The American service industry rightfully gets a lot of grief: low pay, discrimination galore, and physical labor without any of the prestige found in other nations.
However, for writers and other artists, service industry work can be something of a godsend. Not only are the schedules much more forgiving and even flexible (other workers can often cover shifts), but the money/work trade-off can offer a solid enough exchange rate for folks whose primary work does not support their lifestyles.
As a service industry worker, we can remove ourselves from the “what do you do” narrative that dominates capitalist cultures by “doing” outside of our tipped, paychecked work: writing, reading, painting, and dancing are our lifeblood, but within the constraints of a 9-to-5–or even an academic–job, the economy of time is notoriously difficult to manage. Service jobs allow workers to leave their work in the store, bar, restaurant, food truck, etc. and to spend their off-the-clock hours as they choose (barring errands, etc.).
I’m actually really enjoying my new life in food service. Even my 10-hour/week tutoring job takes more out of me than scooping ice cream. (Another post to come on that subject.) Scooping is largely physical, and despite bodily exertion, physical work can feel almost like a form of meditation for me–interrupted, of course, by the emotional labor of acting like I care about peoples’ days. But mostly, I am able to turn my mental energy towards other projects.
And when I get home, after I wash the ice cream crust out of my eyelashes and boots, I can watch Buffy and read to my heart’s content!