Modern Day Servant

23 Jul

The other day, I waited on a table full of professors from our local university, considered by many to be one of the “southern ivies.”  A lot of academics and intellectuals come to eat at our restaurant, but these professors just happened to be discussing US-Mexico policy and the potential implications of the recently passed migration bill in Arizona.  It was all I could do to contain myself and not interject with my opinions as I poured their wine, but I held my tongue and listened to them spout misinformation and misinformed ideas they had probably heard about on Fox news.

I am often frustrated that I am currently forced to work as a waitress, which in my opinion is the equivalent of a modern-day servant, and as much as I tell myself over and over that it’s keeping me humble deep down inside I resent our classist society and long to become a part of the intellectual elite I serve day after day.  “I graduated summa cum laude from a top university!” I want to shout at my customers who ask me for even more lemons to put in their water when I have five other tables who haven’t even ordered yet, three cocktails to make and two more tables that need wine service.  I do not have the time, energy, or desire to bring you more freaking lemons!

Yet I was recently interrupted from my selfish reverie while waiting for my flight at the Boston Logan International Airport.  As I sipped an iced coffee and caught up on emails (yes, how very elitist of me, right? I do recognize that the simple color of my skin guarantees me a certain level of status and camouflages my lower class upbringing).  I witnessed an altercation between the manager of the Au Bon Pain and a young Latino employee.  The employee was walking out of the restaurant with a cart, presumably to go pick up a delivery, and the manager angrily yelled at him to come back and help in the kitchen instead of wandering off.  While I watched the young guy try to communicate that someone was waiting on him to pick up the coffee delivery, the manager became increasingly angry and yelled even louder.  As I watched the employee walk dismally away with a bowed head and a broken spirit, I realized that I am probably not the only person struggling with a demeaning service job in this country.  In fact, I am probably one of only millions of people with advanced degrees who find themselves cleaning toilets or taking out the trash.

At least I can communicate with my customers and my boss, and at least the color of my skin does not automatically subject me to police questioning.  As much as I hate being a waitress, I have to learn to embrace the humility of my current position and to realize that what you do for a living does not define who you are or what you are capable of.  I have also gained a greater appreciation for hardworking janitors, construction workers, and waitresses everywhere.  Just remember that you never know what the person pouring your wine has done with their life, and please, for the love of god, tip them 20%.

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