Lisa’s Story: Working as a Waitress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Meet Lisa, a waitress and DoorDasher who lives with her husband in Louisiana.

What’s it like working in-person right now?

I’m working two jobs at the moment. My main job is serving and waitressing at a local restaurant. I’d consider myself a frontline worker because I’m interacting with folks in person a couple of days a week. I also started doing DoorDash as a side hustle this year.

In all honesty, it’s been crazy. Some days, I don’t even know if I want to go into work because so many people are sick and the number of COVID-19 cases keep rising in our area. But at the end of the day, I have to do what I have to do to support my family and especially my two kids.

What do you like about being a waitress?

I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since I was 18. I have a lot of experience working in restaurants, but I’ve enjoyed being a waitress the most. I would definitely consider myself a people person, which would explain why I love waitressing. As for the pay, you pretty much know what you’re going to make, and most of the time my bills are paid. The pandemic really threw our finances off though.

Were you and your family impacted at the start of the shelter-in-place mandates in March?

When this all started, I lost my job due to COVID-19 shutting places down. My family and I used to live in Georgia but have to move to Louisiana for jobs. Within the first two months of the shutdown, so many places closed and we didn’t know when they would open back up again. The restaurant I worked at in Georgia shut down completely. Things took a turn when that happened. All of a sudden, the bills and rent were due and we didn’t have an income to pay them. On top of that, my landlord evicted us. This was before the eviction moratorium was in place, so we didn’t have protection. It was like everything came crashing down.

Luckily, I have family in Louisiana, so we moved. Louisiana had some restaurants open at limited capacity, so my husband (he’s a sushi chef) and I were able to find work pretty quickly. We’re both following all health and safety protocols at our workplace. During my off days, I deliver food with DoorDash. It’s been nice because I haven’t had to deal with as many people as I would have if I were waitressing that day. The pay comes faster as well, so that’s a nice bonus.

Are your kids in school? What does that look like for them?

They’re staying with their grandma in California. It sucks that I don’t get to see them, but I know that what we’re sacrificing now will have all been worth it in the long run. When COVID-19 hit, my husband’s mom offered to take care of our kids while we found work. She’s a seasoned live dealer at a casino and has paid leave, so it wasn’t a big issue for her to take care of them. There’s a daycare facility at the casino as well, but it’s pretty expensive.

Walk me through a day in your life.

My shift hours are the same as my husband’s. Right now, we’re working 10am to 10pm with a break from 2-4:30pm. We’ve been working together for about three years, and I like to joke that my day consists of being around my husband all hours of the day.

We drive to and from work, which takes 25 minutes each way. Oddly enough, the pandemic didn’t slow the traffic in the downtown area. If anything, it’s stayed pretty much the same. You’d expect people to be staying home like they’re supposed to, but they’re out and about regardless. When the mayor put a mask mandate in place, downtown got even more busy. It’s sad because those who don’t care don’t realize how serious COVID-19 is until it happens to one of them or a family member.

Would you consider yourself financially stable?

Even before the pandemic, it was hard for us to be financially stable. I just had my daughter in November of last year, so I was depending on my husband and the income he earned because I couldn’t work. Working has helped me become more knowledgeable about things like money management and credit. I wasn’t the best at saving money before, but I’m getting a lot better now.

What would you like to do when things are more normal?

I want to see my kids, be around family, and just enjoy being around people. Obviously, I also want to be able to show my face and not have a muffled conversation with folks when I’m working at the restaurant, too.

Are you saving for anything in particular at the moment?

At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t have a car. My mother-in-law’s sister went on a limb and sacrificed so much to get us a car so we could drive to work. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. She and her husband have a nice farm here in Louisiana, and they took me and my husband in. I’m so thankful for their hospitality and want to repay them somehow.

How do you envision your family’s future?

I want us to be in a good place financially, mentally, and physically. Once we overcome this pandemic, I want my kids to grow up and not have to worry about things like wearing a mask. Most of all, I want to get a house for my family and be a full-time mom.

How do you feel about SaverLife?

If I’m being honest, SaverLife literally saved my life. This past May, I was eligible for the $500 Emergency Response Fund grant. I found SaverLife through the Steady app, and it wasn’t long after that I was scrolling through the Money 101 articles. I read everything now, from the newsletters to the Saver Stories. I even told my husband to make a SaverLife account!

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