At this point in my life, I’ve been working as a restaurant server for about six years. Sometimes I genuinely enjoy it; sometimes I think I never want to step foot in another restaurant for the rest of my life. Anyone who’s worked as a server knows that it’s not always the easiest job, nor is it the most glamorous. All things considered, though, it’s really not a bad way to make a living.
I’ve gained several skills from serving. Multitasking. Time management. Making small talk. Problem solving. Balance, both physical and mental. Plate stacking (seriously, it comes in handy all the time). However, I think the most beneficial skill I’ve learned is that of having thick skin.
As any restaurant server or customer service worker can attest, people are going to be rude. In the times throughout my serving career when people have been rude to me, I’ve almost always been able to brush it off without much of a second thought. For example, shortly before leaving my serving job in Las Vegas, I had a man literally yell in my face, finger-pointing and all. I laughed about that one, actually. The fact is, I almost always forget about these difficult people as soon as I walk out the door of the restaurant. If I let their comments get to me, I’m letting them win. I refuse to allow such people to invade my thought life, so I do my best to put their rudeness out of my mind as soon as possible.
There was a recent interaction, though, in which I had difficult time letting go of a particular man’s comments. This man was eating at a table in the private room of the restaurant at which I work. I only served him one beer, but it seemed like he was slightly drunk. As such, I can excuse some of what he said. Still, he was pretty rude to me, making snide comments here and there. Even after he left, the whole encounter bugged me for the rest of the shift. I was still thinking about what he said as I was driving home. In order to forget him, I put on the song ‘Ripple’ by The Grateful Dead. It’s a beautiul song that makes me happy whenever I listen to it (if you’ve never heard it, I suggest you check it out). I figured it would cheer me up and, more importantly, put this individual and his words out of my mind. It did.
I woke up the next day, though, and, after being awake for an hour or so, I thought about him again. The dogged persistence of this event in my mind was getting to be frustrating. As I said, I’m not used to dwelling on rude people like this. It seemed that I needed to take some time to think about this so as to figure out why this guy bothered me as much as he did.
Each of us has dignity by virtue of being created in the image of God, but we don’t always realize it.
I realized that he was the first overtly rude person I’ve had since starting this new job, so that was likely part of it. I was busy, but, otherwise, it was a pretty good shift. It was possible that this man simply stood out in my mind as an outlier of sorts. However, this was not enough of reason for him to stay in my thoughts with such continuity.
I then considered things from the financial side. Given that he and his family were a party of 9, I could have added an automatic 18% gratuity to the check, ensuring that I would receive a decent tip from them. The process of adding an automatic gratuity at this restaurant, though, is a bit arduous and time-consuming. I was busy, so I decided against it. Sometimes this works in my favor, as some people are generous and tip more than I would get from the automatic 18%. This was not one of those cases. Although he still left gratuity, it was about $8 less than I would have received had I added the 18%. This was enough to annoy and frustrate me for not taking the time to add it. In the grand scheme, though, $8 isn’t that much. I knew, therefore, that it had to be something else that was bothering me.
It’s when I started to think specifically about what he said that I truly got to the bottom of my frustration with him. There were a few things he said and did that grated on me, but two comments stand out among the others. The food was taking a bit longer than he would have liked, and he let me know that when he said, “Bring our food, or we’re leaving.” I easily let that go because it seemed like an idle threat. Also, I knew the food wouldn’t take too much longer. Sure enough, it was ready a minute or so later. When I brought it into the room, he said something along the lines of, “I gave an ultimatum, and it got a response.” In reality, it was a coincidence. The food was ready for me to take to the table, so I did. His comment had zero effect on my actions, but he thought it did. That’s why I was so upset about him.
His insistence that he forced my hand felt like a stab at my dignity.
Each of us has dignity by virtue of being created in the image of God, but we don’t always realize it. It’s personally taken quite some time for me to gain a full realization of the dignity I have due to the Imago Dei. Now that I’m aware of it, I can be pretty put off when some jerk blatantly affronts it. Yet this interaction reminded me that my dignity is not tied up in my job description, my living situation, or any other earthly concerns. It comes from nowhere less than God Himself. In that, I will take comfort.
I talk a lot on this blog about learning lessons and growing. It’s comforting to me that, although I may not be doing exactly what I’d like to be doing at this point in my life, I’m still actively growing as I go about my day-to-day. This episode was nagging at me in such a way that it was clear that more than just hurt feelings were involved. I knew there had to be a lesson to learn or something to discover about myself through this man and my thoughts about him. There was. After really thinking through this and discovering the root of my frustration, though, he hasn’t bothered me one bit.
If anything about this encounter would have happened differently, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about it. As much as it was not a pleasant experience at the time, I’m honestly glad it happened the way it did. The guy was a jerk, yes, but he reminded me of an important truth about life and human dignity. Better yet, ultimately, it only cost $8. If only all lessons were so inexpensive.
Lastly, don’t be rude to the people who are serving you. They have dignity, and you do, too. Treat others, and yourself, as such.
A pilgrimage is an intensely personal journey, but it is not one that a pilgrim undertakes alone. I don’t want to ‘talk’ into a vacuum. I want to hear other voices, too. What I’m trying to say is, I want feedback! Have I spoken something to you? Is there something you think I should know? Do you have a question about something I said? Please leave a comment below or contact me at Pilgrim.Brett@gmail.com
Also, follow me on the Pilgrim Shelter Facebook page to stay up to date on any new releases and for information about future posts.