Lessons from a waitress

By | 2013/03/23

My mother worked in the service industry, part time, for decades before finally retiring last year. When she was growing up, her parents owned one of just two cafés in a small country town, and my mother along with her sisters would get up, do chores around the café, go to school, then come home and work in the café.

Within a year or so of our family moving to Parkes, my mother got a job as a waitress in one of the local Chinese restaurants, and worked there for over 30 years.

All her work in the service industry taught me one very key lesson: don’t judge people by how they behave to their friends and family, judge them by how they behave to others – e.g.,

  • How do they behave to food service workers?
  • How do they behave to shop assistants?

It’s easy for someone to be jovial and nice to a person they know. But how do they react when there’s someone there, ostensibly doing a job for them?

Are they polite and considerate, or are they rude, obnoxious and demanding? Are they the sort of person you personally might want to go out to dinner with, or are they the sort of pretentious prat that big-notes themselves by trying to make life hell for the “lesser” people around them? If your barista daydreams about flinging a coffee in your face, or your waitress daydreams about tripping and dropping a hot sizzling platter in your lap – chances are, you’re an arse.

These days I’m seeing the same yardstick being equally applicable to how politicians deal with people in need, or people who are in less equitable situations. The key voices on both sides of the Australian political fence for instance have the same reprehensible attitude towards asylum seekers (or “boat people” or “illegal immigrants”, as they describe them – the second description in particular being highly inaccurate and immoral) … and that attitude is: “Kick the shit out of them. Make life hell for them. Use them to score political points in the hope of getting bigots in marginal electorates to vote for me.”

I certainly wouldn’t want to go out for dinner with any of those arses.

Then again, I was lucky enough to be raised by a waitress.