I smiled at the waiter who served the cappuccino I ordered and happily sip my coffee. Ever since I started college, I began to appreciate the job of a server. Soon, I’ll be one of them, and I knew that a simple smile could make a difference to the waiter’s day. I stared at the window overlooking the ocean and wondered for the ninetieth times if working in hotels was more promising than being a teacher.
The tourism industry has a higher demand and job opportunities. It was a highly recommended course by the career service of our school, so I decided to study tourism even if I had no clear idea of what the industry was all about.
I could no longer remember how I got accepted in Rowell College’s tourism department, where I’m currently taking up hospitality management. The day I was being interviewed by a teacher as a requirement to be accepted in the department I was applying to was one disaster I would never forget. When I was casually asked about my concept of hotels, I froze and couldn’t think of an answer that the lady probably though that I didn’t understand the word “concept” for the good ma’am rephrased the question for me. But the truth was, I’ve never been in a hotel. I had no idea at that time on how a hotel works, and telling the head of the school that my idea of a hotel was where lovers checked in to have a romantic night was probably not a good idea. I even thought that five star was a hotel’s name.
Fortunately, I managed to survive and currently aboard in a ferry going to Santorini island, to a lovely resort where my first internship would be.
A rush of excitement swept over me as I stepped out of the ferry. I wasn’t looking forward to this internship but spending my summer in a beautiful island outside the country was not a bad idea. Besides, Santorini is a popular tourist spot due to its magnificent beaches and interesting history. Tourists would spend hundreds of dollars just to visit this island while I will be spending almost five months of summer with free board and lodging.
My decision to do my internship in Greece came at the last minute. After being interviewed by different hotels and not getting accepted, I almost quit and decided to just follow my dream on taking up education even if it meant repeating the school year. I was never good at interviews and from the beginning, I already had a feeling that I somehow didn’t belong in the hospitality industry. I was not the most polite and friendly person one could meet and talking to strangers was one of my weaknesses. But luckily, a resort in Greece was looking for trainees. I ended up in this resort together with two other students from our school.
I took the bus from the port and followed the direction sent to me by the human resources manager through email. Since it was only the beginning of summer, there were only few tourists. Most people spoke English and were friendly enough to help and answer my questions. After a few hours, I found myself standing at the end of a narrow road going to Grand Thera Resort, with my luggage in one hand and holding a map on the other hand, trying to figure out how many minutes would it take for me to walk until the huge resort, standing grandly beside the deep blue sea. Although, I was tired from the long journey, I forgot about it as I saw the view in front of me. The resort was perfect against the deep blue sea, painted in white and blue surrounded by green grass and looked even better than the pictures in the brochure.
“Geia sas,” I heard a voice behind me that interrupted my daydreaming. A guy with a friendly smile was staring from a blue car’s window.
Although I never like talking to strangers, the guy seemed a nice person, so I awkwardly approached his car. Besides, I needed to make friends even if it kills me. I’m not comfortable talking to people especially guys.
“Hi,” I greeted him, without bothering to smile back.
“Do you need help?” he asked with a thick accent. His beard reminded me of the Greek god Zeus. Only it was black, and the guy didn’t look that old.
“I’m on my way to that resort,” I replied pointing down to the huge resort that resembles an ancient Greek village.
“Grand Thera. Are you a guest?” he asked.
I shook my head and replied, “No. I’ll be working there. I’m a trainee.”
He smiled as he opened the door, “Hop in. I’ll give you a lift.”
I was hesitant at first but winded from my long journey, I finally accepted his invitation.
The car passed a maze road and I couldn’t help marvelling the nature surrounding me. As we drove, the guy continuously chatted and although annoyed for I was never a big fan of talkative guys, I tried to listen attentively not to offend him. He talked about his life in the island and his favourite football team. After a few minutes, we arrived in our destination.
“Thanks for the ride,” I told him as I got off the car.
“I’m Christos,” he smiled. “And you’re welcome.”
I replied, smiling for the first time, “I’m Tia.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tia. I’ll see you around,” he told me as he started his engine and drove off.
After the helpful fellow left, I found myself alone again, staring at the grand resort that would be my new working place. I tried to recall all the important lessons we had in class and how the career placement officer warned the students to be professional as we were considered ambassadors and any display of inappropriate behaviour may damage the reputation of the school.
After a few minutes, I finally found the courage to approach the guard and asked about Mrs.Panagopoulou, the human resources manager whom I contacted prior to my arrival in Greece. He informed me that Mrs. Panagopoulou had left the hotel earlier but had assigned someone to assist me.
Soon after the guard had made a short call, a brunette woman with a bright red lipstick arrived, giving me a warm smile. She spoke to the guard for a moment using their native Greek language before asking me to follow her inside. Mesmerized by the luxury surrounding I found myself barely speaking a word.
“So why did you choose this hotel for your practical?” the lady broke the silence.
Surprised by the question, I was unable to respond immediately. I tried to calm myself in order to come up with a smart answer that would impress the lady. There’s no way I would tell her that I didn’t have a choice.
“Well, I chose this hotel because Grand Thera Resort is a five star resort that offers excellent service while deeply committed to its social responsibility by making positive contributions to the community and environment.”
