Survival jobs. Never has an adjective been so appropriate when applied to actors.
While we may not like them, having a part time job is an absolute MUST for anyone looking to make it as an actor. However, one may wonder what is the ideal job for an actor with AS. Well, I’m no expert, but I figured I’d tell a tale of a former part time job and my experience with it.
The first and most obvious choice for an actor would be a part time serving or restaurant job because of the flexibility the scheduling allows as well as the potential to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. In fact, when I’ve told people I have a master’ degree in acting, they’ve said “You mean you went to grad school for waitressing?”
I had my first brush with the restaurant industry in the summer of 2010 before my junior year of college: I was going abroad to London that fall and my parents, tired of me being a lazy freeloader, decided I needed a summer job to earn some extra cash for the trip. I got a job as a waitress in a restaurant at the Jersey shore and started work. Keep in mind that this was before my diagnosis. To make a long story short, I sucked as a waitress. I was so awful, management came up with excuses to not put me on the schedule (apparently they just HAD to keep using the configuration from that one week when I was away). Eventually I talked to my manager and wound up being “demoted” to a busser. This actually worked out much better for me I only needed to focus on one goal-getting the tables cleaned (I do remember balking, however, when one woman wanted me to clean up her daughter’s
urine after she peed in her high chair).
Fast forward: after my diagnosis, college and grad school, I was moving to Hoboken
and needed a job, pronto. For the first year and a half, I worked as a hostess. Although I was comfortable in this position, I was working very few hours and making very little money. I knew I had to take a crack at serving again. Eventually I got a job working at a restaurant close to my house. I applied for a server position, only to be told that they started all their servers out as hosts. I wasn’t thrilled by that arrangement since it would mean I would have to host again for an indeterminate amount of time, but I was desperate at the time and took the job. What followed was one of the worst experiences of my life.
I’ll try to keep this as short as possible since I don’t want to be too negative. However, my unfortunate stint at this restaurant created the impetus for this blog.
Now, I had obviously hostessed before. It’s not a hard job. It’s so easy my dog could do it (actually, my dog, Nipsy Russell Andretta would be an adorable host).
However, at this restaurant one would think hostessing was as complicated as arming a nuclear warhead: no matter what one did, it was wrong. Trying to take a to-go order over the phone? Wrong. Trying to bus a table? Wrong. Trying to do whatever the powers that be told you to do? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Now, being constantly made to feel you’re not doing a good job may put a damper on one’s self esteem, but that actually wasn’t what set me on the writing warpath. No, what set me off was the boss. Remember J.K. Simmons in Whiplash? Yeah. That bad. And it wasn’t that he was tough, I’ve dealt with tough authority figures all my life, some within my own family. But no one in my family (that I know of) has insulted me to my face in front of complete strangers, called me “slow” and “difficult,” consistently shouted “what’s wrong with you” at me, asked me if I was “interested” in a friend of his (who, for the record, happened to be 50 years old) and offered to “introduce me” to him like I was his property or, and this is my favorite, got mad at me one day because I wore a different color eyeshadow. Yes. This happened.
What set me on the path to liberation was one fine evening when I failed to use my psychic powers and realize that Big Boss wanted me to stop what I was doing and immediately do something else. After I was done, he walked up to me and asked me “Why do you take so long to make decisions? I want to know you better. Tell me.”
Me: “When I was 20 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome” (side note: no, I didn’t tell him when I first applied, partly because I didn’t get a chance to, and partly because I was afraid to. One day I’ll make a post about this topic.)
Him: “…I never would’ve guessed. You don’t seem like the type…”
Me: “I’m what you’d call ‘high functioning'” (side note: I hate that term).
Him: “So you have OCD, like me.”
So you have OCD like me.
I finally tell him what’s “wrong with me,” and he brushes it off like it’s something he has and understands and can write off.
I know he’ll never read this, but I just want to say to this man that I do not have OCD (my parents and roommate know this for a fact). And there is NOTHING wrong with me. Nor is there anything wrong with anyone who has Asperger’s, Autism, or anyone whom you consider different or inferior. Thank you for helping me realize that, and I truly hope you’re satisfied with your life.
And thank you, readers for indulging me. I swear, I will never talk about this bull crap again.
Anyway, during my time at the restaurant from hell, I had a conversation with my Mudder. She said she’d been doing some research, and it turns out waitressing isn’t actually the best job for Aspies. You see as a waitress you have to split your focus equally between several points, and as we’ve learned Aspies do best when they can focus all their energy on one focal point. After I realized this I started looking into different fields of work that didn’t involve restaurants, and I can safely say I’m doing well at the moment.
So my fellow Acting Aspies, do not despair if you find yourself struggling in a server job. As much as we memorize the menu and different protocols, we’re facing an automatic hurdle due to the way our brains are wired. I’d encourage you to explore other avenues besides waitressing; if you know where your strengths lie, you can make it work.