The Story of the Tray Clearer

When I were 14, I worked part-time at a Japanese burger chain. I could still remember I was paid $3.20 an hour back then. That was back in 2000.

Both of my friends, who joined with me, were assigned to be cashier. As for me, I was assigned the “less glamorous” role of a tray clearer. What does a tray clearer do? Simple. Clear the tables and return the trays once our diners are done with their meal.

I could remember that I abhorred the role to death. As a proud 14 year old, I don’t want to be seen clearing trays, especially by my family and friends who come to the restaurant. I want to do something that’s more cool. I want to be flipping burgers in the kitchen.

So, everytime I would find opportunities to go to the kitchen. I would go wash the snack basket. I would go get the mop to mop the floor. Then, if the work is little outside, I would ask the burger guys to teach me how to prepare the burgers. Thankfully, they are always open to teach me.

Sometimes, the manager would see me in the kitchen and get me to get back outside. Did I obey? The answer is yes.

One day, the restaurant was packed. The queues were 20-30 people long. The kitchen simply couldn’t cope with the sudden surge in the volume. The customers waited long for their order and they became frustrated. At the point, the manager looked to me and asked,” You know how to prepare the burgers right?” I replied with a nod. “Then you go to the kitchen right now!”

From then on, I worked in the kitchen. Someone else became the tray clearer.

This story has been stuck with me for the past 22 years and it’s one of the most important lessons I learned in my younger days.

What’s the moral of the story? If you truly believe that you want something, go find ways to get it. Don’t think that the opportunity isn’t presented to you now so it will not ever. The opportunities usually only comes later and you better are well equipped to grab them.

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