The Romance of Restaurants (h/t Nona Willis-Aronowitz)

Jackie Kruszewski has a splendid piece at thisrecording on working in the restaurant industry. In it she touches on the differences between service industry work and the non-profit gigs that so many of us alternate between:

Restaurant work keeps neurons firing in my brain that might die otherwise. The sheer physicality and pressures of it are somehow comforting – it feels like running a race, the kind where you cross the finish line with sore feet and $200. How many shifts you do and how hard you work is directly proportional to how much you make — a simple capitalist truism that is not always reflected in non-profits.

There I watch people get doughy and become masters of delegation. I watch people procreate and suddenly think they are entitled to leave work at four. I watch people suddenly be too good for certain tasks after a salary hike. I watch thousands of donor dollars being spent to coddle those same donors so they’ll give us more to spend on them. There are thick layers of inefficiency in the office world that would be excised by a thrifty restaurant owner in seconds.

Sound familiar? I worked for 8 months at two bars owned by the same people in Chicago. Both bars were right next to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and appealed to the weird mix of corporate types and fratty types who seemed to work in that part of the city. It was exciting and dangerous. I often drank so much that I didn’t remember closing the bar and sometimes I ended up spending half the money I made going out after closing. Yet, it was fun. I made new friends, constantly got to socialize and essentially drank for free. After a few months I decided it was time to get out. It was there or become a lifer. I made my choice and moved back East where I am now one of those doughy non-profit workers she mentions. So it goes.