyfriend and play with my dog– I had a life.

I was starting to realize that I’d been lucky all along. I actually loved my life the way it was- I was just too hung up on what I thought my life should look like at 30-something to enjoy what was right in front of me. Life’s too short… if I drop dead next week wouldn’t I be happier knowing that I’d only spent twenty hours a week at work rather than fifty?

So I did the only thing I could think of, I went crawling back with my tail between my legs and asked my restaurant boss if I could have my job back– the same job I’d quit a mere two weeks ago. It was a truly humbling experience. Luckily I hadn’t flipped everyone off and said, ‘F%$# You!’ when I originally quit. (two weeks notice is your friend, people). And, I’m a pretty good waitress– a touch snarky, but fast on my feet– so they took me back with open-ish arms.

The following day I went in to my ‘real job’ and sat at the morning meeting one last time as I doodled in my notebook ‘Last Day!’ and pretended to care about what my boss was saying. At the end of the day I quit a job for the second time in 2015. (Yes, I realize it’s still January.) I’m getting pretty good at this– also there’s no greater feeling than quitting a job you don’t like and celebrating afterwards with margaritas.

Even though I knew it was ego that had lead me down a path of unhappiness in the first place, I was still nervous to tell my friends and family that I’d just quit my fancy job before the end of the first pay period and I was going back to the same restaurant job I’d bitched about for the past four years. I was sure they’d think I was just being a whiny irresponsible baby, afraid of the real world, (which is only partially true) and equally afraid that my poor mom would die of emotional embarrassment when she had to tell people that her daughter, a college graduate, is back at it, cleaning up other people’s slop. As I braced myself for their criticism, I was stunned and overwhelmed by all their love and support. Every single one of them encouraged my decision to quit my ‘real job,’ pursue my art, and be happy. ‘Life’s too short.’

Why I Quit My ‘Real Job’ (After Two Weeks) and Went Back to Waitressing

So now I’m going back to those dreaded no-slip safety shoes that I loathe and sucking up to dumb people who pronounce it “Mer-Lot”… only this time I’m okay with it. I realize that even though I’m covered in grease and ugly clothes, I get to go home at the end of the night and be with my family. I can write all day long and do my grocery shopping during non-peak times. I am truly thankful for this. Do I plan on waiting tables forever? Absolutely not. My feet can only take so much, but by doing it a while longer, I can give myself the time needed to let my passions lead me where I’m suppose to go. From now on, the grass is no longer greener on the other side, because I’m watering it on my side now.

Lisa Kay Jennings is a voice over artist/actress/comedy writer. She has performed her writing in the Best of LAist rated show Taboo Tales, on The Groundlings’ stage, and in her theatrical writing debut, Save the Last Dance Potato Chip. You can contact her at: iamlisakay@gmail.com 

Life Lessons I Learned from Being a Salesperson (Week One): Rejection is No Big Deal

I believe that every person could benefit from working both in the customer service sector and the sales sector prior to pursuing any other career. This was my path– six years in retail followed by two years in outside sales. Both experiences taught me invaluable skills relevant to my job every single day. If you didn’t have the luxury (or as some might describe “horror”) of experiencing a sales job like I did, allow me to impart upon you some of the key lessons I learned that could benefit you today– immediately– in your own career, no matter the industry.

This is an ongoing series focusing on different topics… starting with what I consider the most valuable lesson I learned: which is that rejection is no big deal. 

Let me paint a picture for you of a young girl, clutching her audio recorder with sweaty palms and practically hyperventilating at the thought of interviewing sources (a.k.a. her own classmates and peers) about their opinion about hard-hitting news topics like the health benefits of drinking Jamba Juice smoothies. This was me at 20, studying journalism at Arizona State University and working myself into a crumpled, neurotic mess whenever I needed to approach strangers to engage in small talk, covering “serious” college concerns like on-campus style or whether Emo culture was a passing fad.

I’m glad to know that I had enough self-awareness to realize that my crippling shyness was going to hinder my career as an aspiring journalist/writer. This awareness was the most prominent factor that drove me to pursue a sales position in the first place, thus making fearlessness the single most importance lesson I learned from my outside sales experience.

