Personal Statement: A plea for common courtesy

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Illustration by Cheryll Victuelles

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 6:46pm

“Excuse me, my food is cold.”

Ma’am, that’s because you decided to finish your conversation before touching your food.

“It’s chilly in here, could you turn down the A/C?”

No, I don’t know how and I really don’t have time. But don’t worry, in five minutes I will come back and let you know that I did.

“Well, why don’t you have any soy-free, vegan, gluten-free products that are organic and are under 100 calories?”

Well, sir, you are describing air. And unfortunately I don’t know how to ring that up and give you a bill for that. I suggest water, it’s free.

***

There’s an old adage that goes, “You can choose two out of the three things for college: a social life, good grades, and/or sleep.” But, when you have a job in college, you can really only choose one because having a part-time job in college is hard. Like, super hard. And, if you choose to have a full-time job and go through your undergrad career, I respect you on so many levels.

Yet, despite having no time to do everything I need to do, I somehow get by. I get decent grades, I maintain a somewhat regular social life — though I miss a lot of great events — and my classes don’t start until 11 a.m. every day, so I usually get at least six hours of sleep.

I’ve always had minimum-wage jobs since I got my working papers. It gave me a sense of independence from my parents. I learned the value of money, the necessity of savings, etc. And, to be honest, I have learned just as much from working minimum-wage jobs as I have sitting in classes. I’ve learned time management and I’ve learned how to pour wine in a fancy way and I’ve learned to tie my hair up in a knot so that it won’t move for hours on end.

But the number one thing I have ever learned from working all through high school and college is the value of common courtesy.

Silly, I know, to complain of manners in an age where having a face-to-face conversation is rare and a common greeting between friends is an insult. But I will still complain because, truthfully, people have forgotten the art of respect.

It is one thing to be rude to your friends, but it is quite another to be rude to someone you don’t know.

I am your waitress. I am there to make your dining experience as pleasant as possible. I understand that sometimes the food is not to your liking but remember: I AM NOT THE CHEF. I am simply the messenger between you two. I have no control over when food will be ready, despite how often I can annoy the kitchen. Trust me, you are not the only person unhappy if the food isn’t right. I am too, because that means that even though I did my job right, someone else did it wrong. But I will be the one to pay for it when you decide what to tip me.

Sometimes people’s wallets don’t allow them to tip over 15 percent and I completely understand that. However, I believe you should be budgeting what you plan to spend that night with your waitstaff in mind. I make three dollars an hour legally because the restaurant believes that because I am making tips, my salary will then be adjusted. However, when I have ten tables undertip me or ten patrons forget to tip me or ten customers who are only doing takeout so why should they tip me for spending hours looking over the menu with them, I can sometimes not even come close to making $9 an hour.

And when you work ten-hour shifts constantly standing, $9 an hour is not right.

So that’s my first request from diners: don’t base your tip on how your food tastes, base your tip on how much I try to make the dining experience as wonderful as possible. I promise you, I’m not smiling and making small talk for my own benefit.

And under no circumstances do you choose not to tip. Because that happens, too, and I guarantee the waitstaff will remember your face.

Another frustrating habit: the kid situation. I will preface this by saying that I love children, but please take control of their actions in a restaurant. I am carrying hot food, cups filled to the brim with liquid, and knives. Your child should not be under my feet when I finally get to your table. Your child should not be blocking every possible available surface with their toys. Also, your baby is screaming? Take them outside. Your toddler is throwing a tantrum? Take them outside. You want to chastise your pre-teen? Take them outside.

If we close at midnight, do not walk in at 11:55 p.m. and think it’s OK.

There is nothing worse than walking up to a table to take your food order and having to wait for the patrons to finish their conversation. Acknowledge my presence! Please!

When you are ready to order, put the menu down to signal me to come over. When you are ready to pay the check, put it at the side of the table.

Don’t hit on me.

If you’re dining with a large group, tell me at the beginning if you want separate checks.

With that being said, as a college student myself, I get wanting to go out with your friends. But if all eighteen of you are each ordering one $5 item and you all want separate checks and you’re all not willing to tip, I will have issues.

Smile.

If you have questions about the food, I will answer them. However, there comes a point where I need to do other things besides spending five minutes detailing every single item on the menu.

I can quite literally go on for hours with requests. But please, do me a favor (or really do yourselves a favor) and next time you sit down at a restaurant, remember me. I am your waitress and this is my job, but I am a person. And I deserve basic common courtesy.