Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Truth

"I sure did live in this world.”
“Really? What have you got to show for it?”
“Show? To Who? Girl, I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me.”
“Lonely, ain’t it?”
“Yes. But the lonely is mine."     
--Sula, by Toni Morrison

The above quotation appeared on my high school yearbook page. While my peers were quoting Dave Matthews Band songs, I went with this somewhat melancholy-yet-triumphant piece of text that resonated tremendously with me at age eighteen. Because for much of high school, I did feel like all I had was my mind and what went on in it -- it was all I could count on. Friends, even good friends, can be petty and suddenly decide to not be your friends anymore. Parents, I learned at age 13, can leave you. All you ever really can count on is you. This notion comforted me
rather than saddened me -- in fact, it's only as I've gotten older that the less cheery part of the sentiment (namely, the lonely way we all go through life) has hit home.

Disclaimer: Shit's about to get real on the Vagnino Monologues. Usually I use this blog to showcase my funny side, but right now I'm going to use it as medium of honesty, mass-communicated. One of the reasons I haven't been blogging much since moving to Chicago is that I have been very, very depressed. It's been a rocky few months, to say the least. And one of the harder aspects has been feeling like I have this happy/witty persona that I have to put out into the world -- the Katie on my Facebook page and Twitter feed is successful and always doing cool things with friends. She has 1,150 friends! How could she be lonely and depressed?

Something no one tells you about getting older: your ability to make friends and connect with people diminishes. Not because your social skills deteriorate, but because the opportunities to meet new people decrease dramatically. And you get pickier -- as you know yourself better and better, you understand intuitively with whom you would like to spend your time. And then there's the fact that your friends find life partners and start having families, and while they don't love you any less, they have less time for you. You don't have a confined social space (like a college campus) to ensure that you run into people all the time. You may or may not like the people you work with, and even if you get along with them fine at work, you may or may not have anything in common with them outside of work.  

Which is all to say that when you move to a new city where you know only a couple of people, like I did in August, and the people you know have significant others that they live with/spend the majority of their time with, life can get lonely fast.

I think my loneliness would be more manageable if my career(s) were taking off. But unfortunately, my teaching job here the past few months has been borderline intolerable. Just an all-around wretched experience, from the lack of institutional support, to the pay, to the students themselves, who were among the most disrespectful, unpleasant, and unmotivated that I've ever encountered. I love teaching...but these past few months, not so much.

And writing?  Well, I'm not writing. I've been too depressed, too consumed with grading essays written by students too lazy to even use spellcheck. Too busy working at my restaurant job to compensate for my ridiculous teaching salary. The idea of writing a poem, of having enough emotional and creative energy to generate something, is completely foreign to me. Which contributes to the cloud of depression I've been living under -- I'm a failure of a teacher AND a poet.  Good thing I paid 60K for a degree that qualifies me to teach assholes and not have time for my own writing.     

I felt it was necessary to come clean in a relatively public online space about all this in order to move forward. To own my lonely, so to speak. Having my mind and what goes on in it is all well and good until that mind becomes chemically depressed. Then it's just as unreliable as an unsupportive friend or family member. I've put out the feelers for finding a therapist here, because I don't know that I work through all of this on my own.    

So that's where I'm coming from. (I do want to say that I have met and connected with a few folks here and I mean them no offense -- I don't think my social life here is devoid of potential, it just has taken a little longer to come into focus. So if you're a new friend of mine here reading this and thinking "wtf, I thought we were friends," we are!  I just wish there were more of you).

Apologies for the downer post, but especially in light of recent events, being upfront about mental health stuff seems more important than ever.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hostess with the Most-ess

It's been a long time since my last post.

I've been busy.

But now I'm back! And despite my best efforts to resist the siren song of the restaurant industry, I find myself once again at the mercy of the most insane smattering of humanity one can imagine. Working in restaurants will make you hate people in about .01 seconds. Doesn't matter what restaurant. Trust me on this.

As always, I am the most employed person I know, in that I work roughly 4-5 jobs at any given time. And because there were no openings for servers at the place where I had a lead/connection, I'm running the host stand. At a place that serves close to a thousand people a day, located in the heart of tourist Chicago: downtown Michigan Avenue.

                                               (Apologies for the incorrect grammar)

People are constantly flooding in without reservations and it's tough to keep up. Also, our owner, Tommy* (name changed) is the friendliest/most popular man in Chicago and tells basically everyone he meets to come on in, drop his name, and they'll get a table, instantly. So it's become virtually impossible to distinguish between his actual friends that need VIP treatment and some random guy he met somewhere once whom he has no recollection of now. People drop Tommy's name so often that the staff actually had shirts made that say "I know Tommy, too."

Some of the current trends of insanity I am dealing with every day:

1) People can't get the time they want on OpenTable, so they just book what is available and come in when they wanted to book, i.e. an hour before their reservation time.

My response: (paraphrased and delivered more politely) Those slots on OT were booked for a reason and you will get a table when you reserved a table. I'm not going to reward bad behavior/set a precedent that showing up an hour before your reservation is okay. Get a drink at the bar and deal with your life.

2) Party of two wants a booth that seats 4-6

My response: (tactfully) Live in the real world, folks. You are two. I have parties of 6 that can't sit at a deuce.

3) "Hi, we have a reservation for 8 but we're actually going to be 15, hehe!"

My response: Okay, we'll do our best to accommodate you.
My response in my head: JESUS H CHRIST ARE YOU JOKING. Because now you actually need two more tables, which depending on the night, I may or may not have. FML.

4) "Hi, we have a reservation for 8, but we're only going to be 4."

My response: No problem
My response in my head: Still probably fucks up my plans for table-plotting but now I can take a walk-in.

BOTTOM LINE: For the love of God, PLEASE call a restaurant where you have a reservation and let them know if the number in your party changes. It is relevant to us, I promise you. Even if it's a seemingly minor change, like from 6 to 5, it may affect where we seat you.

Oh, and don't be that guy who drops the owner's name when I tell you it's a 45-minute wait for a table (which, duh, if you come in at 6:30 on Friday night, what are you expecting?) because it does not curry any favor with me. You are probably the 5th person in the last half hour to say you know Tommy. TOMMY KNOWS EVERYONE IN THE CITY OF CHICAGO. Take a number, chump, or, here's an idea: just make a reservation like the rest of the planet!