So I went from sweaty-palmed college student, to an even more sweaty-palmed (but well dressed!) salesperson, masking my insecurities with a winning grin while convincing small business owners of the value of my company’s payroll administration benefits. It was a masochistic exercise in personal development. In the beginning I would hype myself up before walking into a building several times before actually entering. I choreographed what I like to call the “dance of apprehension” as I entered, left and re-entered offices, my car, etc., backing in and out like as if I were an SUV being maneuvered into a compact parking space.

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

I’d say that the worst moment I ever experienced was when a business owner screamed at me in front of all of his employees. The lumbering red-faced man bellowed at me, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see how important I am? Get the fuck out of here!”

Okay, actually that never happened.

In reality, I think the worst reaction I ever received  (a result of an unannounced in-person visit) was when a man assertively told me, “I don’t have time to listen to your sales pitch.” Fair enough. Of course I fled outside where I could burst into tears in the privacy of my car.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

– my cousin, Kelli.

(Also, apparently, the motto of Jimmy Choo CEO Tamara Mellon, according to The Guardian).

Here’s the thing– once you get used to the initial shock of rejection, it almost becomes fun to embrace failing– just because you had the guts to go for it. I’m not here to tell you that fear goes away– it doesn’t, actually. But as a salesperson, you learn to embrace the fear and roll with it. My cousin has a great mantra that has always stuck with me: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” A great one because, for me at least, my sense of fear of talking to strangers never really diminished completely. But saying this mantra is like saying to yourself, “fuck it” and allowing your drive to overcome the discomfort you feel.

A sales career teaches you how silly it is to worry about rejection because you are rejected almost on a daily basis– typically in the form of polite, straightforward let-downs versus whatever your worst nightmare is. Once you get over the fear of the “worst case scenario,” almost any task seems worth pursuing because you’re no longer afraid of what the outcome might be. The thought of being rejected seems harmless once you’ve been there so many times.

Often people are so overwhelmed by their own fear of failure that they become frozen in circumstances that make them unhappy. Scared of what they envision to be a negative outcome, they take no action whatsoever. When you are rejected on a daily basis as a salesperson, you realize how much emotional baggage is tied to the notion of failure and rejection, and you learn to shrug it off. You shamelessly and unabashedly approach situations with a new sense of calm and detachment.

Today you might be afraid of not closing the deal or not booking the appointment (if you’re in sales), or perhaps you’re afraid of something more personal– scared of starting a new chapter in your life, worried about hurting someone’s feelings, feeling vulnerable about having your ideas criticized, or launching a project that turns out to be a bitter failure. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to be rejected– it burns, it stings… but it diminishes over time. And eventually, the thrill of the audacity of trying outweighs the bad.

And I’m not saying you won’t fail. You probably will. A salesperson knows that after experiencing various types of rejection, you realize that there isn’t ever just one opportunity to “succeed.” In my experience, one usually encounters multiple opportunities to achieve their goals. Which means even after you totally embarrass yourself at a meeting, botch a introduction, put your foot in your mouth, or hear “no” for the first or zillionth time– just know that you have many more opportunities to try again in your future.

When it comes to interviewing strangers, I’m not saying I’ve completely eradicated the sweaty palms from my method of operation, I’m just saying I now enjoy the thrill of it. And honestly, sometimes I do totally embarrass myself– but at least I have the guts to try.

Image: Death to the Stock Photo, Giphy

A Beginner’s Guide to Riding the LA Metro

So you’re considering riding the LA Metro.

Your tolerance for the daily gridlock in this city’s notorious traffic has reached its maximum level, but you’re scared to venture into the widely uncommon practice of riding LA’s train to work. Or, perhaps you’re seeking a better way to travel home from a drunken night of debauchery – one that doesn’t involve a ridiculously expensive cab or a less-than-ideal excursion from your not-so-reliable Designated Driver.

As Heidi Niedermeyer and Elena Crevello playfully demonstrate in their “Shit People in LA Say” video shown here, most Angelenos consider the Metro completely intolerable. And honestly, if you’ve been to other major cities around the world, you may find LA public transport a bit limited (if from Chicago/NYC), if not downright horrifying (if from Seoul/London).

Los Angeles Metro map vs. Seoul Metro map

Los Angeles Metro map vs. Seoul Metro map. The route options don’t even compare!

But, allow me to provide you with some real-world pointers for LA public transport etiquette to help you overcome any apprehension for venturing into the unknown– a decision that just might improve your daily commute forever.

Reader, consider yourself forewarned that this has been written by a girl who has taken public transportation her entire life which requires a certain amount of tolerance for germs, socioeconomically diverse crowds and street smarts. If you lack said tolerance, perhaps you should address these qualities prior to riding the train.

