In this Amazon exclusive essay, Tomsky (pictured here back in 2001 when he was the Manager of Housekeeping at an upscale hotel) gives us another glimpse behind-the-scenes, this time of his own post-service life.
It's summer! It's hot out! SOMEONE BRING ME A LEMONADE.
In fact, I ordered one ten minutes ago, so my question is, "Where is this guy with my lemonade?" The answer to that question is simple: He's getting it. Relax. He's probably back in the kitchen, where it's 400 degrees hotter, wiping his forehead, scooping ice into a glass, thinking, "Man does this job suck. Man does summer suck."
From a certain angle, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have worked in the service industry and those who have, somehow, astoundingly, managed to avoid it. And people currently in the service industry, after a short 30 seconds of customer interaction, can immediately see the difference between the two. It's like night and day, like friend or foe.
Me? I've worked my entire life in the service industry. And not just any industry: The hospitality industry. Where people cry if they don't get what they want (and I mean cry, like, cry cry). Or they scream (with actual airborne spittle!) if they have to wait 10 minutes to get into a room, even though it's still four hours till official check-in time. I've been treated like a servant. I've been scolded like a child. I've been accused, abused, and misused. But I don't work in the service industry. Anymore.
And I bet that waiter grabbing four plates of hot food with his wet, slippery hands, deciding to come back for my lemonade on the next pass, he would hate to hear me say it but, well, I miss it. I do? I do. I miss it.
Hello. My name is Jacob Tomsky and it's been two years, three months and 22 days since I've served anyone. I'm clean. But I didn't come here to Servers Anonymous to lie, so let me tell you about the time I slipped up: About six months ago, I served. I broke down and served. Took a two-day gig as a production assistant on a movie set. My job was to assist in any way needed. I cleaned the white plastic tables after lunch, made coffee, scrubbed the set bathroom at the end of the day, picked up trash, took that trash out, ran outside for so many bagels and did anything and everything that needed doing.
I loved it. I got high off it. Imagine it from my point of view: I was raised on service. My blood is polluted with it. And then I cleaned up. Stopped serving cold turkey. But the moment I got back in the game it poured over me, it flooded my system with a rush of goodwill. I was helping again, valuable, all things to all people, assisting. It was goddamn glorious. At the end of the first long production day, I sat alone in my apartment, still for the first time in 14 hours and I felt so, so good.
The guy who still hasn't brought my lemonade is shaking his head right now. Listening, possibly muttering out loud, "This guy is an idiot."
Yeah, probably. But that was the only life I knew. And I miss it. But the joy I experienced during those two days would have diminished exponentially by the third. The fourth I would have been exhausted and ready for a day off. The fifth I would have showed signs of wear and irritation. The sixth I would have been sore and unhappy and dehydrated and thoroughly tired of being told what to do by everyone. And the 500th day I would have smacked one of the film cameras to the ground, upended the craft services table and stormed out in a dramatic fashion.
But the joy I felt on the first day... that right there? That's the service in me. And anyone who's worked a decent amount of time in the business will never be able to erase the service in them. That is how we know who's worked a service gig or not, because it will express itself in the form of one beautiful word: Patience.
Patience born from understanding. And now, as we dip deeper into summer, it's important to keep that in mind. For those in the service business, especially the travel business, including hotels and airlines, this is a difficult time. Because everyone is traveling. Everyone is on vacation. Everyone wants ice-cold lemonade five minutes ago. It's a tough, tough time. On top of that there is the heat.
So I'll sit here and relax and wait (patiently) for my lemonade. And if he totally forgot about it, I'll remind him in the gentlest of ways, with a smile of supplication and meekness on my face.
Then, when I do get it, I'll thank my server sincerely, then pour a shot's worth out on the ground: For all those still in the business, those for whom the word "summer" means the same thing as "busy + heat." Have a wonderful summer everyone. Travel safe. And don't forget to pack a travel bag full of patience!