What Working With Food Has Taught Me

I work in a restaurant. My duties include opening doors, greeting, showing customers to their tables, rolling silverware, taking orders, packing to-go bags, and more. I primarily work with other females. The youngest of my co-workers is a sophomore in high school and the others range up to older adults. I mostly am surrounded by young high schoolers however. Retail can be exhausting. It’s a lot of smiling and crowd control. The people that walk in our doors don’t always do so with a smile on their face (though one is always on mine.) After working there for about a year though I’m starting to see a little deeper. The people you encounter in life aren’t just faces. They have intrinsic value. Each with their one one-of-a-kind story and experiences. Maybe the rude lady just lost her mom to breast cancer. That taciturn man is spending yet another week away from his family. The screaming child is hungry and tired. That sharp tonged coworker is watching her parents fight through a divorce.

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(casual selfie before work)

     The people I work with are wonderful really. Some are lazy, some hardworking. Some rude and some nice. Each strength works in it’s own way to make the restaurant successful. When I first started working at here I disliked anyone who didn’t smile, act polite, and take every command with complete submission. Which meant I basically liked no one. The girls I work with have hard lives. They live in an unforgiving culture that demands beauty, smarts, and boyfriends. Despite this, they aren’t afraid to let their needs be known (aka, they aren’t afraid to speak up when something isn’t fair.) Confrontation holds no terror for them. They smile quickly and let the bad days roll off their backs. They honor me by letting me see glimpses into their lives. I quickly learned that if I wanted to be successful and happy in my job I needed to pick up some of their skills.

And it’s really good for me. It has made me face confrontation and the strange balance between respect for others and for myself. It has pushed me to work harder and it’s endeared me to all these girls who deserve my respect. I can’t say I gave them much of that when I started working there. My own short-sightedness held the belief that any girl who held different values than I could never have something to teach me. They were messing their lives up. Sure, I know girls who wear the in-style clothing, date the boys that make them popular, and buy things with monograms (I wish I could jump on that band wagon but something about them makes me cringe.) They use the teen lingo (which rarely makes sense) and sometimes feign stupidity for the sake of conformity. It’s easy to look at someone and judge them based on all these outward actions. To put them in a box never to be opened again. Doing so leaves you thinking of them as objects versus people. Each and every person has a value of immeasurable worth. They deserve respect and courtesy. The more I get to know them, the more I’m amazed at what goes on behind the scenes. Abuse, bullying, social pressure for a sex life, fear, and insecurities are more real than I have ever realized.

While I’ve dealt with insecurities I’ve never had my mom tell me I’m ugly. While I’ve felt like I needed a boyfriend I’ve never felt such a huge pressure to date that I spend time with an abusive, angry boyfriend. While I’ve been bullied, I always could come home to a family that loved me. Who am I to judge others? It’s so easy to look at outward actions and write a person off as completely and totally lost. The high school females get a bad rap for their “slutty” and “stupid” actions. Retail has taught me that we need to walk a mile in their shoes.

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