gra-dult-hood n.

1. A stage in life between graduation and adulthood.
2. Gradulthood often involves jobs that don't fulfil a graduate's expectations.
3. A term coined during the recession.

A gradult at work: the fake waiter

It was the summer after the years before. University had finished and my attention had to turn to getting a job. In truth, I already had one. But my tour of the council estates of Leeds was wearing thin. Knocking on doors and dodging angry dogs in the summer was one thing. Doing it in the winter wasn’t an option.

But apparently being a waiter was. This might sound like a perfectly acceptable option - but I’d never served a table in my life. Such was my financial state for the latter stages of university I hadn’t even seen a restaurant in two years. There was also the issue of me being the clumsiest man in Leeds. I mean, I was infamous for clumsiness. My feet could locate a full glass of wine in an acre of lounge. To labour the point, if you lined up fifty empty cans of beer and one full one, the carpet would be telling the rug how hot she was.

As a resourceful gradult, I didn’t divulge anything of this to the restaurant foolish enough to give me a trial shift. Infact, calling them foolish is harsh, on paper I seemed a safe bet. After all I had a year working in a small, but thriving cafe in Nottingham behind me. Or so my ‘waiter CV’ said.

It was upon arriving at the restaurant that I realised, this is actually happening. It dawned upon me that unless I walked out - which with my threshold would be far too awkward to be considered a viable option - I was about to embark on a busy Friday evening shift as a waiter. And I didn’t have a clue. Oh well, how hard can it be? It turns out, very.

With the restaurant empty upon my arrival I tried to make myself appear vaguely competent. What would a waiter do in this situation? Is there some sort of prep work I should be doing? Apparently in my mind, an experienced waiter would stand timidly in the corner and await direction.

Thankfully, I was given it. Go grate some cheese I was told. My first thought was, ‘I lied about being a waiter, not a chef’ but my second thought was ‘okay, this is good’. I mean, I’ve grated cheese before. Sixty percent of my diet involves pasta and cheese. This could be a welcome return to something resembling a comfort zone. Not for the last time that evening, I was wrong. Confidence sapped from the sheer absurdity of the situation I proceeded to gingerly tap the parmesan against the grater, not getting enough purchase to satisfy my more experienced ill gotten colleague. She finally snatched the cheese off me whilst delivering a withering look.

As the evening wore on, my tales of busy cafes in Nottingham began to look more and more suspect. Meals were being delivered in stages, thumbs were in gravy and disgruntled diners were being meekly appeased with sob stories of first shift blues. It was shaping up to be another anecdote of the self depreciating variety. Not the victorious one I needed.

To put the icing on the cake, which I no doubt promptly delivered to the wrong table, it just so happened that my shift coincided with a Leeds Rhinos game. Hell hath no fury like a middle aged rugby fan after he’s waited more than ten minutes for his Stella. I’d get intimidated walking past a rowdy bunch of shaven headed rugby fans at the best of time, never mind when I’ve got two lasagnes in each hand and a brain full of their, frankly un-rugby like dietary requirements. Ok, football might not be as butch but at least I can take my dairy mate.

With the evening crowd winding down I was summoned to the bar. There I was told by the boss’ wife that I had done really well. Unfortunately it was delivered with a tone usually reserved for six-year-old who has just finished his first portion of broccoli. ‘We’ll give you a call Jack’.

My name is Joe. And they didn’t have my number.

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