Slice of Life 17:
We learn from every aspect of our lives; directly or indirectly- everything speaks. The people speak, the places speak, the events, actions- whether we’re playin ball or on the side lines watching the game. We’re taking it in.
There is one very underrated, unacknowledged location which has taught me too many life lessons to count. It may not be the traditional classroom, but served as an oasis of knowledge none the less.
Serving tables in restaurants.
From eggs over easy in a diner to Filet Mignon in a fine dining establishment- You name it, I’ve served it. You name the customer- I’ve served them too. From bringing crayons and chocolate milk to babies in highchairs to serving a senior pair of dear friends a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned before the dinner theater show. Regardless of the clientele profile, while I was placing plates down, there were certain life lessons I was picking up.
• I learned how to multi-task and I learned how to work hard. I picked up how to effectively manage highly stressful, fast paced situations. Smile through the chaos. A server juggels 6-7 tables at a time; greetings- drinks- appetizers- oh, a straw? Of course! Your child needs some napkins? Here you go honey. Let me box that for you! Oh, sir, I’m sorry. The order did say Medium Rare. Let me take that. S t r e t c h i n g yourself so thin– all the while- smiling your ass off and masking the pandemonium that only YOU know exists.
• Serving is a humbling experience. People are rude. They can be condescending. Many make you run your butt off; ask for another drink, only to request another drink and a condiment immediately upon your arrival. Of course! They scowl at you if the kitchen is taking a little longer with their meal. They stare at you- burning a hole in your back as you serve another table. Rating your performance. Tallying your every move. Oh she’s good. Eh. She’s slow. Did she get the order right? Even after someone has sat with a grimace, delivered orders like a tyrant, treated you like you were bottom of the barrel scum, “Thank you sir.” You say with a warm smile, “Have a great night.” Quickly you assess that a person’s bad attitude and scowl, their ability to treat a stranger so harshly- become so angry over a straw or the temperature of their mashed potatoes- is- well, their problem. After all, a temper so easily flared can’t be an easy fire to tend to.
• You learn about people. Some, I feel, seem to mistake the booth in the diner for the throne of a king. Many people carry a sense of entitlement. A weird power trip occurs. Others are warm. Others sense the cruel stares and sharp comments being thrown your way and they throw out a life raft. A warm smile. A sympathetic grin and a small joke. Sometimes this is all you need to not break apart. You get to watch the awkwardness of a first date; when it’s soaring with chemistry or taking a swift nose dive. You observe families; large and small- in all their disorder, familiarity, and ritualistic chemistry. You befriend the lone diner. The young mother and her little ones. All walks and talks; you are momentarily welcomed into their world.
In my opinion, waiting tables should be a prerequisite for adulthood, right behind drivers’ ed. The biggest lesson- You learn the value of a, “thank you,” the significance of a smile, the impact of a kind word. You learn to appreciate and you learn to allow things to slide. It should be a general education requirement for Undergraduates: Waitstaff 101; Strategies, Practices, and Methodologies of being a Hardworking, Hustlin, Attentive, and Well-Mannered Human Being.