Dave Barry,  Featured,  Macomb Daily and Oakland Press,  Oakland Press columns,  Where I'm published

Be kind to your server

“A person who is nice to you but isn’t nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” ~Dave Barry

This column was originally published in the June 13 print editions of the Sunday Oakland Press and Macomb Daily.  Click here to see it online in the Macomb Daily. 

Now that we’re vaccinated, my husband and I have started dining out in restaurants again. The change of scenery and the break from my home cooking have done wonders for our mental outlook – and helped us regain a sense of normalcy after a long year of sheltering in place. We also want to support our local economy. 

At the same time, however, we’ve been surprised and sorry to learn that our favorite servers have been suffering the verbal abuse of angry customers on a near-daily basis.

Everyone knows by now that most restaurants are struggling to attract employees. You can’t miss the “Help Wanted” signs posted everywhere.

Blame the shortage on COVID-19 unemployment benefits or blame it on legitimate fears of working with the public during a pandemic. Either way, most places are short-staffed – which puts a huge burden on the tired shoulders of servers and cooks who are willing to take a risk and show up for work. It’s not unusual to see one or two servers spread thinly between twice as many customers as they’d normally handle on a shift. Ditto the cooks in the kitchen. 

These people need a break, not another temper tantrum

A few of our stressed-out servers confided that snarling, boorish patrons have reduced them to tears because of drinks that came late or eggs that weren’t poached to their liking. One longtime server – by nature, a cheerful woman – told me she’s lost her faith in people and no longer enjoys working with the public. Who can blame her?  

How anyone could maintain a sunny attitude while trying to serve so many crabby diners in a restaurant – or nasty passengers on an airplane – is beyond comprehension. No wonder most professional servers aren’t eager to return to their jobs. 

Of course, we all deserve to get the most for our dining dollars – but these stressful times require our patience. A generous helping of civility and kindness would be nice, too.

As another restaurant patron observed last week, people are angrier than ever. They’re angry about politics. They’re angry about the long-running pandemic. And they’re angry at all the road-raging drivers who cut them off on the expressway en route to the restaurant. But there’s no excuse for dumping anger on an overextended server at the local diner. 

Humorist Dave Barry said it best: “A person who is nice to you but isn’t nice to the waiter isn’t a nice person.” 

It doesn’t take a licensed psychotherapist to explain that misfired anger is often an outgrowth of fear and anxiety. Everyone can relate to that. But it never justifies treating anyone with disrespect – at home or in public. If you’re struggling with anger management, please seek out the help you need. Don’t take it out on the person who’s trying his or her best to earn a living while bringing a meal to your table. Be patient. Be kind.

~Cindy La Ferle (June 13, 2021)

Throughout my career, I've worked as a book production editor, travel magazine editor, features writer, and weekly newspaper columnist. My award-winning lifestyles features and essays have appeared in many national magazines and anthologies, including Newsweek, Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest, Victoria, Better Homes & Gardens, Bella Grace, and more. My weekly Sunday "Life Lines" column ran for 14 years in The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) and won a First Place (Local Columns) award from the Michigan Press Association. My essay collection, Writing Home, includes 93 previously published columns and essays focusing on parenthood and family life.

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