I’ve always thought of riding the train (or as I like to call it, the subway, ooh lala) as a rite of passage as a modern urban-dwelling career woman. Growing up I envision “adulthood” as myself riding the subway to a downtown high rise building wearing a chic suit holding a briefcase as part of what. Therefore, riding the train for the past five years is somewhat like fulfilling an adventurous childhood dream from which no amount of homeless co-riders will deter me. Therefore, I feel it part of my civic duty to share the love with you, along with some pointers for your first train voyage.

Plan Your Trip: The Metro staff is surprisingly helpful

If you are taking the train for the first time, unless you are super savvy with maps, I recommend that you call the Metro directly (213-680-0054) for personal guidance. I’ve spoken with Metro staff on more than one occasion and not only are they patient, but totally helpful and willing to offer you detailed turn-by-turn directions that a child could follow. [p.s. This post is no way endorsed by the LA Metro as you’ll probably figure as you continue to read.]

Once your route all squared away, here are some of my tips for some real deal preparation. I take the Red Line, which is probably the most common train which the tamest crowd, which runs from downtown to the Valley in North Hollywood and consists of just 12 stops. From doorstep to doorstep, my commute from home to work is approximately 30 blissful, traffic-free minutes during which I read, write blog posts like this, nap and/or shamelessly apply my eye makeup. These tips are specific to this train but probably applicable to most Metro riding experiences.

Keep in mind that it’s good to know the name of the last stop of the train that you plan to ride as this is how you will know if you are boarding the train heading in the right direction. ie: If boarding the Red Line from the Pershing Square station to the Universal City station, make sure to board the Red Line going to North Hollywood (its final destination).

Location: If you’re not underground, you’re not in the right place

A Beginner's Guide to Riding the L.A. Metro

A Beginner’s Guide to Riding the L.A. Metro

This may sound a little obvious but if you did not take an elevator or escalator to a below-ground platform with train tracks, you are not in the right place. You are probably waiting for a bus or just hanging around. I wouldn’t type this out if I haven’t seen this happen to my out-of-state visitors. If you can see the sky, you are not waiting in the right place.

Elevator/Escalator Etiquette: Don’t be an asshole

Yes, even before you get to the platform, there are unspoken rules to be aware of. If you are taking the elevator, don’t be that asshole who closes the doors when you see someone approaching. Slow your roll, and hold the door. Also, if you aren’t handicapped, injured, commuting with your child or a bike or the elderly, I recommend avoiding the elevator because you cram yourself within a 5 x 5 foot box with about a dozen other people and, honey, it doesn’t smell like peaches in there.

If taking the escalator like most do, take note that other people are in a hurry so stand to one side (preferably the same side as your fellow escalator-riding peers) so that others may walk past you.

Bike riders: invest in a heavy-duty bike lock that secures both tires if you plan to leave your bike at a station. There are also special lockers you can rent but there is a six-month waiting list. Or buy a cheap bike from Craigslist that you wouldn’t be sad to see stolen. Otherwise, take that bicycle with you, my friend.

Ticketing: Free isn’t free

There are automated ticket booths located in obvious locations on the Mezzanine level (the one you get to off of the escalator/elevators) of every station. At the time that I am writing this, ticket booths dispense cards that cost $1.00 and it’s $1.50 for a one-way ticket so you’re going to pay $2.50 for the first ride and $1.50 thereafter. Unless you are taking the train every day and transferring to more than one train, the one-way price is the most cost effective ticket. ie: I pay $3.00/day every weekday, an average of 20 days per month costing $60/month which is still less than the $75 monthly unlimited rides Metro pass. This is about the same price that a parking pass might cost you if you work in downtown LA, but factor in the price of gas and your emotional frustration to consider whether the train is a better option for you.

The card that you receive is reloadable and the machines accept cash/credit/debit. Note that you need an individual card for each rider, which means that you can’t just pay for you and an additional person with a single card– even your child.

There is a common perception from tourists that the LA Metro tickets are on the honors system. The truth is, attendants are never on duty check that you’ve paid, however, more often than not, Sheriff’s deputies will either board the trains or wait for you upon the exit at the most popular stations to double check for unpaid ticket riders, the fine for which is around $250. Scary bear!

Where to Go/ What train to board

LA Metro train platforms.

