I’m not an actor. I never wanted to be. Those roles are reserved for my friends who are better at exhibiting their emotions and thoughts with action and depiction rather than with words. That’s where I fall short. I have never been good at acting one way or another. If I say something I generally mean it. Of course, I’m blisteringly sarcastic but that doesn’t mean it’s something I have to keep up on. I don’t have to be sarcastic, I just choose to be. With acting, it’s something that you just are. Much in the same regard as being a writer. It’s everything I am. I write constantly, whether for this blog, for my next novel, or in discussions online. I love the pages of books in the same way that my friend Travis loves the stage.
Still, acting can be and has often been a staple in the lives of many. Especially if you’re in a similar position to me. I work in the food service industry, so there is bound to be someone who had a bad day and wants to take that out on their server or bartender. A perfect example of this was the other day at work, a lady had ordered something and then had changed her order at the end of our conversation and I didn’t catch her saying that. I left to put their food through the system and when it came up, she rightly got angry. I gave her the incorrect meal + she didn’t want that thing. She then bombarded me with insults as I stood before her, quiet and contemplative, apologizing any time I could sneak a word or two in.
It was in this moment, where I remembered something that a previous manager had told me. Back when I worked at The Fish, I had these customers that came in frequently, and hated me as a server but continually sat in my section, even when others were available. At the end of each meal they had finally had enough and I got pissed off. Fighting against everything inside of me that was screaming to get on their case, I walked out back and stood still for a while. My manager, Mike, came out and asked what was up and I explained the situation. At the time I was getting pretty bad about calming myself down and putting myself into a more humble place, something that I try to practice as often as I can.
I had gone off on Mike about how much of an asshole the guy at my table was, and we walked back inside, he told me to breathe and I said I would, but I didn’t.
I went up to the table and gave them their bill and my customer thought it would be a great time to chastise me on my abilities as a server. To that, I responded in the opposite way that I should have.
I got pissed off.
I told the guy that if he didn’t like it he could leave the restaurant and never come back, it didn’t matter to me. It was his choice to continually sit with me despite how “awful” I was at my job, which, for the record, I’m not that bad. There is tons of room to improve but I am working at it every day. This guy had caught me at the wrong time, in the wrong place.
Eventually, he stood up and left and I finished my shift. That night after leaving, I stood outside to smoke with Mike and he told me something that I’ve held on to since then.
He told me that in order to be a server, I also have to be a decent actor.
Regardless of my home life or the levels of stress that I might be under, I need to always act as if that customer is the only one in the world. I have to smile and laugh and tell jokes even when I want to knock their teeth out.
We talked, and I apologized over and over for how I had acted, and Mike let me know that it was okay to slip. It was something that I needed to hear then and I think it’s something that we all need to hear frequently.
I’m not a good actor, but when that lady the other day got in my face over a plate of lasagna, I did something I had never done before. I put myself in a world where the only three people that mattered were myself and the table before me. I thought about what it would be like to upset one third of the population, and to let this lady down who probably just had a terrible day, seeing as she shared the entirety of earth with only myself and her sister. I stopped for a moment and breathed in and out. I apologized, and walked away.
There is never a good time to confront someone with anger when that is what they are giving to you. With how dark the world is getting, we need to continue being lights. That means that in the midst of everything we do, we have to find a way to shine. It could be in the heat of a serving shift with a pissed off customer, it could be in the throes of depression, it could be anywhere and any size. There is nothing too large for us to handle if we just pause, take a breath, and imagine what it would be like if we were truly alone in this world.
The safety in this thought is that it is acting. We know outwardly that we aren’t truly alone, no matter how much it might feel that way sometimes.
I hope that the next time you’re faced with a challenge, with an angry person, with the fear of letting others down that you take time and think of your actor friends. If you don’t have any, I’m sure Travis would be happy to oblige. There are a lot of reasons to break down in this world, but none of them mean that you are truly alone. If all this world is a stage, I’m glad to be working with the cast that I am. They constantly remind me to be a better actor, a better friend and a better man.
There is no kind of applause that I could offer to truly show them my appreciation for that. So I’ll be here standing too, if you ever need a friend. If you ever need someone to remind you that this world is big and scary and sometimes it can be devastating, but it is always worth it to be a part of.