Emma Koza joins SDTC for a four-part series entitled, Diary Of A Hostess.
Part One: Finding a Job When There Aren’t Any
Some clichés are only trite because they’re real: the lost twenty-something with a BAH working part-time at a bar or in a coffee shop and writing a web series on their time off. Perhaps it’s just me but there is something romantic about life as a starving artist who, thanks to wonderfully supportive parents and working multiple jobs, isn’t actually starving. Waiting tables is one thing in itself and an entirely different thing when you’re waiting for your break.
The hospitality industry is full of people coming and going. Staff turn-around rates are high and the front of house team is mostly made up of people like me. People who have general university degrees, lofty artistic goals, plans to travel the world or just want to make it on their own in the city. I believe in education for education’s sake and I was completely aware of the situation in which I’d find myself after graduation when I decided to get a double major in film and drama. Yet sometimes when I squint and tilt my head to the right, my diploma reads: Congratulations! You aren’t special. You should have gone to trade school. Roughly eighty thousand dollars and two boxes full of idiosyncratic textbooks about semiotics and mise-en-scéne later, the only industry I am qualified for is hospitality.
I never considered the hospitality industry as a real career option. To me it was always a temporary solution, a way to pass the time and a means to make rent. In high school when I was made to pick my future for a class assignment, I didn’t know the word sommelier or that a career in wine was a legitimate option. I was also unaware of how much I would come to like wine (I was still drinking Malibu Rum out of mason jars in the park).
However, when compared to most arts and entertainment industries, hospitality is certainly more lucrative. Customers are more willing to tip generously. Servers often have to take a pay cut when they join the 9 to 5 world in an entry-level position. Even I spend more in bars than I do on movies in a year and I’ve proclaimed film as my passion. Wine is merely a hobby.
When I moved to Toronto a year ago I had already made peace with the fact that I’m not going to make money doing what I want to do (largely because I don’t yet know what I want to do). I’m a 5’1 twenty-something cliché with unmanageable hair. I was eager to find work as a server in a cool downtown restaurant and begin my life as a starving – but not actually starving – artist in the city.
Finding a job as a server in Toronto, as it turns out, is not an easy thing to do. The current issues in our job market have trickled down to affect even the low-wage positions. Since so many university graduates are struggling to find jobs in their chosen fields, they are taking the jobs previously given to the less educated, thereby displacing them. I had made peace with not easily getting a job in my chosen industry, but to not find work in my back up industry was a huge blow to my fragile artist’s ego.
Eventually I did get an offer to be a hostess at a trendy downtown cocktail restaurant. I never wanted to be a hostess but I swear I heard crickets whenever I opened my wallet, so out of desperation, I accepted. The manager told me she “liked my vibe” and, contingent on what the owner thought of me, the job was mine. I wore heavy eyeliner, red lipstick and a fitted black cocktail dress on my first day. He looked me up and down and welcomed me to the team.
And so begins my adventures as a hostess, an underwhelming tale of walking people to their tables in high heels and too much makeup.