A Reflection on Waiting Tables

I have been working long days as of late. My feet are still killing me, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Well, maybe a line or two, but really there are a few topics I want to bring up.

1) Tip your waiter/waitress. I don’t care where you are in the world, tip them. In Ireland, the rules on tipping are a bit blurry. If you’re recieving table service, it’s common to tip, but not everyone does. If you’re not receiving table service, there is not as much of an expectation for you to tip. Either way, a little something does more than help pay the bills (which it does). It is a sign of gratitude, which everyone should spread around! Receiving a tip makes you feel good. Giving a tip because you WANT to give will make you feel good too. It might also help your waitress/waiter pay for a massage that they likely need.

2) Please do not put your sugar packets, napkins, coaster pieces, jam containers or anything else in your cups. We have to fish it out to give it to the cleaning staff. Not always pleasant.

3) Since I have started work, I have encountered a couple different ethically concerning situations in which I did nothing. I legitimately had no idea what to do in these situations. Had I not been at work, I would like to think I would have reacted differently. Maybe just reacted at all. Being a waitress means overhearing conversations, seeing people interact.

On one occasion, I was in a bathroom stall when a mother and her child came into the washroom. I heard the mother hit her child followed by the child crying. The mother was yelling at the child, accusing him/her of ruining the night because he/she was being indecisive and making her “look bad”. The child, crying, kept saying to his/her mom that he/she did not understand why she had hit him/her. The kid told his mother that it was not kind to hit. The mother kept saying that it was essentially her punishment because the child was making her look bad. Sitting in the stall, I kept very quiet and waited for them to leave.

Recently, I was clearing a table beside a different table where a couple was seated. I overheard their conversation in which the man was verbally and emotionally abusing his significant other, telling her she was such a burden, that she was the cause of his numerous headaches simply because she asked for a clarification about which person he was talking about. His tone was angry and filled with jealousy and bullying.

It made me enormously uncomfortable. Mostly because I didn’t and still don’t know how much I am supposed to interfere in overheard conversations. How involved am I supposed to be if I am not supposed to be involved? I am not a parent, so I do not know the state of mind the mother was in when she hit her child without first taking the time to listen to her child. I am not in a relationship, so I cannot entirely relate to the couple sitting in the restaurant enjoying dinner. I don’t have any background information. All I have is what I see and hear. If we all made judgements based on a fraction of the whole picture, how are we to know that we are making a fair judgement?

In the same breath, if I witness injustice, bullying, abuse, racism, or anything else demeaning to someone, am I not obligated to act, no matter the situation, no matter the personal risk? If I could lose my job (which I really need) over a potentially unfair judgement, am I risking too much? And if the person being wronged really needs my help and I do nothing… How am I supposed to cope with that?

I once had a boss who said to me “Seek first to understand before being understood.” I am not likely to start a “Stop. Drop. Talk.” Counselling service in the workplace, but sometimes, I kind of wish I could.

4) On a lighter note, the best part about waiting tables in a hotel restaurant is that everyone has a story to tell. If I have a second to chat, I often do, and almost never regret asking about why they’re in Galway, where they’re travelling from, and how long they’re staying. Take time to listen to people. There is so much positivity out there!  Let it all in!

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