A few weeks ago I had a conversation where I recalled the various side jobs I've had throughout my short life. Some which spiked my cortisol levels through the roof, and others that took the word 'relaxed ' to a whole new level. Many of these jobs in hospitality and retail are incredibly fast-paced, underpaid but also undermined by those who don't understand how difficult they can be. The past few years things have started to shift in these industries, but we still have a long way to go. I decided to make a list of my most to least stressful jobs (in that particular order), and remember what the pros and cons were. Side note: these were my side jobs seeing as I was doing these alongside my freelance work (or school) to earn some extra money. So here are a few memorable ones on the list:
Single handedly the most stressful job I ever had, this one is very far up the list. I worked here as a waitress and the venue did many types of events: bottomless brunches, cabaret dinners, exclusive networking events, and after-hour club nights. Working here had some pros: the social aspect of it, the glitter and glam of the place, the bougie food, after-hour drinks and chats... but all in all it had many downsides. Feeling overworked being one of them. Often times my energy from was low, that my manager would give me rum&coke (Coca Cola of course) to stay awake during the daytime shifts. There were a lot of days where I barely had time to eat and I crashed during my days off. I recall one morning after a long shift when I walked into the living room, and my flatmate said: 'Magali, your face!' to which I replied: 'What?' She explained: 'Your face is so skinny, it's the first time I can see bags under your eyes.' I did end up meeting some great people doing this, and was happy to have a social life going on during covid, but I would most probably never do this type of job ever again.
Middle Eastern Restaurant
The reason this job is second on the list is mostly because of the rude chefs and quick tempo of the place (and a few lazy co-workers). Here you never really knew how a shift would pan out until you saw which staff members were present. Another element that made this job so painstakingly stressful was that it was my first ever restaurant job. I didn't have the proper learning experience of how to take orders and was sort of thrown in the deep end. The objective here was to serve as many tables as quickly as possible to get the next tables in as quickly as possible. All of this alongside my lack of experience as a waitress made me insecure and unhappy, which in some way had nothing to do with the actual workplace. What didn't help was that after a long shift I would come home and smell of kebab (though the food was delicious, and at least here I was fed). But I did not stay in this place long enough to call it the ultimate stress factor.
Food Stand at a Festival
This job entailed serving pita's to a drunken crowd at a festival. I loved this job - the atmosphere, the simplicity of the work itself, the social element, the sun, the speed at which time flew by... It was one huge adrenaline kick. But the hours were so ridiculously long. We'd start around 9am and finish some hours after midnight. When you do this three days in a row on a diet of Coca Cola (again with the coke) and pita bread, you spend the next week recovering in bed. But luckily with a lot of dough in your pocket.
Restaurant of a Theatre
Here I learned how to balance plates, take orders, be hospitable, and know the basics of waiting tables. The job was less stressful than the middle eastern restaurant, seeing as you only had one group of tables for the night. They would come down to the restaurant, have dinner, and when they were watching the show, we - the restaurant staff - could relax and have dinner ourselves. Then during the interval they would come back for drinks and/or dessert. All in all a calm environment. The most stressful elements were some of the gossipy staff members and the controlling micromanager.
Women's Fashion Clothing Store
This was my first ever job. I started working here during the Summer sales and did not anticipate the pain in my feet after a long day in retail. Again, the job itself was quite simple: stocking, arranging clothes, being hospitable to customers... And once I was allowed to work the till the excitement really began. For some reason I found that part to be the most enjoyable aspect of the job. As a meagre fifteen year old I really wanted to prove my worth by overworking myself to some extent without ever complaining. But the sales period in retail can be a challenging time, especially when you spend a full hour folding t-shirts, only for them to be overthrown the second you step away.
Who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread every morning? Maybe not if your morning starts at 6:30 am every weekend. But that didn't stop me from working at the bakery across the street (almost) every Saturday and Sunday for my last school year. The money wasn't great - in fact probably the least I ever earned. Not a lot of dough with this one (pun intended), but I did learn a great deal. The fun thing about this job was that I would finish work a little after midday and come home with bags full of fresh bread, delicious pastries, and patisserie. There was a stressful element here though: my colleague. This woman was your typical Flemish middle-aged dull woman bored with life. The type of person who could be fifty years old or seventy-five. You don't quite know for sure.
And because she was older and had been working there for longer, I always did what she asked me to. Even if this meant wiping the counters and cleaning up het mess because she'd gotten her nails done the day before. Though I quickly realized that I was quicker on my feet and sharper. Then one day my boss came over to me and said: 'I heard you forgot to add the lemon tart to that order yesterday, didn't you?' I never took care of the orders, my Flemish-middle-aged-dull-woman-bored-with-life colleague did. She straight up blamed me for her mistake to save her own ass. Being kind can help, but there will always be snakes in the grass.
English Bar & Kitchen
Have you ever worked at a traditional English pub, that is also a gourmet Italian pizza restaurant, and a healthy plant-based coffee and brunch spot? Sound like a good idea? Well, it isn't. Because the customers were as confused as we - the staff members - were. A customer would enter the bar at around 12 wanting a pint and a pizza (hey it's the UK), to which I would reply: 'Sorry, but the pizza kitchen only opens at 4pm.' But the customer didn't want to have the pint without having some lunch first. So I would have to give them our Brunch menu. 'Great, I'll have the burger,' they'd say. And by then I would already know where this was going. 'You do know that the burger is a plant-based banana blossom patty right?' The customer would look at me with disgust and confusion. They didn't read the tiny letters at the bottom of the menu.
Last but not least: a job so random, but oh so easy and well-paid. Unfortunately I wasn't able to work a lot of hours doing this, so it became my side-side job. Being a secret shopper entailed going to stores, trying to buy alcohol, and seeing whether I would get ID'd or not. Most of the shops I went to were tiny off-licenses and Asian supermarkets. Funnily enough, they almost always asked for my ID. Perhaps it's the baby face. In fact, it most definitely is the baby face. The only sad thing about this job is, that it is incredibly difficult to get into. I was only able to do this for a few months until they decided they didn't need me anymore. Perhaps they had seen my face in enough stores and needed some fresher young blood.
These were a few of my side hustles. There is one huge lesson I learnt from all of these jobs: be nice to staff! Seriously. Be nice. Your server can't control what happens in the kitchen. And the amount of emotional labour that these types of jobs entail is ridiculous at times. Oh, and tip your waiter.