Service (with a smile :)

Waiting tables is not usually a profession that people clamor for.  Those who take the jobs are usually desperate for any kind of work that pays. The nice thing about being a server is that you have the money in your pocket at the end of the day.

But being on your feet for eight hours or more, lifting heavy trays, putting up with customers’ attitudes, and painting on a smile when you want to scream, are all things that servers have to endure in the course of a day.

When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, you don’t often hear serving as a top contender.  But over 2 million men and women choose that profession every year.

“They must also be able to think fast and work in a fast-paced environment while tending to the various needs of their customers. Waiters and waitresses should also be in decent physical shape due to the amount of food and beverages they continually bring to their customers and the demands of walking and standing for long periods of time,” according to the occupations manual for becoming a professional server.

I had to laugh at that. Not because it’s funny, but because it’s ironic.  As hard as servers have to work, as much as they have to put up with, they are still considered at the bottom of the work pool. My darling daughter, who enjoyed playing waitress as a little girl, told her step-mother that she wanted to be a waitress when she grew up.  Her reply?  “A waitress is someone who can’t get a real job.” (Two out of three of my daughters are now servers and they make more than she does.)

While that remark stung a little, it also came from someone who had never even tried being a server.  And just like a teacher or a nurse, it takes a special person to be a server.  But one thing is certain; you have to really, really like it. Otherwise you hate it.  There is no in between. 

I have observed many people in my 25-plus years of being a server.  For one thing, customers know when you’re being phony.  They like servers who are genuine.  They also like servers who can take a joke and act like they really enjoy their job.  Most people  like servers who are fairly intelligent, who can add up a simple bill. 

But sadly,  not all customers tip, even if they are the nicest people on the planet.  Some people forget, some don’t believe in it, but most just think servers are paid better than they are and don’t understand that servers mostly rely on their tips to  live on.

There are two sides to everything and I know that some people are against tipping. Most restaurants expect customers to tip, unless it’s a buffet.  Even then, most places have a sign on the wall that says, “Gratuity accepted.”  Employers thinks it’s OK to pay their servers lower wages because they expect that customers will tip well. That is, unless the economy is in the pits, then they’re on their on.

Which is why I decided that I wanted something better. The economy was going downhill and I couldn’t pay my bills. I enjoyed being a server and all the challenges that came with it, but I really wanted  a career. I wanted to be more than just a waitress.  In society’s eyes, that’s all I was.

Becoming a journalist is something that I had dreamed about since I was in the third grade.  But, like many people’s dreams, I took a detour but finally ended up where I wanted to be.

My experience as a waitress is something I am proud of because I learned so much about people. I believe everyone should have to work as a server at least one day in their lives in order to learn some of the more important things in life..  Things like, how to get along with people, patience, tolerance, and understanding.  These things I’ve learned has helped in other aspects of my life. I’m also a better person because of it.

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