Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Choosing to be a Waitress

This post is really just to give people something to think about.

Now, I've been called a liberal, like it's a bad word. I'm okay with that. I'm sorry that people are so polarized in their stances that they villainize the other side. But calling me a liberal is like calling me white bread or cracker or crazy white bitch. I just fail to be insulted because I am not ashamed of who I am.

So, there's some information for you. You're reading the blog of a stinkin' liberal, tree hugging, left wing...err...whatever else "they" call "us".

Now on to my story. Long ago, there was a group of my coworkers that would go out to lunch together now and then. Our favorite spot was a Mexican restaurant just up the street. They had great food and good service, which is important when you're going to lunch from work.

One woman in our group simply refused to leave a tip. Ever. I asked her once why she felt it was okay to not leave the waitress a tip. Her feeling was that she'd paid for her food and she wasn't obligated to supplement the woman's income. I asked if she understood that the waitress made $2.00 or so per hour. She responded that it wasn't her fault that our waitress chose to be a waitress.

Before the waitresses of the world descend upon me, let me say that I am very thankful for wait people. I've been a waitress. It can be a very tough job and expectations from your patrons, your boss, and the cook are very, very high. You have my utmost respect and I will always leave you at least a decent tip, even if you didn't meet my expectations. This is because I understand that much of your ability to perform your job well depends a great deal on things beyond your control.

So now that the waitresses of the world understand where I am coming from, I'll tell you what I told my coworker right before I told her I wasn't going to any more lunches with her.

I don't know anyone who dreamed as a child of being a waitress. Oh, we PLAYED waitress and it was fun! But we didn't dream of spending 8 to 12 mostly thankless hours mostly on our feet, running our asses off for two bucks and change an hour. We didn't study Flo on Alice, trying to pick up hints on the best way to tell patrons that the prime rib was sold out and still score that big tip. We didn't imagine our hands red and chapped, lifting 50 pound bags of milk, making elebenty billion pots of coffee, or hung over old men swatting on our asses as we passed by with a platter of pancakes.

Here's the deal, people. Not everyone makes it through high school, let alone college. Not everyone was encouraged, let alone expected, to get decent grades and get into a good school. Some of us got very little information about the possibility of college. Some of us were discouraged from thinking we'd be good enough for post secondary education. Some of us were told there was no money for such extravagances as additional education that we wouldn't need anyway because we were going to get married and have babies and support our husbands by keeping a clean house.

Among those who grew up in even the middle class, not just the upper class, there seems to be some confusion about how poor people got to be poor. That somehow, poor people really choose to be poor or they are just too lazy to do anything to change their situation. There is some belief that everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else. There's some idea out there that if you just work hard enough, you can be anything you want. And I think that is bullshit. I think until you are out in the world without a safety net, you will continue to buy into that bullshit - and I think it's because it helps you maintain the illusion that YOU could never be truly poor.

Not everyone has the money, the support, or the options that YOU have had. Some of us have had no safety net. We ARE the safety net. There are no parents with some money tucked away for emergencies for some of us. There's no house to take out a loan against. There's no savings account to send us to college or pay for our glitzy wedding or make the down payment on our first house. There's no credit line, hell, no credit! to cosign a loan.

Every now and then, one of us low lives born to poor people escapes. Sometimes it's because of extraordinary intelligence, a teacher or mentor who saw beyond our stringy hair and hand me down clothes, a fortunate mistake, or some other crazy glitch in the system. We get out of the grip of poverty - we finish high school, we manage to NOT get pregnant, we zig when others might have zagged, and we find ourselves with money left at the end of the month. And we stare at that bank balance in AWE!

But not everyone has that miraculous misstep that leads them out of their parents' fate. There's a reason why everyone doesn't hold a college degree. There's a reason some people are janitors, cooks, truck drivers, pharmacy technicians, mechanics, book binders, paper makers, golf caddies, hot dog vendors, soldiers, and waitresses.

And it may not be because they are fulfilling a life long dream. It may be that they didn't have the encouragement or the support others seem to take for granted and pretend we're all entitled to.

Be generous with your time and money and be stingy with your judgments and preconceived notions. And tip your waitress!!

1 comment:

Jessica G said...

Hey! Yeah you! Crazy white bitch!

I agree that it's bullshit!

Speaking as a poor woman working my ass off to finally get a better job that does not involve "Would you like fries with that?" or "Sorry sir, I am not allowed to measure your inseam."

"They" sure as hell do not make it easy to NOT be poor...especially when more than half of my paycheck has to go for gas.

Love,
The other liberal crazy white Jewish bitch ;)