March 19: COVID-19 ‘Reasons Why’ working part-time during national crisis scares me and cuts off a big part of my income

On+its+Instagram+page+%40giantramensushi%2C+the+restaurant+announced+March+19+that+it+will+only+take+to-go+and+delivery+orders+and+will+close+the+building+to+prevent+dine-in+customers+from+coming+inside+in+response+to+the+COVID-19+outbreak.+Such+a+response+will+also+impact+part-time+student+workers+there+since+many+of+them+depend+on+tips+from+customers+as+part+of+their+income.

On its Instagram page @giantramensushi, the restaurant announced March 19 that it will only take to-go and delivery orders and will close the building to prevent dine-in customers from coming inside in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Such a response will also impact part-time student workers there since many of them depend on tips from customers as part of their income.

Alex Park

LIVING UNDER THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS

This is part of a series of columns from The Accolade staff about their various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at  [email protected].

“Here are two spicy ramen.” 

Suddenly, the scent of the hot chili sauce strikes through my nose, so setting my face aside from the customers, I accidentally let out:

*cough* *cough*

Everyone stares right at me. The chef suddenly rushes up to me and asks, “Corona?”

Working as a server during this tumultuous period is not an easy task. Not only is it risky since I come in contact with a significant number of people every time I go to work at Giant Ramen & Sushi, but the sensitive atmosphere puts me on high alert, making me careful for every action I take.

I must make sure to not to cough by accident, be careful not to accidentally get in contact with the customers and make sure the entire restaurant is not just clean but absolutely spotless in every single way.

I used to come at 10:30 a.m. (11 is opening time) so that I have 30 minutes of time to set up everything before we officially open. 

But now, I go around our entire restaurant cleaning the entire window wall, scrubbing extra hard on every desk to ensure its cleanliness while also double-checking all utensils and plates even after they have been dish-washed properly.

However, the struggle does not end there. These actions are not too difficult because these are just enhancements from the basics I’ve been trained to do previously. The real difficulty comes from a serious decline in my primary source of income: tips.

As everyone engages in self-quarantine, during the primary dinner or lunch times when people usually come out to restaurants to have a meal, I instead get overwhelmed with phone call after phone call asking for to-go or delivery orders from Postmate or Doordash, which obviously people do not pay tip for.

As a result, my earnings from gratuities — which I’ve been saving all this time to pay for my future college expenses — has been cut almost by half.

I hoped working 18 hours a week would allow me to pay off a significant amount of my potential debt, but with the COVID-19 crisis now prolonging for two months and exhibiting no signs of ending, it’s a dark road ahead for me.

This conflict I go through does not just apply to me. According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly half of tipped workers “rely on government benefits like SNAP (food stamps).” 

Additionally, tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty than other workers.

Even worse, as stores began closing and solely resorting to delivery and to-go orders, my restaurant decided to do this as well until March 30, leaving me unemployed. 

While I struggle to prepare for my future college expenses, many other servers suffer from failing to meet their daily necessities for survival, which is the true hardship we all need to be aware of. 

On the other hand, in times of economic decline, everyone starting from CEOs to investors and workers all struggle. But in the end, the people who suffer most are those in the lower class fighting to meet their daily needs. 

Thankfully, many people are aware of this and putting efforts to provide the support they need. For example, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District implemented opportunities for students to still have access to their free and reduced lunches. 

Spectrum has also provided 60 days of free internet access for students who do not have it and are unable to do remote learning.

Human beings tend to have an instinct to become selfish in times of great distress, but for us to overcome COVID-19, we must unite and work as one to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible. And so whenever we get out of this crisis, the next time you see me serving you, please consider tipping generously.