So for my birthday, I thought my significant other was taking me sky diving. We enjoy tricking each other, so he let me go on thinking the surprise was sky diving without verbal confirmation. Even as we drove deep into tree-infested hills, I continued to think we would be sky diving. I was antsy and nervous, mentally preparing myself. It literally wasn’t until after we pulled in and were out of the car that I realized we were zip-lining.
I was immediately relieved. The guide, Dylan, was an awkward and spunky 20-something male quipped with dry humor and bad puns. I can dig this, I thought as I filled out my promise-I-won’t-sue-if-I-die form (I honestly never read these things, so I’m just assuming that’s what it was).
I love service with a personality, because I have one too large for my own human body. So when I connect with other awkwardly big personalities, we bond over our awkwardness.
I watched Dylan interact with everyone, my boyfriend occasionally giving his two cents to the conversation. Amused, I was looking forward to the rest of the trip until Dylan let a sentence slip out that would doom our entire “big personalities” connection, “Zipline instructors are like servers, except they save your lives rather than just serve you food.”
I don’t remember the context it was taken from because I had only been passively listening to the conversation. Regardless, I was enraged by his ignorance.
Luckily for Dylan, he was only the introductory guide. We met two others, Brandon and Andrew, who would be our zipline instructors throughout the tour. The two had similar personalities which made the whole tour more enjoyable, tastefully making fun of those who struggled or had an unnatural fear of heights.
Even after an enjoyable birthday and experience, Dylan’s lack of understanding of the food service industry leaves me with a resounding realization that all people should serve at some point in their life.
The more we grow into a society of instant gratification and technological perfection the less we remember things like patience and humility. We forget that humans are just that, human. Humans make mistakes, forget orders and the side of ranch table 7 ordered. We still have things like microwaves, stoves and grills that people (BOH) use to take time to cook food.
Dylan’s comment is just one of many ways people are truly disillusioned about the food service industry. Serving tables is more than delivering food and getting tipped for it. It’s paying attention to every detail of your food, drinks and overall happiness whether you are in our section for 30 minutes or two hours. If you’re not happy, we don’t get paid. In ziplining, the customer pays for the experience prior to entering the facility in order to enjoy it.
This small detail alone allows the guest to set the tone from the minute they enter the restaurant to the time they exit the door. People have come to exercise this power like they are 5-year-olds stuck in a mature body by throwing fits, making impossible demands and pouting if they’re not completely satisfied. This is often followed with a bad tip or no tip at all as a last minute “Fuck you, then!”
(And for those of you who are unaware of servers’ wages, the hourly paycheck we receive is barely enough to pay half of one month’s rent. This does vary based on where location.)
This isn’t the first time I’ve thought this and probably won’t be the last. Those who haven’t worked in the service industry truly just don’t understand how awful people can be (including themselves) – and it’s an excellent life lesson to acquire so we don’t grow to be the same. And I don’t mean just the restaurant industry, but in life.
I am aware that not all people are this way and that some people don’t need it – there will always be outliers. But the same can be said that some people may never learn a damn thing and die thinking the Earth truly orbits their ego, not the sun.
Serving allows the character-building that sometimes can feel as brutal as Chinese torture – the feeling of slow, slow agony slowing killing you inside. It can be a therapy for life that includes both tough love and empathy – a lesson that everyone can benefit from.