Fast Cash to No Cash: Hard Lockdown Lessons

It was 2020, and it happened to me. 

I was one of the millions of Americans who lost their job due to COVID-19.

The Preston Center restaurant I worked at had shut down, and I found myself with little to spare and zero employee benefits.

When you’re working as a server, you rarely think about the times when you will truly need help. Like most restaurant employees, I was thinking about the fast cash in my hands every day. It was enough to put a roof over my head and keep me fed.

I remember hearing about this “coronavirus” and thinking to myself, “Yeah, whatever. Just another airborne illness that will probably subside.”

If only I knew how wrong I was.

In the early months of 2020, business where I worked, declined. The number of customers dwindled daily. Since the pandemic affected many companies, my regulars weren’t dining in or spending money as frequently.

Many also were afraid of getting sick and wanted to stay home.

Fewer customers meant less money, and less money meant fewer employees.

I went from having an entire section to working part-time and then being laid off. A week later, the restaurant had forever closed its doors.

Tough was an understatement in describing the feelings, the anxiety, and the hardship I had experienced.

With so much closing down, moving to another restaurant was not an option. It’s not like I could “work from home” in a restaurant job.

When adversities happen, I can usually pick myself up and move on. However, with the lockdown, I had no choice but to turn to something I was embarrassed about: government assistance.

Looking back, I don’t shame myself for asking for help. I applied to a rent relief program, which eventually dispersed me the funds I needed. 

That financial assistance didn’t come easy, though. For months, I had to wait for what I thought was the most protracted process ever. Many people needed help, evictions were happening, and workers with families to support were losing their jobs.

That I was still able to get assistance during that time meant so much to me, and I will forever be grateful.

As for me and working in the restaurant industry? I learned the hard way that serving comes with pros and cons. In my opinion, the cons of having zero employee benefits far outweigh the quick, easy cash every night.

That year tested my ability to remain strong during the chaos and confusion. If anything, I came out even stronger, which pushed me into pursuing my passions, such as writing, even more. I have zero regrets.

Freelance writer Tina-Tien Nguyen, a graduate of Southern Oregon University, enjoys shopping around the Park Cities and Preston Hollow, playing the guitar, writing songs, meditating, and yoga. 

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