Modern Invisible Man

Since my last post, many things have happened. Obviously, since it’s been such a long time. I now work as a hostess at Applebee’s. It’s a struggle. When I told my family about getting the job, the father of my cousin that has High Functioning Autism commended me on my courage. Having AS, casual parties can be exhausting. Having my job be to talk to people and make them happy, it’s even more exhausting. I’ve realized that, in my job, I am invisible. It reminded me of a report I did on The Invisible Man my junior year of high school.

I wear a bright, white shirt with a name tag. I’m standing in the entrance, saying “Hello. Welcome to Applebee’s.” and people still walk past me in silence, without even glancing my way. It’s fairly obvious that if you’d like to be seated, find your group, or be directed to the bar for gift cards, I am the person you should consult. I am there, but people don’t see me. I am invisible. Often, I will be cleaning a table next to some patrons, and they will continue on in their conversations, even when the topic is extremely personal; because I am not there. I hear things that I normally wouldn’t. And it’s strange.

When people do notice me, they’re either very happy with my service or they take a fact/innocent statement/confused look in a totally wrong way. I never know what will happen. It can become overwhelming. I am insignificant, unappreciated, bullied, and criticized. My current job is the least fulfilling job I’ve ever had. BUT there are those occasional customers that will make the job worthwhile. Even if I hate my job, I am very good at it. It is my goal to make everyone smile when I seat them at their table. I don’t even have to fake my positive attitude like most do, because that’s just who I am. I try to think of it as practice for socializing. It is my job to talk to the customers when I seat them, so I get creative with conversation starters. I notice an article of clothing, a certain hair style or color, an accent, or an accessory and go off that. “I like your hair, it’s beautiful.” “Are you from (fill in the blank) or did you recently visit there?” “That is such a bold choice in hair color. I like it.” “Is European beer better than American? No, I’ve never tried German beer. What’s the difference?” (There are German soldiers at the base nearby.)

There are hard days when I make a social slip up and a customer will be super upset with me. There are easy days when all the customers are pleasant and things go smoothly. There are amazing days when people will tip me because they really enjoyed talking to me and they appreciated the quality customer service I’ve provided.

Overall, I think that this job is a good thing for me to experience. I think everyone should work at least one job in the customer service industry. It builds character, helps to increase patience, teaches the value of holding one’s tongue, and teaches humility. For those with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome, it can help you develop better social skills. I do not and I will not regret working this job, but it’s definitely not where I belong. Looks like it’s time to start looking for a job that will better suit me.

Wish Me Luck,

Allie.

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6 thoughts on “Modern Invisible Man

  1. Good luck:-) “I have been there” – not literally in that restaurant, but in customer service roles like bartender and waitress, which have some similar aspects. I found aspects of both challenging, but waitress in particular because in addition to having to communicate politely with unpredictable, vague customers in a noisy environment, I also had to remember their orders, communicate with the kitchen staff, and balance with plates and drinks et.c… all at once! That was quite a nightmare, and I made lots of mistakes. After the first week as a casual they never called me again.

  2. However, I enjoyed many aspects of being a solo bartender in a mostly quiet pub near an International hotel about 12 years ago, although I found busy times hard to handle. It was great social skills training, because the bar provided a safe base and clearly defined role in communication with customers. Many of the customers were international travellers just taking a break from looking at the city, so worth talking with, and if I didn’t want to talk then it was perfectly acceptable to just withdraw to e.g. clean or organise items. The communication roles also had clear conventions. A bartender = listener, expected to be a confidential conversation partner. (Side-note: I told some customers that bartenders have to sign a confidentiality agreement just like doctors and psychiatrists – A joke, but people readily believed it until I added that I was joking). Also a way to socialise with people in a bar at low intensity and without being expected to get drunk. I didn’t have friends and did not go out otherwise, so for me it was an excellent opportunity to both develop conversation skills and listening skills, learn to relax around people, and also eaves drop on how other people socialise and what they thinkk/talk about.

    • I know that being a server would be more difficult. I specifically became a hostess on purpose. I know I wouldn’t handle being a server very well. I don’t know that I’d be able to be a bartender either, but I’m happy you were able to have that experience and improve your social skills while doing it. 🙂

  3. This post is so true. Invisible? Yes, just not at the appropriate times. For example, “Hi! How are we doing tonight?”
    “Diet Coke!”
    “Oh, I’m well; thanks for asking” (to myself, of course).
    I worked as a server at a BBQ restaurant on and off for about 9 years, and while I hated my job, I had good days and bad days. On one particularly bad day, I asked a table of 6 college guys who all ordered pork, “Do you want your pork pulled?” They all looked at each other and laughed hysterically. I didn’t realize what I said until then (it was a valid question; we served it sliced or pulled; I just asked it totally wrong). Also, after a certain amount of time, servers are expected to have customers who ask for them specifically; I was at the same store for five years, and by the end of my tenure, I had maybe three who asked for me–three sets of introverts who were probably relieved that I wasn’t constantly around trying to socialize with them beyond keeping their drinks full. On busy nights, I got overwhelmed very easily–more so because I was afraid of everyone judging me for not being as fast as I usually was and some people being just outright mean. Oddly, however, I preferred serving to hostessing, which I hated because the hostess podium was in full view of everyone–kitchen, customers, coworkers–and I have social anxiety and felt completely tense and on-edge the entire time. As a server, I got to keep moving, which also meant slinking behind a wall or something when feeling uncomfortable.

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