“I see,” the lady nodded, with a half-smile on her lips. “I could see how prepared you are. You even memorized the line from the hotel brochure.”
I stared at her, dumb-founded.
“I was the one who wrote that part,” she admitted before casually introducing herself. “I’m Iliana Vardas by the way, sales and marketing manager.”
I tried to smile as I shook her hands, totally embarrassed and silently making a promise that I would never answer a question based from memorized information again.
After going to the laundry area where I took my uniform, Iliana introduced me to the restaurant manager who seemed polite and professional. I would be working directly with him and Iliana thought that it would be a good idea to meet him beforehand. He was a bit serious but had a radiant smile and quite attractive although not someone who could carry a suit very well, to be honest. He told me that he was looking forward to work with me and that he is expecting me tomorrow afternoon at exactly six.
The staff house was quite far from the hotel but Iliana was kind enough to bring me with the club car. I was impressed by how good she was in driving that little thing and I wish I could have one myself.
Before she left me in front of the staff house, which is a four-story apartment building, she gave me a white envelope with my name and a room number written on top.
“This is your room key,” she informed me. “Rest well and good luck with your internship. See you around.”
I thanked her as she left to return to the resort. Once again, I was left alone with my luggage, quietly admiring my temporary home. It was quite neat for a staff house.
I arrived at the staff house at exactly two o’clock in the afternoon. Either people are at work or sleeping because the house was extremely quiet at that time.
I searched for room 115 which was located at the first floor. The room was for two people, with two single bed, two small drawers, one huge closet and a mini fridge. I sat on the bed, imagining who my roommate would be.
After unpacking my things and putting them in their proper places, I decided to explore the area and visit a mini market if I could find one along the way.
I run into an old woman on my way out. She was carrying two shopping bags with her.
“Geia sou,” she smiled at me and started to ask questions in Greek.
I gave her a hesitant smile, “Hello. Sorry but I don’t speak Greek.”
She laughed, trying to hide her embarrassment, “I’m sorry. Are you a trainee?”
“I see. I’m Maria. I’m the one who’s in-charge of the staff house. Just call me if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” I replied gratefully, impressed on how good her English was with a slight trace of British accent then headed to the main road.
A few meters from the staff house, I found a small convenience store. I bought some cleaning items and snacks and decided to go back home. I would rather explore the place some other time, afraid that I might get lost. Lying in my bed, I imagined my first day at work.
My first day of training in an Asian-inspired restaurant turned out quite fine. I was assigned to a friendly waiter named Manolis who showed me all the ropes and gave me important advice on restaurant service which made sense more than the lectures we had at school. I quietly scolded myself for not paying attention in class.
He was one of the friendliest people I have ever met and had this contagious laugh that would put a huge smile on your face upon seeing him. The other waiters seemed nice and friendly too, always reminding me that I should always smile.
The only problem was the confusing restaurant set-up and I needed to figure out a way to deliver the order timely and efficiently which was quite difficult considering the huge distance between the kitchen and the dining area. I was also reluctant to approach the guests but thanks to Manolis’ encouragement, I began to slowly overcome my shyness. I was fortunate that day for the restaurant which has sixty tables was not in full capacity and my mentors had enough time to explain everything including the division of tips which was probably the best part. But in the back of my mind, I was asking myself if this is really how I’d like to spend my life.
The next day, I changed my mind about Manolis. For me there are three best ways to know a guy, one is through dating him, second is being friends and third by watching him work in a restaurant. The restaurant was at one of its busiest and everyone was panicking. I was scolded a couple of times for delivering the order at a wrong table, late in picking up empty plates and taking too long in receiving orders from the kitchen.
Even his fault became my fault.
I wanted to remind him that I am still a trainee. But I was never good at confrontation. I’m more of a leave it but I will hate you forever type of person. At the end of the shift, he probably noticed how quiet I was, and he apologized, laughing. He said it was never personal, just work.
As I ate dinner in the staff canteen with two other trainees, I heard them complaining about Damianos, the head waiter, on how bossy and arrogant he was. Remembering how they were just exchanging jokes with Damianos before he left to smoke outside, I wondered if professionalism was the term they used in the hospitality industry to describe the attitude of fake people.
It was one hell of a week as my sufferings continued. The next day, I was yelled at by the restaurant manager for passing by a table with empty water glasses. He took me to one side, away from the dining room and asked me to pour water on the table immediately. Totally embarrassed, I went back to the table and silently poured water. I was fuming inside as I knew that the manager was being unreasonable. First of all, it wasn’t my assigned table, and Manolis told me to mind our own table but when I tried to explain that to my manager, he gave me an arrogant stare and told me that pouring water on other tables wouldn’t take an hour. I apologized to him and left to check on the customers, mentally packing my bags and booking a flight home.
I always see the quotes in restaurant premises that customers are always right. But I kind of disagree with this. The manager is always right and you have to follow your manager before attending to your customers. Just one week of doing the same things, serving the plates with the left hand, taking it with the right, making sure that the water glasses were never empty, running errands for the waiter, polishing glasses, and I was already getting bored.
I couldn’t believe I went to college for this.
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