Thursday, October 8, 2009

My "brave" decision

My name is Amanda H. Miller. And I am a waitress.

I have created this blog as a tribute to the work that has brought me so much freedom and happiness. It only recently occurred to me that I’ve slighted this profession all of my adult life, leaving it off resumes, out of casual conversations and neglecting to post it on my Facebook page.

While I’ve waitressed and cooked and hosted at restaurants from New York to Alaska since I was a teenager, I’ve also been a newspaper reporter all these years. That’s the profession I list on loan applications and the one I would have put on dating Web sites if I’d ever lived in a city with more than 5,000 men.

Some friends and family members may not have even known I am a closet service worker.

But this work has brought me such solace and balance. I always look forward to leaving the newspaper for my waitressing shifts where it’s almost always so busy there’s no room in my head for anything but elk chops and tenderloins, sweet potatoes, French fries, Bud Lights and margaritas.

If there is a moment, it’s nice to talk to people about where they’re from and if they’re enjoying their vacations instead of how many DUI arrests the police made or how the school kids did on their standardized tests.

And it’s so fulfilling to open that little black book left on the table to find $12, $20, $110 just for me (and the bussers, bartenders and stewards). I like the suspense leading up to it and I like guessing at what people will leave. I like being right and sometimes I love being wrong.

This work has filled my pockets with green bills and my bank account with enough digits to allow me a freedom few have these days.

The freedom to quit.

I’ve given notice at both my jobs in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression.

“Congratulations,” the guy who works at Blue Cross said to me today when I told him I was quitting my job, the one with health insurance benefits. “ You don’t hear that much these days. A lot of people are getting laid off. But I don’t know of anyone quitting.”

The plan was to spend the holidays with my family and then four months bumming around South America – purposely unemployed. Then, tentatively, to wait tables and try to write something other than newspaper articles.

The plan has gotten mixed reactions. Jackson Hole is a pretty amazing place, full of more natural beauty than any other place in the continental United States. A lot of people wonder why I would leave, especially when my job (the newspaper gig) is so good. I can drink beer at lunch some days, ski in the backcountry before work and hike in the Tetons on my lunch break.

Most people, though, think my plan is brilliant. They smile and call me brave.

I am grateful to live in a time when the line between brave and crazy is so fuzzy.

To add an extra dash of “brave” to this plan, I’ve decided to attempt to be a waitress in every country I visit in South America.

This extra “brave” addition to my travel plans is perfect for a few reasons.

  1. I’m wildly interested in immigration and illegal workers. What better way to dig deep into the issue than to BE an illegal worker?
  2. Working in a fast-paced restaurant environment will force me to amp up my Spanish. Even if no one ever hires me, the interviews will be good practice.
  3. It will help me pay for some of this “brave” adventure.
  4. I will have something relevant to blog about on this site I insisted on naming “Excuse me, waitress.”


  1. Congratulations, Amanda! Now, you are a TRUE journalist. I'm extremely pleased for you!! I will look forward to seeing your future postings here, and, I'm thinking, eventually a book...Sharon Dominguez

  2. Wow, Amanda--what an adventure! I'm truly envious of your ability to pick up and go, and I can't wait to read about the life-changing experiences you're sure to have on this journey. Buen viaje!

  3. Don't you go putting brave in quotes again - it's a veritable courageous adventure and I can't wait to read all about it. You are truly excellent!

  4. This is fantastic! I am really looking forward to all future blogs and will be sure to send it to my fellow waitress friends. - Robyn Scrafford

  5. After reading this, I was reminded of our dinner night at you place in Rifle when you reminisced about working at that little restaurant/bar in Alaska and how much you loved it. I'm all for new experiences, so I wish you luck. God speed, AHM!

    Love ya!

  6. Brilliant. Love you. Happy travels!

  7. You're my hero. I can't wait to read about your adventures. Love you!

  8. You are such a poised writer. Having worked F&B before I could relate to a lot of the feelings you describe in that job so vividly. Everyone really must work it at least one to realize the "service men and women" as you refer to them, deserve so much more respect thanthey are often given. I look forward to reading your adventures and hope a book deal comes out of this from a sassy NY Editor that is brilliant enough to find your blog. Best wishes & happy travels.

  9. Hi Amanda --

    Just came across your blog. I respect the hell out of what you're doing, but man am I scared for you. Knock it out of the park so I'm not so scared, OK? If you haven't yet, see "Julie and Julia".

    Reading your quip about your response to the idea of eating tuna/mac for a year made me think of another of my favorite responses -- one of yours. You had asked me, at the spur of the moment, to write an editorial for The DePauw. When I said yes, you seemed so genuinely happy and said "Can I give you a hug?". One of the best hugs I've ever gotten.

    Take good care,