Restaurant etiquette

By Danielle Zukowski | 8/24/14 12:20pm

Rewind, fall 2013, when leaves kissed grass last. The senioritis epidemic inflicted me. I waited tables at the crappiest restaurant in town – my first real job. Bittersweet, to say the least. Food service is one of those unrecommended experiences that happen to be incredibly valuable if you have the misfortune. Lessons like brewing coffee were easier. Operating a cash register was a tad more difficult. Usually, though, learning was a relentless trial and error process. Mistakes burn. I shattered a plate, two soup cups, nearly a rack of mugs, and a trio of shake glasses before mastering the art of balance. Time management blossomed only after the eruption of dinner-rush anxiety. Recognition of facial warnings took a while to kick in. Of everything, the greatest gift was faking a smile.

I never had that talent. Provoking was a pre-req for the flash of teeth. Until Big Boy. And not for tips or splendid customer service. It’s more about sanity. Letting go. Now that’s agonizing, but things happen. And we’re so possessive over these moments. Quit. Laugh at customer stupidity. Rage at a lousy tip. Short-term it’s sedative to just feel what we’re feeling. Resistance is nearly internal cannibalism. Once those moments build up though you go insane. If not solely in consideration of your mental health you have to fake a smile. But it’s more, it’s moving on.

My last freshman year, I read Be Cool to the Pizza Dude. Most superstitions I write off but karma I’ll play into. The author believed good things come if you just be a decent human being to the food bearer. In retrospect of infinity, that’s fairly effortless but it matters. In a restaurant every second counts. Cleaning a mess promptly and returning belongings to their homes saves time. Shortcutting an order sets back the cook, and may require the manager’s magic hand. In that way karma exists. You can either spend that second to alleviate later burdens or create them. Maybe for you, maybe someone else. Because we are characters in other’s stories. Perspectives do exist outside the confines of our own.

Seven billion actually. That’s the current world population. 25,000 of them are enrolled at GVSU. Twenty are from my graduating class. Now, fall 2014. Everything’s flipped. Senior to freshman. Detroit to the west side. Waitress to assistant. Second nature answers to small talk are unfamiliar. Yet, we’re back to the same position we were four autumns past. And with some of the same people. It’s a fresh start that preoccupies us. Not high school. It’s tempting to pack the drama on the big move but in all honesty we’ll probably hardly see them. I have a proposition though. What I’m proposing is using that precious second, in the event we do catch eyes with the past, to take a shot of our own pride, and just let go of whatever we’re holding onto. Smile. Then go ahead, keep walking.

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