Word Count: 1022
Discourse Community of Nathan Alleyne
Imagine working with and for teenagers your age, dressed in suits, serving and bussing tables, stacking chairs, and snacking on calamari during your break time. Seems like a waiter’s typical shift at the Westbury Manor to me. The Westbury Manor is an event/catering hall on Long Island that hosts weddings, business parties, sweet 16’s and much more. I started working there in December of 2019 as a waiter, and surely gained many friends through my coworkers and supervisors. Initially, I felt I wouldn’t be able to adapt and fit in, or make my way into the friendships that had already been established. For the most part, I thought of this community as a group of people who although do play around often, still respect one another, work well together, and genuinely like each other a lot.
The Westbury Manor wait staff are a racially diverse group of individuals, women dominating men in terms of numbers, but are friends all the same. Also ranging in age, my now inner circle includes those closer to my age, from 16 (my age) to about 19. This “teenage Westbury Manor waiter” discourse community has about 13 people. This group is mainly made up of Hispanic people, but also includes people from African-American, like yours truly, and Caucasian backgrounds.
This group’s usual goal is to basically survive the shift, as they can sometimes be long, stressful, painful, and dreadful. We might not all work the same event, but clocking out afterwards is always a dream whilst working the shifts we do. A second goal that might be a little more delightful for our boss to hear, would be to make sure our customers, who are usually partygoers, brides and their family and friends, or a sweet 16 princess and her ‘squad’ enjoy their night, as it is basically our job to do so. We make sure everything is perfect with our guests throughout the night, or day, no matter the kind of event. Our goals may slightly shift from day to day, but generally remain the same, at least when we are suited up and ready to work.
This ragtag group of waiters communicates with each other in a variety of ways, the first and most relevant actually being not in person, but through text messages. We spend the most amount of time talking to each other via texts about miscellaneous topics, some of them not always being appropriate for the workplace, while some are, such as switching shifts, covering shifts, or confirming who might be working with you. While we are at work, some words may be exchanged passing through the large kitchen, or in the bus stations but unless we are working the same event, we might not get much time to verbally communicate during our shifts. This group of people is slowly becoming my closest group of friends since now that I work, I have less time during the week to go out with other groups of friends I may have met elsewhere. That may sound unfortunate, but this group at least for me, is slowly turning into family, which is a great thing. When we aren’t working, or joking around in our text message group chat, we’re either out living our individual lives or partying together, which only brings us closer.
When in this profession, one is usually expected to properly conduct themselves sophisticatedly, courteously, mannerly, and diligently. Us waiters when dealing with customers, or guests, are always meant to be time-efficient, politeful and be ready to aid them in any way we can. To maintain the status of the institution, we are trained to move quickly, work rigorously and to simply just be nice to anyone who may not work there, whether it be shoppers, those that come in to view the venue before making a decision, or guests that come for the events that are held there. We are to be on our best behavior when interacting with and when in the sight of anyone that is not employed at the Westbury Manor. This group, for the most part, is also very much polite and friendly toward other employees, such as older waiters, captains, chefs, maitre’ds, hostesses, receptionists, and other forms of administration.
Before someone can join this group, they would need to first be around our ages in order to really be a “full” member, but really, they must just be willing to be comfortable around us in and outside of work, since Westbury Manor is not the only place we see each other. Granted having had already got the job, training, and experience to be up to par with us who have been working for a longer period of time, that person would already have as much as they need to be a member of this discourse community as we do. Our community also shares a lot of beliefs, likes and dislikes. These may include our tastes in music, television, and pop culture. We also, and you must swear not to tell, all secretly despise some of our supervisors and coworkers, shh!!!
After speaking to a fellow coworker and member of this community, I was made sure of the dynamic of this group. Elizabeth Gilbert, a 19 year old waitress at Westbury Manor called our friend group “a big dysfunctional functional family.” Through her words, she made it clear that although we might not always get along, the love is still there and and we always manage to get the work done.
In the end, I was able to realize that I was pretty much right about my guesses about this community. Being teenagers, it was slightly obvious how they would act around each other, swearing and play-fighting, but always managing to literally get the job done, no matter the intensity of the situation or the severity of the change over, which is the reset for the next event that would be coming up after ours. Discourse communities are all around you, just look around!
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Personal interview. Feb 2020.