MY NEW HERO
Makenzie & Steven Schultz
So here’s the deal. Our service tonight sucked. Took 20 minutes to get water, 40 minutes for an appetizer and over an hour for our entree. People all around us were making fun of the restaurant & how bad the service was. Yeah, it was pretty terrible. But, it was very obvious that the issue was being short staffed, not the server. He was running around like crazy and never acted annoyed with any table. At one point we counted he had 12 tables plus the bar. More than any one person could handle! As I sat there and watched him run back & forth and apologize for the wait, I said to Steven… Wow, this used to be us. Waiting tables. I don’t miss it at all and I never loved that job. I did it for the tips. Steven and I agreed it would feel good to make this guys night when he would probably be getting minimal to no tips due to slow service. We walked out before he saw this and I’m not posting this for a pat on the back. I’m just sharing this as a friendly reminder to think of the entire situation, before you judge. And always always always remember where you came from.
It can be easy- TOO easy- to forget where we’ve been, where we started, the meager and difficult circumstances we may have known at one point in our lives. Even those who’ve achieved a measure of success can (and should) often point to a time when things we’re nearly so abundant and easy. There’s something to be said for remembering your roots, for recognizing that you weren’t to the manor born and at some point you had to scramble and hustle for what probably seemed at the time like very meager recompense. That’s why this story put a smile on my face. Kindness never gets old.
Erin and I recognize that we’re incredibly fortunate. One of the things I love about her is that she’s a genuinely kind and caring person who doesn’t begrudge reward those who treat her well. As for me…well, I’ve known my share of rough and sparse times, and where I am now is far removed from where I’ve been at so many points. I put myself through my last year of calling waiting tables at a restaurant in downtown St. Paul, MN. It was a hard, humbling, and occasionally miserable experience, one I promised myself I would never, ever repeat (and I haven’t). Beyond my meager hourly wage, I was completely dependent upon the whim of others for my income. I could bust my ass and still not make much in tips…and there wasn’t a thing I could do but take it. What that experience did for me was to teach me the importance of treating people well and recognizing when someone’s working hard to make your experience better. The results may not always be what you want, because sometimes the handicaps someone is forced to work with or under are beyond their control. What you can control is how hard you work and how effort you put into overcoming your circumstances.
What I can control is how I recognize the lengths someone goes to ensure that my experience is a positive one…and that’s what I do.
Restaurant work is at best difficult, at worst demeaning and degrading. My experience covered the full spectrum, and that’s stayed with me. Whenever Erin and I go to a restaurant, which is frequently, I normally leave a generous tip- usually more than 20%- not because I think I’m a good person, but because I was once on the other end. I may do something slightly different if our server is totally indifferent and/or completely incompetent, but I’ve found that to be a rare experience. More often than not, especially at better restaurants, our server is conscientious, intelligent, and hard working. To my way of thinking, that kind of things deserves to be recognized and rewarded.
It’s easy for me to put myself in the shoes of a server, because I was once there myself. I remember having to scramble to make enough money to pay rent and tuition, hoping I’d have enough left over to go to the grocery store. I got by, but it wasn’t by much. Now I’m on the other side, but when someone’s is telling us about the nightly special and taking my drink order, I can’t help but go back to that time. I think about the times customers were kind to me and how that made me feel. I can be that customer now, and it feels good to be able to give something back, even if that server never knows where it comes from.
Beyond that, one of the things I’ve learned from Erin is kindness. Not that I wasn’t a kind person before, but I see how she deals with people and it inspires me to do the same. So what if my tips are something others might find excessive? I have my reasons, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my life it’s that a little kindness can go a very long way…and kindness is never bad or inappropriate. Not to be cavalier, but it’s only money, and if erring on the generous side makes someone feel better…well, that’s not such a bad investment, is it?