LA Metro train platforms.

Your ticket will grant you access past the turnstiles to take another escalator, stairway or elevator down to the train platform level.

The signs on the platform can be a bit confusing. Again, it’s good to know the final destination of your train to make sure you board the train heading in the right direction. If boarding from North Hollywood, you’re in luck as it’s the final stop so the only trains departing this station are heading in the same direction.

To know that you are boarding the right train, look at the signs that hang from the ceiling which indicate the final destination of the trains running along that side of the track. Take note that two trains with different destinations may run on the same track at some stations. For example, if departing from the main downtown LA 7th/Metro station, both the Purple Line (heading to Koreatown) and the Red Line (heading to Noho) run on the same track. The signs that hang from the ceiling indicate both Wil/Western and North Hollywood. You have to pay attention to both the announcements and the highly subtle digital signage on the train itself to figure out which one is approaching.

Timing

LA Metro late night hours. Image courtesy of Metro.Net.

LA Metro late night hours. Image courtesy of Metro.Net.

During normal weekday mornings, the train arrives every 10 minutes so don’t stress it if see your train just leaving the station. You see a lot of fools running shamelessly to catch the train as it departs. Seriously, is that necessary? I don’t recommend holding the doors here for someone running to make the train as I’m not positive that the doors won’t slam shut on your arm. Not worth it.

In my experience, the train runs on time about 95% of the time*. On rare occasions, the train will experience delays and the attendants will let you know what’s happening. I think that Metro might have an app so you’d know ahead of time if there are delays, but I’ve never tried it. LAMetro is also active on Twitter, but you can’t reach it from the train anyway.

In the evenings, the trains do not run as often so your wait will be longer and the good news is that they continue to run until 2:00 a.m. for your weekend adventures.

*A totally made up statistic.

What to bring
Equip yourself with headphones, a book, and an emotionless expression (or sunglasses if you really want to look pretentious). There is no wifi on the train so Internet surfing is not an option. Consider your ride a nice opportunity to unplug. What not to bring: your pet, obviously expensive technology, a scaredy cat face. Try to at least look like you’re comfortable.

Who you’ll encounter

Typically people do not make conversation on the train, with the exception of people begging for change or asking for your signature on an upcoming ballot measure. You’re also likely to encounter a mix of white collar work-bound yuppies, families, teenagers, blue collar workers, bicyclists, game-bound Dodger/Kings/Lakers/USC fans, and retirees of all cultures.

Basic train etiquette

  • It’s nice to wait for riders to exit before boarding… But on a busy evening train you might have to push your way on board.
  • There is “no smoking, eating, drinking, raucous behavior, loud music” allowed on trains, not that you’re planning to do any of these.
  • If riding with a stroller or bicycle, there are special carts for you. Look for the handicapped signs and board those carts.
  • Don’t be that guy who sits in the seats reserved for the elderly or handicapped if you are neither of these.
  • If exiting with a bicycle and you are crammed in the back of the cart, a loud but polite “coming off” prior to your stop will alert riders to kindly GTFO of your way.

If you encounter trouble

What kind of trouble am I referring? Well there’s a variety. Sometimes you witness people getting in verbal confrontations that begin to escalate. Honestly, I usually avoid acknowledgement and the promptly switch carts at the next station. I once witnessed a crazy physical girl fight during which I was desperately seeking the attendant’s button, which I’ve discovered are toward that end of each cart. I don’t mean to give the impression that scary things happen on the train often. In five years, I’ve only witnessed a handful of situations that caused me to raise my eyebrows and most of the time, they are entertaining at best and mildly troubling at worst.

Enjoy your ride!

Like I said before, these tips are based on the Red Line. Here’s a brief explanation of my impression some of the other trains:

  • Blue Line (Long Beach): Always crowded, kind of scary crowd
  • Gold Line: you can take this one to Pasadena but you have to go all the way to Union Station to transfer so kind of inconvenient. I’ve never taken this train.
  • Purple Line: shortest destination ever, only runs from downtown to K-town
  • Expo Line: the new line to Culver City! Probably the cleanest/nicest ride although I haven’t taken it yet.
  • Orange Line: super fast bus line, not a train.

I wish you the best on your Metro-riding excursion! I’d love to see our LA Metro improve and expand to more destinations so that more people have the option to use pubic transportation. Let me know how your experience is and if you found these tips helpful of totally obnoxious.

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