How To Survive Serving While Sick

It’s your “Sunday” night and you had a well-rested couple of days off. Of course by well-rested I mean filled with errand-running that you put off during the week and much needed booze-infested nights catching up with friends and family you have to neglect due to conflicting schedules. Damn 9-5ers.

Upon awakening that morning you had a slight sore throat and small headache, but contribute that to your hangover. You’re not really focused on hydrating during beer pong. You’re feeling achy as you wait for your coma to settle in and give you your last hours of heaven before returning to hell tomorrow. Some rest and a few morning Coronas and you’ll be feeling much better in the morning.

What feels like only minutes later, morning comes bombarding through your windows like unwelcome brothers and sisters shaking you awake. Your eyelids creep open, the sun’s rays seeming to pound into your eyes as you quickly shut them again and cringe. Your head is pounding worse than the day before, getting up feels close to impossible, you seem to have sweat a lake around yourself, and it appears as though your pillow case became a snot rag in the middle of the night. You groan as the drummers in between your temples start again and you notice the nasally noise that leaves your mouth. Yup, you’ve got yourself the flu.

You pull the covers over your head, weighing your options. You could call out, but you spent the last of your tips yesterday morning on your hangover brunch. Rent is due in a few days, you have to replace the clutch in your 1991 Honda Civic and you still have to take your dad out for Father’s day this weekend. Shit, you think, I have to work like this.

Here are a few solutions to your serving-while-sick blues:

  1. In your nearest cabinet or mini-mart, find yourself the college diet: chicken noodle soup (ramen is also an okay substitute).
  2. Hydrate with lots of water, water and more water.
  3. Hot tea to help sooth your sore throat (they make teas specifically designed for colds).
  4. DayQuil, cough drops & the much needed pain-killers. Like we need more physical pain to add to our misery.
  5. If you’re in a closing station, I’d recommend switching out to a shorter shift. It won’t be as hard on your body and will allow for more rest.
  6. Opt into hosting, silverware-rolling, take-out, or any other position that isn’t as strenuous on the body.
  7. When you finally rest your head, take any meds that will help you overnight. This is free time to heal.
  8. Ask for help – you’ll need it!

Things to avoid while serving sick:

  1. Telling tables you’re sick will earn you better tips out of sympathy. – This almost actually never happens. You’re handling their food, which won’t please them to know you’re sick. Secondly, if you openly advertise you’re sick you’ll sound like a homeless man/woman begging for money. These are not qualities of a good server.
  2. Telling the manager you’re sick will get you sent home. – While this could possibly happen, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Complaining to your manager puts him/her in a bind between choosing between restaurant’s well-being and yours. If he chooses to send you home, he now has to cover whatever work you were doing versus if you had just called in sick he could have had a plan for you not being there. If he chooses for you to stay, he’s contaminating his guests, employees and the food. So if you hadn’t wanted to work, you should have called in.
  3. Complaining to your co-workers that you’re sick will make them stay for you and get you out of your sidework. – You probably only do this if you’re a “co-worker.” Manipulating your way out of the job only upsets your co-workers more than if you had just directly asked them. Trying to gain sympathy through whining only earns you a “I think you’re too stupid to realize that I’m trying to manipulate you” sticker across your forehead which loses any respect you may have had. Treat your co-workers like fellow people, and they’ll treat you the same.

Avoid the above mistakes and keep yourself charged and healthy as possible; you’ll be on your merry way to making money and a cure in no-time!

(Disclaimer: I am no doctor; I cannot guarantee your success or failure in feeling better. But I can assure these things have worked for me and others when having the flu/cold/anything else like it when I’ve had to serve. I am not encouraging you to work while sick, just giving you a little how-to in case it happens. It has happened before and will happen again.)

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