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Ask Lisa: Tales of a weary waitress

Learning to laugh at food-service hell

 by Lisa Przystup
 published on Thursday, September 14, 2006


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Dear readers,



This week there were no letters seeking my help. Not one.

So until I receive one, I sadly have no choice but to give you advice that you didn't ask for. Please don't force me to do this to you all on a weekly basis.

My present work as a server at a Tempe restaurant is a daily pride-swallowing routine. For those of you who have chosen food-service as your temporary collegiate career, I have plenty of advice to offer.

You must learn to smile when someone violently pokes at the meal sitting before him, asking in annoyance, "Is this supposed to be cold? Because it's cold. I mean, I've had this before and it was hot. Like, it's not even warm!" Painful.

But there is a certain satisfaction that comes from killing a table with kindness.

To the customers who flail their arms wildly and yell your name as you are clearly taking an order at another table, try saying the following: "Wow! You sure have a strong voice. That was great. I could hear you from all the way on the other side of the floor. While I was taking an order."

I'm guessing the closest thing to a moment of harmony for most servers is the moment when the last customer walks out the door. You smile and wave to them in the most contrived way possible, light a cigarette and drink a glass of wine with your disgruntled co-workers.

To cope, I recommend trying an exercise in Zen.

Sit in a quiet place (perhaps a monastery somewhere in Tibet), and let your mind wander peacefully to thoughts of the angry cooks, the high-maintenance, non-tipping customers and screaming children.

Now, reach deep into the inner confines of your mind and look for the messages behind their behavior.

Perhaps that older gentleman who found it appropriate to yell about the lighting of the restaurant actually did so with a sort of lilting harmony in his voice.

Maybe the table that decided the tipping just "wasn't for them" was teaching a valuable lesson about what happens when you assume that money will bring you happiness.

I doubt it.

Let's face it: as human work horses with trays fixed to our hands and smiles strapped to our faces, we might be underappreciated.

What we have to remember, in order to stay sane on the job, are the times when people's unexpected kindness and humor surprises us.

But really, "underappreciated" is definitely an understatement.

Reach the reporter at: lisa.przystup@asu.edu. And by reach, we mean ask her some questions — you know, about whatever problems "your friends" are having…



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