Cafe Stories – Excuse me, would you like some manners with your order?

Many moons ago, I worked as a waitress. I worked for a period of time in a cafe and in an RSL club. It was a job I enjoyed because it while i didn’t really challenge me mentally like some jobs do, it challenged me physically because you were run off your feet. A lot. The cafe I worked at was located in an outdoor shopping strip, so we had a lot of customers from the surrounding stores come in, and they always came in before work on during their lunch hour. But then we had the shoppers walk through, and they generally came through at random times throughout the day, so it meant you didn’t really have many slow periods to sit and relax.And when you did have time to stop for a minute, there as generally cleaning or eating to be done (I would eat any chance I got. Gotta refuel, people!) Working at the RSL was even busier because when there was always people around, from morning through to evening, you had people in there eating and drinking. And when you weren’t serving the walk ins, you were serving the function rooms and dealing with large groups.

Working at the RSL club was pretty fun because I was given my own function room to manage and most of my customers were war veterans or war widows. The ladies would come in for long lunches and just sit for hours chatting and ordering numerous cups of tea or wine. The veterans and widows were always lovely and always up for a chat. Always. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “when I was your age, young lady”, I would have been able to pay off my credit card pretty quickly, let me tell you! They were also very gracious and forgiving. There was that one time when I accidentally spilt beetroot soup onto the head of one of the ladies with white hair. Thank the heavens above it was cold beetroot soup! After frantically scrubbing at her head to clean it, she shooed me away with a scowl. I did try to tell her that pink hair looked good on her but she didn’t seem too impressed with my attempted make over. But otherwise, most of the customers were pretty easy-going and cool and forgiving if you made a mistake or forgot something. These days, not so much.

Over the last few weeks, while I’ve been having coffee or eating out at cafes, I’ve been listening to people give their orders and talk to the waiters/waitresses/servers and honestly, it’s been an effort to keep my mouth shut and not have words with some of the customers. The way some of the people were talking to the waiters and servers was incredible! One night a couple of my friends were out at McDonalds having coffee (there is no cafes open past 9:30pm in our area so desperate times call for desperate measures, so stop judging us!) Anyway, there was a bit of a wait and it seemed like part of her order was incorrect and that was it: the woman started cussing and fussing and she stormed out of the place while calling out to her kid to get the name of “that girl behind the counter cause I’m gonna call up about her”. I’m pretty sure everyone within a 20 kilometer radius heard her carrying on about it. I get you may be frustrated at waiting or having your order slightly messed up, but is it really worth having a tantrum over? Another time, I was watching the way some customers in a cafe were treating a waiter; it was like he didn’t even exist! There was no acknowledgment of any of the wait staff when they came to the table other than annoyance at the interruption. Not really sure how someone is meant to put your food down on a table, or clear your mess of your table without some slight interruption.

Since when did servers and waiters and people behind the counter become slaves, or of lesser importance than anyone else? I don’t really understand why people treat waiters, or people in the fast food joints, or cleaners, like they are second class citizens. I watch the way some people look at some of the cleaners in the shopping centre food courts and honestly, you would think the cleaners were modern-day lepers with sores and disease all over them; people move out of their way or shrink back in their seats when the cleaner comes over to clean the table. I’m sorry if doing an honest job like that offends you, but it’s a job that millions of people around the world do everyday. And without those people doing that job, it would harder for you to get a coffee, or a meal, or a clean seat to sit on in public.

When did we lose our manners and start treating people like garbage? If I treated someone like that when I was a child, I would have copped a slap across the back of my head pretty quickly. I can’t even tell you the number of times my mum told that she didn’t care what job I did, as long as it an honest job that didn’t compromise my values and beliefs. I once asked mum if she would mind if I was a garbage collector and she said no, if that’s what I wanted to do, she would support me. She also said I could start right then and take the garbage out (I learnt quickly not to challenge Mamma Bear because it always backfired on me). But we were taught to just treat people the way we wanted to be treated and that’s how I try to live my life. Has there been times when I’ve gotten cranky in a cafe or restaurant and been a little rude? Yes unfortunately, there has. And I’m not proud of it. But I try my hardest to constantly remember that people are people and they make mistakes; it never justifies humiliating someone in their workplace and making them look a fool!

You know, while I know that not everyone does their job properly, let’s just cut people some slack because everyone is just trying to make a living or make ends meet. So to all the waiters and servers and fast food staff and cleaners, thanks for feeding me and giving me coffee. And thanks for not spitting in my food when I’ve sent it back. You didn’t spit in my food, right?

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