What Happens When You’re Looking The Other Way

Heather Imboden

August 1, 2005

As the spring semester drew to a close, I knew that I needed to find some kind of substantial employment, especially after my expensive first year of college. There were two possibilities, but to my dismay, both fell through within a few weeks. Then one morning I awoke to the best news I’d gotten since school had ended: a man from the Ohio Statehouse called me about a résumé I had submitted months earlier.

Finally, I had the opportunity of a job in the career I wanted to pursue! I intended to do everything I could to get the job, but procrastination reared its ugly head. I set aside the night before my meeting to research the position and my interviewer, but fate had turned against me. To my chagrin, the Internet in my house had crashed and remained disabled for the rest of the night. Due to this misfortune, I was unable to investigate anything ahead of time that could have helped me in the interview. Admittedly, I could have researched the entire week beforehand, but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Full of excitement and more than my fair share of nervousness, I set off for my appointment. After arriving at the Statehouse and roaming around for several tense minutes, I finally found the office of the senator I was hoping to work for. I sat in the reception area and gazed around the office in awe. The high ceilings, decadent chandeliers, and plush armchairs drew me in right away.

My senator arrived, and we went into his office to conduct the meeting. Leaving that office twenty minutes later, I maintained no foolish optimism. I can admit when I perform badly, and my disorganization caused my downfall. I stumbled when he asked me about what issues were important for Ohio in the coming election and about affirmative action. My hands were clasped tightly in an attempt to disguise my agitation. I endeavored to draw on all of my newly—acquired collegiate knowledge, but in the end, I was only able to clumsily tie up my rambling response. Naturally, as soon as I walked out of the office, dozens of ideas flooded my head, but it was too late to change the outcome of the interview.

After that, I had to start from square one. I still waited a week or so, just in case everyone else had miraculously bombed their interviews too, but the phone never rang. Having resigned myself to my fate, I went out to several stores and restaurants in my area and filled out applications. Everything was such a disappointment compared to the job that would have been my stepping stone into the political arena. However, I figured any job was better than no job, so I tried to make the best out of the situation.

The only place that seemed interested in me was Bob Evans. Bob Evans was my family’s restaurant of choice when I was growing up, and I had several friends who worked there, so it presented a reasonable alternative. A year’s experience in the restaurant business had given me the opinion that serving was a reasonably lucrative profession, especially for an eighteen—year—old. Having passed the first stage of the hiring process, I was awarded a second interview with the general manager of the restaurant. After a half hour’s casual conversation, I was welcomed into the "Bob Evans Family."

I felt young and inexperienced training with middle—aged waitresses who had twenty years of experience over me. I only wanted to complete my training, so that I could serve people on my own, and more importantly, make more than minimum wage.

After my week of observation, I was ready to serve without a trainer. I was initially frustrated because there were so many abbreviations and combinations to memorize, (like the Farm Feast Breakfast consisting of two buttermilk hotcakes, two choices of meat, three eggs, and home fries) but I finally started to get the hang of it. My first unaccompanied days were rough, and I’m certain that quite a few people did not get what they ordered, but the only way to learn is from mistakes. The "Bob Evans Family" phrase may seem cliché, but it really was true. It was a pleasant surprise to see how well everyone got along, inside and outside of the restaurant. For instance, our restaurant went bowling as a reward for low food costs, and everyone had a great time.

During the summer, I was at the restaurant so much it began to feel like a second home. It wasn’t the professional internship I had wanted, but in a way, it was actually much better. My summer at Bob Evans led me to believe that everyone at some point in his or her life should work in a restaurant. Dealing with demanding and picky customers is one of the greatest teachers of patience. I once had a man who told me the coffee that had been brewed three minutes before was not fresh enough. In spite of difficult customers like him, I came to see that the true reward lies in giving someone good service and knowing that you made his meal even better. There are few relationships in the world that are as short—lived and uncultivated while at the same time being amiable and beneficial for both parties. Think about it. Where else would a complete stranger walk up to you, strike up a friendly conversation, and bring you food?

My summer passed like a whirlwind, and only when I returned to school in August, did I realize how important Bob Evans had become to me. Upon even deeper inspection, I found that I was actually glad I hadn’t gotten the job in the Statehouse. I had renewed old friendships from high school and made dozens of new ones over the course of the summer, and it was all thanks to Bob’s. At the time, I hadn’t been able to see the loss of the internship as anything but disappointing, but my summer turned out far better than I could have ever imagined sitting in that plush armchair in the Statehouse. I had learned vital lessons about a variety of skills such as interviewing, the importance of being prepared, and how to make the best out of a situation. As the great Walt Disney once said, "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

Heather Imboden is a sophomore from Dublin, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.